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How TPG built its points balance using credit cards

Nov. 08, 2019
5 min read
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How TPG built its points balance using credit cards
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As a business, The Points Guy has earned millions of American Express, Chase, Citi and Capital One points this year. Through strategic spending on some of the best travel credit cards, we’ve earned millions of points that we use to send our global network of employees on trips across the world, often in business- and first-class cabins.

Being The Points Guy, we use these points to reduce our business travel expenses. For example, prior to and after the launch of TPG UK earlier this year, the UK team has done frequent trips back and forth to the New York office. Instead of paying for the flight tickets with cash, we’ve used points for most of their trips. This strategy doesn’t just save cash, but it can also allow us to send the UK team in a premium cabin at a fraction of what it’d cost in dollars, or pounds.

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When starting The Points Guy, Brian Kelly realized the importance of maximizing business spending by putting it on the right credit cards. When looking at TPG’s biggest spending categories, he realized that they fell in two large buckets: advertising and travel. While most businesses use direct bank payments or a company-wide charge card to pay off business expenses, Brian decided to open a few American Express and Chase business credit cards to leverage bonus categories to multiply the company’s points earning.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.)

Since TPG is a digital business, we spend lots of money on online advertising. The American Express® Business Gold Card earns 4x points on such ads if it's one of your top two spending categories each month (up to $150,000 in spending per calendar year combined with one other category, then 1x). Through our advertising spend, we easily max out that category every year, which nets us 600,000 American Express Membership Rewards points, more than enough to send an employee from London to New York 20 times in economy class. If the average cost of the economy ticket is $500, we’re saving $10,000 by strategically earning our points using cards that offer rich spend multipliers.

Spend CategoryCard Used
AdvertisingAmerican Express® Business Gold Card and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
AirfareThe Platinum Card® from American Express
Other travelInk Business Preferred Credit Card

The Chase Ink Business Preferred also earns a multiplier on online advertising. To boost our Chase Ultimate Rewards points, we also put some of our advertising spend on that card. Although the card only earns 3x points on online ads for up to $150,000 in spend per year (compared to 4x with the Amex Business Gold), we need Chase points to fund some of our travel. Chase points are great for transferring to United and Hyatt among others.

TPG's not just a digital business; we're also a team of travelers. We’re always taking review trips, commuting to our parent company’s headquarters in Charlotte or organizing reader events throughout the country. Sustaining such travel would be cost prohibitive without using points.

Image courtesy of ANA.

Instead of paying $10,000+ for an ANA first-class ticket, for example, we transfer Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic and then book there for 120,000 miles round-trip.

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Related: Unlock incredible value with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

We can’t always use points for our travel, since award seats aren’t necessarily available on a given date. So we sometimes find ourselves in situations where we need to purchase our tickets using cash. When booking airfare with cash, we use either the Amex Platinum or Chase Ink Business Preferred. Each card earns 5x and 3x points per dollar, respectively, for airfare purchases.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.)

While it's not necessarily ideal to purchase airfare using cash — we are The Points Guy after all! — we soften the blow by making sure we’re earning really valuable points that can be used for future travel expenses.

Related: The best credit cards for airfare purchases

At TPG, we value Membership Rewards points and Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each, so we’re effectively earning between a 6% and 10% rebate on all of our airfare spend. The points we earn on paid travel are then used to offset future travel costs when award seat availability exists.

Through strategically choosing certain American Express and Chase cards, TPG has leveraged bonus categories to quickly boost our mileage balances. With these points, we’ve purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars of airfare, which in turn help us reduce our business expenses.

Your business can do this too. It doesn’t take a business with million dollar expenses to earn thousands of Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards points. Start by identifying the categories in which your business spends the most money. Then, make sure to use credit cards that earn a bonus multiplier for your top categories. After earning all the bonus points, redeem your points towards expensive airfare that you can offset with your company’s points. Your CFO may just thank you later.

Featured photo by Emily McNutt/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.