Consult with Cards: How to choose among the best-ever welcome bonuses
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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.
Cameron Roth is an avid TPG reader and used to travel weekly before the pandemic for his job as a consultant. While his work travels haven’t started back up quite yet, he’s accumulated a healthy hoard of points and miles over the years.
Cameron currently lives with his wife and nine-month-old and wants to learn more about booking award travel for his family of three. Let’s offer some viable card options to Cameron.
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Cameron and his family live in the Los Angeles area, meaning he has access to airports such as Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR). If there’s a deal, he is willing to drive to airports in Northern California, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.
Travel style and aspirations
Although Cameron is a luxury seeker, he remains pragmatic when it comes to travel. Rather than taking fewer flights in a premium cabin, his family prefers to travel more often — even if that means they’ll be in economy. Of course, if the price is right — or they’re able to score a deal with their points and miles — flying business class becomes a much more feasible goal.
With an infant in the mix, Cameron has qualms about award travel since they will eventually have to book tickets for three passengers. Cameron and his wife are used to a handful of shorter trips and one big trip annually, with preferred travel loyalty programs including American Airlines AAdvantage, Marriott Bonvoy, and Southwest Rapid Rewards.
Current credit cards
As his job previously required lots of travel, Cameron already carries a few terrific rewards cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Freedom (no longer available to new applicants), the Marriott Bonvoy American Express (no longer available to new applicants), and the Discover it Cash Back.
The information for the Discover it Cash Back has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
When considering new cards, Cameron doesn’t want an annual fee greater than $250 since he already has the premium Chase Sapphire Reserve card with a $550 annual fee. “The percentage back to use for rewards alone isn’t enough,” said Cameron. “The card needs to have other benefits.”
Because of his previous travels, he has accumulated nearly two million Marriott Bonvoy points and 350,000 American Airlines miles. While he doesn’t have status on American, Cameron has lifetime Gold elite status and is as few as three years away from lifetime Platinum through Marriott.
With those factors in mind, let’s see what we can recommend to Cameron.
Card recommendations for Cameron
Cameron hasn’t opened any new credit cards in the past 24 months, putting him at maximum eligibility for Chase cards with his open 5/24 slots. Furthermore, now is the ideal time to apply for a new credit card as issuers are offering some of the best sign-up bonuses we’ve seen to date.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card charges a $95 annual fee but is currently offering the highest sign-up bonus we’ve seen to date. Chase claims that for the first time, this card is offering 125,000 bonus points and one free night certificate (with a redemption value of 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 in the first three months of account opening. This full sign-up bonus is potentially worth 175,000 points, or $1,400 according to TPG’s valuations, which we can confirm is the best offer we’ve ever seen on this card.
But Cameron will want to hang onto this card to contribute to his pursuit of lifetime Platinum elite status. The 15 automatic elite night credits per year provided by the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless count toward his journey of lifetime status. He can also justify the $95 annual fee with the free night certificate he will receive upon account renewal, with a redemption amount of 35,000 points. Depending on how you leverage the certificate’s value, you could be looking at hundreds of dollars’ worth of savings.
Since Cameron has amassed so many Bonvoy points, he has virtually endless options for redemptions that could take him to luxury Category 7 and 8 properties, like the new Ritz-Carlton Maldives (should he choose to venture that far), hopefully, made even sweeter with complimentary room upgrades. At TPG, we believe that you should never hoard your points, as they’ll inevitably devalue over the years. So, Cameron should be set for quite some time with some great redemption options at his disposal — especially as Marriott has more than 7,000 properties worldwide.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
On a related note, earning transferable points is crucial for maximum flexibility. Therefore, we believe that Cameron should continue to hone in on the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. TPG’s Nick Ewen writes how he beats limited award availability to successfully travel with his family of three, far and wide, by focusing on earning and burning transferable currency.
Cameron also owns a Chase Sapphire Reserve, so he wouldn’t be eligible for a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card at the moment. Though his wife could open a Chase Sapphire Preferred with its 60,000-point sign-up bonus (after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening), and they can pool their points together into his account.
At $95 per year, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is arguably one of the best travel rewards cards. There are many sweet spots using Ultimate Rewards points, with 11 airline and three hotel transfer partners. Some of them include his favorite loyalty programs, such as Southwest Rapid Rewards for domestic flights. But, there are many creative ways to take advantage of the Ultimate Rewards program, like transferring to British Airways Avios for cheap flights to Hawaii and Alaska on American Airlines.
Other benefits of the Sapphire Preferred include robust earning rates:
- 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
- 3x on dining.
- 3x on select streaming services and online grocery store purchases.
- 2x on all other travel purchases.
- 1x on other eligible purchases.
Cardholders can also count on…
- 10% anniversary points boost. (You’ll earn bonus points that equal 10% of your total spend in points from purchases made with your credit card during the previous account anniversary year)
- $50 annual Ultimate Rewards hotel credit.
- Primary rental car coverage, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance, and more.
American Express® Gold Card
For even more transferable points opportunities, the American Express® Gold Card is a great card with foodie-focused bonus categories.
Though there’s a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees), the card virtually pays itself back if you maximize the following perks:
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases with your card in the first six months of card membership. You may be targeted for a higher offer via the CardMatch Tool (targeted offers subject to change at anytime)
- Up to $10 monthly Uber Cash for Uber rides or Uber Eats orders in the U.S. — for a total of $120 annually. Card must be added to Uber account to receive this benefit.*
- Up to $10 monthly dining credit for select dining partners like GrubHub, and more — for a total of $120 annually.*
- Earn 4x on U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x) and dining at restaurants, 3x on flights booked directly or on Amex Travel, 1x on other eligible purchases.
- Up to $100 on-site credit when you book a stay through The Hotel Collection with American Express.
*Enrollment required for select benefits, terms apply.
With your Membership Rewards points, you’ll see a decent amount of overlap with transfer partners through the Ultimate Rewards program, including Air Canada Aeroplan, British Airways Avios, and Marriott Bonvoy. However, some other enticing partners will expand his transfer partner opportunities, such as Avianca LifeMiles and Delta SkyMiles.
If you’re like Cameron and have accrued thousands of points and miles from your travels, now is the time to start adding some cards to complement your balances and start using them to fund your own trips. With these cards in Cameron’s wallet, they can help achieve his travel aspirations, no matter whether it’s achieving Marriott lifetime elite status or finding future airline award availability for three.
Thanks for writing in, Cameron! If you’d like help with your cards strategy, email us.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold, click here.
Featured photo by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees