I’m jumping the gun here and getting to my end of the year posts before the end of the year but the numbers are on my mind. After all, Carrie and I keep track of all our expenses and publish the them on the webs. So the end of the year is a time to reflect on such numerical goals and replan for next year.
I wanted to include what credit cards we got this year, as you can imagine, it’s quite relevant to us. But despite best sales practices, I’d like to spend a post saying which cards we did not get and why.
Of course there are lots of cards we didn’t get, certainly more than I can think to list. But I well know which cards are common in this hobby, and the advice for these cards, contradicts my advice. Of course, with both opinions you can make your own judgments.
But this isn’t supposed to be like my earlier controversial post flagging other blogs for pushing crappy credit cards, it’s purely about weighing what cards to get. I have many opinions on what cards to get, and therefore I have opinions on why I didn’t get some cards. And some were honestly tempting, but I still passed the opportunity up.
Cards we did NOT get this year
Amex cards with low bonuses
Since AMEX rules now state that only one bonus is given on a card per person, you should be savvy about timing when you apply. It seems common sense, but why get less when you could get more? If anything, it’s a reason to support cards with better bonuses for the consumer.
Also, I’d say this is especially true for any card that doesn’t waive the annual fee the first year, like…
The Amex Mercedes Card
The math here has never been convincing enough for either of us to hit apply once on this card. Why is this a thing? For those who have somehow deemed this logical enough to apply, please share the thought process below so I can understand why people are getting it.
Similarly, the Amex Platinum Card, I can understand justifying if you would have paid $400 on AA anyways, or whatever certs you can buy with the $200 (per calendar year) towards airfare. However, we did not. And as for the airport lounge benefit, I find the Priority Pass lounges on average to be the cheapest kind. I can’t tell you how many I’ve been to internationally where the only food and beverage options were sprite and cookies. On par for AA, UA, and US Air lounges… but not at all an attempt to justify the $450 annual fee.
I would say that 100,000 points is worth the fee, given that it’s a one time opportunity. However, I think most of the “perks” are vanities.
Marriott & Ritz Carlton Card
A couple years ago I found Marriott to be extremely gameable. The Platinum Challenge was nice, but the points category 4 and 5 certificates were simply worth much more than they are two devaluations later. The prize at the end of of two cheap stays, was two nice stays (like the JW Bangkok). And now the prize is two cheap stays. Besides that, the other options I stacked on it were gone.
Thus, the Marriott card has depreciated over the years, losing any competitive edge to the other hotel cards out there. A total no go, even if I valued hotel cards half as much as Airline cards.
The Ritz Carlton card is another card on my no-go list that is stunning simply because it adds zeros to the title of the bonus: “140,000 point sign up bonus”. The math with that info alone makes the card as competitive as any hotel card. But in reality, you are buying those points with a $395 annual fee not waived for the first year.
Considering how many “free night certificates” I’ve gotten from the IHG promotion with that amount of money, the card is not worthy of a hard-pull at all. In fact, anyone can essentially buy the points via IHG’s common promos.
The problem is the mesmorizing list of vanities that are listed before the annual fee. “$100 hotel credit” and the “$300 travel credit” conveniently seem to outweigh the fee, unless you have a magnifying glass to actually read the text below these “perks”, like “on paid stay of two nights or longer”. Lucky me, I have the good fortune of getting $100 off two nights at a Ritz Carlton hotel. A losing proposition for anyone who dabbles in the witchcraft of mathematics.
The best possible temptation here would be if you had the opportunity to top up to 200,000 – 540,000 Marriott points for a “Travel Package“, as I wrote about in Hotel Sweet Spots. Really only worth paying for if you can get 270,000 Marriott points which will help you get 120,000 AA miles or Alaska miles.
However, the only way we could do that is both get the card and combine… (can you combine Marriott points with a spouse for free?). But now we’re talking $800 in fees. Tempting for 120k miles and 7 nights, certainly, but not the best deal out. I wouldn’t judge you if you have played it this way. But the next section comes with judgement.
Another year without the Delta Card. This isn’t strategically avoided, I just value the points less and tend to spend my efforts elsewhere. I’m not going to be dogmatic about it, but that’s my personal preference. To this date we’ve never had the card.
Almost any card bonus under 50,000
I would perhaps consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred at 40k, but otherwise I pass if it’s under 50,000 miles. The bar is of course higher for hotels. Again, this is in no way a strict rule as each card has unique benefits, or each program is unique. Another example is the SPG card, which has more value per point than almost any other card. But if it were Amex points, Lufthansa, AA, or most other cards, I see no need to settle for anything under 50,000.
Cards that do NOT waive the annual fee – and therefore suck in comparison
This may surprise some of you, but neither of us have ever had the Alaska card, not even for the 40k bonus. The annual fee not being waived the first year just means I’m buying the miles, but at the added cost of an application.
Now, at this point I might consider the “buy” option to top off my account in the future, but only situationally. If I’m near a big award from all the mistake fare flying that I’ll credit to Alaska.
People. Are we seriously wasting our time like this? Frontier?
If someone recommends this over the Southwest card, you should think about how close they’ve gotten and check your pockets to ensure all your belongings are still on you. Perhaps try to look up the history of the car they are selling. And neither should you buy a pencil from their cup.
And despite the incredible inferiority it doesn’t waive the annual fee. Nothing is better about the card.
Seriously, you get less trips out of the card, and don’t have the opportunity to double the value with a companion pass. Plus, they have bag fees and southwest has none. I can not take anyone pushing this card seriously.
This card is on my ignore list because of its $89 annual fee. Would 35,000 miles be worth it if its miles were worth as much as United or AA? Maybe. Would it be worth it, if it were in an alliance and had global reach? Maybe. Is it worth it as is? If you have more money than sense, yes. Otherwise, no.
My main point in this section is that you’re buying the miles. And not only that, you can get better prices for better miles via other methods. So why waste an application?
There are other cards, that are even worse and not worth mentioning at all. So bad I don’t want to accidentally cause someone to consider it. I’ll say that about one group of cards at least, any cards from airlines in Asia. Asiana, Korean, etc… Who in good conscious can even list these cards on the same list as United 55k?
Of course, there are no rules. One person could need a top up, or have less opportunities, or have a great redemption in mind. Who knows. But these are the cards I could have gotten and did not. Actively avoided, you could say.