‘My daughter has more points than I do’ — helping this mom evaluate her cards strategy
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“I could really use your help,” said TPG reader Heidi Krug-Myers. “I am a total newbie and just found out my daughter has more points than I do, and I am not happy.”
Heidi has three kids, ages 16 to 24, and they embark on family vacations twice per year. She wants to dive into the world of points and miles but doesn’t know where to start. Let’s look at her cards strategy now and see if the TPG team can come up with tailored recommendations.
Heidi is 54 and lives in Chicago with her family of five. She’s employed full-time and travels once or twice per year with her family — with plans to travel to Florida in December 2021 and Hawaii in December 2022 to escape the Chicago winters.
Her family dines out once per week and tends to do all of their grocery shopping at Target and Sam’s Club. They’re also big Amazon shoppers since they frequently buy pet supplies as her family fosters dogs — currently, they’re fostering two dogs and three guinea pigs!
Heidi also mentioned that she and her husband are willing to get individual cards to leverage referral bonuses and get additional points.
Travel style and aspirations
Heidi considers herself a budget traveler and prefers ease over when it comes to booking travel. As she needs to find enough availability for the whole family, it can sometimes present a challenge when solely relying on award travel — though she doesn’t mind paying for some tickets when using points for everyone isn’t possible.
Heidi’s family either books through an online travel agency (OTA) or directly with the airlines when booking travel. Her preferred airline is American Airlines, though she doesn’t mind switching it up if other airlines offer lower fares.
Current credit cards
Heidi currently has several credit cards but puts most of her spend on her Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card. With no annual fee, the VentureOne offers 1.25 miles per dollar on all eligible purchases. Since she has been capitalizing on this card, she’s racked up a considerable 150,000 Capital One miles so far.
For the rest, Heidi has a few store cards. She’s an Amazon Prime Visa Signature Credit Card owner, and she’s opened the My Best Buy® Credit Card and Williams Sonoma Key Rewards Card in the past 24 months.
The information for the Best Buy and Williams Sonoma cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Card recommendations for Heidi
As a general rule of thumb, the team here at TPG recommends that consumers stay away from store credit cards. They typically don’t come with sign-up bonuses, offer a limited rewards program, and tend to come with high purchase APRs. A cash-back credit card will almost always outdo a store card in rewards, benefits, and flexibility.
While a card like the VentureOne with a flat-rate earning rate is great for simplicity, there are better options that will offer bonus points on purchases that Heidi likely spends thousands of dollars on per year. For example, Heidi likely spends a large chunk of her budget on groceries. Unfortunately, her preferred stores (Target and Sam’s Club) are generally excluded from cards that offer bonus points on grocery stores.
Still, Heidi should look into applying for the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, the older brother card to the VentureOne, and offers 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. By spending $12,667 (or more) on the card each year, Heidi will make up for the $95 annual fee — way before considering the other benefits. For instance, this card comes with up to $100 reimbursement for a Global Entry or TSA Precheck application, saving you tons of time in airport security and customs.
Not to mention, Heidi will enjoy a nice boost of Capital One miles through the sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. According to TPG’s valuations, that’s worth $1,020 — 10x the $95 annual fee.
Best of all, she can combine the existing miles she’s earned on the VentureOne over to her new Venture card. Some transfer partners that she can take advantage of include Avianca LifeMiles, which transfer at a 1:1 basis and offer low redemption rates on Star Alliance partner flights. For example, a domestic short-haul flight on United Airlines can be as low as 6,500 Avianca LifeMiles and $5.60 in taxes and fees. Similarly, Capital One miles transfer to British Airways Avios at a (less favorable) 2:1.5 rate, but you can find many sweet spots on the award chart when redeeming for short- to medium-haul flights on American Airlines.
If she doesn’t want to deal with loyalty programs, Heidi can also redeem her miles for any travel purchases on her statement credit at a rate of 1 cent each or leverage Capital One’s revamped travel portal for future bookings.
As American Airlines is Heidi’s preferred airline, she should also consider opening up the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®. While there is a $450 annual fee, there’s tremendous value for Heidi and her family. That’s because she’ll enjoy a first free checked bag, priority check-in, airport screening (when available), early boarding for the primary cardholder and up to eight travelers on her reservation. Since checking a bag costs $30 one-way, the savings really add up and will make up for the annual fee for Heidi’s family of five.
Besides the sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, the other major reason why Heidi should open this card is for American Airlines Admiral Club access. There are nearly 50 locations worldwide, and as a cardholder, Heidi can enter along with her spouse and children under 18 years of age. If Heidi’s husband (and children over the age of 18) are added to her card as an authorized user — for no additional cost — they’ll also enjoy lounge access and can bring up to two guests. That will help her family cover their bases and enter the lounges when traveling together.
While the earning rate isn’t the best (2x on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1x on other purchases), this card will also give a nice boost toward American Airlines elite status with 10,000 elite qualifying miles after spending $40,000 on the card in a calendar year.
Finally, Heidi should open the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — one of the best travel rewards credit cards for numerous reasons. On principle, I’ve picked this as a must-have card because of its complimentary travel protections, from trip cancellation and interruption insurance, primary rental car insurance, baggage delay insurance, and more. While it’s hard to assign a monetary value to these benefits, these coverages will save the day in case of a travel nightmare and potentially save thousands of dollars for Heidi’s family.
With the best-ever sign-up bonus of 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, TPG estimates this offer at $2,000 for travel. Beyond these points, here’s the earning rate:
- 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards (excluding purchases that qualify for the $50 annual hotel credit)
- 5x on Lyft purchases (until March 2022)
- 3x on dining
- 3x on online grocery store purchases (excludes wholesale clubs, Target and Walmart)
- 3x on select streaming services
- 2x on all other travel purchases
- 1x on all other eligible purchases
There’s also an annual $50 hotel statement credit when booking through Ultimate Rewards. While that might not seem like much, that makes up for more than half of the $95 annual fee alone.
Finally, Chase comes stacked with some of the best transfer partners in the game — all of which transfer at an easy, 1:1 ratio. Some popular options include Southwest Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, and World of Hyatt. Another option would be using your points with a 25% elevated rate to redeem travel purchases through the Ultimate Rewards portal.
If Heidi decides to get this card, she should refer her husband for the current 20,000-point referral bonus (while he’ll also snag the 100,000-point sign-up bonus!).
Heidi can put her store cards to rest with these three travel credit card options. No matter which one she picks — or perhaps she’ll apply for all three — we focused these picks on benefitting their family vacations.
Featured photo by Compassionate Eye Foundation/Gary Burchell for Getty Images.
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