Maximizing Credit Card Spend Part 1
- Part 1 – Small Purchases, Dining, and International Spend
- Part 2 – Hotels, Airlines, and Rental Cars
- Part 3 – Office Supplies, Groceries, Gas
- Part 4 – Department Stores & Summary
These days in an era of fewer blockbuster credit card sign-up bonuses and less lucrative promotions, it’s more important than ever to make sure that all of our spending is on the right credit card. Leaning how to maximize a card’s category bonuses will ensure that we get as many points and miles as possible. Equally important is getting the right cards to fit your spending habits. If you do a lot of spending at office stores, the new Ink Plus card may be the best for you. If your spend centers around airfare or general travel, the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card could be your go-to card. If you spend a lot at restaurants, you could get the Citi Forward Card since it offers 5X points at restaurants! Everyone has different habits and everyone looks for specific features in a card so make sure that you have the right cards to maximize your point earning potential. I’ve laid out several types of spend below and explained what I think the best card is for each situation.
Small Purchases (0-$10)
It almost doesn’t matter what category it’s in because the Chase Freedom card offers great value for cheap purchases. Except for the Citi Forward Card – which offers 5X points on restaurants, books, movies, and music – the Freedom offers the best rewards for a points based card on these types of transactions. If you’re enrolled in the Chase Exclusives program, you will earn 1 point per $ spent, a 10% bonus, and 10 points per transaction. That means that a $1 purchase nets 11.1 points and a $5 purchase nets 15.5 points. That’s much better than the 2.14 and 10.7 points that the Chase Sapphire Preferred will get you! However, the Citi Forward card is still better for restaurant spend unless you value Ultimate Rewards points much more than Thank You points. Personally, I do value UR points more than Thank You Points because of the flexibility they offer.
While I’ve highlighted the Citi Forward card already, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is also a close contender. Like I’ve said, the Citi Forward card offers 5X points on restaurant spend. The Forward card earns Citi Thank You points that can be redeemed for travel if you have a Thank You Premier card. If you don’t have the Premier card, you can redeem them at 1CPP for gift cards and the like. Because Thank You points are fairly limited at this point, you may want to earn a different type of reward such as Ultimate Rewards points. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card earns 2 points per $ on dining with a 7% annual bonus, meaning that you actually earn 2.14 points per $ on dining spend. I value UR points at 1.9 CPP and Thank You points have a maximum value of 1.33 CPP when redeeming for airfare or 1 CPP when redeeming for gift cards. These values mean that it would be better to earn 5X Thank You points than 2.14X UR points so I would recommend using the Citi Forward card when dining out because of its 5X bonus on restaurants.
This type of spending is pretty straight forward: get a card without foreign transaction fees! It doesn’t matter how many points you get if you have to pay a 3% fee to get them! Cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Citi Thank You Premier, Chase Hyatt Card, and the Citi Hilton Reserve card all offer no foreign transaction fees so make sure to get one of them if you travel abroad. Deciding which one depends on how you travel, but the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a popular choice because it offers two really great 2X categories: Dining and Travel. When traveling, you’ll probably spend more on those two categories than anything else. However, if you’re paying for your hotel, it’s probably smart to get a specific card for that hotel chain. For instance, the Citi Hilton Reserve card offers no foreign transaction fees and also offers 10X points at Hilton, which is much more than the 2.14X points that the Sapphire Preferred card offers even when UR points are worth a little more than 3 times as much as Hilton points! If you’re looking for a general purpose international card, I definitely recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred for its flexibility, but if you spend a large amount at one particular hotel chain, it may be worth it to get that hotel’s specific card if it offers no foreign transaction fees.
Next week I’ll be covering a few more categories in order to help everyone maximize their credit card spend!
Deal of the Day
For today’s Deal of the Day FlyerTalk is giving away A FlyerTalk Luggage Tag & Hoodie combo for the best overall travel deal submitted. A great mileage run, mistake fare, partner promo, new card sign-up offer, or the special twist you figured out on a deal today. Add it to the comments section of this post (with your First Name, Last Initial, and 3 letter airport code) or this afternoon’s Deal of the Day post to be eligible to win.
IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card
- Annual Fee: $49 fee waived for the first year
- Foreign Fees: No
- Card Type: Hotel
The IHG Rewards Club Visa is often cited as one of the most underrated hotel credit cards, with good reason. The official offer is for 70,000 points after $1,000 spent within three months, with the first year’s fee waived. The card comes with an annual free night certificate that can be used at any IHG property, including Intercontinental hotels - making this certificate worth upwards of 50,000 points. This is far more generous than some other hotel cards, which limit the categories in which free night certificates can be redeemed.
Cardholders earn 5 points per dollar at IHG hotels; 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants; 1 point per dollar everywhere else. Moreover, you’ll get a 10% rebate on award redemptions, up to 100,000 points per year. The card also comes with Platinum status, though that doesn’t get you much with IHG. Still, this is a fantastic card to have in your wallet, with benefits that far outweigh the already low $49 annual fee.
- Earn 70,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
- Enjoy a free night of card membership at over 4,700 hotels worldwide
- Earn 5 points for each $1 spent at our hotels
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants
- Bonus points redeemable at hotels such as Intercontinental® Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts and Holiday Inn®
- Automatic platinum elite status, as long as you remain a cardmember
- $0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $49