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It’s been a few months since I applied for a new rewards earning credit card, and I’ve really been giving thought to my own credit card strategy in 2018 to maximize the rewards we earn while not biting off more than I want to chew or inadvertently shooting myself in the foot by not being thoughtful enough with my applications. In the days of “once in a lifetime” bonuses and Chase 5/24 rules, it is very important to have a strategic plan.
Holding off on the Southwest Companion Pass…until 2019
I’d seriously considered making earning the Southwest Companion Pass my rewards priority for 2018, but now that I look at 2018, I realize it would probably make more sense to do that in early 2019 when the pass would be valid for 2019 and 2020 as our leisure trips are largely already booked for this year, or are to places where a Southwest Companion Pass wouldn’t be of much help. If I earn the pass in early 2019, I’ll have it while my youngest is 4 and 5 years old, which are great ages for just hopping along for the ride without the restrictions of a school schedule. If Josh does the same, then both girls could be our companions and maybe we could really make use of the Southwest Hawaii routes during those years!
The downside of that strategy is something could always change and the sign-up bonus points from the Chase Southwest cards could stop counting towards the 110,000 Southwest points in a calendar year you need to earn the Companion Pass, but I’m betting against that happening given the big promotion they just ran in California where you explicitly got a Companion Pass along with the Southwest credit card.
I want to set myself up to be able to apply for the personal and business Southwest credit cards when their bonuses are in the 50,000+ point range towards the end of 2018 or very beginning of 2019, so I will need to be under Chase 5/24 during that timeframe and not have gone heavy on Chase applications this year.
The priority is on Marriott and Starwood points
Given that we know the Marriott and Starwood credit card line-up is getting a shake-up in 2018, I think my priority right now is getting a Marriott credit card from Chase. I’ve already had the Amex SPG cards, but I’ve never had a Marriott card, and I’d love to infuse my SPG balance since Marriott points transfer 1:3 to SPG. This is especially since I have SPG and Marriott Platinum status this year which makes those stays a little more comfortable and valuable. Even without that status, SPG points are insanely valuable to me and relatively hard to earn, so I’ll take as many of them as I can get.
I’m leaning towards going for the Marriott Business Card over the personal card in part because I think I am probably at my limit for Chase personal cards, and I don’t really want to give any of them up, whereas I’d be okay giving up a Chase small business card if I needed to (just not my now unavailable Ink Plus that I use to earn 5x at a number of places!).
Here’s a rundown of the Starwood and Marriott cards that are available, as well as their relevant bonuses.
I’ll take 65,000 American miles, please
I used to get American Airlines credit cards with regularity, but I haven’t acquired any new American Airlines cards in over two years, so it’s time. I know that American miles have earned a bad reputation, and deservedly so, but things seem to be trending better. Just yesterday I put some award flights from Europe to Texas on American Airlines metal on hold for just 57,500 miles each, so I’m currently pretty pleased with American miles and am looking to earn more.
I’ll most likely apply for a targeted CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard offer I received in the mail that awards 65,000 bonus miles with $4,000 in spending in the first four months, but even if you aren’t targeted for that you can still get 60,000 bonus AA miles with the public offers for that card and it’s consumer equivalent, both with a $0 introductory fee the first year, then $95 in subsequent years.
More United miles for Josh
For Josh, I’m torn on whether to prioritize Marriott or United for his early 2018 Chase application. The current offer for the United Club Card with 50,000 United miles after you spend $3,000 on the card in the first 3 months and United Club membership may be a good match for him since he is flying United frequently and we love our United miles. However, that card carries a $450 annual fee and given that we already have plenty of cards with hefty annual fees, that cost makes me pause. If we don’t go for that card for him, then he will also likely hop on a Marriott Chase card.
Enough points for three Wyndham Rewards nights
The other card that I am seriously considering for at least Josh in 2018 is a Wyndham Rewards credit card when the bonus is increased to 45,000 points since that is enough for three nights at one of their properties as all of their hotels are 15,000 points per night. He travels to New York with some regularity and getting three award nights at a hotel like the TRYP Times Square, the New Yorker, the Hotel Henri, or the Wingate by Wyndham Midtown would be like cash in the bank to us. Right now there is a version of the offer that does award 45,000 points through January 15th, with 30,000 points awarded after the first purchase and then 15,000 additional points after $2,000 in purchases in the first 90 days.
I don’t foresee us going crazy with credit card applications in 2018 just like we didn’t in 2017, but we will be strategically applying for some cards over the course of the year when the bonuses and perks are right. I want to be in a good position to go for the Chase Southwest cards at the end of 2018 or beginning of 2019, so that means being choosy on applying for cards that will impact my Chase 5/24 status. Thankfully, as I explained in my weekly column for creditcards.com, not all cards count the same when it comes to 5/24.
I’d love to hear about what credit cards you are applying for in 2018 and what your strategy is behind those choices!
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.