TPG reader credit card question: Is it time to switch cards?
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New year, new credit card strategy? Now that we’re starting a new year, many people are taking the time to think through 2021 earning and burning strategies. A big question on a lot of people’s minds is whether or not now is the time to switch cards.
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I have a Marriott Rewards Visa card and have achieved lifetime Platinum Elite status. My question is should I stay with the Marriott card or switch to something else? I work for the federal government and chose the Marriott card since I traveled a lot before the pandemic and was able to choose Marriott hotels wherever I went. I have American and United cards but don’t use them unless I’m traveling on them. I can’t pick and choose which airline I fly on for my trips – the government’s travel booking system (DTS) only lets us select the contract city-pair airline. Assuming business travel resumes in the near future, should I switch to another hotel chain to build up status (e.g. Hilton) or maybe go with a rewards card (in case travel doesn’t return to normal any time soon)?
Now that Gary has hit lifetime Platinum Elite status with Marriott (congrats!), it does make sense to reconsider his goals and how his credit cards can help him meet them. Switching spending over to a new credit card is a good idea, but that doesn’t mean ditching his existing Marriott credit card is the best option.
If he’s had the Marriott card for a while, it’s a smart idea to keep it so that his account remains open (helping his credit score). Length of accounts is a factor in determining your credit score, so cards you’ve had open for a long time are generally beneficial to hold onto if you can justify the costs.
The next step is to determine which direction to head in next: a different cobranded credit card or a more flexible rewards credit card?
An argument for a new cobranded strategy
If Gary’s priority now is to build status with another hotel brand, it makes sense to look at other cobranded hotel card options.
Hilton has a robust lineup of credit cards that would help him hit status, and it’s a solid brand to build loyalty with. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is the top-tier option, offering a long list of perks, including automatic Diamond elite status, up to two weekend reward nights annually, up to $250 in Hilton resort statement credits, up to $250 in airline fee credits, up to $100 in Hilton on-property credits and more. However, the card does come with a high $450 annual fee (see rates and fees).
If that annual fee is a bit too hefty (especially while travel is still on hold), the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card is another solid choice. It only charges a $95 annual fee (see rates and fees) and comes with complimentary Gold status, 10 free Priority Pass lounge visits and the ability to earn a weekend night reward when hitting spending requirements.
Related: Best Hilton credit cards of 2021
Another hotel brand to consider is Hyatt. According to TPG valuations, Hyatt offers some of the most valuable hotel loyalty points out there. And The World of Hyatt Credit Card, at $95 annually, is a great card to add to any wallet. You’ll get automatic Discoverist elite status, plus up to two free nights per year and five qualifying night credits toward your next tier status each year (with the ability to earn two additional night credits every time you spend $5,000).
If elite status is what Gary is after, Hilton and its lineup of credit cards with Amex makes it easier to earn elite status. Hyatt, on the other hand, makes it more difficult to attain top-tier status.
Also keep in mind that cobranded cards as a whole are less flexible than rewards credit cards. These cards earn points that are best-used only on hotel night redemptions, whereas rewards credit cards could have multiple redemption options that provide a solid value for your points.
An argument for focusing on rewards credit cards
On the other hand, a more general rewards credit card could be great for earning and burning if elite status at another hotel brand isn’t Gary’s top priority. Where cobranded credit cards are not known for their flexibility, many rewards credit cards are known for just that.
Take the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, for example. The card offers a great sign-up bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months you have the card and earns 2x on all travel and dining purchases — all for $95 a year. Those points can then be used in multiple ways while still getting value.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to airline and hotel partners (including Marriott and Hyatt), but you can also redeem points through the Ultimate Rewards portal for 1.25 cents each. The issuer’s Pay Yourself Back program also offers a way to redeem points for non-travel expenses.
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which earns 2x across all purchases, is another great choice. You’ll only pay a $95 annual fee, and you’ll also have access to transfer partners and a way to redeem miles at a flat rate for travel purchases.
These flexible rewards credit cards are a good choice for anyone whose priority is earning rewards and redeeming them rather than luxury benefits with specific brands.
Related: The best travel credit cards of 2021
However, keep in mind that rewards credit cards won’t necessarily help Gary earn status with other hotel brands or airlines. And unless he’s looking at an ultra-premium credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve or The Platinum Card® from American Express, Gary won’t get as many perks to upgrade your travel experience.
The right direction for Gary will depend on his priorities for 2021 and beyond. Is earning status with another hotel brand more important? Or is earning and burning for personal travel a larger priority? If the first, a cobranded hotel credit card from Hilton or Hyatt would be a great starting point for building up elite status with either brand.
But if the second, the flexibility offered by rewards (especially in a time when travel is still on the backburner for many) may be the better choice.
Featured image by The Points Guy.
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