There’s a couple of posts about credit cards today. View from the Wing writes about how the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) card has been a long time favorite and Million Mile Secrets writes about the United MileagePlus Explorer card and the Continental OnePass card, specifically what your strategy should be right now for applying/cancelling the cards.
I highly recommend the View from the Wing article, because it is the same credit card strategy that I follow, and that I think most people would agree with. The AMEX SPG card was actually the first affinity program card that I applied for, my ‘gateway drug’ into collecting miles if you will. When I applied for it, I decided that I wanted a good hotel chain credit card, because I’d noticed that whenever I take vacations, my biggest spending generally seemed to be hotels, rather than airfare. While airfare to international destinations can be quite expensive, and it is great to earn miles to get that for free, staying at hotels can add up to be much more than the airfare. So I decided it made sense to start collecting hotel points, and I had heard the SPG card was considered one of the best all around travel cards.
Interestingly enough, I soon learned that it wasn’t considered a great card just because you could use the points to stay at Starwood (Westin, Sheraton, W, St. Regis, Le Meridien properties, among others, are all under Starwood). I mean, there are great redemption options, even for a hotel program. You can often get 2 cents of value from each SPG point just redeeming for rooms, but they also offer points and cash rewards, where you use fewer points but pay a co pay (typically $25-$50), and various free nights promotions if you use points for so many consecutive nights. However, you can also transfer your SPG points to over 30 different airline frequent flyer programs (generally at a 1:1 ratio, with some exceptions such as United/Continental), and for every 20000 SPG points that you transfer, you get a 25% bonus. Now the card only earn 1 points per dollar, except at SPG properties, but it is still considered one of the best values for general credit card spending.
The programs that offer flexible award redemptions are currently “in”, as you can see from the View from the Wing post. The other cards that he uses/recommends are the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which is linked to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program (which allows transfer to United, BA, Hyatt, Priority Club, among others), and the American Premier Rewards Gold (or Business Rewards Gold) card, which is linked to the American Express Membership Rewards program. The Amex cards generally come with steep fees, (the gold card has a $175 fee which is waived for the first year), but I think they are worth it for access to Membership Rewards, and in the case of the gold card, the 4X points on airfare, if you book a lot of airfare on your own credit cards.
At any rate, I recommend reading through both of the linked posts, and applying for some of these cards if you haven’t already! As long as you can make the minimum spend (of there is one), it’s perfectly acceptable to apply for both an American Express and Chase card simultaneously to jump start your mileage accounts. Not only that you could apply for the business versions of any cards that you apply for, and your applications will be considered (and approved if you are creditworthy).
On a side note…I decided over the weekend to go “all in” on the AA DEQM (TEQM for IL/TX and CA flights). I’ll make a separate post about that, but the gist is, I’ve booked 9 roundtrip flights on AA in the month of January, all on weekends no less! it’s gonna be one hellish month of flying, but hopefully i’ll get 70-80k for EQM on AA, and be well on my way to executive platinum status with them.