Ready to rumble: The second annual TPG staff credit card draft
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With the NFL conducting its annual draft via Zoom and Skype last night, we decided to do the same. Benét “Aviation Queen” Wilson (TPG credit cards editor) was joined by Summer “Mother of Dragons” Hull (director of travel content), Nick “The Commodore” Ewen (senior editor) and Richard “Boo Navy” Kerr (loyalty and engagement editor) for the Second Annual TPG Staff Credit Card Draft.
NOTE: The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Benét Wilson: Hi, TPG fans, I’m Benét Wilson, the credit cards editor, and I want to welcome you to the Second Annual TPG Credit Cards Draft. We have three of our top reporters from TPG joining me today. I am the commissioner and this is how it’s going to work. We all get $750 and four rounds to pick our four top cards. You are not allowed to go one dime over $750, Richard Kerr. And if somebody chooses the card, it’s out of play.
So I’m going to let my team introduce themselves. First up is Nick Ewen.
Nick Ewen: Hey, what’s up, TPG readers? Nick Ewen here, a contributor to the site since 2012 and a senior editor, and I’m excited to build a wallet that is chock-full of great rewards cards that is better than anyone else on this call. So bring it, folks.
Benét Wilson: Good luck with that.
Richard Kerr: Well, he’s never been the best before, so good luck.
Benét Wilson: Summer Hull.
Summer Hull: Hey, I came to play. I got my hoodie. My name is Summer Hull. I have been with TPG officially for about two years, but I ran the site Mommy Points for seven years or so before that. I have a wallet full of credit cards at home and I’m going to beat these boys at a minimum. Benét and I can tie, that’s fine. But the guys are going down.
Richard Kerr: Why do you always — just from the get-go — go in for the girl power?
Summer Hull: That’s how it goes.
Benét Wilson: Girl power, mom power.
Summer Hull: Right.
Benét Wilson: Oh, I guess we have to introduce Richard Kerr. Go ahead.
Richard Kerr: My name’s Richard Kerr. I like points and miles, and my job is to make sure people are excited about what I’m excited about. So let’s get it on. I thought we were just doing this article. Are we showing people this video?
Benét Wilson: Yes. You fail at your job a lot, don’t you?
Richard Kerr: Well, if you can define my job better than I can …
Benét Wilson: And that’s enough chit-chat. Let’s get to the rounds. We did a random order — thanks to Nick — and of course, as the commissioner, I get to go first.
Richard Kerr: “Random.” (rolls eyes)
Benét Wilson: So my first card is … (drumroll) … and this is going to be a little twist. I’m going for the Chase Sapphire — I’m sorry, the Citi Prestige® Card.
Summer Hull: Ooh.
Benét: I know!
Richard: You’ve already lost.
Benét: And the reason why is … pretty much right now, my Platinum Card® from American Express is … I’m using it to scrape ice off my window, because I get nothing else from it.
Richard: You have ice on your window in April?
Benét: Yeah, sometimes it snows in April, Richard. So for me, getting the 5 points for dining and travel, I mean, that’s very appealing right now, because I’m doing a lot of dining, a lot of ordering in [and] takeout, so that card kind of appeals to me. With the Amex Platinum, I’m only getting 1 point for everything. Now I know that with the Citi Prestige, the benefits are pretty much trash. But I can still get some Priority Pass lounge access, so for $495 I’m going with that.
The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related reading: Citi Prestige credit card review
Richard: You said your number-one pick had trash benefits. You have an interesting way of going about this.
Benét: You know, it is what it is.
Nick: It’s a bold pick Benét, that’s for sure.
Benét: Thank you.
Summer: She bold! OK, my turn.
Nick: Summer, you’re up.
Summer: All right. So my thought process is similar to Benét’s, but I am going to have a pretty traditional first pick. My quarterback on the team will be the Chase Sapphire Reserve with a $550 fee, and here’s the thing. So, I did not care a hoo-hoo about the DoorDash benefit until I couldn’t leave my door.
