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It’s no secret that credit cards are the best way to rack up miles and points. We have it so good here in the US — with a competitive credit card industry that offers lucrative welcome bonuses, rich category spending bonuses and great perks that are worth more than the annual fees.
People always ask me how many points I have and the answer is always “so many I honestly don’t know.” But today, I’m giving insight into my points and how I earn them.
How do I have so many points? Simply put, business spend. TPG now has around 50 full-time employees and over 20 frequent contributors and consultants — and we spend millions a year on online advertising (I’m earning 3x to 4x points on those Facebook and Instagram ads, as you’ll see!) and we travel a TON. Most of the company’s spend gets put on my arsenal of cards and we then we use points to pay for employee travel and reader giveaways (think Emirates first and JetBlue Mint). As you know we pay for all travel ourselves (with the exception of special airline delivery flights or charity trips with an airline sponsor which we always disclose to our readers), getting us 5x points on airfare purchases with The Platinum Card® from American Express and 10x miles at Hotels.com with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (when booked and paid via Hotels.com/Venture). Those multipliers make our points stash add up very quickly.
I am fully aware that the average reader does not have this level of spend and my point is to not brag, but to educate and be honest with you all about how we get our points. Some people think the credit card companies and airlines give us free points and miles, but that isn’t true. We get paid a commission when you all get approved for a credit card using one of our links. We thank you for supporting TPG and that support has allowed us to expand, add new voices to the team and donate a lot to charity — over the last year we’ve given $500,000 and raised another $500,000+ through Prizeo campaigns for a variety of causes. We’ve also donated 500,000 miles to Rainbow Railroad to help support LGBT people seek asylum in safe countries, 5 million miles to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers initiative and plan to give 10 million miles next year to help women’s and girls’ initiatives globally.
The point of this post is to also show that I still practice what I preach — albeit at a higher level than when I first started. Even though our business is doing very well and we can pay for all of our flights, I still get that same rush when booking an amazing award trip and maximizing the value of our points — like with Emirates first class, the Etihad Apartment and even the inaugural Delta A350 flight. Being savvy about points for my business adds to our bottom line and even though the points game is changing, with airlines increasing amounts needed for most awards, I’ve been able to counteract that with earning more points than ever by maximizing every dollar I spend.
High level — I currently have 20 credit cards and a FICO score in the high 700s. I’m thinking about trimming 3 from the pack as I shift my spend away from co-brand cards and focus on the key transferrable points programs, including American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points.
Before you go out and get a bunch of credit cards, it’s critical that you understand how credit works and also know your FICO score (many credit cards will give it to you for free):
For simplicity, I’ve separated all my cards into three categories:
- Cards I Can’t Live Without
- Cards I May Change or Cancel
- Cards I Want
Here’s a look at what’s currently in my wallet:
|Card||Annual Fee*||Current Welcome Bonus||Value of Rewards||Issuer|
|Cards I Can’t Live Without|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||$95||50,000 Venture Miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months||$700||Capital One|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||$550 (See Rates & Fees)||60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months||$1,200||American Express|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||$450||50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months||$1,000||Chase|
|Citi Prestige||$450||N/A||$10,000 from 4th Night Free||Citi|
|Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card||$95||80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first three months||$1,600||Chase|
|Business Centurion Card from American Express||$2,500||N/A||$45,000 in benefits||American Express|
|Capital One Spark Miles For Business||$95||50,000 miles after spending $4,500 in the first 3 months||$700||Capital One|
|Cards I Like for the Time Being|
|JetBlue Plus Card||$99||40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days||$520||Barclaycard|
|Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card||$95||50,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days||$500||Bank of America|
|Chase Ink Business Plus||$95||N/A||N/A||Chase|
|Ink Business Cash Credit Card||$0||$500/50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months||$1,000||Chase|
|Cards I May Cancel/Change|
|Chase Freedom||$0||$150/15,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $500 in the first three months||$300||Chase|
|United Explorer Card||$95||40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.||$520||Chase|
|IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card||$89||80,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months||$480||Chase|
|Cards I Want|
|American Express® Gold Card||$250 (See Rates & Fees)||35,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months (50k referral offers available)||$700||American Express|
|Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Card||$95||$500 after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months||$500||Capital One|
*Ongoing annual fee.
Cards I Can’t Live Without
These cards are the best on the block and I use all of them constantly. They all earn valuable, transferable points and most have amazing perks or travel credits that make them even more useful.
