Credit Card Strategy: What Am I Going To Apply For Next?

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In this hobby, the easiest and fastest way to boost your points balances are by obtaining new credit cards. I have applied for countless cards over the years in order to secure award tickets, lounge access, lie flat seats (read: business and first class tickets), and have had incredible travel experiences.

A few years ago, it was even possible to apply for a specific credit card multiple times within a short time period and receive the welcome bonus over…and over… and over (I’m not joking). I see your wheels turning, but don’t get any ideas. The game has changed a lot since then and I’ve written about how the banks have largely clamped down on these shenanigans. 😫

Now, it’s imperative for you develop a strategy for redeeming your miles. Answering questions like “Where do you want to go? What airline do you want to fly to get there? Does that airline fly to (insert city)? Does a partner airline offer a better miles redemption?”

I have a lot of places that I plan to visit – once we are able to travel again – so here are 5 cards that I am considering applying for and why:

MY STRATEGY

Card #1: IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (Chase)

Welcome Bonus: Earn 125,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Annual Fee: $89

Why I want this card: The welcome bonus is so lucrative that I wrote about this card several times. If you plan adequately, 125,000 points can go a long way. Additionally, the card comes with an annual free night certificate valid at many IHG properties and offers Platinum elite status for as long as you have the card which make this a potentially good value, as most of those hotels would cost more than $89 per night.

I also have plans to visit a few cities where IHG is the only mainstream hotel so these points will surely serve their purpose. I’ll write about the cities in a future post.

Card #2: AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard (Barclays)

Welcome Bonus (tiered): Earn up to 75,000 AAdvantage bonus miles – 65,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days and 10,000 miles when a purchase is made on an employee card. Annual Fee: $95

Why I want this card: Again, the welcome bonus is lucrative! Personally, when I think about American Airlines AAdvantage miles, I think about redeeming them on Qatar Airways (hopefully in Qsuites). For example, you can fly business class from from Los Angeles to Capetown, South Africa (via Doha).

I searched quickly on American Airlines for that specific route and found that I could pay 75,000 miles +~$20 for those flights…

screenshot courtesy of American Airlines

…or I can pay ~$5000 for the flights.

1 credit card welcome bonus for business class all the way to South Africa? YES, PLEASE!!

Yes, these are Qsuites and yes, there are shorter connections. But if I’m up for a little adventure, this specific example will allow me to explore Doha with a 14 hour layover. Why not head into town, find a nice restaurant in Souq Waqif, and enjoy the atmosphere!? Although I trust I will have had adequate sleep during my 16 hour flight, I could redeem some points for a nice hotel too before a fresh start to South Africa.

If you’re more conservative with your miles, this same ticket will only cost you 40,000 miles +$20 in economy but I highly recommend you splurge. 😉

It’s worth noting that Barclays is notoriously stingy with their approvals so I may want to save this one until later.

Card #3: Gold Card (American Express)

Welcome Bonus: Earn 40,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Annual Fee $250

Why I want this card: I highly value American Express points and they are fairly easy to accumulate with bonus categories like…

  • 4x Points At Restaurants
  • 4x Points At U.S. Supermarkets
  • 3x Points On Flights
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees

Amex Membership Rewards also has many transfer partners, including Aeroplan, British Airways, Delta, and Singapore.

Note: The public welcome offer is 40,000 Membership Rewards, however, referral links are showing up to 30,000 Membership Reward points for each approved referral. In other words, my wife can refer me for this card, and we should earn at least 70,000 points between the two of us.

Card #4: Alaska Airlines Business Card (Bank of America)

Welcome Bonus: Earn 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 90 days. You also earn a companion certificate, where a guest flies with you for $121. Annual Fee: $75

Why I want this card: It doesn’t get much better than the Alaska Mileage Plan program. It is arguably the best domestic loyalty program and their miles are extremely valuable.

Honestly, this is the card that I want the most from this list but I’ve applied for this card twice and been denied. I’ve read articles and spoken to other miles enthusiasts and, although far from scientific, the understanding is it’s best to have a banking relationship with them (which I don’t have) prior to applying for their cards as it improves the chances of approval. But two denials have frightened me into focusing on other cards so we’ll see what happens.

Card #5: World of Hyatt Credit Card (Chase Bank)

Welcome Bonus (tiered): Earn up to 50,000 Bonus Points – 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus an additional 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend a total of $6,000 on purchases within the first 6 months of account opening. Annual Fee: $95

Why I want this card: I’m torn on this card. First, this is a great card and Hyatt is my preferred hotel chain but they have a small international footprint (although they are getting better). Second, the card is worth holding onto for the anniversary free night certificate and the five elite nights towards status annually (which more than justify the annual fee). Finally, you can spend your way to elite status which is amazing!

The challenge is that I am not traveling at all right now so I find it hard to justify this card but this card really intrigues me.

FINAL STAMP

If you’re considering your first credit card or an addition to an already established portfolio, you’ll find this process isn’t always straight forward. There are many factors to consider including how do I want to redeem my miles (Quantity vs Quality)? What cards are easy/hard to be approved for? Consumer card or business card? What are the bonus categories to maximize your spending? Is there an increased welcome bonus for a specific card?

At the moment, I can considering a few downgrades on cards in an effort to reduce the annual fees I am paying. I don’t feel there is any reason to continue paying for “perks” that are unavailable.

The pandemic has changed the landscape for what credit cards I carry in my wallet and I don’t feel like any card is a ‘sure bet.’ I will let you know how everything plays out in the next few days.

What cards are you interested in obtaining? Have you applied for any cards lately?

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