Perks for Big Credit Card Spenders

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Many people are constantly asking me which credit card to use for big spenders. Many of these people are able to spend a ton due to having their own small business or being reimbursed for work expenses. Of course the number of points you earn depends on the spend category (i.e., bonus points for travel, office supplies, gas, restaurants, etc.), but many cards are valuable as they offer a certain benefit by spending a X amount. If you put a ton on your credit card and are wondering which card will give you the biggest benefit for hitting a certain spend here you go.

Hotels Credit Cards:

  • Starwood American Express = Earn SPG Gold status after spending $30,000 on the card in a calendar year
    • My take: I personally do not value SPG Gold enough that I would spend $30,000 on the card for the sole reason of hitting Gold status. If your goal is to earn SPG points, I’d definitely advocate this card as I highly value SPG points.
  • Marriott Premier Visa = Earn 1 elite credit for every $3,000 spent on the card (this can help you earn the desired status)
    • My take: Marriott Platinum is the only Marriott status that I think is worthwhile, although Gold did increase in value as they just changed the policy in June that Gold members get concierge lounge access at all full service hotels (resorts excluded). You need 75 credits in a calendar year to earn this status (you get 15 credits towards status by having the card), so that would mean $180,000 on the card to get the additional 60 nights! For Gold status you need 50 nights in total, so $105,000 spend on the card is required. However, if you stay at Marriott hotels often and are only a few credits shy of earning this status, this could help to hit the threshold.
  • Hilton American Express Surpass (annual fee) = Earn Gold status if you spend $20,000 annually or Diamond status if you spend $40,000 annually
    • My take: Hilton Gold status is great as it comes with free continental breakfast. That is a huge perk in my opinion. On the flip side, Hilton points are worth close to nothing these days so spending $20,000 on a Hilton card won’t get you much. To get Gold status has been pretty easy anyways, as there have been many trial opportunities and roundabout ways to get Gold status. Also, the Citi Hilton Reserve card comes with automatic Gold status so you do not need to hit a minimum spend.
  • Hilton American Express (no annual fee) = Earn Gold status if you spend $20,000 annually
    • My take: Same as the annual fee card – Hilton Gold status can be worthwhile by Hilton points are extremely devalued.
  • Citi Hilton Reserve = Spend $40,000 in a calendar year get diamond status + if you spend $10,000 in your cardmembership year you get 1 free Hilton weekend night
    • My take: Spending $10,000 to get a free Hilton night is great. While it is limited to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, you can use it at any hotel that has a free night standard room available. This means you can use it at a $500/night hotel in Europe (and many times much more). I’d also opt for this card over the Surpass card for the Diamond status as for the same spend you get Diamond status and a free weekend night. If you travel enough to nice Hilton hotels and you are on the hook for paying for meals Diamond status might be worth it as you’ll get free breakfast/concierge lounge. Also, you could also land a nice suite/upgraded room.
  • Hyatt Visa = If you spend $20,000 a year you get 2 stays/5 nights towards status or if you spend $40,000 a year on the card you get 3 stays/5 nights towards status
    • My take: Diamond status is the only worthwhile status at Hyatt, and it requires 25 stays or 50 nights. This is a lot of spend to only earn a few stays/nights towards status. However, I do love Hyatt points and value each point very highly (like Starwood points), so would still advocate using this card to earn Hyatt points.
  • Chase Fairmont = If you spend $12,000 in your cardmembership year, earn 1 free night stay. Also, when
    hen you spend $7,500 on your Card, you’ll get 1 stay credit towards platinum status, and you can get a maximum of 2 stay credits per year.
    • My take: This is a great benefit! Many Fairmont hotels can cost quite a bit, so being able to earn a free night by spending $12,000 is great. The only issue is that the 12,000 points you earn from spending on the card will not allow you to redeem for a free night at any of their hotels. Free nights start at 25,000 points (and that is their lowest redemption). However, the card gives you 2x points on airline tickets purchased directly with airlines, car rental agencies, and local transit/commuting. So if you put $12,000 of 2x point purchases on the card that will give you 24,000 points, only 1,000 points shy of their lowest redemption. You also earn Premier status just by having the card, which comes with some good perks in itself.
  • Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature or Business Rewards Visa = No extra benefit for high spend. Although the more points you earn the more free nights you get as with every stay using points you’ll get a free night. 