Richard: What’s a “hoo-hoo”?
Summer: You don’t want to know. But now, I’ve quickly used up the $60 DoorDash credit from the card. Using the $300 travel credit I think is still easy, though I’d already used mine for the year before life ended, but even if I hadn’t, it’s so flexible. I have no doubt I’d be able to use it from home. I’m also earning 5x points per dollar on my DoorDash orders (offer no longer available). And then even outside of that, you’re still getting 3 points per dollar on dining and (of course) travel, even though we’re not doing that. That card has also saved my tail before, when we’ve had to pay a $1,000, last-minute hotel room when we were stranded by snowstorms in Colorado.
There are a lot of reasons I love the card. I love feeding my family at the airport and the Priority Pass restaurants. Again, it’s not a today benefit, but the card is varied enough that it has normal travel-world perks that we use the heck out of. And then I’m still using it a lot now, just not in the same way. So — first pick, on the board.
Related reading: Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review
Richard: All right. I’m third?
Nick: Yep, you’re up.
Richard: Yeah, difficult decision here. Two of the worst cards were already picked, so I guess I have to go with my number one in the first place, which is The Business Platinum Card® from American Express [$595 annual fee; see rates & fees] — up to $200 [annual airline fee] credit, 1.5x on purchases over $5k (up to an additional 1 million points per calendar year) — and I definitely would get a 100,000-point welcome offer from that card (100K welcome bonus no longer available). Centurion Lounge access, Delta Sky Club access, Priority Pass access, and all the travel protections that were added*, I believe, in January this year. So if that flight’s delayed or canceled, I’m covered. And then, if I booked through Amex Travel, up to 5x points on all that goodness, and it’s just there for me. I’ve been putting the concierge to use here lately finding things that are sold out.
*Enrollment required for select benefits.
Summer: You buy toilet paper with your concierge?
Richard: So, if you’re not doing it for all kinds of sold-out things, it’s just been a great card, and it’s something that I would be happy to take number one. I look forward to Amex Business Platinum joining Team Kerr and bring us to the top of the league here.
Nick: All right. Well, three picks and three premium-level cards. So this is an interesting draft for sure. I’m going to go ahead and take a what I like to call a quasi-premium card. This is a workhorse in my wallet, especially right now being at home, getting takeout and spending at grocery stores. I am taking — for $250 (see rates and fees)— the American Express® Gold Card as my first choice. 4x points at U.S. supermarkets up to $25,000 per calendar year (then 1x), 4x points dining at restaurants, up to $10 a month at places like GrubHub, [participating] Shake Shack, Ruth’s Chris — things like that*. I love the Amex Offers program, as I earn tons of bonus cash back and bonus Membership Rewards points. So that is an absolute steal, in my opinion. I’m shocked that’s still on the board. I will take it with my first pick.
*Enrollment required for select benefits.
Summer: It’s only on the board because you can’t have that one and a premium and stay under $750. It is a great one.
Related reading: American Express Gold card review
Nick: There you go, you gotta sacrifice. So we’re doing this now in reverse order for round two, which means I get to pick another card now, and I’m kind of envious of where I am right now, because I just gained access to the Membership Rewards ecosystem. And now I’m getting access to the Ultimate Rewards ecosystem by picking the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Now, I love my Sapphire Reserve, but since that was already taken by my dear friend, I’m going to go with the Sapphire Preferred.
A lot of the same coverage you get with the Sapphire Reserve, slightly lower earning rates for travel and dining purchases, but those great protections. The ability to transfer to partners when we’re ready to start traveling again — I’ve gotten a ton of value transferring to United, to British Airways, to Iberia, to World of Hyatt. So for $95, I am glad to add that one to my wallet with my second pick.
Richard: Yeah, it’s a pretty mediocre pick. You obviously don’t like earning very many points on a lot of purchases. So congrats on messing that one up when you had two picks in a row.
Related reading: Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card review
Richard: You know, I think I’m going to go into the Ultimate Rewards deal as well, the problem being … the Chase Freedom Unlimited® would be an obvious choice here, but I just don’t think it’s going to cut it for me. So what I’m going to do is a little bit of back action and go with the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card, and I’m going to tell you why.
The Wells Fargo Propel card is no longer available for new applicants. The information for this 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.
Nick: Richard loves his Wells Fargo, that’s for sure.
Richard: Well, if you like common sense, then you’d like it too.
Richard: 3x points on the multipliers, no annual fee, worth 1.5x when you redeem towards travel, cellphone insurance (I pay my cellphone bill on it every month, so if I drop that phone I’m covered), and then I’m not worried about award availability when redeeming Wells Fargo points. I look for the flights, I cover that, I earn elite-qualifying miles, dollars and all that good stuff.
It just really broadens the portfolio, where I got my transferable points from Amex and now I’ve got those rewards that are gonna make it easy to fly when all you suckers are looking for award availability on the holidays and weekends. I’ll wave to you taking off, so Wells Fargo Propel is number two for me.
Related reading: Frequently asked questions about the Wells Fargo Propel Amex
Summer: Us suckers are gonna be just fine.
Richard: But you refer to yourself as a sucker, so …
Summer: OK, my turn.
Summer: Yes, my second pick is going to be … I would love, love the Amex Gold, but it didn’t fit in the budget, but that’s OK because The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express is only $95 and so fits into my budget, and it actually gives me more points per dollar on groceries than the Amex Gold as long as I use it a lot.
The information for the Amex EveryDay Preferred 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.
Summer: With the Amex Everyday Preferred, it has a built-in rate of 3x points on groceries in the U.S., but if you use it 30 times a month or more, which I have done the last couple months, you [get a 50% points bonus]. Just because I’m placing an obnoxious number of, like, small Amazon orders as they have toilet paper and stuff.
Richard: Don’t lie. I saw you buy a 30 packs of gum at the self-checkout.
Summer: I mean, I’ve done it, or single pack of gum, whatever. Um, but, so anyway, but as long as I have 30 transactions a month I get 50% bonus points on everything. So I’m getting 4.5x on groceries, including Instacart. I’m also getting access to all those valuable Amex offers which I literally save hundreds and hundreds of dollars a year on purchases I was going to make anyways. I’ve got access to the transferable Membership Rewards partners. So I can transfer my points to Singapore [and] book United, I can wait for the transfer bonuses. All of that and more for $95.
Nick: So, a solid pick.
Benét: So I know my next pick is going to be a horrible, terrible shock to you all. But I feel like I must have a card from my favorite airline in my wallet, just on general principle. So, for me, I’m going to choose the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card. I really want the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card, but it doesn’t fit into the budget.
I like the Priority card, well, because, of course, it’s Southwest and that is my favorite airline. I get that lovely little anniversary bonus every year. The travel credit that comes with it actually makes it cheaper than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, but with four upgraded boardings [that] I’ll probably give to my kid because I do have A-List status.
And I also like the 20% inflight savings. I mean, I get 20% off my Wi-Fi. Southwest Wi-Fi has gotten much more reliable and I like the fact that I can use it all day. I also like that I can earn TPQs that will help me maintain my A-List status, and the bonus on this card is a good chunk of the points you need to go for that Companion Pass. So, for all of those reasons, I like the Southwest Priority card.
Richard: Well, that makes one of us. Congratulations.
Benét: Thank you. Thank you.
Richard: Ride or die. I admire how much you stick to that airline.
Related reading: Battle of the Airlines: Why I think Southwest Airlines is the best
Summer: Benét mentioned that if she was getting this card now and getting a bonus, how much closer she’d be to the Companion Pass. Oh, sorry. I was yelling at my kid. There you go. I mean, that’s a slam-dunk part of it right there.
