Consult with Cards: TPG’s recommendations for earning transferable 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.
When it comes to rewards credit cards, there has never been a time where consumers have as many options as they do today. TPG reader Duncan Reid is a frequent traveler with two credit cards (both opened within the past 24 months) with brands he’s loyal to: American Airlines and Marriott Bonvoy. But he’s looking for advice on what credit cards he should consider next in his overall rewards strategy.
Let’s jump into our card recommendations for Duncan!
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Duncan is 23 years old and is living in central Virginia. He’s also currently applying to law school.
As a triathlete and coach, Duncan travels frequently — about once per month for races. He and his girlfriend will travel a few times per year for leisure.
Duncan would consider himself a savvy traveler, always shopping around multiple websites and using points and miles when he can to reduce his overall trip costs. Unless Duncan needs a first-class baggage allowance, he will almost always book economy flights, but appreciates an upgrade when possible.
Current credit cards
Relatively new to the points and miles world, Duncan only has two cards in his name: The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card and the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card. Here’s a quick peek of how these cards stack up:
|Card||Welcome bonus||Earning rate||Benefits||Annual fee|
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex||Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases made on your new card at U.S. restaurants within the first six months of card membership.||6x on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program, 3x on U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines, 2x on other eligible purchases.||Up to a $300 Marriott statement credit on eligible purchases, one free night award after your account anniversary (worth up to 50,000 points) (both eligible at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program), 15 elite night credits each year and automatic Marriott Bonvoy Gold elite status, Priority Pass Select membership, Global Entry/TSA Precheck application credit and more.
Enrollment required for select benefits, terms apply.
|$450 (see rates and fees)|
|American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp||Earn 10,000 bonus miles and get a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 within the first three months of account opening.||2x at grocery stores and on eligible American Airlines purchases, 1x on all other eligible purchases.||25% inflight purchases discount.||$0|
Card recommendations for Duncan
As Duncan already carries two cards — a premium one and a no-annual-fee option — he should next consider some mid-tier card options that earn transferable points in case his loyalty shifts in the future. This unlocks a great value proposition for frequent travelers like Duncan: The ability to earn thousands more points and miles through a welcome bonus and everyday spending.
Although Duncan already knows that he’s loyal to American Airlines and Marriott, he should start to focus his earnings on points currencies like Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou points. TPG values all four of these types of rewards higher than almost any single airline or hotel currency since they aren’t as subject to devaluations in the same way that individual frequent-flyer or hotel programs are, which we’ve seen as an overall trend over the past few years.
Therefore, let’s start with our initial recommendation: the Citi Premier® Card. With a manageable annual fee of $95, the card also happens to be fielding its best-ever sign-up bonus: 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. TPG values Citi ThankYou points at 1.7 cents each, so that’s $1,360 of value off the bat.
The Citi ThankYou program offers an impressive 15+ transfer partners that can score you some high-value redemptions and spans every major airline alliance.
You can transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio to these partners — and by reading some of our guides, you can learn how to maximize the ThankYou Rewards program. Our favorite partners in the Citi ThankYou portfolio include Avianca LifeMiles, Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, any of which will open up airline redemption options beyond just American Airlines or the Oneworld alliance.
But, the value of the Citi Premier doesn’t just stop at the sign-up bonus. This card offers one of the best earning structures out there. It racks up 3 points per dollar on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel, hotels, then 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases. With a nice blend of travel and everyday purchases, Duncan can earn thousands of points each year from these bonus categories alone.
There’s even a $100 annual hotel credit cardholders can take advantage of each year, distributed as a statement credit when spending $500 or more on a hotel booked on the Citi ThankYou portal. While hotel stays booked through third-party portals typically won’t earn you hotel points or elite night credits, this credit still could be valuable if you stay at an independent property that doesn’t participate in one of the major loyalty programs.
Once Duncan opens his Citi Premier, he can home in on earning Citi ThankYou points with the Citi® Double Cash Card, too. Although this is a popular card known for earning cash-back rewards, you can convert them into transferable Citi ThankYou points when you carry the Citi Premier in tandem.
The card is not currently offering a sign-up bonus, there’s no annual fee, either. The Citi Double Cash earns 1% back when you make a purchase, and 1% back when you pay it off, making that an effective 2% rewards rate on all purchases. Adding a card with strong, fixed-rate earning on everyday purchases like this one is crucial to any award traveler’s wallet since there will inevitably be many expenses in life that don’t fit under traditional bonus categories, whether it’s an oil change or a new TV.
And then Duncan can either utilize the rewards he earns with it as cash back to help offset some purchases his airline miles and hotel points would not normally be good for, or combine them with the ThankYou points from his Citi Premier to make them fully transferable and open up his travel options that way.
Switching gears, a card like the American Express® Gold Card is a favorite of many, especially the Gen Z and Millennial crowd, and earns valuable Amex Membership Rewards points.
In exchange for the $250 annual fee (see rates and fees), you’re looking at excellent benefits and up to $240 in annual value from statement credits. Here are the card details.
- Up to $120 in Uber Cash: By adding the Amex Gold to your Uber account, you’ll automatically get $10 in Uber Cash each month, valid for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides within the U.S.*
- Up to $120 in dining credits: When ordering with eligible partners such as Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations, you’ll receive up to $10 in monthly statement credits.*
- Up to 12 months of complimentary Uber Eats Pass: $0 delivery fees and 5% off orders of $15 and more with your Uber Eats membership — register by Dec. 31, 2021 (taxes and service fees may apply and do no count toward the order minimum).*
- Fantastic earning rates: The card racks up 4x on U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year) and on dining at restaurants, 3x on flights booked directly or through Amex Travel and 1x on other eligible purchases.
*Enrollment is required for select benefits, and terms apply.
It should be virtually effortless for many to take advantage of these credits, whether you need a Uber ride to the airport or are ordering delivery from your favorite restaurants.
Better yet, the Amex Gold earns rewards through the Membership Rewards program, and each point is valued at 2 cents each according to TPG. There’s currently a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months of card membership, and the $1,200 in value can unlock lots of travel possibilities.
Amex points transfer to 20+ airline and hotel partners, including British Airways Executive Club, Iberia Plus and Marriott Bonvoy. The Amex Gold is a terrific card that helps travelers like Duncan get familiarized with the Amex Membership Rewards world without paying an over-the-top annual fee.
As you get into the points and miles hobby, you start to learn some valuable lessons along the way. There are many opportunities for Duncan to learn more about transferable points, which is why our recommendations stem from cards that allow him to diversify his earnings from his two main loyalty programs of choice. Doing so will open up his travel options down the road and insulate him against possible program devaluations.
Featured photo by Katie Genter for The Points Guy.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees