Benét J. Wilson, TPG credit cards editor: My 10 favorite TPG stories of 2019
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2019 was an exciting year for credit card refreshes, flight deals, aircraft retrofits and more. The TPG credit cards team is taking a look back on our favorite stories of the last 12 months and today I’m sharing my 10 favorite posts of the year.
I am the credit cards editor for the site, but I also contribute to the travel, aviation and family travel sections, sharing decades of experience in the commercial, business and general aviation sectors of the industry. You’ll see a mix of stories on my list, in no particular order.
In September 2019, TPG Executive Editor Scott Mayerowitz asked me to join him, Editor-At-Large Zack Honig and Senior Points & Miles Writer JT Genter for a battle (and podcast episode) to defend our favorite airlines: Delta, United, American and Southwest. I knew I had an uphill battle, with my competitors boasting about perks like airport lounge access and seat upgrades. Despite that, I managed to hold my own, throwing down Southwest benefits such as two free checked bags, a simple way to earn and redeem points, no pesky airline fees, the chance to earn the widely popular Companion Pass and the experience of flying on a carrier that makes me feel like they welcome my business on every flight.
Speaking of Southwest, in June 2019 the airline and Chase unveiled the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card. This was a big deal since it came with the most perks of any Southwest cobranded card and an annual fee of only $199. I was excited to see that you can earn 3x on spending with Southwest and its Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners and 2x on the business-friendly categories of social media and search engine advertising, plus internet, cable and phone services. It also came with four A1-A15 boarding passes per year, up to 365 $8 inflight Wi-Fi credits a year, up to $100 every four years to cover enrollment fees for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, 1,500 Tier-Qualifying Points for each $10,000 in purchases (up to 15,000 Tier points annually) and 9,000 Rapid Rewards bonus points after every cardmember anniversary.
During the time I covered the business aviation industry, I got to fly on many versions of this luxury jet, including a GIV once owned by Oprah Winfrey that Gulfstream was using as a corporate shuttle as we went to the manufacturer’s Savannah, Ga., headquarters for the rollout of the G650. And yes, flying in a Gulfstream is just as nice as you’d think it would be. So it brought back fond memories when Gulfstream unveiled the G700 in October 2019.
It was big credit card news for those who love to dine when this change launched in June 2019. American Express® Gold Card cardholders not only rejoiced in the higher 4x points for dining worldwide but were also happy to see a 4x earning rate on the first $25,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1x). This was on top of the limited-time offer to get the rose gold version of the card, along with up to $120 in annual dining credits when paying with the Gold Card at select dining partners including Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and participating Shake Shack locations. And the card comes with an annual credit of up to $100 for airline fees and baggage insurance.
I will not lie. I was a nervous wreck when THE Points Guy, Brian Kelly, invited me to be a guest on his “Talking Points” podcast in August 2019. Look, he’s used more credit card points and miles than I’ve ever accumulated (or hope to accumulate) in my lifetime. But I had a blast on the podcast. It was the perfect mix of the #Avgeek stuff I love and the credit card knowledge that keeps TPG’s readers informed.
I lived a good chunk of my adult life in Washington, D.C. Back then, Baltimore was that place you passed on your way to New York City. After moving to Charm City in 2006, I fell in love. I originally wrote this story as a TPG freelancer in 2017. But after a flurry of news about my current home base, I felt my original post was due for an update in July 2019 to tell folks why Baltimore should be on their bucket list of U.S. cities to visit.
I did consulting work in 2015 for the Washington, D.C.-based Rail Passengers Association, headed by my former Aviation Week boss, Jim Mathews. During that time, I became a genuine train geek, even traveling from D.C. to Chicago in a roomette on the Capitol Limited. So when TPG Travel Editor Melanie Lieberman asked me to write this September 2019 story on the best cards to use for rail travel as part of a fall series on trains, I leaped at the chance. It was a great way to showcase the work done by the association and highlight the best credit cards to pay for train travel.
I am a self-proclaimed airport geek, that person who arrives two hours early just to check out what’s new and snap photos of planes parked at gates. And I notice almost everything, which led to this story. We all know about the McDonald’s, Hudson Booksellers and random retail outlets that you find at airports. But what about things such as dentists at JFK and LGA, a cellphone lot on steroids at Denver International Airport (DEN) or a unique bookstore at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport (MKE)? All this and more were showcased in my November 2019 post.
Between March 2006 and January 2010, I wrote about airports and airport security. That meant I covered a lot of TSA-related stories. So when the agency announced it was tightening the rules for the Known Crewmember (KCM) program, which offers separate airport screening lines for pilots and flight attendants on duty, I pitched the story to TPG’s Senior Aviation Editor Ben Mutzabaugh. I had written the story when TSA originally announced the program in 2011, even attending the press conference at Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI), so it only made sense for me to write this up for TPG in August 2019.
I included this story because it was the first one I wrote as TPG’s credit cards editor. I had come to TPG from a competitor where I had written extensively about travel-related credit cards, points and miles. I had just finished a series on Delta’s credit cards, so my new editor asked me to do this review. TL;DR: This card is a solid one to carry if you’re a frequent flyer on Delta Air Lines. But if you already have status, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, which comes with some sweet Delta benefits, is a good alternative.
Featured photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy
With the Southwest Performance Business card you'll earn 9,000 bonus points each year after your cardmember anniversary. Southwest also offers one of the most lucrative airline perks - the Companion Pass.
- Earn 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
- 9,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
- 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases.
- 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable and phone services and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
- 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available
- Inflight WiFi Credits
- Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit
- Employee cards at no additional cost, earn points on employee spending.