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Consult with Cards: Stay-at-home mom with healthy budget for travel

Sept. 22, 2021
9 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 TPG reader Jessica Lynn figure out what her next card should be. As a divorced stay-at-home mom with a healthy budget to travel, she has a few travel brands she's already loyal to. Still, Jessica wants our expert advice to help her evaluate her award travel strategy — let's jump right in!

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About Jessica

Jessica's a loyal Delta Air Lines flyer, as she currently lives in Detroit — one of the carrier's largest hubs.

Photo by EscoLux/Getty Images

Her travel varies between solo travel or trips with her boyfriend. Since Jessica is currently unemployed, she has the flexibility to choose the cheapest flight based on date and time. Usually, she travels once per month within the U.S. and sticks to flying economy, as she doesn't think it's worth it to pay extra — unless it's for an overseas flight.

"I’m Delta Silver Medallion, but it doesn’t help much for upgrades," said Lynn. "[My] preferred ways to book travel are with points and miles if it’s reasonable, otherwise, I'll pay. I don’t mind spending time to find a cheaper day/time to fly. Since I’m not employed, I can be flexible."

Delta Medallion Thank You Note (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

Current credit cards

Jessica's loyal to three credit cards from her preferred travel brands:

CardEarning rateBenefitsAnnual fee
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit CardUp to 17x points per $1 spent at hotels participating in Marriot Bonvoy®. 2x points per $1 on all other purchases.Automatic Silver elite status with 15 elite night credits annually, free night award (worth up to 35,000 points) every year after your account anniversary and no foreign transaction fees.$95
Hilton Honors American Express Card7x on eligible purchases at Hilton hotels and resorts, 5x on U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations and 3x on all other eligible purchases.Complimentary Silver elite status with the opportunity to upgrade to Gold if you spend $20,000 or more on the card annually and no foreign transaction fees (see rates & fees)$0 (see rates & fees)
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card3x on eligible Delta purchases and hotels, 2x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets and 1x on all other eligible purchases.Annual companion certificate valid for a domestic Main Cabin round-trip ticket, first checked bag free, Global Entry/TSA Precheck application reimbursement, Delta Sky Club $39 per-visit rate and the opportunity to earn 10,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) after spending $25,000 or more on the card in a calendar year, up to twice per year.$250 (see rates & fees)

While these are all great cards, there's still room for a few more cards Jessica can add to maximize her spending and snag terrific redemptions for the future.

Card recommendations for Jessica

The Bonvoy Boundless is the only card that Jessica has opened in the last 24 months, so she's well under Chase 5/24 standing.

Jessica already has the Delta Platinum card as a Delta Silver Elite member and a loyal Delta flyer. However, she could apply for the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card — Delta's top offering, coming in hot with a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees). The benefit of opening the card on a separate application rather than upgrading her existing Platinum card is that she'll be eligible for the welcome offer on the Reserve: Earn 95,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first six months of account opening. Offer ends 11/9/22.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)Depending on how many MQMs she already has as a Silver elite member, additional 20,000 MQMs may tip her over the edge to Gold status. This lets Jessica get higher priority access to upgrades — clearing three days before departure rather than 24 hours before.

To justify paying an additional $300 every year, note that the Delta Reserve comes with complimentary Sky Club access and The Centurion Lounge access, both when flying on same-day Delta. With a per-visit rate of $39 on her existing Platinum card, just eight visits per year to the Sky Club will justify this annual fee bump alone. Not to mention, the annual roundtrip companion certificate on the Reserve is worth significantly more since it can be applied to domestic first class. She can then downgrade her Platinum to the no-annual-fee (see rates and fees) Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card to preserve her credit history — or cancel the card altogether.

(Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)

However, let's give Jessica another option if she's already satisfied with her Delta Platinum card. Our other recommendation would be The Platinum Card® from American Express. With a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees), the Amex Platinum may be a better option than the Delta Reserve since they earn valuable Membership Rewards points. For starters, Amex Platinum cardholders will have access to the Centurion and Priority Pass lounges and even Delta Sky Clubs when flying same-day Delta — ensuring that you'll find a lounge in virtually any airport.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael for The Points Guy)

Here at TPG, we encourage everyone to have a stash of transferable points. They can unlock key redemptions on various airline and hotel loyalty programs, such as Delta SkyMiles, Marriott Bonvoy, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and more. While Jessica doesn't mind flying economy, she did express to me that she wants to fly business on long-haul international trips. To access such redemptions, earning transferable points is a must.

The Amex Platinum offers 5x on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel, on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. Plus, you'll get 5x on hotels booked through Amex Travel and 1x on all other purchases. The current welcome offer boasts 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first six months of card membership.

While a $695 annual fee may seem outrageous, keep in mind that there are more than $1,400 in travel and lifestyle statement credits. While it's unlikely that Jessica will be able to maximize each and every credit, some of the most useful ones include the up-to-$200 annual prepaid hotel statement credit, up-to-$200 annual airline fees statement credit, up-to-$200 in Uber Cash credit, and up to $189 in Clear membership credit. These credits alone add up to almost $800, way before you factor in the other opportunities to earn and redeem with the Amex Platinum.

Our final recommendation is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. For access to transferable points without a hefty annual fee, there's no wonder that the $95-a-year card is a popular choice. The current sign-up bonus offers 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Jessica can then start to earn points in the Chase ecosystem with the following rewards rate:

  • 5x on Lyft rides (until March 2022).
  • 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.
  • 1x on all other purchases.

There are many sweet spots within the Ultimate Rewards program, with 11 airline and three hotel loyalty programs in total. For example, Jessica can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Iberia Avios to snag a one-way, business class fare to Europe for 34,000 points (and potentially even lower when Chase offers a transfer bonus), five-star Hyatt hotels for 30,000 points per night, and more.

TPG has plenty of guides on the best ways to maximize Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards points. Either way, they're worth 2 cents apiece, according to TPG's valuations. With the highest valuations out there, Jessica will still accrue points and miles in her favorite programs (such as Delta and Marriott) and be able to broaden her award travel options to other travel brands — all thanks to transferable points.

Bottom line

If you're like Jessica and haven't started earning transferable points yet, it's time to think about adding a card (or two) to your wallet. Now is an especially good time to do so since these cards are offering some of the best welcome bonuses we've seen, and we're not sure when they'll disappear. Then, be sure to read our guides for maximizing your rewards if you're curious about where your points and miles can take you.

Official application link: Delta Reserve.
Official application link: Amex Platinum.
Official application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Amex, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Platinum, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.

Featured image by Getty Images/Maskot
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.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
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 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
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

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
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

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • 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.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases