Compare The Best Rewards Credit Cards 2020

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American Airlines and Marriott Are Each Now Playing the Loyalty Credit Card Game with 2 Partners – Outcomes Appear Different

American Airlines acquired US Air in 2015 and Marriott acquired Starwood in 2016, making each the largest US Airline and largest US hotel chain respectively.

It took years for them to fully integrate the loyalty program of their acquiree.   In the case of American Airlines, the loyalty program wasn’t the main reason for the acquisition (it was scale), but Marriott clearly acquired a better program than they had previously (and than they have now).

Both American Airlines and Marriott have now wound up with terms allowing the credit card partner of their acquiree to continue as a credit card partner, effectively creating two separate credit card partners competing for their loyalty customers.

American is now allowing both Citibank, its longtime incumbent credit card partner, and Barclays, which had serviced US Air, to issue personal and business American Airlines branded credit cards.   Barclays had been barred from issuing new cards for a while, but now gets exclusive access to market inside the airplanes and the airports (excluding Admirals Club which goes to Citi, along with the website, direct market channels, etc.).

In practice under the new American Airlines system, Barclays and Citibank are now competing against each other to provide the most valuable consumer card, the most valuable business card and the best signup bonuses.   American is winning - they are being rewarded for all of these new accounts at both Citibank and Barclays, and selling miles to both.   Customers also seem to be winning.   I was on a flight where a flight attendant told a passenger next to me to open both, and that means customers can get two products with separate features (for example, the Barclays Aviator cards give 3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars for every $25,000 in spend).   They are also getting access to better products with Citibank now offering a high end product in The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® and a low end no-fee product in American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp? Card.

Marriott has also maintained both Chase, its incumbent credit card partner, and American Express, which had serviced Starwood, as credit card partners.  Their press releases indicate that Chase will be offering the standard Marriott card with  Amex offering higher end consumer cards and business cards.    Again, Marriott is probably something of a winner here – like American they are being rewarded for new accounts with both Amex and Chase and will be selling miles to both.  

However, unlike the case with American Airlines, consumers seem to be losers here, especially those who had been part of Amex’s exceptional successful and popular Starwood loyalty card products.   Those cards which had been the most valuable travel rewards credit cards since  the early 2000s until recently were debased at the beginning of this month.   Instead of continuing to provide one Starwood point per dollar, it will now only offer 2 Marriott points.   Since Marriott itself is applying a 1 to 3 conversion ratio, it means that the Starwood product will now produce 33% fewer points.   Likewise, the new Chase Marriott card is also giving only 2 Marriott points on non-Marriott spend which is more than it previously delivered, but still 33% less value that loyalty to Starwood had delivered through Amex.  In short, Marriott has not delivered an enhancement for credit card loyalty that it appeared that they might when they instituted a 1 Starwood to 3 Marriott conversion ratio.   They recognized that Starwood was a better program, but then set out to destroy it, and are now making their own program less valuable through devaluations and removal of their 7 Night Hotel And Air Packages.  

Find the best travel rewards credit card for your spend profile here.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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Chase Makes the Hyatt Card A Sensible Alternative to Sapphire Reserve

BestCashCow has been a big fan of the Hyatt program for many, many years.   We’ve always viewed Hyatt points as among the most valuable points that you can accumulate for your credit card spend.  Historically, only your spend on the Starwood card or the Fairmont card can produce more valuable hotel points (and those cards are now both being removed or adjusted downward in value).  See here how we value hotel points today.

The Hyatt card, however, has not really provided more value than several other Chase cards over the last few years, even to loyal Hyatt customers.   Until recently, it gave you only 40,000 Hyatt points for signing up and no more for your spend in any category than you would receive by using the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.   As Chase points earned through the Sapphire Reserve card as well as the Sapphire Preferred card and many other Chase cards are freely transferrable to Hyatt, there has been little reason to keep a Hyatt card in it your wallet.

Yesterday, Hyatt and Chase announced a revamped card that provides 60,000 Hyatt points for signing up (40,000 after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months and an additional 20,000 after spending a total of $6,000 in the first 6 months).   The categories have been changed so that the new card gives 4x the points at Hyatt (more than the 3x that the Reserve provides) as well as 2x for gym membership and ride sharing services (the Reserve only provides 1x here).   The new card, therefore, is one that you might want to keep next the Reserve in your wallet even after meeting the promotional spend.

If you have the old Hyatt card, your point earnings have not changed, although you may get an offer to upgrade to this card.  You could also cancel in and apply for the new card, although Chase only allows one sign-up bonus for all Hyatt cards every 24 months.  The new Hyatt card is not subject to Chase’s 5-24 rule.

Apply for the new Hyatt card here.

Use the BestCashCow credit card tool to find the most valuable travel rewards credit card for your spend profile here

 

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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Years of Earning Points and Miles for My Credit Card Spend With Only a Few Regrets

I have been earning points and miles for my spend – all of my spend – for many, many years.   I know that I have played the system well, earning valuable hotel stays and airline tickets (and transferrable points) that have enabled me and my family to stay at places that I might not otherwise have been able to afford (or that I might have viewed as too costly) had I merely taken cash back for my spend.   There are very, very few regrets, but here are three.

Spending More Money for Points or Miles

Many times, I’ve been sucked into paying more to put something on my credit card rather than paying less in cash (each time I go to a gas station, for example) or rather than a direct withdrawal from my bank account (each time I use PayPal).   I’ve even paid estimated taxes with pay1040.com in order to get travel points on a credit card.   The truth is that unless you are working on getting to a promotional spend amount for a sign up bonus or to meet some sort of other spend threshold, it just doesn’t make sense to ever pay a premium to use your credit card.

Not Using My Point Balance before Devaluations or Expirations

Over the last decade virtually every airline has devalued their travel miles by making valuable redemptions both more costly and availability more restricted.   None has done this more than Delta which has virtually rendered its program worthless.   Since my Delta miles were largely accumulated through many years of loyalty when I lived in Russia and Spain (and not so much through credit cards), the program’s devaluation has been especially painful.   I regret now not having burned their miles as soon as I earned them, as I rarely find attractive redemption opportunities these days.

Devaluations of hotel points haven’t been as severe over the years as those of airline points, except for the Radisson Rewards devaluation three years ago. (At that time, the program was known as Club Carlson).   Three years ago, in an instant, the program moved from providing outstanding value at the Mayfair Hotel in London, where 50,000 points yielded two nights,to yielding only one night for 70,000 points.   On reflection, I should have used all my Radisson points at that hotel before the change, but I was concerned about spending too much time in a hotel where Putin had brought plutonium-210 through the lobby to poison Alexander Litvinenko a few years earlier.

Not Knowing the Benefits of A Credit Card

Some cards, like the Amex Platinum card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, have so many benefits that it is difficult to keep track of them.

The Platinum card gives holders Gold status at Starwood hotels which allows for late checkouts, ungraded rooms, and, until recently, free breakfasts.  I mistakenly failed to realize that Marriott was matching this status immediately after the merger, and stayed countless nights at Marriott where the benefits – especially the breakfast - would have been really nice to have.

Of course, my failure to get this right was probably more attributable to the fact that Amex representatives were consistently unable to answer simple questions about these benefits which I called.  I encountered similar frustrations when Chase’s representatives were unable to explain the Ralais & Chateaux benefits that they advertise (in fact,  Relais’s own customer support was based in Europe and was equally unfamiliar with benefit offers).

All in all, the regrets associated with using travel rewards credit cards have been few and the benefits many.

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Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Advertising Disclosure: This site may be compensated for hosting offers.