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What’s your credit card and points strategy these days? (The 3 cards I want now)

credit card strategy

I’ve always said, “earn and burn.” Meaning earn your points and miles, then burn them in short order. I keep my points balances low – having 100,000 points is a good enough minimum cushion for me.

Because with that amount, I can get to most places in business class one-way (and to a few in business class round-trip). It’s also enough for me to begin planning a trip. And if I need more, I can start earning what I’ll need. Usually, the easiest way is to open a new credit card.

credit card strategy

I’m accumulating points but have no idea how to use them

These days I can earn, but there’s no way to burn. I have a few cards I want, but keep waiting to apply for them. It feels pointless to have a storehouse of points and miles when most places are closed to Americans and there’s uncertainty about when we can travel again.

But my wanderlust is kicking up big time and I know when I’m able, I’ll be off like a rocket. 🚀

I’m torn between earning lots of points while I’m still in lockdown and waiting to see what happens. Who knows what devaluations and program changes are coming down the pipeline, especially with basically every airline and hotel chain massively struggling right now? It’s keeping me in a holding pattern. Not only with this topic, but with pretty much everything.

My current credit card strategy

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Inventory: The 23 credit cards I currently have – and why

Dang, the last time I did a full credit card inventory was three years ago. Can you believe?

Back then, I had 29 cards. These days I have 23, and currently have my eye on three more (ironically, all cards I’ve had before: Chase Sapphire Preferred, Citi Premier, and US Bank Altitude Reserve).

Of the 29 I had, some I closed, some were discontinued, and others were canceled for me. And I still have a lot of them today. Let’s hop to it!

Recent mainstays

I set up each section with:

Name of card – annual fee amount – # of years I’ve had it – keep or cancel

Amex

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Plastiq Payments Earn 5X Points (up to 7,500) With Citi Prestige Promotion

If you have a Citi Prestige card, there’s a promotion running through the end of August 2020. You can earn 5X points per $1 spent on “online purchases” – up to 7,500 Citi ThankYou points.

My friend Angie tipped me off that Plastiq payments are working to trigger the bonus points, so I took the opportunity to make a $1,500 auto loan payment. Plastiq is a bill payment service that allows you to pay most bills (and even individuals providing a service) with a credit card.

citi prestige plastiq 5x

Details of the Citi Prestige 5X promotion

Sure enough, I earned 7,500 Citi ThankYou points for the payment. So while that’s great, a word of caution. Plastiq is increasing the payment fee from 2.5% to 2.85% on July 1, 2020.

If you wanna get in on this easy win, you only have a few more days!

Citi Prestige Plastiq 5X points

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Citi retention offer: A quick call got me 3X ThankYou points everywhere (up to 35K)

I’ve written how everyone with a Citi card should call at least once a year and check for a Citi retention offer – particularly if the card has an annual fee.

My Citi Prestige annual fee recently posted. I called, and no joy. This week, the fee on my beloved AT&T Access More card posted, so I called again.

This time, I got my favorite retention offer so far: an extra 2X Citi ThankYou points on all spending, with a max of 35,000 points.

That breaks down to 3X points per $1 spent on up to $17,500 spent in non-bonus categories. And 5X points per $1 spent for online purchases (which are a bonus category with this card). Wow.

Citi retention offer

Gosh I love this card

I immediately queued up mortgage, HOA, and car payments with Plastiq (because it’s a MasterCard, which you can use for those payments) and moved the card into my wallet – a place it hasn’t been for a looong time.

3X Citi ThankYou points for everyday spending is an awesome return. I value that at 6% assuming each point is worth 2 cents each.

Morever, earning an extra 35,000 ThankYou points is worth $700 to me by that same metric. AND this card earns an extra 10,000 Citi ThankYou points when you spend at least $10,000 in a cardmember year. Because this offer will also trigger that bonus, I value it for an additional $200.

So yes, this quick call recouped the card’s $95 annual fee nearly 10 times over. And is a great reminder why you should always always call Citi about retention offers.

Note: The Citi AT&T Access More card is no longer available. Nope, not even for product changes.

Citi retention offer details

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Balance transfer cards 2020: A godsend when you need more time (but don’t fail the test)

Hi lil lovies. The holidays were wild, eh? I’m writing this in a medicated haze with flu-like symptoms. But I wanted to write. And I’ve been meaning to talk about is how I’m using balance transfer cards to:

  • Meet my current financial goals (which I need to update)
  • Smooth out large, unexpected expenses (like when my AC quit in July and I had to get a new HVAC system)
  • Give myself a jump-start to purchase big items when I want them (I bought myself a rowing machine because I really really wanted one and I’ve been using it regularly)

This is because I didn’t have enough in a savings account, which will change this year. So hopefully I won’t have to rely on them in the future.

