Credit Card Rewards: What Am I Doing Now?

The pool area at the Holiday Inn in Montego Bay

The pool area at the Holiday Inn in Montego Bay

Even though I write plenty about credit card rewards over at Frugal Travel Guy, I like to write about it on my home turf from time to time.  I guess it’s partly because I get so many personal emails and questions from people wondering which rewards they should pursue and which deals are H-O-T.

To be honest, it can sometimes be hard to answer those questions.  After all, we all have different travel goals and the best option for one person isn’t always the same for someone else.  Therefore, I thought it would be fun to give a rundown of the cards we’ve signed up for over the past six months and why. 

Whether you want to travel abroad, sail the Mediterranean Sea with Royal Holiday, or simply earn a few free flights, the following strategies might help:

The US Airways Premier MasterCard

I ain’t gonna lie.  The main reason we signed up for this card is because of my belief that U.S. Airways miles will become American Airlines miles after the two airlines finish merging over the next year.  As I’ve written before, I absolutely love American Airlines miles for overseas travel.  In fact, we booked two round-trip flights to Europe for this fall for only 80,000 AA miles total during the off-peak season.  The retail value of our two flights was over $2,400, and we paid a mere $197 in taxes and fees.

Anyway, we both signed up for the U.S. Airways Premier World MasterCard because it’s likely that the bonus miles we earn will be transferable to our AA accounts sometime in the near future.  We currently have around 200,000 AA miles to burn, but I’m a greedy bitch.  I always want more.  The deal is this: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after your first purchase on the card.

Boom.  That’s it. 

You can buy a pack of gum, pay your cable bill, or treat yourself to a single-serve sundae at Pinkbery.  It doesn’t matter.  The only caveat is that the $89 annual fee is not waived.  So basically you’re paying $89 for what will likely turn into 40,000 American Airlines miles.  If you want to sign up with my affiliate link, you can do so here.

IHG Rewards Select Credit Card

If you want to read explicit details of why I signed up for this card, you can read the long explanation in this post: How We’re Going to Jamaica for FREE Next Year.  However, I’ll give you the short answer here.  Basically, the IHG Rewards Select Credit Card allows you to earn points that are redeemable for several all-inclusive resorts.  We signed up for the 80K offer, which means that we have earned a little over 165,000 IHG points.  That’s almost enough for five free nights at the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort in Montego Bay Jamaica.  SQQQUUUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE…..  I cannot wait.

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express

The SPG card is one of my absolute favorite hotel rewards cards, for obvious reasons.  Another fun fact: The current offer on this card is 30,000 bonus points for a limited time.  The deal is this: Earn 10,000 bonus points after your first purchase and another 20,000 starpoints after spending $5,000 within 6 months.  That might sound like a lot, but it really isn’t.  You’ve got six months, people!  We already had the personal version of this card, so we signed up for the business version this time.  Yes, you read that right.  You can do both.

I don’t have an affiliate link for this card, but I have a referral link for the business version.  Basically, I get 5,000 bonus starpoints if you sign up through my referral link.  Wanna show a blogger some love?  Sound off in the comments if you want me to email you my referral link.

Capital One Venture Card

This is kind’ve a sad subject for me, but I thought I would report about it anyway.  Capital One recently upped the signup bonus on their Venture card to 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 within three months.  Greg and I both signed up for the card, but I was declined.

Womp womp…. 

I guess they saw my 40 million inquiries and zero balances and realized that I probably wouldn’t be a profitable customer.  But Greg has just as much open credit as I do, so I don’t get it.  The only thing that makes sense is that maybe Greg got approved since he has a real J-O-B and I got denied because of my self-employed status.  Or maybe they don’t like me.

Anyway, this card allows you to redeem your miles for travel credit, much like the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard (affiliate link).  So, 40,000 miles turns into $400 in travel credit for airfare, hotel stays, train rides, whatever.  I guess I’ll have to live vicariously through Greg on this one.

