When Paying The Check At A Restaurant, I Froze When I Needed To Pull A Card Out Of My Wallet

I guess there are worse problems to have than not knowing which is the best card to pull out of my wallet when paying for a meal. When I went out for dinner with friends last night, we split the check and I needed to choose a card to pay for my share. I saw someone paying with an American Express Gold Card that earns four Membership Rewards per dollar and the other party was paying with a Capital One card that earns 4% cash back. So I needed to make sure my selection showed I know the best way to maximize points earning. I mean, I’m the one at the table who writes about points and miles, right? So why did I freeze and ponder which would be the best card for me to use?

It wasn’t that I didn’t have a card that earned a great return, it was that I had three cards in my wallet that each would earn a good return on the cost of my dinner. Any of them would be a good choice, but which card was the best choice and did I choose wisely?

Card 1: Citi Prestige

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As of January 5th, the Citi Prestige has become one of the best cards to use at restaurants since it now earns 5x Thank You points on dining expenses worldwide. At a minimum, the Thank You points earned with the Prestige are worth 1.25 cents when redeemed for travel expenses through the Thank You site. You’re earning at least 6.25% back for all dining purchases. If you transfer points to one of Citi’s partners, those points can be worth even more. Here’s a list of Citi’s Thank You transfer partners:

  • Asia Miles
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Etihad Guest
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • JetBlue TrueBlue (1,000 Citi ThankYou Rewards = 800 TrueBlue points)
  • Jet Airways JetPrivilege
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
  • Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

I need more Citi points because I just drained my account for an award ticket, which I’ll be writing about soon. However, that wasn’t the only option I had.

Card 2: World Of Hyatt Card

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I know most people wouldn’t think of the World of Hyatt card as the best card in this situation. It earns 2 points per dollar for spending at “restaurants, cafes and coffee shops,” but that’s not enough for me to consider it above the Citi Prestige.

However, this is a new card for me and I’m still trying to reach the spending requirement to get the sign-up bonus. When I applied, the card offered 40,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 in 3 months plus another 20,000 bonus points for spending another $3,000 within 6 months. That’s 60,000 points for spending $6,000 or a return of 10 points per dollar. Since you earn more for restaurants, I’d actually earn 11 points per dollar for that spending while I’m working on the bonus. The quicker I spend the $6,000, the faster I can apply for another card.

With all that swirling around my mind, there was still another option.

Card 3: Citi AT&T Universal Rewards

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Here’s the dark horse of the pack. My Citi AT&T Universal Rewards card. Now, this card has been discontinued for years but I keep it because of the occasional offers I get for bonus Thank You points. While points earned with this card are only worth, at most, 1 cent each, I can also transfer them to my other Citi Thank You cards, like the Prestige.  Then, I’d be able to transfer them to airline programs or use them to book travel through the Citi Thank You travel portal.

As it turns out, I’m right in the middle of one of these promotions, which is the only reason this card is in my wallet.

You’re earning 5 ThankYou® Points per $1 spent, up to 2,500 points, now through 03/31/2019 on eligible purchases you make with your AT&T Universal Card at:

  • Restaurants
  • Grocery Stores
  • Gas Stations
  • Drugstores
  • Mass Transit & Commuter Transportation Vendors

I can get decent returns at gas stations, mass transit and grocery stores with other cards but I don’t have any other way to get a bonus for drug store spending (and do you know how many gift cards they sell at drug stores?).

So Which Card Did I Use?

Indiana Jones Choose Wisely

With other non-bonused spending, I’ll be able to hit the requirement for the World of Hyatt card, so that one was out. I could have used the Prestige but instead, I went for the AT&T Universal card. I like to use Citi cards when they offer me bonus categories because I think doing so shows Citi I’ll use the card if I have a good reason to do so. Even if the five times points is the same that I’d get with the Prestige card, it’s not a limited time offer.

I know my decision wasn’t based on logic. Instead, I based it on some idea I have about how Citi decides who to send bonus offers and a hope that my actions will trigger my getting more offers in the future. Five Thank You points are the same, regardless of which card I used to earn them with. But as long as I wasn’t earning any fewer points, I might as well take a chance based on a hunch, right?

That’s the only reason I have for my choice and I’m sticking to it.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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