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How I Swipe: TPG senior travel editor Melanie Lieberman

Dec. 26, 2020
7 min read
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Welcome to How I Swipe, a credit card routine series with a focus on strategic credit card spending while at home and on the road. Below is a short list of questions we asked TPG senior travel editor Melanie Lieberman to answer about how she spends on her credit cards, covering everything from the first card she opened to her go-to card for everyday spend to what cards are in her wallet when she hits the road.

The basics

If only coffee was a bonus category. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael for The Points Guy)

TPG: What is the first credit card you opened?

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ML: My first credit card was the Citi mtvU Platinum Select card, which I opened during my first year of college to build credit. I got rewards for paying on time and not exceeding the credit limit, and you could also earn bonus points at book stores, restaurants, movie theaters and more. I didn't use it much, but it did help me with my credit history!

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TPG: How many credit cards do you have?

ML: I currently have five credit cards.

TPG: How many credit cards do you actively use?

ML: I mostly rotate between three cards: My Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, my Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express.

TPG: What’s the last card you opened?

ML: I opened my Ink Business Preferred Card before the world ended. It was part of my transition plan to downgrade my Sapphire Preferred Card and then apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve. All of that was foiled by this pandemic though!

Related reading: Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review

TPG: What card do you want to open next?

ML: The Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Sapphire Reserve card are at the top of my list, followed by the World of Hyatt Credit Card and the REI store card. Seriously.

The nitty-gritty

TPG: How much do you pay in annual fees?

ML: $740

TPG: What is your go-to card for everyday spend?

ML: Most often, I swipe my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, but I always check my Amex Offers first.

TPG: What card perks are most useful day to day?

ML: Bonus points on takeout and groceries are one of the most valuable perks for me. But I’m also getting a lot of use out of streaming credits, Uber credits and limited-time offers for delivery services.

TPG: What is your favorite card stacking opportunity?

ML: I love stacking Amex Offers with card credits — sometimes, you can actually make money by doing so. One month, I got paid for my HBO Max subscription, and another time I nearly broke even on a luxury hotel stay.

 

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Taking this show on the road

TPG: What card(s) do you use to book travel?

ML: Right now, I use my Ink Business Preferred Card for 3x on all general travel purchases, and I use my Platinum card when booking flights directly through an airline for 5x Membership Rewards points.

TPG: What cards do you bring with you on the road?

ML: All of them, except my Home Depot card.

TPG: What card perks are most useful when traveling?

ML: I love the peace of mind of having trip protection and car rental collision coverage, but it’s always a treat when you can wait for your flight in the airport lounge and not at the gate.

Extra credit

I want the World of Hyatt card to help me get one step closer to another stay at a Miraval property. (Photo by Ted Willis/The Points Guy)

TPG: What’s the best points redemption you’ve ever made?

ML: I’ll admit, I’m not great at taking my own advice. I’ve redeemed points at hotels during peak times when cash rates were astronomical, but I’m mostly stockpiling them for a first-class flight to Japan or New Zealand, as soon as the world reopens.

TPG: What’s a rookie credit card mistake you’ve made in the past?

ML: Letting credits go unused! I hate that feeling of realizing I missed an opportunity to get an (essentially) free candle with my Saks Fifth Avenue credit. (Enrollment required.)

TPG: What tricks do you have for managing your card accounts?

ML: I only have a few cards right now, so they’re easy enough to manage. But some of my colleagues are spreadsheet wizards.

TPG: What’s a card perk that doesn’t exist, that you wish did?

ML: I am a huge advocate for “menus” from which you can select your credit card perks. We all know there’s a lot of overlap with perks like lounge access and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credits. I wish issuers would be a bit more creative and have more variety, so cardholders could select the perks that they need most or work best for them with their portfolio.

TPG: Any credit card pearls of wisdom you want beginners to know?

ML: Treat your credit card like cash. I never spend more than I can pay off in full every month. You shouldn’t have to pay interest to take advantage of great credit card perks or earn points and miles. Just pretend it’s your debit card: Your line of credit is not your bank account.

Featured image by (Photo by Ted Willis/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.