Which Card for Meg?

Recently, someone I know from college reached out to me to ask which card might be the best to add to her roster as she’s moving to Seattle! Yay moves!

Some background on Meg:  she has two cards already (Capital One Quicksilver and the REI Store Card) and only wants one more card. She also wants to maximize travel expenses, so in my opinion, there are two options for her:  Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines. Both airlines offer an extensive array of destinations, and because they compete on so many of them, fares tend to be cheaper. Continue reading to see my recommendations.

So let’s take a look at the three cards I’m going to recommend:  the Delta SkyMiles Gold and Delta SkyMiles Platinum (both by American Express) and the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature by Bank of America.

 Link Delta SkyMiles Gold Delta SkyMiles Platinum Alaska Airlines Visa Signature
Image imgres images 1bbt_sigcm_v_mileageplan_250x158
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, $95 after that $195 $75
Required Spend $2,000 in 90 days $3,000 in 90 days $1,000 in 90 days
Bonus Points 50,000 70,000 30,000
Bonus MQMs n/a 10,000 n/a
Point Earning Structure 2 points per dollar on Delta

1 points per dollar on everything else

2 points per dollar on Delta

1 points per dollar on everything else

3 points per dollar on Alaska

1 points per dollar on everything else

Free Checked Bag? Yes, one Yes, one  Yes, one
Statement Credit? Yes, $50 after making a Delta purchase within 90 days Yes, $100 after making a Delta purchase within 90 days Yes, $100 after spending $1,000 in 90 days
Foreign Transaction Fees? No No No
In-Flight Savings 20% on purchases of food, beverages, and entertainment 20% on purchases of food, beverages, and entertainment n/a
Lounge Access? Yes, $29 per person, up to three people to the Delta SkyClub Yes, $29 per person, up to three people to the Delta SkyClub n/a
Mile Boost? No Yes, earn 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after you spend $25,000 or more in eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year n/a
Priority Boarding? Yes Yes Yes
Companion Certificate? n/a Yes, a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card Yes, an annual companion fare from $121 each year upon renewal of your card

Last year, Meg said she had roughly $5,000 in domestic travel expenses, which breaks down to the following:

  • 15,000 AS points for cc spend + travel points
  • 10,000 DL points for cc spend + travel points

In addition to the sign-up bonus, she is also likely to earn 10,000-15,000 more points from airline purchases alone, not including everyday expenses.


So, now that Meg has earned all these points, where can they take her? Let’s assume two scenarios. In the first, we’ll assume she’s worked really hard this year and is taking a much-deserved vacation to Maui. How many points is that on either Alaska or Delta?

On Alaska, it would set her back 52,500-60,000 miles plus taxes/fees, depending on which flights she chooses:

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-4-34-34-pm

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-4-34-52-pm

While on Delta, the same trip will set her back 45,000 points, plus taxes and fees:

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-4-32-51-pm

With the sign-up bonus on the Alaska card, she will not have enough to cover her trip; however, depending on which Delta card she chooses, she’ll have 5,000-25,000 points left over for another redemption.

In the second scenario, let’s say she’s quick trip to present at a conference in San Francisco. On Alaska, she’ll need to use 25,000 miles:

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-4-42-21-pm

However, on Delta, she’ll only need 10,000 miles:

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-4-41-16-pm

Given these two scenarios, I’m more inclined to recommend either of the Delta cards to Meg, given the high sign up bonuses (which expire 11/9, BTW!) and the low redemption costs I’ve highlighted here.Depending on the benefits she is looking for, the benefits may outweigh (and even pay for) the $195 annual fee on the Delta Platinum. With that card, Meg can pay the $195 annual fee, earn 70,000 points, and get two trips worth $791.20, a savings of $596.20! Additionally, Delta is trying to unseat Alaska as the “hometown” carrier, so there may be more benefits available as Delta tries to woo customers.

On the Alaska side, there is the annual companion fare, which Meg will get every year she renews the card. Basically, when she buys a full fare, her companion can travel for $99 plus taxes. The Points Guy has a great write up on it, so I’ll link to that (work smarter, not harder!) here.

No matter what you choose, happy travels, Meg!

 

 

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