Consult with Cards: Business owners who permanently work from home
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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.
As we approach year two of the pandemic, many Americans have been working from home and may even continue working remotely for the foreseeable future. TPG reader Andrew Bonica and his wife are business owners and have made the recent decision to work from home permanently, which opens up the opportunity for the couple to travel and work remotely at the same time.
If you’re in a similar boat, read on to see our card recommendations for Andrew as he returns to the skies for both leisure and business travel.
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Andrew is 37 years old and resides in Los Angeles with his wife. As a former Marine, Andrew and his wife traveled internationally quite often before the pandemic.
Previously, Andrew thought that points cards were a hassle. “I traditionally avoided points cards because I thought it was too complicated and couldn’t make use of them,” said Bonica. “So I only stuck to cash-back cards.”
Over the years, however, Andrew started to learn the power of travel credit cards and wanted to dive into the world of points and miles himself. Upon reviewing the options, he decided to stick to the Amex Membership Rewards program for its vast redemption possibilities (including earning transferable points). Still, he doesn’t want to overcomplicate his life by keeping up with multiple currencies.
Current credit cards
Before the pandemic, Andrew opened The Platinum Card® from American Express. He has since accumulated more than 600,000 Membership Rewards points as he has shifted all of his spending to this card in the past two years, despite owning 10+ other credit cards in his wallet. Even with a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees), TPG values Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each — making his current points stash worth more than $12,000!
With the help of his wife, Andrew has been able to double down the Membership Rewards earnings with his wife in a two-player strategy. She opened The Business Platinum Card® from American Express with a targeted offer to earn 150,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 in the first three months of account opening. Currently, the welcome offer is 120,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 in the first three months of account opening.
This card has a $595 annual fee that will increase to $695 effective Jan. 13, 2022 (see rates and fees). In exchange, it also comes with many business-centered benefits that will help you justify this $100 bump — read all about the refresh here.
Card recommendations for Andrew
Although the Amex Platinum is a terrific card for travel purchases (5x on flights booked directly with airlines or with Amex Travel, on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and 5x on prepaid hotels through Amex Travel), he should really avoid using this card for everyday purchases. That said, the Amex Platinum is still the king of travel and lifestyle benefits since it comes with statement credits, whether it’s the up-to-$200 airline ancillary fee credit, the (new) up-to-$200 prepaid hotel credit ($200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card.)or the up-to-$155 Walmart+ statement credit. Plus Ups are excluded. Enrollment required for select benefits.
While only paying with the Amex Platinum may work for those who value simplicity and ease, Andrew is missing out on bonus points from common purchases like restaurants, groceries, gas — you name it. The American Express® Gold Card is a significantly better everyday card, with a whopping 4x on U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year, then 1x) and dining. It also earns 3x on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel and 1x on all other eligible purchases. However, Andrew should continue to use his Amex Platinum for those airline purchases for a better earning rate.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2020, the average household spent $4,464 on “food at home” — aka, groceries — and $3,459 on “food away from home” — think restaurants. With the 4x earning rate, that’s a massive haul of 31,692 Membership Rewards points annually. By using the Amex Platinum, Andrew would only receive 7,923 points in comparison.
That’s a difference of about $475. While the annual fee on the Amex Gold is $250 (see rates and fees), the 4x earning rate alone would make up for this cost alone.
Not to mention that there are even more opportunities to offset the annual fee. There’s an up-to-$10 monthly Uber Cash credit, valid for U.S. Uber rides and Uber Eats orders. In tandem, there’s another up-to-$10 monthly dining credit for eligible partners, including commonly used vendors like Grubhub, Seamless and more.
If maximized to the full potential, that’s $240 in statement credits each year — another way to help justify paying another annual fee.
(Enrollment is required for select benefits and terms apply.)
Plus, the current welcome offer is 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first six months of account opening — but applicants may be targeted for a higher, 75,000-point offer by using the CardMatch tool.
As he and his wife are business owners, they can also qualify for The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express. With no annual fee (see rates and fees), this may be the more affordable choice if Andrew wants to earn more Membership Rewards points without incurring additional costs.
This is the best card for those purchases that don’t fit inside of those arbitrary boxes, thanks to its 2x earning rate on up to $50,000 in purchases each calendar year (then 1x).
Buy a new rug from a local flea market? Use the Amex Blue Business Plus to earn 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar. Take your dog to the groomer every other month? Again, use the Blue Business Plus to earn 2x on those non-bonus, random life purchases. You get the drift.
The smartest move here would be for Andrew (or his wife) to open both the Amex Gold and the Amex Blue Business Plus to round out (what we call here at TPG) the Amex Trifecta. That’s because each card has its own strengths and weaknesses that you can leverage to earn the maximum number of Membership Rewards points possible and then pool all of the points into one account.
Andrew and his wife have travel aspirations of using more than three weeks of vacation time in 2022, so the possibilities are endless. If Europe is on their radar, here’s a sampling of travel they can score using their points:
- American Airlines Flagship First from Los Angeles (LAX) to New York (JFK) one-way: Transfer 25,000 Membership Rewards points to Etihad Guest.
- Delta One Suite from the U.S. to Europe one-way: 50,000 Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
- United Polaris from the U.S. to Europe round-trip: 88,000 Membership Rewards points to ANA MileageClub.
These are just a few examples of ways to use Membership Rewards points for those highly coveted business- or first-class seats. In Andrew and his wife’s case, earning within the Membership Rewards program is the best strategy for simplicity’s sake and access to a library of transfer partner options.
There’s no wrong or right way to approach the points and miles world. Some travelers enjoy the thrill of managing multiple award currencies, whether it’s hotel points, airline miles or transferable rewards. Others, like Andrew, may prefer to stick to one points family and maximize his (and business expenses) purchases for redemptions that can take them worldwide. Therefore, he just needs a couple of more cards to make this Amex Trifecta happen.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Blue Business Plus, click here.
Featured photo by American Express Travel.
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