Looking Ahead at 2020 Points & Miles Strategies

It’s mid October, so I am looking ahead to the new year at my miles and points strategy.  I am determining which new travel credit cards to apply for and in what order.  I began my journey into the points and miles game 2 years ago. One thing I learned from my rookie mistakes along the way, was that every choice I make matters.  So having a strategy is very important!

My Goals

First of all I will be coming out of the Chase 5/24 pit that I had been living in. Chase only allows you to have applied for 5 cards (from any and all banks) In a 24 month period to qualify for one of their credit cards. The exception is Business cards, that don’t count against your 5 but do require you to have a 5/24 slot open. It’s a rule that is a bit tricky to understand at first.

I will definitely be able to apply for 1 Chase card in January and another later in the year.  Instead of randomly signing up for cards that have shiny offers, the plan is to choose cards that have a purpose toward my specific travel goals.  Like earning enough points for my airfare to Europe next year.

I also want to maximize my points earning potential by having a larger portion of my spending qualify for higher points returns.  I have developed a spreadsheet listing each card I have and the associated points for each of its spending categories.  This means whenever I make a purchase, I can check at a glance which of my cards offers the best return on that category.  I have found this to be a very helpful tool.

Before I make any hard and fast decisions though, I am watching carefully as some cards are restructuring their fees and benefits beginning in January.  This could impact my decisions if an important perk is dropped or an annual fee gets raised too much. Plus it is a time when some new cards could be released into the market that may have great introductory sign up offers. I would need to review those as well.

 

Here are the potential new cards I am looking at for 2020:

Chase Ink Business Preferred

One thing that I need next year is a card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards which will easily transfers to a variety of loyalty programs.  I also would like a card that has Primary Car Rental Protection (my husband has one, but I often travel without him).  If I choose the Chase Ink Business Preferred, it would tick off both of those boxes with one card.

It also earns 3 Times points on Cable, Internet and Phone payments and if you pay your cell phone bill monthly with this card, it offers additional cell phone protection (up to 3 claims per year with a $100 deductible).  So switching those bills over to the Ink card would be a smart move earning me extra protection as well as a steady source of extra points.

Because it is a Business card, if I sign up for this card first,  it wont count against my 5/24 status with Chase.  That ensures that if I wanted one, I would be able to sign up for another Chase card  without waiting.  The card has a $95 annual fee and offers an 80,000 points bonus for making $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months.  That is a nice bank of points to start out with that can be transferred wherever I need them later on.

There are a host of other perks and benefits associated with this card, but the features I listed are the things that really stand out to me as reasons to make it the first card I apply for in the new year.

 

Chase World of Hyatt 

Another card I am considering from Chase next year is the World of Hyatt card.  This year I found out how much I enjoy staying at Hyatt properties.  They have become one of my favorite hotels.  Event though I already participate in their Loyalty program, it only makes sense if I will be using them more for my future stays, that I also take advantage of the added benefits of being a cardholder.

The card has a pretty standard $95 annual fee, but the sign up bonus works a little bit different than most cards.  They divide it into 2 portions.  First you earn 25,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.  If you spend $6,000 total over the first 6 months, you earn an additional 25,000 points.  50,000 points actually goes a long way with Hyatt (unlike IHG where I could use all 50,000 points for just 1 night in Traverse City at the Hotel Indigo).  For example, on our trip to Hawaii I was able to book 3 nights at the Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach for just 45,000 total points.  So you can see how much further points stretch with Hyatt.

This card also comes with an Anniversary Free Night every year at a category 1-4 hotel, and if you happen to spend $15,000 during your Anniversary year, you get a 2nd Free night.  You also get 5 nights toward Tier Status each year and an additional 2 nights toward Tier Status each time you have spent $5,000 on the card.

The highest earning category for this card is of course for Hyatt stays.   You can earn a total of 9 points per dollar spent at Hyatt hotels.  There are a handful of categories that give you 2 points per dollar spent as well:

  • Local transit including taxis, mass transit, tolls and ride-share services
  • Restaurants, Cafes and Coffee Shops
  • Airline tickets purchased directly from the airline
  • Fitness Club and Gym Memberships

I am always looking for unique areas that earn higher points like these gym membership and transit categories do. I don’t need a bunch of cards with the exact same benefits and bonus earning categories.  Functionality, Utility and Diversity are what adds value to a credit card portfolio.