But for now, they’ve helped me consolidate a lot of balances spread over several cards with big interest rates. I paid a one-time balance transfer fee, and have a 0% APR rate through April 2020. So I haven’t paid a dime of interest since. And honestly? It’s been the one thing that’s given me time to get caught up.

balance transfer cards

Balance transfer cards aren’t a perfect solution. But they’ve bought me time and helped me avoid a ton of interest while I got my plans together

The test, of course, is paying them back before the 0% promotional rate expires. If you don’t, you’re right back to where you started. 🌀

The good thing is these rates are a year or more (usually more). A lot can happen in a year.

While I’m glad balance transfer cards have been available to me as a financial tool (which is absolutely how I think of them), moving forward I want to depend on savings rather than having to buy myself time.

Balance transfer cards 2020 – should you, could you, would you?

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Is Citi Double Cash Now the Best Card for Plastiq Payments? (Mortgage/Rent, Auto, HOA)

citi double cash plastiq

Plastiq is an online service that allows you to pay nearly any bill using a credit card. And now for the “gotchas:”

  • There’s a 2.5% fee to send a bill payment
  • You can’t make loan payments (rent, car note, etc.) with a Visa or Amex card, but residential rent and HOA fees are OK
  • You CAN make loan payments with a Mastercard or Discover card
  • Capital One cards currently don’t work in their system right now
  • Most cards only earn 1 point or mile per $1 spent, which doesn’t make the fee worth it

That said, there are a lots of situations you’d want to use Plastiq despite the fee:

  • To complete minimum spending requirements in literally seconds and earn a sign-up bonus
  • When they run a promotion for free or discounted payments
  • When paying the fee gives you wiggle room for unexpected expenses
  • To reach a big spend bonus for a free hotel night/airline elite status credit, depending which card you have
  • If your card issuer is running a promotion for bonus miles/points/cash

And there are two cards with a 2X earning rate that work with Plastiq. The first is the Amex Blue Business Plus, which earns 2X Amex Membership Rewards points on all purchases, up to $50,000 spent per calendar year. That’s cool, but many peeps don’t qualify for small business cards, or don’t want to pay personal bills with a business card.

I value bank points at 2 cents each, so earning 2X points per $1 spent is a 4% return.

If you maximize your per-point value, it can easily offset Plastiq’s fee. Like when you get an international long-haul flight in a premium class. For that reason, I’ve been using my Amex Blue Business Plus on Plastiq a lot – but as noted above, I can’t pay my mortgage or car payment.

Enter the second option…

Citi Double Cash Plastiq payments

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Sweet! Citi Rewards+ 10% Rebate Works With Other ThankYou Cards for up to 10,000 Points Back per Year

So this is pretty cool. The Citi Rewards+ card is a new card that:

  • Earns 2X Citi ThankYou points at supermarkets and gas stations on up to $6,000 in spending per year (then 1X)
  • Rounds up every purchase to the nearest 10 points (spend $2, earn 10 points, say)
  • Rebates 10% of your redeemed miles on up to 100,000 points per year
  • Has NO annual fee

I product changed my old Citi Diamond Preferred to the Rewards+, and that was that. Until today, when I saw a random 1,600 ThankYou points in my account.

The only activity I’d had recently was transferring 16,000 Citi ThankYou points to Qantas. Then I realized – the Rewards+ card’s 10% rebate worked on the redeemed ThankYou points, even though I earned them with other ThankYou cards.

For a card that’s free to keep, that’s up to 10,000 points back in my account every year – and I value those for $200 at least. An as long as this works, I will 100% keep my Prestige card long-term.

This pairing is pretty awesome – and seems to work with any other ThankYou card and for any type of redemption (points transfer, travel booked directly, etc).

Citi Rewards+ 10% Rebate

Holy crap, this new power-up to my Citi Prestige card is worth an extra 10,000 points per year. Officially keeping

When you combine the rebate with points transfer bonuses and 1.25 cents for travel – it gets all that much better.

Combine Citi Rewards+ with other ThankYou cards for up to 10,000 points back per year

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Citi ThankYou Points Are My Earn & Burn Currency of the Year! 60,000 UR = 100,000 TYP (Prestige Vs Sapphire Reserve Pt. 2)

I recently emptied my Citi ThankYou points account. Yup, I burned every single last point to stay at the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta. For my 4-night stay, I could’ve spent:

  • 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (because it’s 20,000 Hyatt points per night)
  • ~131,000 Citi ThankYou points (with the 4th night free thanks to Citi Prestige)

I asked a friend which would be the better option. “Whichever is easier for you to replenish,” was her advice.

