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Consult with Cards: TPG's recommendations for a scuba diver and frequent leisure traveler

Aug. 25, 2021
11 min read
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Editor’s note: Consult with Cards is a weekly series where the TPG cards team helps our readers decide what their next card should be. If you would like to be a part of this series and receive a personalized consultation, email us.


This week, we're helping out TPG reader Steven Woods figure out what his next card should be. He discovered the points and miles hobby within the last year but traveled quite a bit in the last five years. He even wrote in this email while on a scuba trip from St. Croix!

Carambola Beach, St.Croix, US Virgin Islands. (Photo by cdwheatley/Getty Images)

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Steven is out of Chase 5/24 slots, which is relatable for many of us at TPG, who may have opened a card too many in the past two years. Even with Chase cards currently out of the question, there are plenty of cards that Steven should consider next as he continues to explore the world using points and miles.

About Steven

Steven is in his mid-50s and is retired in South Florida. He mostly solo travels, averaging about seven to 10 domestic round-trip flights and one to three international trips each year. In total, he spends about 20 nights in hotels annually.

(Photo by Jake Ingle on Unsplash)

When it comes to flying, Steven doesn't mind flying Spirit when it's direct flights up and down the East Coast. For transcontinental flights, though, he doesn't mind paying extra for business class. As he looks toward future trips, he's looking forward to using his airline miles to enjoy business or first class when he flies internationally.

Current credit cards

As Steven discovered TPG and the world of points and miles recently, he's opened six credit cards in the last two years. Let's take a look:

CardAnnual feeEarning rate
The Platinum® Card from American Express$695 (see rates & fees)
  • 5x on flights booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year)
  • 5x on prepaid hotels booked on Amex Travel
  • 1x on all other purchases
American Express® Green Card$150 (see rates & fees)
  • 3x on dining
  • 3x on travel
  • 3x on transit
  • 1x on everything else
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express$0 (see rates & fees)
  • 2x on the first $50,000 spent in purchases each year
  • 1x on all other purchases
Chase Freedom Flex$0
  • 5% on the first $1,500 spent in rotating quarterly bonus categories
  • 5% on travel booked through Chase Travel
  • 3% on dining
  • 3% on drugstores
  • 1% on all other purchases
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card$95
  • 5x on travel booked through Chase Travel
  • 5x on Lyft (until March 2025)
  • 3x on dining
  • 3x on select streaming services
  • 3x on online grocery store purchases(excluding Walmart and Target)
  • 2x  on all other travel
  • 1x on all other purchases
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®$99
  • 2x on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 1x on all other purchases

The information for the Amex Green and AAdvantage Aviator Red has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Outside of these six new cards, he also owns the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, which comes with a $99 fee and earns 3 points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases, 2 points on local transit and commuting (including rideshare), 2 points on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming, then 1 point per dollar on everything else.

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While he's been locked out of Chase cards for quite some time, thankfully, he owns three Chase-issued cards already and can move onto other solid offerings from different issuers.

Card recommendations for Steven

Right off the bat, Steven has a healthy stash of points and miles ready to go for his future trips. He currently has 250,000 Membership Rewards points, 90,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points, 100,000 American AAdvantage miles and enough hotel points for a couple of free nights from major brands.

We commend Steven for focusing on two core transferable points programs (Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards), as well as some airline loyalty programs (American Airlines AAdvantage and Southwest Rapid Rewards). For many of our TPG staff, this seems like the right number of programs to invest in to build a long-term cards strategy that's not only lucrative but sustainable.

While he's over 5/24, Steven could potentially apply for another business card in addition to his Amex Blue Business Plus card. Fortunately, many business cards don't contribute to your 5/24 standing, so Steven could qualify for the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card to round out his Chase Trifecta.

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

As a quick refresher, here are the players in the Chase Trifecta that can help you double down on Ultimate Rewards points:

One of our favorite transfer partners from the Ultimate Rewards program is British Airways Avios, offering fantastic award rates for short-haul flights. If Steven wants to go another scuba diving expedition, he could fly out of Miami International Airport (MIA) to various destinations in the Caribbean by transferring his Ultimate Rewards points to Avios. For example, a non-stop flight to St. Thomas (STT) costs just 9,000 Avios and $5.60 in taxes and fees on American Airlines.

