I receive compensation for content and many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, Capital One and other banks are advertising partners of this site. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).
To get the very best out of rewards cards you don’t just need one card, you need more than one.
- You want to earn the most valuable points, these are points that transfer to a variety of frequent flyer programs.
- You want to earn that at the fastest rate possible.
Here’s what I told the Wall Street Journal‘s Scott McCartney a few weeks ago,
Gary Leff..likes that flexibility. You have a better chance of landing the trips and dates you want if you can buy in a variety of programs.
“Is there one card that’s best? I don’t think so,” he says. But having multiple cards “is more rewarding than ever before.”
You may want one card for everyday spending, one for travel and restaurant purchases, one to get lounge access and one to waive baggage and priority boarding fees if you don’t have elite status. You also might want one more for free hotel stays. And just signing up for a new card every year can get you a free ticket or multi-night hotel stay.
Singapore Airlines Suites
You should never earn just one mile per dollar. If you do, you’re buying that mile for 2 cents since you could easily put the spending on a 2% rebate card.
Instead you need to make the most out of all of your spending and that takes more than one card. While I’ve had a Starwood Amex for years, and used to use it for unbonused spending, there’s better solutions out there now (and many with that card will keep it for the perks but stop spending on it come August when earning changes).
You Need One ‘Hub’ Card
My favorite transferable currency is Chase Ultimate Rewards. They have high value partners like Korean, and even partners that don’t add fuel surcharges to award tickets like United. And Hyatt gives them a strong hotel partner, there’s not enough value in American Express points transfers to hotels.
Chase has the following transfer partners:
- Airlines: United, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Air France KLM, Southwest, Aer Lingus, Iberia
- Hotels: Hyatt, Marriott, IHG Rewards Club, Ritz-Carlton
Korean Air First Class
Chase’s no annual fee cards earn bonuses for spending in various categories, but the points do not transfer to airline miles. You need an annual fee card for that. You can pool all the points you earn with that one premium card, and all the points become transferable.
To make the strategy work, get one of these two cards:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You can earn another 5,000 bonus points when you add your first authorized user to the account and make a purchase in the same 3 months from account opening. It has a $0 annual fee the first year, then $95.
The card earns 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card offers 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Your spending will earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year. It has a $95 annual fee. Note that you may be able to get an even bigger initial offer in branch.
You can also get the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, if you spend heavily on travel and dining the extra point per dollar over Sapphire Preferred is worth it. However it’s a higher annual fee card, it’s harder to get ($180,000 annual income and 785 average FICO score) while Sapphire Preferred has the bigger bonus and a $0 annual fee the first year.
Then You Can Take Advantage of All of the Bonuses
You can get an Ink Cash card to earn 5 points per dollar at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services. It has no annual fee.
You can get a Chase Freedom Card (I producted changed to get mine) and earn 5 points per dollar in rotating categories each quarter.
And you can get a Chase Freedom Unlimited to earn 1.5 points per dollar on everything else. That way you never earn less than 1.5 points per dollar for your spending.
Bear in mind that all of the Chase branded rewards cards generally only approve people who have had fewer than 5 new credit cards in the past 24 months.
Do All Your Shopping Here for 5x
This is Too Good to Be True, Won’t It End Soon?
There’s been a lot of talk in the blogosphere lately that Chase could end the ability to move points between their cards. It’s not the first time this has been rumored to be under consideration. They should do this, if they know what’s best for themselves. Because by transferring points between cards you can earn all of their bonuses from various spending categories while minimizing fees. You aren’t just beating the house, you’re winning the jackpot.
That just means you should transfer your points regularly to your primary card, rather than letting points sit in the accounts of no annual fee cards. Every great strategy ends eventually. Every great strategy’s end has also been called prematurely. So it’s best to take advantage of it while it’s still alive, rather than waiting on the sidelines.