Want to read more about my adventures pursuing credit card rewards?  Check these awesome posts out:

How to Win the Credit Card Rewards Game- my interview in Time Magazine

Is The Starwood Preferred AMEX The King of Hotel Loyalty Cards?- my recent post at VOSA

Money Advice Not Everyone Agrees On: Using Credit Card Rewards- my interview in Lifehacker

Which cards have you signed up for lately?  Why?

About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.

Comments

  1. Hey Holly, have the airlines for sure announced that US Airways miles will become AA? I have had the US Air card for a long time (in fact, I don’t pay an annual fee I think because I signed up before there was one), but I don’t currently use it much because US Air does not service the area we live in now. But I might start using it more if the miles are going to turn into AA.

    • No, but I can’t imagine they would do anything else. And they won’t just cancel people’s US Airway points.

      Most of the points and miles experts seem confident that they will become AA miles.

  2. Hey nice job with the Time piece, I hadn’t seen that!

  3. Holly, once I start traveling again, I’m definitely going to try some of this. For now I’m happy with my Scotiabank Infinite Visa which gives me 4% cash on gas and groceries, 2% on recurring bills and pharmacy and 1% on everything else. It does have an annual fee of $129 for two cards though. I’m usually netting $300 – $400 per year which I can put on debt.

  4. Great job on all your free travels. Getting denied is a good thing because now you know that they know who you are in regards to credit card games. Maybe you can close out the older cards that already gave you a bonus, and reduce overall credit availability.

  5. I was going to get the IHG card, but waited too late as they’re back down to 60k points. I did just get the US Air and SPG biz card this week though and am pretty stoked about those. We’re still finishing off two cards for my wife so I just kept it to two this time. Now I just need to decide what we’re going to do with all our points, but that’s a good problem to have. :)

  6. I’m still working of the spend for the last Ink card I got. It’s harder now without Bluebird. I think after that we will have enough points to book our flights to Europe as soon as they open up for next July. After that we’ll see what hotels we need to get cards for. I’m trying to slow down a little just so we won’t have the problem you had with Capital One.

    • Have you considered switching over to Serve? That seems to be the one that many manufactured spend people seem to be flocking to.

  7. The $89 annual card fee for US Airways card isn’t a bad thing. If you were to buy $40K AA miles outright…well you know that the cost would be insane!

  8. I’m still working on the Barclay’s card, but now you have me thinking about that IHG card, too. Sounds like a great deal!

  9. Wow 40,000 miles with no minimum spend is pretty good. Good point about US Airway miles probably being transferrable to AA. Did you call the reconsideration line for the Capital One card? I thought if you’re married, you put your combined income so it shouldn’t matter if you’re self-employed since Greg has a “real” job.

    • I called but they aren’t helpful like Chase if when you call the reconsideration line. They said it was a final decisions and I gave up. I don’t have time for that noise!!!

  10. I like reward cards too! They have allowed me to travel first or business class overseas for more than 20 years.

  11. I’m currently churning the SPG Card and the Amex Gold Premier Rewards. I’m almost done with both and next I’ll be moving on to Chase Sapphire. I want to get enough miles to buy 2 tickets to Spain for next fall. Though I have considered AA because of their off season deals but I have no miles with them right now. At least with United we have about 80k miles and they have a Hub in Newark International in NJ which is more convenient for me. Like you said everyone’s situation is different so it can be difficult to give general advise when it comes to credit card churning.

    • So true. You can earn AA miles with the Citi AAdvantage card if you’re interested. I believe it’s a 50K signup bonus for a 3K minimum spend. We both had that card last year.

      • Now that you mention it I can transfer the 50k points I’m getting after churning my Amex Gold to AA. Then apply for one Citi AAvantage card and get the rest of the points I need for my 2 tickets next fall. Hmmmm, I think that might work out better for me. ;)

        • I don’t believe you can transfer AMEX MR points to AA. You can however transfer to alliance members and use other miles for AA flights, such as BA Avios.