(Screenshot courtesy of British Airways)

The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card comes with an ultra-high sign-up bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $15,000 or more in three months of account opening. TPG values these points at $2,000. If Steven can meet the spend threshold for this sign-up bonus, the Ink Business Preferred is a great card to nab six figures worth of points and also transfer them to various partners to snag international business or first class award flights.

Related: Best ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Another strategy could be for Steven to continue honing on AAdvantage miles as part of his strategy. Another card we'd recommend is the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, which comes with a reasonable $99 annual fee that's even waived the first year. There's a sign-up bonus of 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $2,500 in the first three months of account opening, worth $885 according to TPG's valuations.

It also carries a better earning rate than his current Aviator Red card, as the Platinum Select offers 2x on eligible American Airlines purchases, restaurants and gas and 1x on everything else. Currently, it doesn't look like any of his cards reward bonus points for gas, so he'd also gain the advantage of maximizing this common everyday expense.

An incredible way to use these AAdvantage miles would be to redeem them for Qatar Airways' Qsuite, arguably one of the world's best business class flights.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

It takes just 70,000 AAdvantage miles to redeem for this flight one-way. By opening up the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select with his current stash of miles, he could fly round-trip to the Maldives for the ultimate diving scuba diving experience of a lifetime.

Review: A review of Qatar Airways’ Qsuite business class

(Photo by Ryan Patterson/The Points Guy)

As a leisure traveler who spends a considerable number of nights in hotels each year, it's time for Steven to add a hotel credit card to his wallet.

Cards that he'd qualify for in his current 5/24 situation are the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card or the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. Both hotel brands offer thousands of properties worldwide where he can enjoy free automatic elite status and the opportunity to redeem points. At the end of the day, it comes down to brand preference, but let's compare the two cards together:

The information for the Hilton Aspire card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Marriott Bonvoy BrilliantHilton Honors Aspire
Annual fee$650 (see rates & fees)$450 (see rates & fees)
Welcome bonus Earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months.
Earning rateEarn 6x on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program , 3x at restaurants worldwide and flights booked directly with airlines and 2x on everything else.Earn 14x on participating Hilton Honors hotels, 7x on select travel and dining and 3x on everything else.
Benefits
  • Annual up to $300 statement credit for eligible purchase at restaurants worldwide.
  • One free night award every year after your card renewal month (at or under 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program. Certain hotels have resort fees
  • Up to $100 Marriott Bonvoy on-property credit for a two-night minimum stay at a Ritz Carlton or St. Regis property
  • 25 elite night credits each year
  • Priority Pass Select membership
  • Global Entry/TSA Precheck application credit
  • No foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees)
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status
  • One free weekend night after approval and after every account anniversary. Earn an additional free weekend night after you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year.
  • Annual $250 Hilton resort statement credit
  • Annual $250 airline incidental fees credit
  • $100 Hilton Honors on-property credit for a two-night minimum stay at a Waldorf Astoria or St. Regis property
  • Priority Pass Select membership
  • No foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees)

Ultimately, you can't go wrong with either choice, as both offer a significant number of incentives and credits to enhance your hotel experience. If Steven wants automatic Diamond elite status and the automatic weekend night, he should go with the Hilton Aspire. If he likes the Marriott portfolio better, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant can also be well worth the $650 annual fee (see rates and fees).

Related: Credit card showdown: Hilton Amex Aspire vs. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

Bottom line

Steven already has some great anchor cards, but the recommended cards will only help him double down on points that he's collecting. Even if he's out of 5/24 slots, there are plenty of other options for Steven that are worth considering.

Thanks for reaching out, Steven! If you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a consultation of your own, feel free to email us for a chance to be featured in this weekly series.

Official application link: Ink Business Preferred.
Official application link: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Blue Business Plus, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Aspire, click here.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more