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One of the challenges that many of you experience is jumping into the points and miles hobby but realizing that your significant other may not share the same level of excitement and enthusiasm when it comes to tracking their spending and earning points. This has been my experience in our household — which is why I am reviewing the credit cards in Fiona’s wallet. While my credit card set-up meets my needs, it doesn’t mean that it works for everyone. The best travel card is often the one you have and actually use. In this video/post, we’re looking at Fiona’s card set-up and discussing the challenges of earning points as a household.
Fiona’s credit journey
Fiona is from the UK and moved to the US with her work several years ago. Since Fiona didn’t live in the US beforehand, she had to build her credit from scratch. That meant getting secured cards and slowly building her credit history. She now has a credit score close to 800! Through her hard work, she’s been able to get several premium travel cards with only a few years of credit history.
Credit cards in Fiona’s wallet
Here are the credit cards that are currently in Fiona’s wallet:
1. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex (formerly the Starwood Preferred Guest [SPG] Amex):
The Starwood SPG Amex is no longer available as it was replaced by a new premium card called the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card. Fiona got the SPG Amex card before it was discontinued. She was attracted to the free annual night certificate, Silver elite status, and elite night credits. Since she’s traveling more for work and able to stay at Marriott hotels, it made sense to build her Marriott Bonvoy account. Fiona also has United Airlines Gold status which she able to status match with Marriott.
The card earns two Bonvoy points per dollar spent and is Fiona’s primary spending card for purchases outside of dining and groceries. She is interested in getting the new American Express Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, but is hoping to get a targeted offer to upgrade. American Express has been targeting SPG cardholders who have had the card for at least a year. We’re hoping that the offer to upgrade still stands once she gets to the one-year anniversary mark.
2. American Express Gold:
Fiona got the American Express Gold card around the same time as me, except her card is in Rose Gold. Despite the fact that we take advantage of all the credits on the card, she’s not sure she wants to keep it. We enjoy our monthly date nights at Shake Shack, but Fiona shares the same frustration as me with the restrictions on redeeming credits and points.
We’re both unsure whether we’re going to keep the card. Though one compelling reason why it might be worth holding is that Fiona can transfer Membership Rewards points to her Marriott Bonvoy account. It’s not the most valuable use of American Express points, but she can earn four points per dollar toward Marriott stays.
3. American Express Blue Cash Everyday:
Fiona has this no annual fee card because she downgraded her Amex Blue Cash Preferred (learn more) when she got the Gold card. The Blue Cash Preferred is a powerhouse cashback card. It has a 6% earning rate on groceries and streaming services, and 3% on gas station and transit purchases. However, the Gold card offered four points per dollar on groceries and dining. It didn’t make sense to pay the annual fee on the Blue Cash Preferred. As a result, she product changed it to the Blue Cash Everyday, which earns less and has no annual fee. If she decides to cancel or downgrade the Gold card, then she’ll upgrade this card back to the Blue Cash Preferred.
4. Capital One Venture Rewards:
This was Fiona’s go-to card for non-bonus spend. In fact, the reason she’s neglected it is due to her new interest in Marriott Bonvoy points. Though the points that she earned with her Capital One Venture have been useful at reducing some of the other travel expenses. This is especially the case with Airbnb stays where we used her Capital One account to “erase” purchases using points. She also received a 50,000 points welcome offer with the card and made the minimum spend by paying expenses for our upcoming wedding.
5. Chase Sapphire Preferred:
Fiona used to have the Sapphire Reserve. She downgraded to the Sapphire Preferred since we both didn’t need to have the Sapphire Reserve to take advantage of the lounge benefits. Though since she got the Amex Gold, she isn’t using this card as much. I’ve considered making her an authorized user on my Sapphire Reserve in case she needs lounge access during her business travels. However, many of her business trips are long distance so she’s flying business class and has access to a lounge.
I’m going to recommend that she downgrade it to the Freedom Unlimited or the basic Sapphire card before her next annual fee is due.
6. Chase Freedom:
Those of you that watch this channel regularly know that I love the Freedom card since it’s an easy way to earn lots of points when maximizing the quarterly bonus categories. Though Fiona struggles with remembering the bonus categories. I saw her use the card for a grocery purchase this month and I gave her my look of disapproval (since the groceries was last quarter’s bonus category). With no annual fee, the card is still worth keeping for the useful quarterly bonus categories.
7. Banana Republic:
I generally dislike store cards. While they are usually not worth the application and wasted credit line, I have to admit that Fiona gets significant value from this card. On our 4th of July trip to Palm Springs, we stopped by the outlet stores and bought some new work clothes at the Banana Republic store. Not only were the items discounted, but we also received an additional 10% off the total price due to a special offer for Banana Republic cardmembers.
Since it’s one of her oldest accounts, she keeps the account open. And despite my general dislike for store cards, I am impressed with the value she gets from it.
Fiona’s spending strategy and approach
Fiona was placing the bulk of her spending on the Capital One Venture and American Express Gold. The Capital One Venture card earns a flat-rate of 2% that can be redeemed on travel purchases. It helped to offset travel costs that weren’t covered by our bookings, primarily from our Chase and American Express account. Since dining out and groceries are major categories of spend for her, she would use the American Express Gold Card for those purchases.
However, things have shifted his year. Fiona got the American Express SPG card before it was discontinued and is focused on earning Marriott Bonvoy points. She’s also traveling for work, so she has had some opportunities to earn Marriott Bonvoy points through her stays.
Planning a trip to Maui
We are planning to travel to Hawaii next year, so Fiona’s goal is to build points for a five-night stay. At the moment, we’re interested in the Ritz Carlton at Kapalua on Maui. The stay requires 240,000 points, which includes a fifth night free as part of our award redemption. Since Fiona has 125,000 points right now, we still need 115,000 Bonvoy points. Though we can use our flexible points to cover the difference. The cash price for five nights is around $4,500, so our per point value is about 1.9 cents. It’s not the most lucrative point value, but I consider anything above 1.5 cents per point to be a worthwhile redemption.
One interesting aspect of Marriott Bonvoy is that they are a travel partner for both Chase and American Express. This means that both flexible points programs offer transfers to Marriott Bonvoy. Though most hardcore points collectors would avoid this transfer due to the low redemption rate when compared to other travel partners.
Earning points as a household
For many households, there’s usually one person that is the primary points collector. In this case, that person is me. Though that’s only because I have a passion for this hobby. For a lot of my friends and family who are in similar situations, I recommend focusing your partner toward a hotel or airline program, or a flat-rate travel card. This makes it less cumbersome to remember bonus categories.
While I would love Fiona to build Chase Ultimate Rewards points, I know it’s annoying to remember which card to use with every purchase. I think her focus on Marriott Bonvoy is great. And if we end up staying at a Ritz Carlton in Hawaii next year for free, I don’t think I’ll be moaning about the point values and redemption rates. 😎
What do you think of the cards in Fiona’s wallet? Do you think she should continue focusing on Marriott Bonvoy, or should she go back to flexible or flat-rate points?
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