          Or if you were really desperate and willing to take the hit, you could transfer 3:1 form MR to SPG, and then 1:1.25 SPG to AA. Could make sense if there was a specific reward you could get insane value out of and had no other way to accumulate the AA miles you needed for it.

          • Just saw this- you are correct!

            Racquel, maybe both you and your spouse could both sign up for the Citi AAdvantage card and earn 50K. Or you could do the SPG 30K offer (it expires June 30th!) and earn 35K spg bonus points. You could transfer 20K of them to AA and earn an extra 5,000 point bonus.

          • Darn, I was confusing my SPG points with my Amex MR points. With SPG I can transfer but not with Amex MR points. I can find other ways to use my Amex MR points but yeah transferring the SPG points to AA is what I was thinking about above. We’ll see. Thanks for the tips!

        • This is not something I necessarily would recommend doing, but if you want to stock up on future AA miles, there is a roundabout way to do it from Amex Membership Rewards program.
          You go to http://www.points.com and get an account. Then make sure they still list an option of exchanging Aeroplan (Air Canada miles) to US Airways. The ratio isn’t great, but not horrible. It’s 20,000 Aeroplan miles= 16,800 Dividend miles. Those will eventually become AA miles.
          As I said, I’m not recommending it. Most AA redemptions can be had by going through Avios program, which is a partner of Amex. It could be useful for those who live on the West coast, looking to fly to Europe or Caribbean. That’s because AAdvanatge is not distance-based, unlike BA Avios. Hope, it makes sense! :)

  12. Oooh I am finally stepping up my game and I will be applying for a lot of these cards!

  13. Ahh, the Starwood Preferred Guests is a classic. It’s neat how they started with a rewards program that was so good that they really didn’t have to change much as the years went by.

  14. I’m just about finished on the spend for my Ink Plus, just got a mail-offer for a Sapphire Preferred for my wife with $2k spend in 3 months, so starting that up now. Should have about 150,000 UR’s by the end of summer. Working on a 4 night NYC trip getaway next winter with wifey :) . Hoping to stay at the Park Hyatt, fly first class….the works :D

  15. As always, thanks for sharing. This is a post I really should bookmark and look at closer. I would love to get a great trip planned for next Summer when my wife is in-between semesters (we are going to Hawaii in January when she’ll be in-between semesters already). Again, our biggest issue now isn’t gaining rewards but finding the ideal time to cash them in!

  16. Now that I am done with the home buying process, it is time to get churning. These have made me excited about traveling. Nice work on the interviews Holly! That is awesome.

  17. Nice work as usual Holly. We currently just have one Barclay card but after we earn our bonus, I hope to then get one for my husband to churn as well. Next, I am thinking it will be time to get some hotel points.

  18. Thanks for the tips. I am almost at 40k AA miles. I plan on going to Europe to see my friend who is moving to Spain this fall. I’m so excited! That’s so bizarre you got declined for the Venture card. Do credit card companies decline based on you not having a real J-O-B? I know you make good money, doesn’t that count?

  19. I so wish that Canadians could take advantage of the deals that Americans get. Your sign up bonuses and even just the card diversity is awesome. We can travel hack, but not to the extent that you guys can. One day!

  20. My wife and I signed up for the US Airways card as well. We used the points to fly first class on our honeymoon. Round trip cost us a cool $200 with taxes and fees.

  21. Holly, question for you — if you and your husband both apply for the IHG card, how does it work to book one reservation? My husband and I have separate IHG points accounts (just the regular accounts from staying there) and they never let us transfer points between the two, so we always just use one of our cards and book hotels in that name. Curious about your process for booking one reservation based on points from two separate credit cards. Thanks!

    • I called and asked them about this a few months ago. Apparently you cannot transfer points without incurring a fee. However, you can book two reservations in a row under two names then merge them together. In our case, we will use my points to book the first 3 nights then my husband’s to book the next 2-3 nights. Then, right before we go, we’ll email the hotel to let them know about the situation so that we don’t have to switch rooms. That is how IHG advised me to do it with the least amount of hassle.

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