In January, the Capital One Venture Rewards card added an awesome benefit of 10x miles on Hotels.com purchases. I’ve been staying at more luxury and non-chain hotels over the last year and I like to book through Hotels.com to earn 20% back when stacked with the Hotels.com Rewards program. With the upcoming devaluation of the Citi Prestige’s 4th Night Free perk I’ll surely use the feature even more. A few weeks ago, the issuer announced that it would be adding 12 airline transfer partners in December. We’ve upped the value of Venture miles by 40% with the new partners that include Avianca LifeMiles (fantastic for booking Star Alliance awards) and Etihad Guest (great for booking American Airlines flights). Miles can be redeemed against any travel purchase too, so they’re great to erase charges against things like Airbnbs or train tickets. The Venture has become one of my top cards since we spend so much on Hotels.com at TPG and the return on spend at the website is so great. READ THE REVIEW HERE
The Platinum Card from American Express is another one of my favorites because of the strong perks and the 5x points it earns on airfare purchased directly from the airline. While the Business Centurion gives many of the same benefits as the Platinum, I also get a $200 airline credit and $200 in Uber credits a year. But this card really shines for myself and the company with its 5x points on flights and now 5x on Fine Hotels & Resorts bookings. Combine that with the Business Centurion’s 50% points rebate and I’m getting at least 10% back on flights and FHR bookings. I also added my parents as authorized users, which only cost $175 dollars for up to three but each card holder gets lounge access benefits (See Rates & Fees). READ THE REVIEW HERE
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a no-brainer for most people, including myself. I use this card for the bonus categories that get you 3x points on travel and dining. I put all dining spend and all other general travel purchases (Uber, Airbnb, car rentals, tolls and some hotels that aren’t bookable through Marriott, Hotels.com or Amex FHR) on this card. The 3x categories will have you racking up points FAST. READ THE REVIEW HERE
I don’t put much spend on the Citi Prestige, but its 4th Night Free perk is what makes this card worth keeping around. Unfortunately, Citi will start limiting the use of 4th Night Free in 2019, but it will be adding better bonus categories like 5x points on dining and travel. Using the 4th Night Free just once can pay for the $450 annual fee (which will increase to $495 in 2019) — myself and my staff have received insane value from it. It just saved me $4,000 at The Brando Hotel and $1,500 at The Silo Hotel. I love to splurge on amazing resorts, and the 4th Night Free is perfect for that — I’m going to maximize the card until it gets devalued next year. The $250 air travel credit is easy to use (and will become a general $250 travel credit in 2019) and cuts down the cost of holding this card even more. Plus, if I have complicated itineraries, I’ll put my flights on the card since the Prestige offers fantastic flight delay protection. READ THE REVIEW HERE
A fantastic business card, the Chase Ink Business Preferred gets 3x points on up to $150,000 spent on travel, shipping, internet, cable and phone services and social media and search engine advertising. I solely use this for social media advertising since the business spends a lot on Facebook and Instagram ads — quickly maxing out the $150,000 limit which nets us 450,000 Ultimate Rewards points, worth $9,000. READ THE REVIEW HERE
Although the Business Centurion Card from American Express comes with a huge $2,500 annual fee, the perks it comes with are unmatched. Also known as the Amex “Black Card,” it gives me complimentary Delta Platinum Medallion, Hilton Diamond status and my own personal concierge, Ray and his amazing team. I wrote here why the card is worth it — I probably get about $20,000 of value just from Ray alone plus I get a 50% points rebate on all airfare booked with Pay With Points, which gives my Amex points a value of 2 cents apiece. It’s a great tool if we can’t find award availability and need to pay “cash” for a flight.
The Capital One Spark Miles For Business offers 50,000 miles after spending $4,500 in the first three months. The card comes with a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year. READ THE REVIEW HERE
Cards I Like for the Time Being
Although these cards aren’t rockstars, they all hold their own. They’re a bit more niche than the transferable points-earning cards with big category bonuses, so I’m using them less now, but they have solid perks and fill out my wallet where other cards fall flat.
I don’t use this card a lot for regular spend, but the one thing I love about the JetBlue Plus Card is that you can earn Mosaic status after spending $50,000 in a year. Mosaic gets myself and travel companions free flight changes, early boarding, free bags and more — benefits which I use all the time — saving me from thousands of dollars in fees. Still, I’d love to see the card add better points earning and more perks.
