Category: Dining

The AMEX Power Couple

If you’re like me, you have a credit card for each facet of your annual budget because the value is just too good to pass up. That said, for many of my accounts, the physical cards themselves have been locked in the safe for years since they are simply on record with my merchant of choice. That’s because when it comes to what cards you carry with you in your wallet each day, it is important to keep it simple. So today, I’m here to tell you why two, yes two, premium credit cards may be the perfect arsenal for your daily spending: The AMEX Power Couple – Gold and Platinum cards.

Costs Incurred

Let’s get this out of the way because it is the hardest to stomach. The annual fee on the Gold card is $250; the Platinum is $550. Yes, that’s $800 in annual fees. But keep reading: There are three reasons this annual cost is well compensated:

  1. Statement Credits
  2. Earnings on Spend
  3. Benefits

Let’s get to it.

Statement Credits

The Platinum Card grants you Uber VIP status and $200 annually in Uber credits that can be used in the United States. The credits are issued $15 per month with an additional $20 credited each December for a total of $35. Whether you utilize rideshare apps to get to the airport, or home after a night with friends, the credit can supplement your budget and become cash back in your savings. If you don’t use rideshare, you can alternatively use the credits to order from the Uber Eats food delivery service.

A newer benefit offered by the Platinum Card is the $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue (including the online store). Issued semiannually in $50 increments, these statement credits are applied to any purchase you make with Saks. Though their prices are generally higher, there are deals to be found both in clearance as well as within the fragrance department that allow you to purchase something without exceeding the $50 statement credit.

The Gold Card offers $120 in annual dining credits ($10/month) when you use your Gold card to pay for meals with Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and participating Shake Shack locations.  Personally, I find that Grubhub is the easiest way to redeem this benefit since one meal delivery a month is a nice benefit to commit to; they are also one of the only delivery services that do not charge delivery fees!

Both cards offer an annual Airline Fee Credit as well. After selecting one qualifying airline, you receive up to $100 per calendar year in statement credits when incidental fees, such as baggage fees and more, are charged by the airline to your Gold Card; you receive $200 per year on incidental fees charged to your Platinum Card. That’s a total of $300 per year that can be used on seat upgrades, baggage fees, lounge memberships and change fees!

Earnings on Spend

The average value of an American Express Point is two cents ($0.02) per point. So for the purposes of the assessment below, 1X points = 2% back; 4X points = 8% back; etc.

The Gold Card offers an astounding 8% back at restaurants worldwide and US supermarkets (up to $25,000).

The Platinum Card is worth its weight in airline purchases: 10% back. In the form of 5X points, this is my favorite earning reward because it can be used on ANY airline rather than the branded credit cards that require loyalty. So not only can you shop around for the best fare, you can take 10% off of that once you find it. Brilliant!

Both cards earn 2% back on all other purchases in the form of 1X points.

Benefits

The Platinum Card offers:

  1. A Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck. So whether you have been holding out until now, or your renewal is coming up soon, the fee credit will take care of that $85-100 expense.
  2. A Priority Pass Lounge Membership which gives you access to 1,000+ lounges across 500+ airports in 120 countries. 
  3. Gold Status with Hilton Honors
  4. Gold Status with Marriott Bonvoy
  5. Secondary Car Rental Loss & Damage Insurance

Both cards offer:

  1. No Foreign Transaction Fees: Travel abroad without incurring the 3% fee other card issuers charge when the card is used internationally.
  2. Purchase Protection: Your eligible purchases can be covered when they’re accidentally damaged, stolen, or lost for up to 120 days from the date of purchase with your Card.
  3. Extended Warranty: Can extend the original manufacturer’s warranty for up to two extra years for eligible purchases made on your Card.
  4. Free ShopRunner Account: This membership allows you to receive free 2-day shipping and returns at 140+ stores online.
  5. Premium Roadside Assistance: Not only will they cover eligible breakdowns and mishaps, American Express will coordinate response in your time of need!
  6. Baggage Insurance: Provides coverage for lost, stolen or damaged baggage when traveling on a Common Carrier when the entire fare has been charged to your Card.

