Cards I’m recommending for a $30,000 home renovation project

Dec 7, 2020

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My sister just hit a major milestone that’s giving us both cause for celebration: She bought her first home. Being a single mom of three kids, that’s an incredible feat. And as excited as I was for her, I was even more proud that she came to me for points and miles advice. Since she’s renovating the house, it occurred to her that it might be a great opportunity to bank a credit card sign-up bonus or two.

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This is a big deal because my sister has no interest in points and miles. She likes the idea of booking almost free travel, but any time I explain to her the different airline programs and how to get the best redemption rates, her eyes glaze over and she says, “Can I just pay for it?” I’ve tried to get her into this hobby for nine years and the best I managed was convincing her to get a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Citi Premier® Card so she could have enough points for the occasional Hyatt stay and maybe save on an airline ticket or two.

(Photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)

I started asking her where she was doing the majority of her shopping for the renovation project. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a bonus category we could max out, so the focus shifted to maximizing non-bonus spending via credit card sign-up bonuses. Keeping her need for simplicity and lack of desire to go beyond swiping her card for purchases, here are the cards I recommended to my sister for her home renovation project:

Related: Best credit cards and strategies for maximizing home improvement spending

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

(Photo by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy)

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is ideal for someone like my sister who has neither the time or interest to research reward programs and keep track of category bonuses. The card earns 2x Capital One miles per $1 spent and miles are worth one cent each toward travel expenses. If she does decide to venture beyond this option, she can transfer Capital One miles to 13 airlines and two hotels at a 2:1 ratio or better.

The card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

This card is really great for the get-it-and-forget-it crowd that wants to earn substantial rewards without putting in too much work. She’s got enough of that going on with her house being stripped down to the studs.

Related: Review: Capital One Venture Rewards credit card

World of Hyatt Card

Every time we go on a family vacation and I go over our hotel options, she immediately jumps to “Can we stay at a Hyatt?” When I explain that we don’t have elite status and will have to forego valuable benefits, she responds with, “Why don’t we have status? Can we get status with a credit card?” It’s literally the only time she’s expressed interest in getting a rewards credit card or using it to leverage elite status.

I bit the bullet recently and got a World of Hyatt Credit Card for that purpose, but I also recommended she get her own. The card comes with instant Discoverist status and the ability to earn additional elite night credits: Five per year and two more for every $5,000 spent. If my sister were to put her entire $30,000 renovation cost on the Hyatt card this year, she’d end up with 12 elite qualifying nights. Factor in the annual five qualifying nights and she’s more than halfway to Explorist status.

But aside from the ability to spend her way to elite status, the card is a great value for her. At least once a year she likes to take a staycation a few hours from home. The annual free night award, valid at a Category 1-4 Hyatt, is perfect for that. I can already anticipate how having this card in her wallet will get her more excited, not just about Hyatt, but points and miles in general.

Related: The best hotel credit cards that come with an annual free night

Chase Freedom Unlimited

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

The first thing that came to mind when my sister asked which card to put “a large chunk of spending on” was the Chase Freedom Unlimited. After all, this is where I charge all of my non-bonus spending, but I knew my sister doesn’t have this card. So I presented it as an option for her, especially since she already has a Chase Sapphire Preferred and wants to earn more Hyatt points for a big post-pandemic extravaganza.

She seemed onboard with getting the Freedom Unlimited for the 1.5x on all spending and the 3x dining and drugstore bonus but she was not impressed with the sign-up bonus: $200 (or 20,000 points) after spending $500 within the first three months.

Long-term, this is a better card than the Capital One Venture — which also has a $95 annual fee — while the Freedom Unlimited does not. However, she’s more concerned with getting the most bang for her buck on this renovation project and the Venture seems to be coming out ahead. The jury’s still out, but since the Freedom Unlimited has no annual fee she should just get them both.

My recommendation was also made with the Chase 5/24 rule in mind. She has obtained two other rewards cards over the last two years. So if she wants another Chase card (especially for long-term use) then it’s important to time that before other cards.

Related: Ways to earn bonus points with Chase cards

Bottom line

While we have an entire guide on the best credit cards for home improvement projects, those options didn’t really suit my sister since most of her spending won’t qualify for category bonuses. The recommendations I made for her take into account her personal spending habits, knowledge of points and miles, as well as her long-term goals. These three cards really fit the bill nicely because she’ll come away with enough points and miles to offset her next family vacation and continue to earn valuable rewards beyond the welcome bonuses.

Featured photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images

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Regular APR
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Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent, Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.