Summer: All right, who goes next?
Nick: Well, back to Benét, right? We’re starting round three back with the same order as round one.
Benét: OK, so I have to zip it around and because Richard stole my Wells Fargo Propel card, which I’m very bitter about, I am going to actually go with Brian’s favorite credit card, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
Benét: I like that because sometimes you just get lazy and you don’t want to think about rates. You know what goes with what and you get those solid 2 miles per dollar spent, whether I’m getting my DoorDash delivery or buying on Amazon. My Amazon bill is huge. Whatever I’m getting, I’m just coming to get those 2 miles. And, you know, the way that I’ve been spending lately, I can rack up the Capital One miles. There’s also airline transfer partners, and the benefits are pretty good. I can give my kid the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee. So yeah, that works for me.
Richard: You’re going to Helsinki, you can finally transfer to Finnair and book a ticket right up.
Nick: She can also transfer to EVA Air through the Citi Prestige card she picked earlier. So, you know, hey, she’s going to be having a bonanza.
Richard: Infinity MileageLands all day, every day.
Summer: All right. It’s me again. Um, all right, so I’ve already got a $550 card and $95 cards in my deck. I’m going to need to go with a no-annual-fee card. Which is why I’m going to pick the Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants). I’ve already got the Chase Sapphire Reserve. So I’ve got the transferable feature, and I’ve got the ability to use points at 1.5 cents per dollar on travel and that will continue to be true with my Freedom pick, as long as I’m linking that card up with my Ultimate Rewards main account.
The information for the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Summer: So I’m going to be earning [5% cash back] 5 points per dollar [at rotating, quarterly bonus categories]. And this quarter at grocery stores — and that again includes, like, Instacart and a lot of those delivery services. So it’s really easy to max out the $1,500 [per quarter in spending]. Other quarters have been Amazon and wholesale stores like Costco, or Sam’s and gas stations. And sometimes it’s restaurants — it depends. But right now it’s really easy to max out, and I love having the ability to get those 5x earnings on some unique categories each quarter and move them to my CSR.
Nick: Richard, your pick.
Richard: I gotta go with a no-annual-fee card because there’s one I can tag along with my Amex Business Platinum card — The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, which is 2x points on all spend up to $50k each calendar year (then 1x).
Nick: Richard Kerr, you are killing me, my friend.
Richard: Yeah, that’s what they all say, man. I can’t help it. It’s just, you’ll get 1x on the Amex Platinum card, but I love the transferable points, so I gotta go Blue Business Plus so I can get 2x on all spend [up to $50,000 in spending per year; then 1x], which beats the Chase Freedom Unlimited, because 2 is better than 1.5. And now I get all the transferable points on top of my fixed-value, 1.5 cent points as well.
Nick: Well, Richard took the wind out of my sails pretty significantly. I was hoping that Blue Business Plus would still be around because that is one of my go-to cards in my wallet right now. Sadly, in this draft it will not be earning a place because Richard has swooped in.
Nick: I’m rethinking my strategy a bit here. I’m going to go with a pick … since I now get the next two in a row to finish out my wallet … I’m going to go with a pick that is a little outside the norm. I’m going to go with the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card.
Now, the Alaska Visa card has got some really appealing features to it. You know, earning rates aren’t spectacular at 1 mile per dollar spent everywhere and 3 miles per dollar spent on eligible Alaska purchases. It only has a $75 annual fee, though. And the thing that I love about the Alaska card is the annual companion fare benefit. Every year, I essentially get a buy one Alaska ticket, get another Alaska ticket for $99.
Being based in Florida, I can get nonstop to San Francisco, L.A., Portland and Seattle. I can stop over in any of those places and continue on to Hawaii or continue on to Anchorage. I can have multi-city itineraries, you name it. I have used that benefit to get at least $400 every year of value from this card. So at $75, I think that’s an incredible value. And, Alaska miles are incredibly valuable as well.