Bottom Line

When looking at what a card actually costs you, we will take the annual statement credits from the annual fees and associate the remaining cost with the earnings on spend for their respective categories:

  1. The Gold Card has a $250 annual fee offset by a $120 annual dining credit and a $100 annual airline fee credit leaving $30 remaining. You will earn $30 in rewards after $375 in annual spend ($31.25/month) on dining and groceries with the 8% back in those categories.
  2. The Platinum Card has a $550 annual fee offset by a $200 Uber credit, a $200 annual airline fee credit and $100 in annual credits when you shop at Saks, leaving $50 remaining. You will earn $50 in rewards after $500 in annual spend on airfare with the 10% back in that category.

For arguments’ sake, even if you never spend enough to reclaim the $30 (Gold) and $50 (Platinum) remainders, holding the two cards only costs you a total of $80 annually and in return, you receive all of the benefits listed above.

Sign-Up Bonuses

Though the sign-up offers vary based on timing and your specific account, the acquisition of both of these cards would net you a minimum of 100,000 points worth $2,000 in travel rewards. For this reason, I always tell folks who are on the fence about whether or not they would get enough from the cards to justify the annual fees, that the first year is a no-risk trial with the sign-up bonus considered!

Referrals

My blog content is provided free of charge. If you decide to apply for one or both of these cards, please consider using my referral links below and we will both receive a reward from American Express! Thanks for reading!

  1. American Express Gold Card (link)
  2. American Express Platinum Card (link)

Why Have the Alaska Card?

If you have taken a flight with Alaska Airlines recently, you have heard about the Alaska Airlines Signature Visa card from Bank of America. Flight attendants, who receive a commission if you apply on-board, will tell you about the exclusive and remarkable benefits available to cardholders, and their inflight entertainment systems even now include commercials advertising the card too.

What is the Card?

The card itself is one of the most basic on the market. The annual fee is $75.00/year, it earns 3x Alaska Miles on money spent with Alaska and one mile for everything else. Notably however, the card offers a Companion Fare benefit that permits you to add a second ticket to your Alaska reservation for just $121 (taxes and fees) once a year.

Should I Use It Everywhere?

No!! It causes me physical discomfort to see so many people using this card as their everyday spending card; especially when dining out. The earn rate on this card is abysmal at less than 2% per transaction. Compare that with the no-fee Uber Visa Card (4% back on dining) or the AMEX Gold Card (8% back on dining AND supermarkets), and you’ll see money being left at the table each trip. Though purchases directly with Alaska Airlines would net you 6% back, this is still not competitive compared to the American Express Platinum card that offers 10% back on airfare purchases (for all airlines)! If you are most interested in simplicity, then this card is fine for you to use as an everyday card. But if you’re looking to maximize rewards on typical spend, this isn’t the one to keep in your wallet.

Worth Having?

I encourage folks to have one Alaska Card for each companion fare they need each year. Bank of America is not very restrictive when it comes approving cards; allowing folks to have 4+ accounts open simultaneously. If you will use the Companion Fare, the $75 card more than pays for itself each year. In addition to that, you will receive a sign up bonus worth between 30,000-40,000 miles after meeting spend requirements which makes each card especially valuable in its first year.

The Companion Fare

The Companion Fare is relatively straight forward to redeem, as long as you are booking a flight that is fully operated by Alaska Airlines (and not its partners). It even allows for stopovers. For instance, when we traveled from Seattle to Nashville with a companion fare, we connected through San Francisco on the return trip for 36 hours; the companion fare allowed us to book this creative trip at no additional cost.

In order to use the companion fare, the person who earned it must either be flying, or paying for the two tickets. That means if you have a family of four, two Alaska cards may make sense since you can use them to buy two tickets, and receive two for just the taxes and fees.

Wrap Up

If Alaska Airlines flies out of your airport, and you like to travel to one of their destinations each year, you need this card; or multiple. Save your bonus miles (they won’t expire as long as you have the card) for your next big trip, and don’t use the cards for everyday spend unless you can’t beat the 2% earn with another card in your wallet.

2018 Rewards in Review

Another Year Gone

2018 was a wild year for us with big changes including the relocation of my wife who is now working in Nashville completing a postdoctoral appointment while I have remained in Seattle. As a result of our anticipated increase in travel, we increased our monthly spending for annual fees this year to an average monthly budget of $187. With that, we not only supported a bicoastal living arrangement but even fit in some personal vacations as well, all thanks to our reward points.

As in previous years, I meticulously tracked every dollar in and out with regard to credit card annual fees and reward redemptions in 2018 and I’m pleased to say we more than quintupled our budget by using the appropriate mix of cards and redemptions over the last twelve months.

