Consult with Cards: Retiree with dreams of traveling to Ireland and the UK using points
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Editor’s note: Consult with Cards is a weekly series where the TPG cards team helps our readers decide what their next card should be. If you would like to be a part of this series and receive a personalized consultation, email us.
TPG reader Terri McMahon Ray is retired and currently resides in Alabama with her husband. They want to travel to Ireland and the U.K., and as borders have recently reopened to vaccinated travelers, this trip can become entirely possible with their points and miles.
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But for many of us, award travel isn’t as easy as opening up a new credit card and reaping the benefits. There’s much more strategy involved when opening the right credit card, as there are many issuer restrictions and spend requirements to be mindful of.
Terri has a fair to good score with a current credit score in the low 700s (depending on if you ask FICO versus Vantage). She’ll certainly qualify for many credit cards on the market, but she may not be eligible for the top-tier rewards cards. Terri and her husband also have opened a considerable number of travel credit cards in the past two years, so we’ll look at their current profile and see how they can map out a strategy for their future travels.
Terri proclaims herself as a frugalista, so a card like The Platinum Card® from American Express is likely not on her radar. Fortunately, you don’t need a card with a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees), especially if you’re the type of traveler who doesn’t mind flying economy or booking budget hotels.
Living in Alabama, she also doesn’t have all of the airline options at her disposal. When she books her trip abroad, they’ll have to connect through a major hub first.
Additionally, Terri and her husband tend to fly with American Airlines or Delta Air Lines. However, she expressed to me that she is trying to avoid flying with American as she has been recently dissatisfied with the carrier’s customer service.
Travel style and aspirations
While it may be nice to fly first-class and stay exclusively at five-star hotels, this doesn’t fit the bill for many travelers. As an economy-minded traveler, Terri and her husband will have plenty more options to choose from — and will burn fewer points and miles in the process! That means they can save up their hard-earned rewards for multiple destinations rather than for one trip.
In their case, Terri and her husband want to make their way to Ireland and the U.K., which is possible with the next few credit cards they open.
Current credit cards
Before we plan out what Terri’s (and her husband’s) following cards should be, let’s take a look at what’s in their wallets right now. More specifically, I asked her to name out the cards that they’ve opened in the past 24 months since Chase’s 5/24 rule impacts the cards they can apply for in the future.
Related: The best ways to use your 5/24 slots
|Terri||Fair to good|
The information for the Capital One Savor has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
With these current cards in mind, Terri’s husband is locked out of Chase cards for a few more months. Meanwhile, Terri has three slots left, since being an authorized user (Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card) doesn’t take up one of her 5/24 slots). Though she’s trying to build up her credit score and opening too many cards at once may not be the best move right now.
As mentioned earlier, they’re dissatisfied with American Airlines and are not planning on using their MileUp card (or flying American) in the near future. On a related note, they both plan on closing their Capital One Savor cards soon.
Even with these considerations, they’ll still have plenty of options for future cards.
Card recommendations for Terri
The Capital One Savor was a popular card throughout the pandemic thanks to its industry-leading 4% cash-back rate on dining, entertainment and popular streaming services and 3% at grocery stores. Before they close their Savor cards, Terri’s husband should consider applying for the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card — a terrific travel card with a reasonable $95 annual fee.
Once they apply (and get approved) for the Venture, they can transfer all the rewards left on the Savor over to the Capital One Venture to boost their bank of miles. The Capital One Venture also comes with a 60,000-mile sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
So, how exactly does the Capital One Venture play into their long-term cards strategy? With an unlimited 2% rewards rate on all purchases, the Venture is the perfect card to pay for all non-bonus purchases, whether that’s your dog groomer or new purse at a department store.
There are two main ways to use Venture miles for award travel. The first way is straightforward. Your miles are worth 1 cent apiece and can be used to redeem for any travel-related purchases on your statement in the past 90 days. This is helpful for purchases that aren’t exclusively flights or hotels. For example, you can use your Venture miles to redeem for tour guides and excursions.
The other option is where you can find the most value, and that’s by transferring your Venture miles to Capital One’s airline and hotel partners. The transfer ratios will vary, but out of all these loyalty programs, Terri and her husband could easily leverage the following for their upcoming trip to get to Ireland or the U.K.:
- Air Canada Aeroplan (1 Venture miles equals 1 Aeroplan points)
- British Airways Avios (1 Venture miles equals 1 Avios)
- Air France-KLM Flying Blue (1 Venture miles equals 1 Flying Blue miles)
- Avianca LifeMiles (1 Venture mile equals 1 LifeMile)
While the above guides will give you a better look at how to best redeem your points, Terri and her husband could redeem 35,000 Aeroplan points or as low as 20,000 Avianca LifeMiles for an economy flight one-way on a Star Alliance partner.
Meanwhile, Terri is working on improving her credit score, but she technically has three 5/24 slots available. Therefore, we recommend that she applies for one card at the moment: the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Even though her husband already has this card, Terri should apply since there’s a sign-up bonus of 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening . Plus, Terri could sign up with her husband’s referral link, and he’ll get a sweet 20,000 points if she gets approved.
Ultimate Rewards points are some of the most valuable transferable points in the game, as TPG values them at 2 cents a pop. That means this full sign-up bonus is worth $1,200 for travel, covering Terri and her husband’s flights (and potentially more). We have plenty of guides on our site about maximizing Ultimate Rewards points, and it can be easily done thanks to Chase’s 1:1 transfer ratio for its 10 airline and three partners.
For instance, Terri could score some free hotel nights by leveraging World of Hyatt or book her flights by transferring to Flying Blue or Virgin Atlantic to fly Delta. Just be wary that there will be higher fuel surcharges when flying directly to the U.K., so flying to Ireland first may be the best way for Terri and her husband to save on costs.
While Terri likely won’t want to open cards with high annual fees, she (or her husband) should also consider applying for the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card when it comes with an elevated welcome offer. Currently, this card offers 90,000 bonus SkyMiles, 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first three months from account opening. Offer ends 11/10/2021,
While there’s a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees), we envision this card to be an excellent match for Terri and her husband since they’ll get a round-trip companion certificate for domestic main cabin each cardmember anniversary. If they maximize this certificate, it can exceed the $250 annual fee (see rates and fees) — not to mention the card’s other benefits, such as the fast-track to elite status, Global Entry/TSA Precheck reimbursement and much more.
If you’re in a similar boat as Terri and her husband — you’re out of 5/24 slots and don’t want a card with a high annual fee — know there are plenty of other options worth considering. If you have a concrete trip in mind within the next year, now is the perfect time to take inventory of the cards in your wallet and what new cards can help you get to your destination.
Thanks for reaching out, Terri! If you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a consultation of your own, feel free to email us for a chance to be featured in this weekly series.
Application link: Capital One Venture offering 60,000 bonus miles.
Application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred offering 60,000 bonus points.
Application link: Delta SkyMiles Platinum offering 90,000 bonus miles, and 10,000 MQMs
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum, click here.
Featured photo by Klaus Vedfelt for Getty Images.
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