Posted in Credit Cards and Loyalty Programs

Choosing a New Credit Card to Maximize Points for Travel

We are just finishing up the spend requirement on Mark’s new Chase Sapphire Preferred card.  We signed up for that card in order to have a Chase card where the points were easily transferable.  We are planning to use some of the sign up bonus points for 3 nights at the Hyatt on our fall trip to Hawaii.   It also has some great benefits like Primary Auto Rental Coverage, several types of Trip protection, Purchase and Warranty protection and lots of other little bells and whistles.  All great things to have available to us.

Although the card has great benefits, it will be a challenge earning points very quickly with it.  The Sapphire Preferred card only offers 1 point per dollar spent for most things except for the 2 points per dollar spent on Dining and Travel (which includes Uber, tolls and grocery delivery service fees) categories.  Not that exciting. Since the spend categories are kind of meh, I have decided this will be a good card to use for paying bills like, cable, internet, cell phones, utilities, garbage and miscellaneous.


Choosing a New American Express Card

Mark still needs to have a card that earns a decent amount of points for regular purchases.  That is one of the reasons I am considering the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card. It only has a $95 annual fee. and you can earn 6 times point levels on every day purchases like gas, grocery and dining out.  Plus 12 times points on Hilton purchases and 3 times points on everything else.  That could boost $200 in gas purchases to 1200 points earned each month.  This would provide great points earning potential for us.


Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.

Earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card:

  • at U.S. restaurants
  • at U.S. supermarkets
  • at U.S. gas stations

Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.


Some Extra Perks!

There is a pretty nice limited time sign on bonus until 8/28/19 for 130,000 points if you spend $4,000 in the first 4 months.  So if we decide to go with it, it will have to be soon.  With trips in September and October, it would be very easy to meet the spend requirement to earn the bonus points.

I am pretty excited about the Priority Pass Lounge benefit. It includes free Priority Pass Membership and gives you 10 Free Lounge passes which roll over each membership year.  We have never visited an airport lounge before so it seems like a boujee treat that could be fun while it lasts.  10 passes per year is perfect for us since we don’t fly as often as some people.   Plus it would give us the Priority Passes before our travel dates so that we could use them right away.  There is a lounge at HNL and a Lufthansa lounge at DTW for our outbound trips.  We could see what Lounge Life is all about, lol.

Another strong selling point for signing up for this card is that I can send Mark a sign up Referral from my American Express card to earn 10,000 bonus points for me.  I am saving up Membership Rewards points to use for my airfare to Portugal next year.  This would be a pretty good little boost!  Since there are no other Chase cards that he needs to have, he doesn’t have to worry about 5/24 rule if he signs up for this new American Express card.


But What do We Really Want to Use these Points For…..

Since we would be signing up in the last 3rd of the year, we probably would not spend enough to earn the Free Weekend Night perk.  To earn the Free Weekend Night, you have to spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year.  Bummer!

The transfer rate to partner airlines is not very good, so the best use of all those points is for hotel stays.  The Hilton program is new for us and there are no properties located in our favorite local vacation spot. We would need to find a someplace to use them next year.  I would hate to earn all those points and then let them expire.

What we really need is to start working on earning Membership Rewards points for Mark’s airfare to Portugal.  Even though we would be earning plenty of points and perks with the Hilton card, should we be focusing instead on a card that earns a lower level of points but will give us more flexibility in the end?  I mean we don’t really NEED Lounge passes……

So it comes down to finding the highest point return for every day spend with the Hilton Surpass card or taking the slower earning path to more flexible redemptions with another Amex product.  I have reviewed the other options for American Express cards that earn Membership Rewards points to see what else might be a good fit.


Other Options

The Amex Every Day card Requires 20 purchases per month in order to earn the highest points return. I’d say he makes around 10-15 purchases tops per month so we would miss the 20% points bonus most months.  So many things to consider.

The Platinum card is too rich for our blood with it’s $550 annual fee.  I love that it has a great Airport Lounge benefit and an annual $200 Airline Fee credit, but the only elevated points category is 5 times points on hotels or air travel that are booked directly through American Express. Not that helpful.  Everything else is a straight 1 point per $1 spent.  A lot of the other benefits this card has are redundant to perks we already have with other cards.  This card just isn’t for us.

I think the best option would be another Gold Card (I signed up for one earlier this year).  Even though the annual fee is $250, you earn 4 times points on dining and grocery shopping.  You also get the annual $100 Airline Fee credit and the monthly $10 Dining credit to help offset the annual fee. To get the maximum amount of points return and credits, you have to be more interactive and involved than you would with the Hilton card which just gives you set points per purchase.  I have discovered with my Gold Card that Amex posts Special Offers where you either earn additional points or statement credits.  I review mine every week or so to see what new opportunities pop up.  So far I have saved $10 for 2 months by signing up for an offer and paying my cell phone bill with the card.  I also have been able to earn 2 extra points per dollar spent on BP gas purchases.  I also used all of my $100 Airline Fee Credit and have received the $10 Dining credit 3 months in a row for placing Boxed orders.  So there is lots of potential with this card.


Final Thoughts

It is very tempting to be the Hare and jump on this limited time offer to earn a great points rate and some swell perks from Hilton.  But I think that solely based on our current needs, I will choose to be the Tortoise and take the slow and steady earning pace that has more practical redemption opportunities for us in the end.

What would you do?






Just an Art and History Nerd from MI Who Loves to Travel, Explore, Save Money, Share Tips, Enjoy the Best Foods & Adult Beverages🍷🥂🍸 Then Blog About It!