500% Return on Investment

By budgeting $187/month for travel, and using it to pay for the annual fees on our credit cards in 2018, our monthly vacation budget became worth five-times that: $947/month. From an annual standpoint, we redeemed rewards valued at over $11,300 in 2018! For the second year in a row, the most frequent returns were from our AMEX Platinum Card which accounted for nine transactions and nearly 50 airport lounge visits; but that’s no surprise when you consider the list of benefits. The big return in 2018 came from our combined Alaska Cards where we not only used companion fares, but redeemed miles as well.

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Trip Summary

Here’s a look at some of the ways we put these points to work: Phoenix and Peoria for Spring Training; Maui, Hawaii; South Beach Miami and Key West; Nashville and Seattle trips; Lihue, Hawaii; and two trips to Las Vegas.

Where will you go in 2019?

No matter how you plan it, you’re sure to come out ahead when you strategically manage your point and mile redemption. Use signup bonuses to skyrocket you to a top-level redemption, and ensure you’re using the correct cards on your daily spending so you never miss out on a point – don’t be afraid to label your cards to keep yourself organized!

Happy New Year!

Why You’ll Love the New AMEX Gold Card

It’s Goldddd!

You may remember the recent history of luxury travel cards: A longtime American Express employee left the bank to work for Chase where they worked to develop a luxury travel card that millennials (not American Express’ core customer group) could enjoy. Get ’em while they’re young, and keep them forever! They developed the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card and (until now) have been the go-to card for dining and travel rewards. It took a couple years, but American Express is finally throwing its own punch with the reinvention of its Gold card (currently available in Rose Gold for a limited time only).

What’s Good About Gold?

The Gold card pairs perfectly with the AMEX Platinum card which already offers 5X points on airfare and travel booked directly with AMEXTravel.com. The Gold card earns you 4X points on US dining and supermarkets and lets you pool all of those points in one place. With TPG’s latest valuation on American Express points at 1.9 cents each, that means you’re earning 7.8% back on your dining and supermarket purchases while earning 9.5% back on airfare!

The Gold card also offers a $10 monthly credit for Grubhub (and some other less notable) purchases and an annual $100 airline incidental credit for use on your favorite airline. If you use these benefits, the card only costs you $30/year (the annual fee is $250).

Just like its rose gold design, the Gold card also has a limited time offer associated with it: 20% back at US restaurants for up to $500 in spend within your first three months of having the card. This offer is set to expire on January 9, 2019.

Finally, the referral welcome bonus is 50,000 points (worth $950)! This nearly quadruples your investment on the annual fee for the first year. Pair that with the Platinum referral bonus below and you’ll earn another 60,000 points for a total of $2,090 in reward points!

So Time to Ditch my Chase Sapphire Reserve?

Not so fast. While it is no longer your highest earning card for dining, the CSR will still earn you 4.5% back on hotels and other travel (taxi, rideshare, subway, etc.) that you won’t get with any other premium travel card. In addition, it offers PRIMARY rental car insurance (including loss of use) in addition to trip cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance and lost luggage reimbursement. After the easy-to-redeem $300 travel credit each year, this card only costs you $12.50/month which is a STEAL for that level of coverage and a price you would likely be happy to otherwise add to your insurance bill.

Need One?

If you’re so inclined, please support my cause by using my referral links below for the cards mentioned in this post. Click one to learn more or apply:

Finding Your Next Card

Commitment

While I’m no loyalist, I do value commitment in all phases of my life including credit cards. That’s because a percentage of your credit score is the average length of your accounts. If you have two cards, one you’ve had for ten years and the other brand new, your average length of your accounts is five years. If you cancel the card you’ve had for ten years, you now have a nonexistent average. On the flip side, if you retain the card(s) you’ve had longest (assuming they have no annual fees or you’re still claiming the value from the fees), your score can afford to adopt some new plastic or metal friends into your wallet.

Know Yourself and Spot the Fakes

Where do you spend your money? For me, it’s dining and travel. Nearly 100% of my discretionary income goes to one of those two categories. Find out what your category is and find a card that will bring you the most value. Whether you spend most of your money on groceries, gas, business expenses, tuition or rent, there is a card for you. I recommend a simple spreadsheet that takes your annual spending, and calculates the value in rewards provided by each card you’re considering to identify a clear choice and help you spot the fakes!

