At the end of January Sara and I took a trip that brought us to Hong Kong, the beaches of Thailand, Bangkok, and Zurich … and every step of the way I knew what card was coming out of my wallet for a given purchase. Jump in and let me know if you would have done anything differently…
Before I dive into the individual transactions here’s my though process when figuring out which card to pull out of my wallet, the considerations are:
- Will it cost me more money to use this card versus another? (foreign transaction fee, or a credit card surcharge). If the value of the points received don’t outweigh the cost associated with using the selected card then it is a net loss for me. No card comes out if that is the case.
- Do I have to meet a minimum spend threshold? (In almost every case, the bonus points earned by meeting a minimum spend far outweigh any category bonus spend we’ll ever see. In the case below, I got 100k membership rewards points for 10k in spend. 10 points per dollar on any spend!)
- Do I need a particular type of point within a specific time? Perhaps I need SPG points for an upcoming booking or Chase Ultimate Rewards to transfer to Hyatt or United???
- How much point value do I get from using this card at this place? OR What is the value of the point and is their a category bonus for a specific spend? To know the value of the points I earn it is a simple calculation multiplying:
- How much is an individual point worth to me?
- How many points do I get per dollar spend?
- British Airways award ticket to Asia
- Bangkok Airways & United (on Thai) award ticket within Asia
- ANA/Swiss flights booked through Travelocity.ca to return home
The obvious pick here for me was the Chase Sapphire Preferred. While I don’t have the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card, I wouldn’t use this card anyway as it charges foreign transaction fees … even though it earns 3x points on all airfare. Alternatively some card that charges no foreign transaction fees would be ideal here. For the BA tickets, Bangkok Airways, and United tickets I used the Chase Sapphire Preferred. For the Travelocity.ca booking I used my American Express Platinum Card® as I needed to reach a minimum spend requirement … and it also charges no foreign transaction fees.
This was the most painful of all for me. I had two bookings with Starwood at the Le Méridien Khao Lak and Le Méridien Bangkok … and couldn’t use my Starwood Preferred Guest card. Foreign transaction fees are a deal breaker so that card didn’t come out of my wallet the entire time we were out of the country. Instead the Ink Bold® Business Card came out all the time here earning 2 points per dollar at hotels. Equally well could have been my Chase Sapphire Preferred card which also earns 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar at hotels / for all travel.
- Award night in Hong Kong at Ritz
- Cash & Points SPG Award in Khao Lak, Thailand (I earned some SPG points based on incidentals and my platinum status and a bunch of Ultimate Rewards due to the spend)
- Cash booking in Bangkok, Thailand (same as Khao Lak)
- Crowne Plaza in Zurich
Dining was a mixed bag. Whenever possible I always bill back to my hotel room. Dining means extra spend, and extra bonus points. When off property, if possible I used the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (as long as there were no additional fees for using a credit card) … otherwise it was cash.
Cash which I always obtained from an ATM at the hotel / resort. I get reimbursed for any ATM fees by my credit union, and by using an ATM at a trusted location I had no concern over fraud … and I achieved current prevailing currency rates. None of that changing an excess of money at the airport for a bad rate and then paying fees on top of it!
Shopping / Touristy things:
Chase Sapphire Preferred wins again … when cash didn’t make sense of course. Here is where I would have used gift cards / prepaid cards if I could have and had not had any issue. They would have been ones that I would have purchased at an office supply store and used there which would have had a net effect of 5x points / dollar purchased with an Ink. Perpahs I need to check out CVS to see what I can get there and use Internationally … with a Hilton Amex 6x points/dollar isn’t so bad.
The one thing to keep in mind at many of these places is that we had the option to have the transaction processed in either local currency OR in our home currency. In every case the prevailing exchange rate (based on past experience with Chase and Amex) was the way to go. Process in the local currency and then let my credit card company handle the conversion … so thats what I stuck with.
All in all, my strategy changed a bit because we were international; but really only because of the foreign transaction fees. That said, in general the Chase Sapphire Preferred card was #1 out of the wallet. Had we stayed in the US, it would have been a much bigger mix including the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.
Stay tuned for trip reports in the coming weeks …
Deal of the Day
For today’s Deal of the Day TopCashback is donating $50 cash (to be deposited to your TopCashback.com account) 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 (along with your First Name, Last Initial, and Airport Code) or this afternoon’s Deal of the Day post by TODAY at 11:59pm ET to be eligible to win.