Welcome to a weekly feature on the Eye of the Flyer blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.
A quick scan of the grand totals at the bottom of all my travel accounts tracked by Award Wallet shows I have over 2 million points. I really try to drive that total down each year but every 91+ days, after minimum spend, my totals jump up by nice amounts. Granted, this is a good problem to have but also it can be a bad one. But more on that later. First on to a question from a reader. Let’s call him “Bob“.
“I have been using a Delta Reserve card for personal use and another Delta Reserve card for business use. I hit the max thresholds every year and get the 30k MQMs on each card. I fly Delta about 95% of the time (Alaska and Southwest taking up the other 5% or so). I also have an Amex Platinum business card. We use a Chase Visa Marriott card for when we cannot use an Amex card. I have several other cards that are current, however they haven’t been used in long time. We pay off our balance EVERY month on any card that is used. I would like to start building up Amex Membership Rewards as we learned they are better for traveling outside of the Delta network. I would like 1 Million SkyMiles and 1 Million Membership Rewards. I know these are lofty and will take time. QUESTION…would you recommend we start using another card, if so, which one?” – Bob
Wow Bob that is a bunch to think about. Let me start off by warmly commending you for paying off your credit card balances EVERY month. Unless that happens, there is just ZERO point in going for any kind of frequent flyer points. Winning means never carrying a balance at all.
Now on to the next big thing that is your quest to collect a few million points, that is, SkyMiles and Membership Rewards points. Should you do this? Maybe, but only with the understanding that you intend to burn them and burn them fast especially the SkyMiles. Membership Rewards points tend to hold their value over time but all frequent flyer points become less valuable over time. Think of them like a new car – they are NEVER more valuable than the moment you get them. Then immediately they start to become less valuable. Now with SkyMiles, Delta has been on a total binge to destroy value over the past few years. More, sometimes huge, devaluations will hit for any flights booked for travel after 1JUN16 and that is in effect right now.
I am not a Marriott guy but they have a OK-ish program and if you are generating value / vs charging for your free nights then I am fine with this. For me, I find better value by focusing spend on my AMEX SPG card because for 3-4k a night, at most locations, I can get a free room at a Sheraton or Westin and save myself from spending $75-$150 a night. That is real value to me.
Would I recommend using another card? If you are working for MQMs, I agree with your choice of the two Delta AMEX Reserve cards — personal (learn how to apply) and business (learn how to apply). Spending $60,000 a year on each is smart. Not only are you getting 30,000 MQM bonus for each card but also 30,000 SkyMiles bonus for each card. Between the two you are talking 180,000 SkyMiles spend + bonus. Not bad. But I would stop right there at least with your SkyMiles cards. Since you can earn no more bonus MQMs or SkyMiles at this point forward there is no point in pushing more spend here. So where next?
You mention you have a non-Delta AMEX platinum business card (learn how to apply). Good choice. I have one of those as well. To me the perks of this card are well worth the fee. Plus, now that we can take a deep breath and see the $200 in incidentals is being credited again there is REAL value for holding the card. But should you spend on this card to work on building your 1+1M points? I say no. Think about this instead:
The American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card) earns you Membership Rewards but at a better rate for so many spend categories. CARD NO LONGER OFFER. Please learn more now about the American Express® Gold Card. Plus it also comes now with a $100 incidental per year and you can pick Delta if you want making the annual fee much more palatable. You can then use this to build your Membership Rewards balance up and always remember that, if you want, these points can almost instantly be sent over to Delta for an award you need to book.
Then on to a card you don’t seem to hold that is the AMEX SPG personal card and or the AMEX SPG business card. CARDS NO LONGER OFFERED. Please learn more about Chase‘s Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Visa Signature Credit Card or Marriott Bonvoy Bold Visa Signature Credit Card. Now I am not telling you to depart from your Marriott loyalty. Stick with that if you like it and it works for you. But if you can build up some spend on your SPG cards, those can be sent to Delta when you want to, that is, when you send 20,000 points over to Delta the net result is 25,000. It does take a little while for these points to move over to Delta but it can be a card to focus on that is NOT locked in with Delta but can build your balance when you need it.
Now to be clear I am not just “preaching” this kind of spend, I do this myself (well, other than Marriott 🙂 ). As you can see I HOLD the cards we are talking about myself and spend and USE THEM much as talked about above.
The last point is how to generate the points? Clearly not everyone has huge business spend. If you do, good for you and think hard where to spend and don’t just pour all of it onto ONE card – mix it up. Beyond that, pick a card that pays 2 or 3x when buying airline tickets or gas or paying for food etc. Then as far as other creative spend consider paying your taxes with a small fee, insurance (with no fee) maybe even breaking out your home insurance from your home loan escrow and paying that on it’s own each year on a travel card (I do this). There are so many other ways including KIVA.org loans and Visa Debit Gift Cards that can be loaded to BlueBird to bump up the final spend totals. They all are part of the mix to max out points and value for that trip to make it as cheap and fun as possible! – René
Editorial Note: This content is not provided by American Express. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express.
Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.