Consult with Cards: TPG’s recommendations for a scuba diver and frequent leisure traveler
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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!
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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.
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.
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:
|Card||Annual fee||Earning rate|
|The Platinum® Card from American Express||$695 (see rates & fees)|
|American Express® Green Card||$150 (see rates & fees)||
|The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express||$0 (see rates & fees)||
|Chase Freedom Flex||$0||
|Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||$95||
|AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®||$99||
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.
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.
As a quick refresher, here are the players in the Chase Trifecta that can help you double down on Ultimate Rewards points:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve (or Chase Sapphire Preferred)
- Chase Freedom Unlimited (or Chase Freedom Flex)
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
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.
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.
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 $700 according to TPG’s valuations. The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum 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.
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.
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.
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 Brilliant||Hilton Honors Aspire|
|Annual fee||$450 (see rates & fees)||$450 (see rates & fees)|
|Welcome bonus||Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 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 rate||Earn 6x on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program , 3x at U.S. restaurants 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.|
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 $450 annual fee (see rates and fees).
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.
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 Georgette Douwma for Getty Images.
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