As a bonus, there are a lot of awesome hotels available for 15,000 points or less per night in the SLH (Small Luxury Hotels) Collection, which was recently added to Hyatt’s portfolio. I am excited about some of the options available in both Portugal and Italy for upcoming trips we are planning.

I think this would make a decent choice for my second new card in 2020.

 

Delta SkyMiles American Express

Here is where I am not quite as sure about things.  I am currently a SkyMiles loyalty member and have a decent amount of points.  I think that I might like to get a Delta SkyMiles card.  This year we utilized Southwest heavily for travel since we have a Companion Pass and we are only flying Domestic.  Next year we will be heading across the pond and could potentially use a Delta partner for our flights.  Points from my Membership Rewards points could also easily transfer to a Delta card.  I just want to have access to as many points as possible when I am ready to book those flights.

Since there are 3 Delta SkyMiles options, it gets tricky figuring out which card is the right fit.  Plus looking at their offers, several items are going to change in January.  I will probably hang back and see how things shake out.  Depending on how those benefits and fees change, I may end up deciding that a Delta card wouldn’t be worth that wallet space.

Delta Gold – $95 annual fee (waived the first year)

$95 is an annual fee that I am comfortable paying.  You earn 2 miles per dollar on purchases made directly with Delta and 1 mile on all other purchases.  Key benefits for this card include:

  • Annual fee waived the first year
  • First checked bag free
  • Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • Car Rental Loss or Damage Protection (secondary)

 

Delta Platinum – $195 annual fee (increasing to $250 after 1/30/20)

I don’t love the higher annual fee that comes with this card, but I do currently pay $250 on my current Amex card, so it’s not a total deal breaker.  The points earning categories are at the same rates as the Gold card (no added value there).  Of course the sign up bonus is higher for this card, and the main additional benefits at the Platinum level are:

  • One Annual Main Cabin Companion Pass for Domestic travel on your anniversary
  • Delta Sky Club Exclusive Pay Per Visit Rate ($29 per person)

I am not sure that the Companion Pass alone is enough of a difference to get me to upgrade to this card. If the Sky Club access was free instead of  $29 pp per visit, it may have swayed me a bit more.

 

Delta Reserve – $450 annual fee ($550 after 1/30/20)

The annual fee is already so high it gives me a nose bleed just thinking about it, and it’s climbing more in January.  Ugh!  The Miles bonus is the same as the Platinum card except that it offers a higher elevation boost toward status.  Here are the extra items you get at Reserve level:

  • One Round Trip Companion Certificate for Domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+ or Main Cabin  on your anniversary (this is different from the Platinum because it  allows you access to the higher seating classes).
  • Complimentary Delta Sky Club access

 

We don’t fly enough at this point for me to worry about obtaining status or to get that much added value out of the Complimentary lounge access to offset the higher annual fee that would come with the Reserve. The Companion Pass would not be earned until the end of the first year and is only for Domestic flights.  Since I am mostly looking at International travel next year, that benefit isn’t that helpful to me.

I also feel that the difference in benefits between the Gold and the Platinum is minimal when considering the significant difference of their annual fees.  Especially when you figure in that the Gold card also waives your first years annual fee.  The biggest loss would be the extra 15,000 sign up bonus points.

Since it will be the last card I sign up for next year, I have time to think about how well each of these cards would fit into my plan for realizing my future travel goals.  But in all honesty, I probably would settle on the Gold option.

 

What Does this Mean for You?

If you like to travel but haven’t started a Points and Miles portfolio yet, maybe it’s time to put one in place.  It may seem like a lot, but with a little planning, you can really stretch your travel dollars.  I just wanted to share my strategies with you so that you could start looking at your travel needs for the upcoming year and how points and miles could help you achieve them.  Now is the time to start formulating your plan.

There are few advantages for you if you are still paying for purchases with your debit card, checks or even cash!  Using a credit card instead can earn you a ton of points and miles.  Look for cards that offer a variety of areas with higher points returns and/or include great travel benefits.  Make sure to pay the card off EVERY month, because paying interest reduces the value of what you have earned.

 

Here are some links to a few helpful posts on how to get started:

Beginner’s Guide to Points, Miles, Airlines and Credit Cards The Points Guy

The Basics of How to Get Started with Points & Miles Balances Your Mileage May Vary