For instance, you may think you’re doing yourself a favor by charging all of your Alaska Airline purchases to the branded credit card. But let’s say for a moment your goal is to travel from Seattle to New York (JFK) RT nonstop. That itinerary in April is 32,500 miles or $426. To achieve that with your Alaska card, you’ll need to spend $32,500 dollars generally or $10,833 on Alaska Airlines flights alone. Alternatively, you would achieve the required points with just $8,520 in airfare spending with the AMEX Platinum card OR $9,467 in dining and travel with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. So while the Alaska card is great for the companion fare, don’t confuse the branding as value. In our example, using a non-Alaska Airlines credit card to pay for meals earned triple the rewards on Alaska Airlines flights when compared with its own credit card! Definitely not what you’d expect.

Using a non-Alaska Airlines credit card to pay for meals earned triple the rewards on Alaska Airlines flights when compared with its own credit card!

As you are working through the numbers on your spreadsheet, you may elect to add a powerhouse metal card in your wallet for perks or top categories, as well as an everyday spending card which helps you net the best return for all of your miscellaneous spending. This allows you to maximize your earning potential on all purchases. But the important piece is that you do the math before you start spending. So ensure that the cards you pull out for each purchase are the right ones for the job and most effectively helping you achieve your objectives. Happy traveling!

Platinum or CSR? Why You May Choose Both.

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Choices

The American Express Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Reserve: These two cards are the power couple of the premium credit card world. Deciding which one is right for you can be tricky; so why not choose both?

I’m Not Crazy

While applying for not one, but two premium metal credit cards with a combined $1,000 annual fee may seem absurd to you, I’m here to provide you with the alternate narrative and tell you why we’ve decided to hold both cards in our wallet in 2018. Read on, and I will explain how $25/month will unlock a plethora of travel benefits for you and your loved ones this year.

Sign Up Bonuses

With the sign up bonuses offered by both cards, the rewards more than compensate you for the annual fees you incur in that first year. At the laziest redemption level, using points to purchase travel through the respective travel portals, you earn $1,350 from sign up bonuses in exchange for the $1,000 in annual fees; a $350 profit if you plan to travel this year.

Annual Fees vs. Credits

The American Express Platinum card carries a $550 annual fee, while offering $200 back in Uber credits and $200 back in airline incidentals. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card carries a $450 annual fee, while offering $300 back in travel credits. If you assume you will spend money with Uber or Uber Eats, the airlines and by traveling anyway, then each card only costs you $150.

Takeaway

For the two cards, it will cost you just $300/year, or $25/month, while affording you these benefits all year long:

What is the perk? How will I use it? Where did I earn it?
$200 worth of airline incidental reimbursements Lounge passes, in-flight food and beverage, baggage fees and seat upgrades
$200 worth of Uber /
Uber Eats reimbursements
Whether you need a ride, or want dinner delivered to you, you can use these credits to accomplish that
$300 worth of travel reimbursement The most generous of benefits: Travel includes airfare, hotels, taxis, etc.
Priority Pass Membership with up to two guests Great for Alaska Air and The Club Lounges
Priority Pass Membership with unlimited guests The Club Lounges…now with more friends!
Centurion Airport Lounge Access My favorite lounge in Las Vegas
Sky Club Airport Lounge Access when flying Delta My favorite lounge in Seattle
Primary Rental Car Insurance This can be better than your own auto policy with the $75K coverage including Loss of Use
10% back on airfare purchases 5X Points valued at $0.02 each
6.6% back on dining (restaurant, bar) purchases  3X Points valued at $0.022 each
6.6% back on travel (hotel, taxi) purchases  3X Points valued at $0.022 each
Boingo Wifi Membership Unlimited access to over a million WiFi hotspots
 SPG Gold Status Room upgrades and more with Sheraton, Westin and other SPG Hotel Brands
Marriott Gold Status Marriott honors SPG status so add them to your list of elite partners
Hilton Gold Status In case that wasn’t enough, you’ll also be covered at Hilton properties too
Trip Cancellation Insurance Up to $10,000 per trip
Baggage Delay Credit $100/day per bag
Trip Delay Credit  Up to $500 per ticket
Price Protection  Up to $500 per item

Referral Links

Well, what do you think? If you decide to apply for one or both cards, please use my referral link below to net me some bonus points in addition to the ones you’ll receive!

Click here to apply for the American Express Platinum Card and earn 60,000 points!

