Right now I’m not really targeting this site to the public at large but a number of friends, family, and closer acquaintances are aware of it. One of my goals in the switch to using blogging software was communicating more effectively to groups of people and far less email.
P writes in that they (+ spouse) have the Barclay’s Airtran card (more on that in a future post), each has a Citi Thank You Premier, and one Citi AA Visa. They also each had a Chase BA visa in the past but that’s closed and one has closed a Citi AA visa. They spend little naturally on credit cards so reaching spending goals is challenging. They’ve successfully redeemed BA and AA awards to Europe and tend to enjoy that part of the world but tend not to use major hotel chains, instead preferring more boutique lodging. Domestic awards are occasionally useful but larger, Europe friendly international awards are the goal. Despite my exhortations to fly business class, they choose economy. No doubt this makes the miles go further.
With all cards complete but balances down quite a lot except for BA, it’s definitely time to pick up some new miles (and use those BA miles domestically). I’ve clued P in on how to use AP for a ~$1000 of spending / month so we’ll assume they can do that much.
But first a few usual preliminary things worth mentioning and remembering:
- Your credit is important.
- Spread the applications around among banks.
- Be organized.
- Before each application, open a new Google Incognito, Internet Explorer InPrivate, or Firefox Private window. Do not browse around, click back, etc. Go directly to the link and apply.
- Print out or capture screen shots of everything as you go, from the offer page to the conclusion page. I even print the application itself as it can be useful when things go wrong, like when I was wondering why my wife hadn’t been approved yet and found that I’d filled in her SSN incorrectly. It’s not always the banks fault!
- After completion, close the window before continuing to another application (in a new window).
- Do it all in one day if at all possible, preferably the morning of a business day.
- If doing multiple applications, use reconsideration numbers if not instantly approved.
P, here’s what I’d do and why…
1. Chase United Visa. 55k + $50 statement credit. Bonus on first spend. Fee waived first year.
United miles are among the most valuable and excellent for getting to Europe (or almost anywhere really) with all the star alliance partners available and 55k’s about as good as it’s ever been from United. Million Mile Secrets does such a nice job writing this up that I’m just going to link to his instructions but I’ll add a few notes:
- Open your United account first if you don’t have one. Remember that Continental and United just merged. If you haven’t logged into either account since early 2012, make sure the accounts consolidated correctly first. Your Continental account number should have become your account number if you had both.
- Use the 65k + $50 statement credit link from the instructions.
- Double check the offer terms during the application. Make sure it’s 50k United miles on first purchase and 5k United miles on adding an authorized user and that it includes a $50 statement credit. The extra 10k United requires spending $25k which is a high bar so we’ll not count on that.
- Add the authorized user within 2 months of receipt but I personally wouldn’t do it at time of application your spouse is likely signing up for the same card.
- Do this for both you and your spouse.
2. Barclay’s US Air Mastercard. 40k on first spend. Fee waived first year.
40k’s a nice start to your US Airways accounts and, again, it’s star alliance miles so you have many ways to get to Europe (e.g. Air Canada, Lufthansa, Swiss, United, etc). Notice that 35k will get you an off-peak ticket to Europe or Hawaii in economy. You will also get a $99 companion ticket which might be useful to you since there’s a big hub just to the north.
This is also a useful card because it’s not from the usual Chase, Citi, Amex trifecta and it generally only pulls the Transunion credit report unlike the others. Get one for both of you. This may even be a card you want to keep long run.
3. American Express Starwood Personal Card. 10k on 1st purchase, 15k on spending $5k in 6 months. Fee waived first year.
Since this requires significant spending, just one of you should apply at this time.
This is the card I’d put the spending on. It’ll tie you up for the next ~6 months. Despite loving Hilton (more to come on that topic), this card’s worth picking up for you. 30k points (25k from bonus, 5k from spending) may not sound like a great deal but these are conventionally valued at a bare minimum of $.02 each and typically $.025 each making them the most valuable points currency. They’re best used to stay at Sheraton’s, Westin’s, W’s, Alofts, and several other brands using cash and points on their mid-range hotels. The hotel network isn’t as large as others but it is in most major cities. There’s also an underlying value in the program in that you can transfer 20k Starwood points to 25k Airline points in many programs, including AA and US where you have (or will have) balances. This is a card we actually pay an annual fee to maintain it and go back to it from time to time.
TIP: If you or a friend have the Starwood personal card, the card holder can log in to American Express and search for “refer a friend” in the upper left. It will present a link where you can recommend your card and the referer gets 5k Starwood points. Currently the recipient gets the same offer as that offered to the public so they lose nothing. Don’t forget that you can refer your significant other! One quick warning – Amex has had some issues with bonuses to the referer though Starwood seems better than others.
So, to get it, I recommend first asking around if anyone you know has a Starwood personal card. We currently don’t but do know a few friends that do. Remember that it may take a few hours for the referral email to arrive.
Failing that, since I’ve profited handsomely from the innovative work of the Frequent Miler during the last few months, I’ll post his affiliate link to this card where he’ll get a small bonus. Remember to open links in an Incognito/InPrivate/Private window. This is especially true as Amex actually offers lower bonuses to current card members and by doing so, it won’t know you’re a current Amex account holder and you’ll get the intended offer. As always, go slowly and double check that the offer matches what you expect during the application process.
Assuming 2 United, 2 US Air, and 1 Starwood, you’ll pick up a combined $100 cash, 110k United, 80k US Air and 30k Starwood and a few fringe benefits on spending just over $5000 in 6 months and with no annual fees. All things considered, this is a pretty high return on pretty low spending. It’s also worth noting that these points are collectively among the highest value points around so 220k is even more than it sounds like.
Note to others… there are other offers that I consider better but this is tailored to P’s history (having had BA and AA cards before), spending patterns, desire for travel to Europe, and lesser interest in hotel points.