What Credit Cards Are In Our Wallets (September 2019)

Every once in a while, I like to go over which cards Sharon and I are carrying in our wallets. Doing so gives you a look behind the scenes of how to put a plan of earning points and miles in practice. We each have a different approach to earning miles and points. I try to earn the maximum points for each transaction without too much effort, and her desire to exert the least amount of thought into the process (Note from Sharon: Hell yeah! LOLOL!), the cards we carry are different.

There’s a method to my madness, as I manage to balance the two approaches and come to a plan where we maximize earning while minimizing effort (and still keep our marriage together). (Note from Sharon: Again. Hell yeah!)

Writing this post also forces me to evaluate if I’m actually doing what I say I’m going to do or seeing that I’ve gotten a little lazy (which I had). After some shuffling, here are the cards that now reside in our wallets.

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I’ll Take “Why Did My Hotel Code As Airfare” For 5X Points, Alex

Most of the times I write posts about how to earn the most points possible for purchases, like gas or groceries, or how I saved points when booking an award ticket, like when I booked my dad and his wife on a flight to Southeast Asia using ANA miles. Occasionally I’ll write about how I have to fight to get the benefits I deserve, like when we stayed at the Waldorf=Astoria in Key West. But I’ve never been able to write about a time when I received more miles than I was expecting.

Now, this just could have been a confluence of several factors that led to my good fortune so I’m not sure how repeatable this is but if anyone else wants to give it a shot, here’s what happened.

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What Should I Do With My Citi ThankYou Points?

On September 1, 2019, Citi is going to change the fourth-night free benefit on the Citi Prestige to make reservations only bookable through the ThankYou portal or by calling a Thank You representative. Then on September 22, 2019, Citi will remove most of their travel insurance and shopping protections from almost all of their card portfolio.

These changes made me rethink our Citi card portfolio and one of the possibilities was canceling our Citi Prestige card. With Citi’s rules, if I cancel a card the points associated with that card expire in 60 days, even if you’ve transferred those points to another Citi ThankYou card which you are keeping open.

If I’m going to need to cash these points out, I better explore my options.

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Here’s My Citi Card Strategy After The ThankYou Card Devaluations

When there’s a major change in the points and miles environment, it’s a good idea to take a step back and evaluate the new lay of the land. I don’t like to rush into making decisions and I’ve had some time to think about the news that Citi is going to eliminate all of the price & product protections as well as travel insurance benefits from their cards, including the Citi Prestige, as of September 22, 2019.

My gut instinct told me that the Citi Prestige wasn’t going to be worthwhile anymore and I’d cancel it. To make things more interesting, Citi is allowing people to cancel and get a prorated refund until January 1, 2020. I have my time limit where I’d need to make a decision.

If I am going to cancel the card, there are things I need to think about beforehand. I need to have a strategy and be smart about how I proceed.

Here’s my plan (subject to change):

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When You Should(n’t) Use Airline Co-Brand Credit Cards To Pay For Airfare

All of the larger airlines in the U.S. offer co-brand credit cards. These cards, which provide extra benefits to cardholders, range from ones with no annual fee to premium cards costing up to $450 per year. While you’d think that using a co-branded card would be the best choice for earning points with your flight purchase, that’s usually not the case. For most airlines, you don’t earn any extra points for airfare purchases for having a more expensive card either.

In most cases, instead of using a co-brand card, it’s better to use a card that earns flexible points like Membership Rewards, Thank You Points or Ultimate Rewards. These cards provide the opportunity to earn more points as well as the flexibility to use points on multiple airlines. You’re able to transfer points from these programs into your airline mileage account when you need them.

Here are the earnings multiples on airfare for the main flexible points cards from each bank:

American Express (Membership Rewards)

  • Platinum card ($550 annual fee) – 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel
  • Gold card ($250 annual fee) – 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel

Chase (Ultimate Rewards)

  • Sapphire Reserve ($450 annual fee) – 3x points on travel worldwide (including airfares purchased from airlines or travel agencies/websites)
  • Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee) – 2x points on travel worldwide (including airfares purchased from airlines or travel agencies/websites)

Citi (Thank You Points)

  • Citi Prestige ($495 annual fee) – 5x points on purchases at airlines and travel agencies
  • Citi Premier ($95 annual fee) – 3x points on purchases at airlines and travel agencies

The AMEX Platinum and Citi Prestige both offer 5x on airfare but the AMEX card only counts purchases direct from the airline or their website. When I had both cards, I used the Citi Prestige because I valued the additional travel insurance coverage but I know people would rather earn Membership Rewards than Thank You points. Of the $95 cards, the Citi Premier earns the most points on airline purchases at 3x.

So how many miles will you earn by using an airline co-brand card to purchase airfare and when does it make sense to do so? I’ve indicated which airlines are partners of one (or all) of the flexible currency cards so you can compare earnings potential between cards.

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