Which Card for Melissa?

Recently, my coworker Melissa told me that she wanted to know which card would be best for her travels between New York and Hong Kong (where her family lives).

Below, I’ve chosen six cards that I think are most appropriate for this situation. Three cards belong to airlines that either fly to Hong Kong or are part of a global alliance that flies to Hong Kong. Two cards earn “convertible” points–points that can be transferred to any number of airline partners, and one card is a hotel card that has a trick up its sleeve!

American Express Delta Gold:  30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in 90 days (plus a $50 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase in the first 90 days)

American Express Premier Rewards Gold:  25,000 points (which can be converted to Delta SkyMiles 1:1) after spending $2,000 in 90 days

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest:  35,000 points (which can be converted to Delta SkyMiles 1:1) after spending $3,000 in 90 days

Chase Sapphire Preferred:  50,000 points (which can be converted to United MileagePlus 1:1) after spending $4,000 in 90 days

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer:  30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in 90 days

Citi American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum:  30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in 90 days

Note:  This is not the highest that the American, Delta, Premier Rewards Gold, and United card bonuses have been, so I strongly recommend waiting for the higher bonus to come back.

Let’s break down the aforementioned cards and their details:

Card Annual Fee Bonus Points Notes
American Express Delta Gold $0 for the first year, then $95 30,000 points Must spend $1,000 in 90 days

2x miles per dollar on Delta, 1x miles on everything else

Priority boarding and free checked bag

No foreign transaction fees

American Express Premier Rewards Gold $0 for the first year, then $195 25,000 points Must spend $2,000 in 90 days

3x points for airfare purchased directly from airlines, 2x points at US restaurants, 2x points at US gas stations, 2x points at US supermarkets, 1x points on other purchases

$100 airline fee credit

No foreign transaction fees

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest $0 for the first year, then $95 35,000 points Must spend $3,000 in 90 days

2x points for Starwood hotel purchases, 1x point everywhere else

SPG points can be transferred to airlines (20,000 points = 25,000 air miles in most cases)

No foreign transaction fees

Chase Sapphire Preferred $0 for the first year, then $95 50,000 points Must spend $4,000 in 90 days

2x points on dining and travel, 1x on everything else

No foreign transaction fees

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer $0 for the first year, then $95 30,000 points Must spend $1,000 in 90 days

2x points on United, 1x points on everything else

Free checked bag

No foreign transaction fees

Citi American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum $0 for the first year, then $95 30,000 points Must spend $1,000 in 90 days

2x points on American, 1x points on everything else

Earn 10% back on point redemptions

Group 1 boarding and free checked bag

No foreign transaction fees

In addition, Melissa already has about 20,000 Delta SkyMiles from previous trips. This really sets the wheels in motion, as we want to supplement the points she already has.

Knowing all this, which card works best for Melissa? Instinctively, I would suggest the American Express Delta Gold or the American Express Premier Rewards Gold. Both cards will currently give her 25,000-30,000 miles (or 50,000 miles per card when the bonuses are higher). With one card at the higher bonus, she’ll have over 70,000 miles (and over 120,000 if she decides to get both!).

In addition, the number of miles required to get to Hong Kong on United and American at the same time were outrageously high in comparison:

  • 170,000 American AAdvantage miles and $43.06 for 8/11-8/21
  • 170,000 United MileagePlus miles and $37.46 for 8/12-8/21

As Padma would say, American and United, please pack your knives and go.

giphy

Additionally, the bonus for the SPG card just went up 10,000 points to 35,000. If Melissa spends $5,000 on that card, she’ll earn 40,000 points, which can become 50,000 Delta SkyMiles. Also a great option!

Moving on! What can Melissa get for her 70,000 miles? Well, a roundtrip flight to Hong Kong in August! That’s the name of the game, right? She’ll be flying China Eastern Airlines in both directions in their main economy cabin. Unfortunately, there are taxes and fees associated with this trip, in the amount of $404.27.

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 9.35.44 PM

Even with those fees, I still think the American Express cards are better. Not only does she have the required number of miles, but if she pays with her Premier Rewards Gold card, she’ll earn 1,212 Membership Rewards points which she can then transfer to Delta or another airline.

Compare that to the following, which is the cheapest Delta flights on those days:

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 9.40.40 PM.png

$1,655.16 for flights that are hours longer, no thanks!

So Melissa, my advice to you:  wait for the higher bonuses on the Delta Gold or Premier Rewards Gold cards to come back, or apply now for the SPG card! You won’t pay any annual fees in the first year, and will be well on your way to a family reunion!

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2 thoughts on “Which Card for Melissa?

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