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TPG credit card question: What are the best credit card strategies for road warriors?

July 12, 2021
8 min read
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As more workers are vaccinated, they are going back on the road or taking to the skies. Whether you're a 9-to-5 office worker or a permanent resident at your favorite hotel chain, you're going to have to start spending again. If your job reimburses you for expenses, now is an ideal time to put your credit cards and loyalty programs back to work for future travel using the points and miles you accumulate.

So the natural question is: What are the best cards for road warriors? TPG offers three options.

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Card one: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

This card is a no-brainer for Hilton loyalists. Although it comes with a high $450 annual fee (see rates and fees), the premium travel perks offered by the Aspire card are bar none in the travel world. They include:

  • Hilton Honors Diamond status — As long as your card account is open, you’ll receive Diamond Hilton elite status as the primary cardholder.
  • Up to two weekend reward nights — Receive one weekend night at almost any Hilton property worldwide after opening your account and on your cardmember anniversary each year. Earn a second weekend night when you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year.
  • Up to $250 in Hilton resort statement credits — During each cardmember year (defined by when you opened the account), you’ll receive up to $250 in statement credits for incidentals charged to your card at participating Hilton resorts. That $250 can be used on dining, activities and spa treatments. This credit also applies to room rates and taxes, but not advanced-purchase or nonrefundable rates.*
  • Up to $250 in annual airline fee credits — As with the airline fee credits on the Amex Platinum card, you need to select an airline of your choice in order to receive $250 in statement credits for incidentals from that airline on your account, including spending by authorized users. The credit is only for incidental fees, like change or cancellation fees, checked bag fees or lounge passes.*
  • Up to $100 Hilton on-property credit — When you book at least a two-night paid stay at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties through (or over the phone and quote booking code ZZAAP1), you’ll receive a credit of up to $100 for incidentals during your stay.
  • Priority Pass Membership — Unlimited Priority Pass lounge access for you and two guests. Additional guests will be charged $32 per lounge visit. Authorized users do not receive Priority Pass membership. Also, Priority Pass memberships associated with an American Express credit card are no longer eligible for non-lounge experiences, such as Priority Pass partner restaurants.*

*Enrollment required for select benefits.

The information for the Hilton Aspire has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Most importantly, as a Diamond member charging stays to the Aspire card, you'll earn a very generous 34 Hilton Honors points per dollar on nearly all hotel stays. As TPG values Hilton Honors points at 0.6 cents each, this equals a 20.4% return on spend, which is unmatched by any other card. Points will rack up very quickly at this rate. That makes it very beneficial for cardholders to use it to book as many reservations as possible at Hilton-branded hotels.

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To top it all off, the Hilton Aspire Amex currently features a welcome bonus of 150,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Those 150,000 points are worth $900, according to TPG valuations.

Apply here: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Card two: Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card

If you fly Alaska Airlines frequently, this is one card that should definitely be in his wallet. Why? Because this card earns 3x miles on eligible Alaska purchases. As TPG values Alaska miles at 1.8 cents each, that's a decent return. Currently the Alaska Airlines Visa card is offering 70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion; from $122 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23) with this offer. To qualify, make $3,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

With only a $95 annual fee, the card also offers a free checked bag when flying Alaska. As checked bags can cost up to $30 each way, LJ can easily make up the fee in a single month of travel. That's a lot of perks for a little out of pocket. Although The Platinum Card® from American Express does offer a better return on airfare purchases at 5 points per dollar (when booked directly with airlines or via American Express Travel; up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), its points are nontransferable to Alaska Airlines, and the card comes with a staggering $695 annual fee (see rates and fees).

Alaska also joined the Oneworld airline alliance earlier in 2021, so that makes this card even more valuable, since it unlocks far travel redemption options. American Airlines' AAdvantage members now earn miles on all flights operated by Alaska Airlines, whether marketed by American or Alaska and the same goes for Alaska Mileage Plan members. The partnership also includes reciprocal lounge access, seat assignments and complimentary upgrades.

Related: Everything you need to know about Alaska’s partnership with Oneworld

Card three: A Southwest Airlines credit card

If you fly on Southwest frequently, you'd do well to have one of the several Southwest credit cards available. All currently feature sign-up bonuses, although the amount varies according to each card. We recommend the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card, which currently has a 80,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. This bonus is worth $1,200, according to TPG valuations.

On the consumer side, TPG recommends the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, which offers a host of solid benefits for a $149 annual fee. These benefits include:

  • A $75 annual Southwest travel credit (dropping the annual fee to $74)
  • 25% back on inflight drinks, Wi-Fi, messaging and movies

The card also comes with 50,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months.

Apply here: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Bottom line

Any combination of these credit cards help road warriors hit the maximum return on work-related travel spending. All three, of course, will maximize earned points -- from the Hilton Aspire Card to the Alaska Airlines Visa credit card. While the Aspire does charge an expensive annual fee, its perks far outweigh its cost. As for the other two options, annual fees under $100 a year means that road warriors will be able to check bags for free and even score a 25% discount on purchases.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.

Feature photo by Angela Weiss/AFP

Updated on 1/18/23.

Featured image by AFP via Getty Images
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.