How TPG staff’s credit card strategies have changed during the pandemic
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The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has knocked us all for a loop in so many ways, including travel — and credit card usage. Thanks to stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions and social distancing, many of us have changed what cards we’re using to rack up points and miles.
Credit card issuers have noted our card spending changes and pivoted accordingly, allowing travel credits to be used in pandemic-friendly categories, including groceries, food deliveries and streaming services. I decided to poll my TPG co-workers to see what cards they were using before the pandemic and what their shift to other cards has looked like.
Nathan Richardson, TPG Executive Vice President
I re-ordered my travel cards to the back of my wallet. Instead, I’m now focused on using my Chase cards since they offer points for Instacart and Grubhub orders. I also applied for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express for the 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x). The card also comes with 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services and 3% back at U.S. gas stations. It has a $0 introductory annual fee for one year, then $95 (see rates and fees). I also moved my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to the front of my wallet for dining. Finally, I’ve applied for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card for obvious reasons. The information for the Amazon Prime Visa has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Steven Sibley, President, RV Travel
Before the pandemic, I used the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card exclusively for dining; however, our dining has declined significantly. And we used The Platinum Card® from American Express for basically everything else. So I applied for the Blue Cash Preferred card when it had a great limited-time welcome offer. I immediately started using it for the higher cash back in the streaming and supermarket categories. But once Amex Platinum came out with the streaming credits, I flipped Netflix back over to the Amex Platinum and kept Hulu, Disney and others on the Blue Cash Preferred. The information for the Capital One Savor card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Laura Motta, TPG Editorial Director
Pre-pandemic, I was devoted to chasing airline status and leaned on my Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. Just as the pandemic hit, I reached SkyMiles Gold Medallion status and decided to stop pursuing anything above that. I switched all my spending over to Chase cards. The bonuses were better on categories where I was actually spending, and I already had tons of Delta miles I wasn’t using. It seemed like a good moment to diversify. I added the Chase Freedom Unlimited card to my wallet to pair with my Chase Sapphire Preferred and maximize my Ultimate Rewards earning.
Ian Fitzpatrick, TPG Senior Associate
More than 90% of my pre-COVID-19 spending was on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, especially since it came with the complimentary Lyft Pink membership and up to $60 a year in Doordash credits through 2021, which was great to have while living in New York City. While I’ve shifted a lot more spend toward supermarkets and Amazon, I haven’t pulled the trigger on a new card yet. However, I am considering applying for the American Express® Gold Card or the Blue Cash Preferred to capitalize on their points categories in the current environment.
Related: Maximizing the Amex Gold in 2020
Summer Hull, Director of Travel Content
I’ve added one card to my wallet since the pandemic began — the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card to get 2.625% on otherwise non-bonused spending via Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program. I also did a product change to the Chase Freedom Flex. I’ve found myself chasing bonus categories as much as possible to make every dollar spent really count.
I’m diligently using various limited-time offers such as Amex Offers on my The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, including 5x bonus points at Amazon, a $75 statement credit on a recent Marriott stay and 10% back on Hyatt stays on my Hyatt credit card. In a nutshell, being home more has given me the time to mentally keep track of the ever-changing opportunities.
The information for the Amex EveryDay Preferred cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Clint Henderson, Senior News Editor
I shifted some of my spending to my IHG® Rewards Club Select (which is no longer open for applications) for 2x IHG Rewards Club points and my Chase Sapphire Preferred for 2x Ultimate Rewards bonus points for gas when Chase was offering that temporary bonus category (no longer available). I also switched some spending to my Amex Platinum card for credits on wireless and streaming services. I also shifted some spending to my Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and Delta Reserve card when those cards offered extra points on grocery spending (no longer available). I earned 12x points on groceries at U.S. supermarkets on my Hilton Aspire card (2,000+ Hilton Honors points) alone.