Richard: I mean, how many of those Anchorage laps are you making from South Florida?
Nick: All the time. All the time.
Summer: But the best way to do it is when you get those Alaska upgrades, if you match status, if they’re still doing that. And then what I did is use those on our trips from Hawaii using that. So we upgraded for free on the buy one get one, which is great.
Nick: Yeah, the first time I did it, we flew Orlando to Maui through San Diego, then flew back to San Diego, which is another nonstop destination I forgot to mention. We flew back to San Diego, had a four-day stopover there and flew home. The companion-fare benefit saved us over $700 on that flight. And we did have some Gold Guest Upgrade certificates and bumped to first, and it was a fantastic use, so I’m going airline cobranded like Benét, but I’m taking my Alaska Visa.
Related reading: Best ways to redeem Alaska miles
Nick: All right. As we enter the final round, I’m looking at my picks here. I’m trying to figure out the best way to go. I’m going to go ahead and add a no-annual-fee card, even though I still have room in my salary cap when it comes to earnings. I’ve got to think about where I typically spend money. So I’m going to be adding the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card to my wallet.
Nick: The thing I love about the Ink Business Cash are the bonus categories. So it is a small-business card, but you get [5% cash back] 5x points on the combined spending up to $25,000 an [account anniversary] year for telecommunication purchases. So, you know, my home internet, my cable TV and my cellphone. You also get [5% cash back] 5x points for purchases at office supply stores [on the first $25,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year].
Related reading: Reasons to apply for the Chase Ink Business Cash Card
I’ve ordered Clorox wipes from Staples during this pandemic, and you can get gift cards there if you’re giving gifts to your friends and family members. That’s a great way to maximize my Ultimate Rewards points. So I will gladly have my 2x points on my Sapphire Preferred for travel and dining, plus my 5% cash back on the Ink Business Cash that can be converted to Ultimate Rewards points. And I think that rounds out a pretty outstanding wallet. Boom.
Related reading: Chase Ink Business cards showdown: Cash vs. Unlimited vs. Preferred
Richard: That’s one opinion.
Benét: A boy can dream.
Summer: It was a really good try, Nick.
Nick: I appreciate that.
Richard: That was such a mom thing to say.
Summer: Here’s your medal.
Richard: We’re proud of you.
Nick: Hey, but you’ve got to look at my wallet. I’ve come in at — by my calculations — total annual fees of $420, so I’m well under the $750 cap.
Summer: It sounds like you left money on the table to me, personally.
Richard: No NFL team brags about how under the salary cap they are.
Summer: Those kinds of teams don’t usually win the Super Bowl.
Nick: All right. Let’s see what the rest of you folks have before you start going down the trash-talking realm.
Benét: Speaking of trash, go ahead, Richard.
Richard: Funny, but looks aren’t everything. All right. My final card here is going to be the Capital One Spark Miles for Business card, 2x on all purchases. They have some pretty lucrative welcome offers that come and go. But the fact that they’re transferable now leads me to get 2% cash back on everything at a minimum, or, you know, all kinds of crazy things we can do, transferring over to wonderful partners like Aeroplan and book amazing Star Alliance itineraries. It’s just difficult to beat no-frills.
It’s a simple, logical pick that gives me the ability to never earn only 1x on any purchase. I have access to two different transferable currencies. And I’ve got a multiplier on a no-annual-fee card that fills the 1.5% redemption toward any flight I want. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win a credit card draft.
Related reading: 5 lesser-known perks of the Capital One Spark Miles for Business
Richard: They’re silent. You know I’m right. Go, Summer.
Summer: Haha. All right, so there’s the card I really want to say and then there’s the card I will say. I’m not choosing this, but part of me really wants the United℠ Explorer Card, because it unlocks upgrades on reward tickets and it lets me earn toward elite status from home. But I have the feeling that the imaginary rules of this draft won’t actually get me over the finish line. So for the purposes of this draft with no written rules, I’m going with the Citi Premier® Card. It’s $95 a year, and the United one was as well, but it allows me to unlock what [to] me and Richard is kind of a hot [airline loyalty] program of the minute we agree on: Turkish [Airlines] [Miles & Smiles].
Summer: So I can book my flights for free while Nick may have to still pay for his flights to Hawaii. My Citi Premier is going to unlock the ability to transfer to Turkish 1:1 so I can book my United flights from Houston to Hawaii for 7,500 miles each way. And I can earn at 2x and 3x multipliers on this card.
The bonus structure’s changing a little bit, but historically this is how I earned bonus points on Disney. It’s also how to use points to buy Disney tickets, because you can’t do that with the other programs like Chase anymore. So it has a lot of unique partners and earning categories and ways to redeem points that work some of these other cards do not. So final pick for me? I have unlocked Turkish with Citi.
Nick: Good luck finding that on the two days out of the year that United has Saver awards.
Summer: God, we have a guide that you really need to read. Richard, we need to help Nick. He is unaware. I will grant you business class is hard when there’s not a pandemic going on, but economy — which is all you’re flying on your Alaska stuff anyways, if you don’t have those upgrades [with Alaska] — it’s actually really pretty easy. So …
Richard: It’s a good pick, but basing a pick around the one trip you’re going to take to Hawaii each year …
Summer: Oh, it’s not. It’s any United stuff. I can be flying all over the country and beyond. I can go to the Virgin Islands for, like, I can’t remember off-hand but 7,500 or 10,000 [miles] each way, but it’s something like that. Same for San Juan and same across the U.S. It’s not one trip a year; it’s a lot there. I think you helped me write the story. Anyway, my wallet is now rounded out. I’ve got Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou points, and I’ve got multipliers ranging from 2x to 5x, and there’s no reason I’ll be earning below 1.5x on anything.
Richard: You spread yourself too thin. It’s a good and a valiant effort. It’s a solid second place.
Summer: I’m covered on offense and defense.
Benét: I feel like I’ve just been the contrarian this whole time.
Richard: You’re like the special teams of this draft, Benét.
Benét: Yeah, that’s exactly right.
Nick: Don’t stop now!
Benét: I’m not going to go into the one card I was going to pick because Richard took it. I’m still bitter, so I’m just gonna take a little left turn and go with the Citi® Double Cash Card. Now, again, very simple. I’m lazy and I’m eventually going to get into this, but right now I’m just lazy. So I get my 2% cash back [1% when you buy, plus 1% as you pay]. I can pair that with my Citi Prestige and transfer them over to ThankYou Rewards points, a program that is sorely undervalued. I’m not getting a whole bunch of benefits, but I’ve got them from my other cards. So I’m really happy with my selections.
Related reading: Citi Double Cash card review
Summer: We’ll be flying to Hawaii together, Benét — for 7,500 miles each way.
Richard: I’ll be in Delta One from Atlanta nonstop for 50,000 Virgin points, so …
Summer: Have fun doing that for a whole family.
Richard: I’m not taking the whole family.
Benét: So everybody was solid with their picks?
Nick: I think so.
Summer: I mean, y’all tried, and it was fun. Good effort.
Benét: Well, I thank you all for indulging me on this, and I’m just gonna throw this out here. Once we get this up, I would love it if the readers would weigh in on who they thought did the best.
Richard: Yeah, we want to know who came in second.
Benét: And that Richard Kerr did the worst.
Nick: I’m perfectly happy with my under-salary-cap budget wallet right now. Listen, we can’t all be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and get both Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, so I’m going to stick with what I got.
Benét: Well, thank you all so much for doing this. I appreciate it and see you on the other side.
Editor’s note: We’d love to hear who you thought won this friendly contest. And please share what four cards you would have chosen with your $750 budget and why you chose them, all in the comments.
Featured image by The Points Guy
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