Within my Chase Ultimate Rewards portfolio, I spend most on my Sapphire Reserve for 3X, and sometimes my Freedom for 5X. Within my Citi ThankYou portfolio, I spend most on my Prestige for 5X, and sometimes my AT&T Access More for 3X. And the Prestige 5X category gets the bulk of my attention.

If I spend $10,000 on flights and dining:

  • On Sapphire Reserve at 3X, I get 30,000 points
  • On Prestige at 5X, I get 50,000 points

For my same spending, I get way more rewards. For the hotel stay above, the earn rate was actually equal (80/3 = 131/5). But for transfers to airline miles, that’s the difference between getting 1 award ticket instead of 2 for the same spend.

Match your spending to a 5X category and see what happens.

citi thankyou points

For views like this, just burn Citi ThankYou points if your 5X categories are similar to mine

If you buy a lot of airfare, and eat out often, you’d do well to earn 1.67 more points per $1 – they add up fast!

Citi Prestige Vs Chase Sapphire Reserve (again)

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Citi Prestige Vs Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which Ultra-Premium Card Is Better? (Bonus Categories, Perks, Insurance)

Dang, this is hard. I’ll go ahead and say, “It depends.”

But I am going through it, y’all.

Both the newly refreshed Citi Prestige and ever popular Chase Sapphire Reserve have their place in this world. And I know which one I’m using a LOT more (Citi Prestige). But I can’t bring myself to downgrade my Chase Sapphire Reserve because I don’t want to lose specific perks.

As I look at them, side-by-side, I gotta say – it’s a total wash. Do I keep ’em both?

And while I’ll stick with Citi Prestige short-term, I think they’re both keepers. Let’s compare.

Citi Prestige vs Chase Sapphire Reserve – 2 excellent ultra-premium cards

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American Airlines Cards Officially Useless – I’m Closing Mine in May 2019

American Airlines has a case of “too big for their britches,” as we say down south. They think they’re Delta – they’re not. They think their co-branded credits cards are too beneficial – so they’re cutting the best benefit.

As of May 1st, 2019, NONE of the American Airlines credit cards (from Barclays or Citi) will have a 10% rebate on redeemed miles, which was good for up to 100,000 redeemed miles per year (so you could get back 10,000 miles).

I maxed this out every year – and rarely use other benefits of the cards. I don’t check bags. Priority boarding is great, but whatever. I don’t buy airplane food.

And I get better earning rates with ultra-premium cards for all the bonus categories.

In a couple of months, I’m closing my American Airlines cards. Unless Citi wants to give me a big retention offer to keep one a while longer.

american airlines cards

*eyeroll emoji* These are not meaningful to me

Even worse – Citi isn’t adding anything to make up for this loss (Barclays is at least trying). Sorry, but spending $20,000 to get a stupid $125 discount isn’t a tradeoff.

Bye bye, AA cards

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8,500 Miles for Spending $1,000 With a Quick Phone Call (Always Do This With Citi Cards!)

I love when an annual fee posts on a Citi card.  Because that means it’s time to pick up the phone and ask for Citi retention offers.  While Amex is sometimes generous, I’ve found Citi is the best at giving incentives to keep their cards – especially those with annual fees.

I currently have 6 Citi cards (3 AA cards, Prestige, AT&T Access More, and Rewards+). And called because the fee on my Citi Prestige just posted.

While I’m excited about keeping that card this year, I figured I’d ask if they could scoot bonus points my way, especially since I depleted them to go to Puerto Vallarta again.

There was nothing available for that card, but then I asked the helpful agent to check the others.

I call about once every 6 months – every single time, I’ve gotten at least 1, and usually more, worthwhile deals. This time was no exception.

citi retention offers

If you have Citi credit cards, it’s always worth calling for a retention offer

Here’s my latest!

Citi retention offers: Spend $1,000, get 8,500 AA miles – done!

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How Many $400+ Annual Fee Cards Is Too Much (or Just Enough)?

Right now, I have 3 ultra premium credit cards with annual fees of $400 and up:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – $550
  • Citi Prestige – $495 (though mine renewed at $450 for one more year)
  • US Bank Altitude Reserve – $400

That’s $1,345 in annual fees! 😵

Still, I find myself wanting the Amex Platinum biz card ($595, but $450 through January 2019) and Amex Hilton Aspire ($450), both for vastly different reasons.

But I can’t justify getting another ultra premium card with a big annual fee. Am I capping out at 3?

I’m really considering downgrading my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Getting a 4th – or 5th – would be overkill, wouldn’t it?

ultra premium credit cards

No way I’m dumping the best card for Costco shopping! All my high AF cards have a special utility

Here’s a rundown of the major cards with annual fees – and how I get value from them.

Ultra Premium Credit Cards – How Many Does One Need?

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