For the most part, I’ve kept most of my spend on my Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card to get the status boost from spending $30,000 in 2020. That worked out well since Delta offered 4x miles on groceries in June and July (offer no longer available). I also ended up paying my rent one time on my AAdvantage Aviator Black World Elite Mastercard (which is no longer open for applications) since all spending currently counts toward million miler status on AA. Not much, but since I’m not flying American Airlines at the moment, it gave me a little credit there. The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Black card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related: The best travel credit cards
Katie Genter, Reporter
Before the pandemic, I was putting most of my spending on the Chase Sapphire Reserve. After all, globetrotting as a digital nomad meant that most of my expenses would code as travel or dining. But, now that I’m traveling by RV in the U.S., my primary expenses have changed. Now, I’m using the Citi Premier® Card at gas stations and supermarkets, the Citi Prestige® Card for take-out, the Chase Freedom (which is no longer open for applications) for Walmart expenses and The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express for everyday spending. The information for the Citi Prestige and Chase Freedom has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Andrew Kunesh, senior reporter, cards & loyalty
My credit card strategy has changed drastically during the pandemic. While my grocery and dining spend typically still goes on my Amex Gold, I frequently switch it to cards offering temporary spend bonuses or earning multipliers. For example, I’ve charged this month’s dining to my Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card since it’s offering 10x points per dollar spent through Oct. 31, 2020. Likewise, I received an offer to earn 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $2,000 or more on the card by the end of November. This further sweetens the deal and quickly leads me to free hotel stays in the future.
I’ve also switched everyday spending to the Delta Reserve card. It offers 500 bonus redeemable miles and Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) per $1,000 spent through the end of the year. This helps me boost my MQM balance, which is rolling over to next year due to the pandemic. I’ve started paying for things like car insurance, rent and other miscellaneous expenses with this card, too.
Long story short: I am putting my spend on cards I never thought I’d use this heavily. This helps me diversify my points portfolio for post-pandemic travel. Keep an eye out for Amex Offers and other promotions if you’re interested in doing the same.
Chris Dong, Reporter
Before the pandemic, the Amex Gold card was one of my go-to cards thanks to the 4x earnings on dining, which I fully took advantage of in New York City. However, during the peak of COVID-19 as restaurants closed, I still used the Amex Gold with its 4x bonus on U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x). For a couple of months, I got my food (including groceries) delivered. In the last six months, I also opened two hotel cards, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the World of Hyatt Credit Card, and worked to hit the welcome offer/sign-up bonus on both. While I wasn’t traveling in the spring, I wanted to earn more hotel points for future trips. Now, I have a healthy balance of both Hilton and Hyatt points for my fall and winter adventures.
Related: The best hotel credit cards
Will Flood, Senior Associate
My card choice pre- and post-COVID-19 has not changed much, as I rely on my Amex Gold. However, how I am using it has changed. Before COVID-19, I spent a lot of time dining out with friends or ordering takeout. However, when the pandemic hit, I started cooking at home much more often, so I now leverage the high 4x on supermarket spending on my Amex Gold (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x) much more than I ever have in the past. I haven’t felt the need to switch to a cash-back card or other cards for my groceries.
Mitchell Stoutin, Director of Engineering
My usual cards strategy is to maximize a trio of Chase cards: The Freedom Unlimited for non-category spend, Freedom for the rotating 5% categories, and Chase Sapphire Reserve for most travel and dining. I put some spend on the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card as well, usually to build a miles balance for taking the family on trips where two of us can use the Companion Pass and the third can book with points.
In the pandemic, though, I find myself using just one card more and more often —The Amex Gold, for three reasons. First, I only buy food now, whether it’s carry-out from the Indian restaurant up the road, Instacart or a grocery run, and I get 4x points. Second, the Amex Offers have been on point lately. Right now, I have a “2,000 points for every $3,500 spent” offer on my card, which brings the non-category return above my Freedom Unlimited’s 1.5x. I’ve also used offers for a hotel stay, furniture shopping and blue light-filtering computer glasses.
Third, I’ve bought a few big-ticket items since the pandemic started, including auto accessories for road trips, fitness equipment and furniture. Amex Gold gives me higher caps on purchase protection and warranty claims than the no-annual-fee Chase or airline cobranded cards, so that’s my card these days.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred card, click here.
Featured image by Fairfax Media via Getty Images
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