Dining with Uber

You knew Uber could take you to dinner, or bring it to you, but did you know it could also earn you 4% back when you dined out anywhere? Since acquiring the Uber credit card on its release date, it has become my exclusive card for dining out, and with that representing our largest monthly expense, we’ve quickly noticed the benefits!

The Uber card is great for anyone who uses Uber for ride-share or food delivery; but it also serves as a cash-back card for those who don’t. Regardless of your relationship with the company, if you dine out frequently, you need this card.

In addition to receiving 4% on dining, this card also reimburses up to $50 in subscription products (think Netflix, Hulu) each year, insures your smartphone against theft or damage up to $600/year and has no foreign transaction fees. The kicker? No annual fee. They’ll even give you $100 as a sign up bonus!

The only downside is that you will not receive your $50 credit until after achieving a $5,000 annual spend on the card. The upside is that the card’s site makes it easy to track:

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Tip: Place any large charges (reimbursable business travel) on this card to help you quickly achieve the spend requirement each year.

In my experience, Barclay will also retroactively credit your account with any subscription-charges after you achieve the spend requirement each year:

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uber
Redeeming your rewards is easy to do directly from the Uber app.

Ultimately, the card offers the most competitive cash-back on dining for a no-fee card, and is seamlessly integrated into the Uber apps so you can easily spend your cash back on your next trip or food order without syncing or transferring points.

Again, if you don’t use Uber, you can transfer these credits to your bank account as cash-back instead.

No referral bonus for me on this card, so if you’d like to apply for it, simply visit the main application site here.

 

2017 Rewards in Review

Annual Fees

In 2017, we spent almost $800 on annual fees for five credit cards. That number may seem staggering, but we used the rewards associated with those cards to redeem nearly $6,000 in travel! Often times, cards that carry an annual fee also carry several benefits that, when used appropriately, can make for quite the lucrative hobby. By budgeting $66.50/month for travel (used entirely on annual fees), our monthly vacation budget became worth $497.48/month thanks to the reward redemption and associated benefits.

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Note: The annual fees associated with the Alaska Air and Citi HHonors credit cards were paid in 2016, but some of the rewards were redeemed in 2017.

Return on Investment

We tracked every dollar spent and earned through this process using Mint, and as you will see from the charts, we netted $5,171.78 in 2017. The largest return was from our AMEX Platinum Card which originated a whopping 36 redemption this year; but that’s no surprise when you consider the list of benefits. A close second was the return from our combined Alaska Cards where we not only used companion fares, but redeemed miles as well.

Note: Our trip to Tokyo that we took last April was funded in 2016 using points so those are not reflected in the analysis above.

Trip Summary

Here’s a look at some of the ways we put these points to work:

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Three Trips to Las Vegas

miami
Tokyo, Japan

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Hyatt Olive 8 – Seattle

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A Private Island – New Jersey

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New Year’s at the Needle – Seattle

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50 Free Uber Rides

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Victoria, British Columbia – 2018

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Peoria, AZ – MLB Spring Training – 2018

miami
South Beach – Miami – 2018

Where will you go in 2018?

No matter how you plan it, you’re sure to come out ahead when you strategically manage your point and mile redemption. Use signup bonuses to skyrocket you to a top-level redemption, and ensure you’re using the correct cards on your daily spending so you never miss out on a point – don’t be afraid to label your cards to keep yourself organized!

Happy New Year!

Get Your Cash Back

I heard on the radio this morning that today is “Dump Day” which signifies the last day to break off your relationship with your significant other before the holidays roll around. Since my wife and I are solid, I decided I would use dump day to finish closing out any cards that had served their purpose in 2017 and who I didn’t care to spend the holidays with this season.

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Sure, you may look like a huge nerd. But labeling your cards will ensure you always use the right one in the moment and capitalize the return on your spending.

You may have noticed my new Uber card that arrived this week. I’m very excited about it: A no annual fee card that provides 4% cash back on dining and 3% on hotels in addition to its other perks. It’s the latest no-fee cash back card in my wallet, and one that I expect will stay for a while.

Most cash back cards don’t carry an annual fee, and allow you to use your earned rewards directly on your next statement. Whether you decide to redeem monthly, or you save them all year to pay off Christmas gifts is up to you.