The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card launched in 2017 and it instantly became one of the best cash-back cards on the market. If you’re a Platinum Honors client at Bank of America, you can earn 3.5% back on travel and dining purchases and 2.625% back on everything else. So whenever I’m focusing on earning cash back, I’ll go with this card. It’s so good that you can actually make money paying your taxes with this credit card. However, I am falling a bit out of love since you potentially earn more back with the Capital One Venture Rewards Card and its transferrable partners. READ THE REVIEW HERE
The Chase Ink Business Plus was discontinued in 2014, but my account was grandfathered in. It’s still worth holding on to, since it earns me 5x points on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases on office supplies and phone, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year.
Our business spends a decent amount on office supplies, so the 5% back/5x offered by the Ink Cash (up to $25,000 in purchases a year) is another great way for me to boost my Ultimate Rewards account balance. I snagged a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points ($500) after spending $3,000 in the first three months because I finally fell under 5/24 (Chase’s rule that prevents you from being approved from new cards if you’ve signed up for five or more cards with any issuer over the last 24 months). With all the other great business cards, I’m not sure this card is going to see a ton of spend but it’s still solid for the time being. READ THE REVIEW HERE
I’m also an authorized user on one of my employee’s Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard since it gets me into all Admiral Club lounges and I don’t even have to be flying American. Ten authorized users can be added to the card at no cost — meaning you could split the fee between you and ten of your friends or family members for $41 each.
Cards I May Change or Cancel
As I mentioned before, I’ve continued to find less and less use for co-branded credit cards and that’s why these cards are on the chopping block. I’ll most likely cancel or downgrade these unless I receive any more retention offers when calling the bank to close my accounts.
While I find the rotating categories a bit annoying to use and am not loving the low caps on rewards, the Chase Freedom is still a solid card since it earns 5x Ultimate Rewards points (on up to $1,500 a quarter in eligible purchases). I was considering canceling this, but since it’s a no annual fee card there’s not much reason to. READ THE REVIEW HERE
I wrote last year that the only reason I keep the United Explorer open is that it offers expanded award availability, but I feel like I’m seeing less and less of that. That’s only on United flights and I usually try to avoid flying the carrier anyway, but I’m still keeping this open for the time being, though I may still cancel it in the future. It’s nice that Chase recently revamped the benefits on the card, offering 2x miles on dining and hotels and a Global Entry credit.
I don’t spend on the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (which was converted from the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card), and I don’t receive much value from the perks, such as free Platinum Elite status because of my obsession with Hotels.com. However, I need to get better at using the free anniversary night, which can be used at many IHG properties around the world. Unfortunately, IHG devalued the free anniversary night benefit earlier this year and capped it at properties up to 40,000 points a night. That means no more free nights at luxury hotels like the InterContinental Hong Kong.
Cards I Want
The American Express® Gold Card launched in October with a bang, offering 4x points at US restaurants and at US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year for the latter; then 1x) and will become my go-to card for those purchases. In fact, it offers the highest return on spend (8% back based on my valuations) out of any other rewards card for dining and comes in second for US supermarket purchases. I’m also a fan of the $100 airline credit and $120 dining credit that nearly offsets the entire $250 annual fee. READ THE REVIEW HERE
I have plenty of points, but sometimes it’s great to have a card that earns lots and lots of cash back, that’s why I’m interested in picking up the new Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Card. It offers 4% back on dining and entertainment and 2% back on groceries and 1% on everything else — and that’s uncapped. In terms of cash back, that’s at the top of the list for dining and entertainment. I do a lot of entertaining so this would fit well in my wallet for that bonus category. It also comes with a whopping $500 sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in three months. READ THE REVIEW HERE
I’m paring down my inventory even more than last year and really focusing on cards that can easily earn valuable and transferrable points. Co-brand cards continue to be less valuable, with low returns on spending and perks I rarely use — plus, I’ll save nearly $1,000 in annual fees from closing the cards. I’m looking forward to seeing what new cards and perks are announced over the next year.
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SIGN-UP BONUS: 50,000 Miles
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION: $700
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 10X miles on stays booked and paid for through Hotels.com/Venture + 2x miles on everything else. Miles are now transferrable to over a dozen airline partners
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
- Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
- Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
- Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
- Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
- Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
- No foreign transaction fees
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that