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.

Continue reading “Which Card for Meg?”

Which Card(s) for the NYC-based Traveler?

Recently, I was thinking about general advice that I might give an individual in New York City who was trying to decide on the best credit card option. To be honest, I couldn’t come up with just one answer, so what I decided to do instead was lay out the four best cards to have if you live in New York City.

NOTE:  This is purely my opinion! You may disagree with me, and that’s OK. Take all advice with a grain of salt, and tailor to your unique situation.

That being said, I looked for cards that would create a well-rounded wallet, covering flights, hotels, other travel, and miscellaneous expenses. I also tried to keep annual fees to a minimal cost; however, the four cards outlined below have annual fees totalling $227. I would argue that the benefits of having these cards, detailed below, outweigh, and pay for, the annual fees.

In addition, all of these cards make sense for people living in New York City (or the surrounding area):  jetBlue’s largest hub is at JFK, there is literally a Holiday Inn anywhere you might want to go, and Amtrak can get you anywhere in the country from New York’s Pennsylvania Station.

Continue reading “Which Card(s) for the NYC-based Traveler?”

Which Card for Tara?

Recently, a friend from college reached out to me to ask for some credit card advice (hi Tara!). She currently lives in Boston and was wondering if the jetBlue Plus credit card by Barclaycard would be a good option for her. She also expressed that she was looking to go New Orleans sometime in October, which I’ll use as the test basis for recommending a card for her.

Continue reading “Which Card for Tara?”

Which Card for Suzy?

In the next installment of Which Card, we’ll be helping another one of my coworkers, Suzy, out. Ideally, Suzy would like a card for travel redemptions, ideally on flights to Italy (or Europe in general) or buses and trains from New York City. Additionally, the lower the annual fee, the better. These are two different goals, so my goal was to find a good card for travel to Europe and a good card for buses/trains in the NYC area.

First things first: Italy! One of the best cards for NYC flyers is the Delta Gold SkyMiles card. Right now, the targeted bonus is 60,000 miles for spending $1,000 in 90 days PLUS a $50 statement credit when you make a Delta Air Lines purchase. Check here to see if you’re targeted! If you aren’t targeted, the bonus is only 30,000 points for spending $1,000 in 90 days. This card comes with a $95 fee, which is waived the first year.

If Suzy’s targeted for the 60,000 point bonus, she could be well on her way to a week in Milan in October, courtesy of Delta and Alitalia:

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Sadly, the AMEX does have a sort of high annual fee, but nothing out of the ordinary when compared to similar co-branded airline cards.

Next, staying around NYC and taking the bus and the train. You all know how I feel about Amtrak, so I won’t rehash that here, but another good option might be either the Capital One Venture Rewards card or the Capital One VentureOne Rewards card. Both of these cards earn points that can then be redeemed for travel purchases, such as buses, trains, or even flights! I’ve detailed the differences below:

Attribute Capital One Venture Rewards Capital One VentureOne Rewards
Point Earning 2.0 points earned per dollar spent. 100 points = $1.00 1.25 points earned per dollar spent. 100 points = $1.00
Bonus Points 40,000 ($400 value) 20,000 ($200 value)
Spending Required Spend $3,000 in 90 days Spend $1,000 in 90 days
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, then $59 a year $0

With either of these cards, Suzy can charge trips to her Capital One card, and then use her points as a statement credit to pay for those travel charges. If she travels between New York and Boston (for example), the fare is roughly $60.

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With the Capital One Venture, she can redeem six free roundtrips (The VentureOne is only three roundtrips) with the sign-up bonus. Not too shabby, especially since charging these trips to her card also earns points!

NOTE:  The Venture cards are also good for travel, as you can use points for airlines, and can also do partial redemptions, depending on your point balance.

So there you have it, Suzy! I would recommend either the Delta card for travel to Europe or either one of the Capital One Venture cards for trolling around NYC.

 

Costco Credit Card – New Credit Card

Last year, Citi announced that they would become Costco’s new credit card provider, replacing American Express. This means that come June, American Express cards will no longer be able to be used at Costco, only cards on the Visa network.

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 10.35.18 AM.pngBecause of this, the American Express Costco card was discontinued, and customers should be receiving their new card in May.

What makes this new Citi card better than the American Express version is the earning structure of it! If you shop at Costco, this card could be a no brainer for you.  When this card is released later this year, it will earn the following cash back:

  • 4% cash back on gas, up to $7,000 per year
  • 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel
  • 2% cash back at Costco and Costco.com
  • 1% cash back on everything else

Again, if you shop at Costco, this card could be a no-brainer for you, as the cash back is awarded to you yearly (in February) as what I would consider a Costco gift card or gift certificate. Let’s assume the following spending per month:

  • $35 a month on gas
  • $200 a month on restaurants
  • $150 a month at Costco
  • $215 a month on everything else

That works out to:

  • 35 x 12 x .04 = $16.80
  • 200 x 12 x .03 = $72.00
  • 150 x 12 x .02 = $36.00
  • 215 x 12 x.01 = $25.80

In total, you’ve earned $150.60 in cash back over the course of a year, which is more than your hypothetical monthly trip to Costco! Free groceries, anyone?!

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Costco isn’t very convenient for me here in NYC (I don’t have a car, the space, or the time to make it feasible), but this card could be really beneficial for some people who find Costco convenient.

Which Card Archive

Just a quick post to let you know that I’ve created a special page to archive the “Which Card for…” series. Hopefully it’ll make finding them easier, especially if one of the situations applies to you!

So far, I’ve advised on:

Note:  When I say best, that is my very humble opinion. Take advice at your own risk!

Also, if you are looking for advice, leave a comment, and you may be the next person highlighted in the series!

Happy travels!

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.

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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.

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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:

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$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!