Here’s a summary of how I earn cash back without paying annual fees:

Category % Back Using Card
Rotating categories including Amazon purchases and Groceries. 5% Discover It Card
Dining, Bars and Uber Eats 4% Barclay Uber Visa Card
Costco Gas 4% Citi Costco Visa
Hotels and Airfare 3% Barclay Uber Visa Card
All Else 2% Citi Double Cash Card

You’ll always want to ensure another card in your wallet doesn’t provide you a better return on a specific purchase before committing. For instance, my American Express Platinum nets me a nearly 10% return on airfare purchases so I don’t use my Uber card for airfare. However, 15% of your credit score is calculated using the length of your history with an account, so these no-fee cash back cards can be a real anchor in your collection and are a great solution for card users who are weary of annual fees.

What’s in my wallet?

If you know me, you know I appreciate The Art And Science Of Rewards Credit Card Churning and the value it produces when done well. But having been asked a few times recently, I wanted to take a brief moment to advocate for the cards I have kept (or plan to keep) despite their annual fees; one of the biggest scare-factors of credit cards for novice users. Today, I’ll tell you about three of the credit cards I keep, how I justify the fees each year, and why you should consider one or more of them.

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Card The American Express Platinum Card
Annual Fee $550
Welcome Offer 60,000 points worth $1,200 in travel
Perks 10% back on travel*, $200 airline credit, $200 Uber credit, fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PRE✓, Boingo Internet Preferred Plan, airport lounge access including Centurion, Priority Pass & Delta SkyClubs, Gold Status with Hilton, SPG (Sheraton, Westin, etc.) and Marriott, and status with Avis, Hertz and National.

*Awarded as 5x points (valued at 2 cents each) for every dollar spent directly with an airline, or on hotels via amextravel.com

Why Keep It? Assuming you spend $200 with airlines (gift cards included) and Uber (or UberEATS) already, the card really only costs you $150/year. If you travel several times a year or more, this is a no-brainer. The 10% back on travel (advertised as 5x back) may even allow you to more than cover the remaining cost of your annual fee if you spend over $1,500 traveling (this includes reimbursable work travel). And once you’re in travel mode, you’ll enjoy access to over 1,000 airport lounges and status with several hotels and rental car companies. The lounges provide a quiet, clean area to enjoy a complimentary cocktail and snack before your flight, and the status you carry with the card will increase your chances of receiving complimentary upgraded vehicles, hotel rooms and even executive hotel lounge access.

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Card The Hyatt Credit Card
Annual Fee $75
Welcome Offer 2 free nights at any Hyatt hotel or resort worldwide
Perks 3.6% back at restaurants*, 1 free night every year after your cardmember anniversary at any Category 1-4 hotel or resort, Discoverist status.

*Awarded as 2x points (valued at 1.8 cents each) for every dollar spent at restaurants.

Why Keep It? The best time to apply for this card is when you’re planning a vacation near a luxury Hyatt property since your sign up bonus of two free nights is good at any property! After the first year, the card essentially provides you with an annual hotel night for only $75 at properties that would easily cost you 5X that amount. The card also gives you Discoverist status (2nd of a 4-level membership) which will comp premium internet, a bottle of water, resort fees on free night awards and may even get you upgraded to a preferred room if there’s availability.

IHG-CARD
Card IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card
Annual Fee $49 (waived for the first year)
Welcome Offer 60,000 points worth $420 in travel
Perks 1 free night at any property every year after your cardmember anniversary, Platinum Elite status.

Why Keep It? This card is a diamond in the rough when it comes to hotel cards. Not only is the annual fee reasonable, it rewards you with a free stay each year. The Platinum Elite status that it carries guarantees you room availability and an upgrade upon arrival. My favorite brands within IHG are Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza and Staybridge. Each offers competitive room rates, and amenities ranging from complimentary hot breakfasts to full apartments.

Why Keep Them?

My wife and I each have the Hyatt and IHG cards and have historically used the free nights for a weekend getaway on her birthday, or to offset the cost of a lengthier vacation. As any good financial stewards would, we budget for annual travel costs; and paying $248 ($75 + $75 +$49 +$49) is well worth the four hotel nights we receive that can be used anywhere in the world. Though we’ve had these two cards for nearly four years, we’ve only recently added the Platinum card to our wallet after AMEX Announced Major Changes to it last March. In my opinion, the AMEX Platinum card is now the best luxury travel card out there, and with our typical spend nearly offsetting the annual fee, I don’t see it leaving our wallet anytime soon with all of the perks it offers.

Shameless Referral Plug. If I’ve convinced you to do so, apply for the Platinum card with this link and we can both get rewarded if you’re approved!