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TPG’s Chris Dong: Here are my top 10 story picks from 2021

Dec. 28, 2021
10 min read
The Ritz-Carlton, Fari Islands, Maldives
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This holiday week, members of the TPG team are taking a look back at some of our favorite — and most important — stories of the last 12 months. Today, I’m sharing my 10 most memorable pieces from the year.

I started on the TPG team at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. This year, I have traveled the world — as it began reopening again — while reporting on credit cards, news, product launches and giving my personal takes on points, miles and loyalty.

As 2021 comes to a close, here are my top 10 TPG stories, in no particular order.

 

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What it’s like to stay at The Ritz-Carlton Maldives

Read: A full review of the Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

There’s getting away. And then there’s getting away to the Ritz-Carlton Maldives.

The property checked all the boxes for a stay of a lifetime. A stunning setting. Gorgeous design. Luxurious amenities. Plus, attention to detail that would impress even the pickiest of travelers.

I enjoyed my time at the Ritz not because of how glamorous it was but because I felt genuinely cared for in a way that I’ve never felt at any other hotel in the world.

Capital One launches Venture X, its first-ever premium travel credit card

Read: A first look at the new Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

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(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

With Venture X, Capital One is entering the arena of premium credit cards — and leaning heavily into its rewards program investments.

The launch of the new Venture X card is a significant turning point for Capital One. The issuer hopes simplicity, a user-friendly travel portal and a soon-to-launch network of airport lounges will be enough to draw cardholders into the fold.

On the ground in Portugal: 10 most frequently asked questions about my visit

Read: FAQs about visiting Portugal as a fully vaccinated American

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

When Portugal announced its reopening to tourists, I jumped on the opportunity to visit as a fully vaccinated American in July.

During my trip, I received hundreds of questions over email, Twitter and Instagram about what it was like to be there. I compiled a run-down of some of the most popular questions, including answers based on current regulations (as of July 2021).

For the most up-to-date COVID-19 protocols, I recommend checking with your accommodations directly, the Visit Portugal website and the U.S. Embassy website.

What has Amex done to my beloved Platinum card?

Read: From private jets to Walmart credits: What has Amex done to my beloved Platinum card?

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

The Platinum Card® from American Express has been in my wallet since my early 20s.

Granted, I haven’t seen that many iterations of the Amex Platinum. But in my six or so years of having the card, I’ve witnessed its list of perks get more and more bloated while its annual fee ballooned from $450 to $550 and now to $695 per year (see rates and fees).

Earlier this year, I wrote about the evolution of the Platinum card to encompass more “lifestyle” benefits. But its most recent October update — one that included a Walmart+ subscription and SoulCycle statement credit — had me scratching my head and thinking, “What is Amex doing to my beloved Platinum card?”

A review of Turkish Airlines business class on the Boeing 777

Read: Expectations that were too high: A review of Turkish Airlines business class

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

Turkish Airlines has a lot going for it, including an extensive route network and a gorgeous (albeit slightly undistinguished) new airport in Istanbul.

But I boarded this flight with expectations that I had probably set too high. If I had tempered them, especially knowing about the more limited COVID-19-era service, I would have been more likely to enjoy Turkish business class on the 777.

I’d love to try Turkish again once its full catering operation has returned – especially if it is onboard a Boeing 787 or Airbus A350 with newer business-class seats.

Chase airport lounges are coming in 2022 — here's what to expect

Read: Exclusive: Chase airport lounge coming to San Diego, alongside 3 already announced locations

San Diego International Airport. (Photo by Extreme Photographer/Getty Images)

I learned earlier this year that Chase would wade into the lounge world with its own branded airport locations — dubbed “Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club” — set to open beginning in 2022 with locations at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA).

Now, as confirmed by TPG’s analysis of public board meeting documents, Chase is laying the groundwork for a fourth lounge at another airport location: San Diego International (SAN).

I’m Asian American. Here’s how the pandemic changed how I view travel.

Read: I’m Asian American. Here’s how the pandemic changed how I view travel.

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

The wave of hate and violence that rattled the Asian American Pacific Islander community last year unnerved me. It was the direct result of anti-Asian rhetoric associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

A spate of stories about violence encounters and incidents made me more deeply consider my Asian identity, especially as it relates to travel and I wrote about my perspective for TPG.

A review of Hyatt's Hotel 50 Bowery, New York City

Read: Boutique appeal in the heart of Chinatown: A review of Hotel 50 Bowery, New York City

A suite at the Hotel 50 Bowery. (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

After a short staycation at Hotel 50 Bowery, I can say with certainty that this JdV by Hyatt (formerly known as Joie de Vivre) property not only is a well executed boutique hotel, but it also pays proper homage to its Chinatown neighborhood.

With a unique, artistic vibe in a renowned part of town, Hotel 50 Bowery is one of the few New York City hotels that can please both out-of-towners and city staycationers.

How credit card companies are competing for your pre-flight cocktail

Read: Airport lounge wars: How credit card companies are competing for your pre-flight cocktail

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Access to airport lounges has widened dramatically in recent years, with airline club memberships, credit card access to Priority Pass, and most recently, issuers building out their own branded lounges.

That’s mostly good news for cardholders and soon-to-be cardholders. At the same time, lounges will need to continue innovating and creating new experiences.

Why I (almost) always book one-way flights

Read: Why I (almost) always book one-way flights

(Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

I care about the lowest price and maximum flexibility when I'm booking a flight, among other factors.

By strategically booking one-way flights, I have been able to maintain half the cost of a round-trip ticket and still give myself options to pay how I want.

In fact, I almost always book one-way flights. And it makes even more sense to do so now during the pandemic.

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

Featured image by CHRIS DONG/THE POINTS GUY
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.

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Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more