Airlines:

  • American Airlines: Citi Executive card (this is the $450 annual fee card) = Earn 100,000 EQMs after spending $4,000 in a calendar year
    • My take: If you are 10,000 EQMs shy of Executive Platinum status I’d say go for it, but to go for Platinum or Gold, not sure the $450 fee is worth it. Especially when you can enroll in a Platinum or Gold challenge for much less.
  • British Airways = If you spend $30,000 in a calendar year you will earn a Travel Together ticket (one time use ticket where you travel for free with a companion who is on a British Airways award reservation (plus taxes/fees)
    • My take: This is a very popular benefit, but keep in mind the companion still pays taxes and fees and it must be a British Airways operated flight. Where this can pay off is if you are looking to redeem for a Business class or First class ticket as the taxes will run you around ~$1,000, but to purchase the ticket directly can be ~$4,000+. For a economy class ticket the fees can sometimes be almost the same as purchasing the ticket.
  • Chase United Explorer = Earn 10,000 miles when you spend $25,000 within the calendar year
    • My take: Not a bad option if you are looking to accumulate United miles. I personally value United miles.
  • Chase United Club = No benefit for high spend, however, this card gives you 1.5 miles per dollar spent so that $25,000  spend would give you 12,500 miles, which is 2,500 miles more than the Explorer card. But this card also comes with a hefty fee.
  • Delta Platinum Skymiles = Earn 10,000 MQMs after you spend $25,000 a year and an additional 10,000 MQMs after you spend $50,000 in the same calendar year.
    • My take: If you are shy of earning your desired status with Delta than it can be worthwhile. While I know many are still Delta fans, there miles have devalued so much in the past few years that I am personally not trying to accrue more Delta miles.
  • Delta Reserve = Earn 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 redeemable miles after you spend $30,000 a year and an additional 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 redeemable miles after you spend 60,000 in the same calendar year
    • My take: Similar to the Platinum card. However, with this card more spend = more MQMs and redeemable miles. So it all depends on how many miles shy you are to reach that status. The Reserve card though comes with a hefty annual fee.
  • Southwest Airlines = Credit card spend counts towards the Southwest Companion Pass and you get 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points towards status for every $10,000 spent up to 15,000 TQPs
    • I personally do not care about status with Southwest, so the TQPs are useless to me, but accumulating points towards the companion pass is HUGE. You need 110,000 to earn the companion pass, so $110,000 in spend will do it. Although there are many other ways to earn points towards the companion pass in addition to credit card spend. If you fly Southwest often enough, you can have a companion fly with you for free an unlimited number of times.

Other Credit Card Programs

  • American Express Premier Rewards Gold = Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $30,000 in a calendar year
    • My take: This is similar to earning 1.5 points per dollar spent on all your non-bonus spend, so not a bad option if you like accruing MR points.

So which card is best?

There really is no best card out

there in regards to perks. It all depends on your personal situation and your upcoming travel desires. For example, you might be shy some points to earn status, so that particular card is best for you one year, where the next year another card might be best as you’ve earned status by flying enough. If you are looking to stay at an expensive Hilton hotel, you might consider the free night at Hilton.

You also need to consider if you are more interested in maximize your miles or the perks of spending $X in a year. For example, using your Southwest credit card clearly will not get you the best value for your points, however, if you are looking to earn that companion pass, this additional spend could be a great way to get there and outweigh the points earned on a different card where you might get a better value.

If you want to learn more about this specifics of many of the cards listed above, along with the sign up bonus and other perks, take a look at the Promotions and Credit Card page. Let me know if you have any questions!

 

What is your go-to card for high credit card bills?

Comments

  1. I’m confused about the Fairmont card. You mean that 12,000 points (after $12,000 in spend) will not be enough to earn you a SECOND free night, correct? (Since you’ve already earned 1 free night from all that spending)

  2. Nice post. It’s hard to figure out where to put spend. I’m closing in on the BA companion pass but I’m not sure I’ll be able to use it because of the cost and restrictions.

    You missed a few cards like IHG card (no big spend bonuses), Best Western, etc. I would wonder if the US Bank Flexperks card might be a good place to put spend?

  3. FYI: You don’t get free breakfast for 2 along with your free night for spending $12k on the card. And to commenter Rachel above: Yes, 12k pts would only earn halfway to a second free night. Might as well cash those 12k pts out for $120 in Amazon GCs though cuz spending Chase Fairmont “funnymoney” pts on Chase nights (which are just Ovation certs) is not worthwhile.

    • @gregorygrady – By having the card you get upgraded to Fairmont Premier Membership Status which gives you a slew of things, including two $25 certificates. I’ll update the post to make more clear.

  4. You missed an important caveat with the DL Reserve. The 15K x 2 bonus MQMs can be gifted to anyone. This can make the bonus MQMs extremely valuable, even if you don’t need the MQMs yourself. If yo tag team with a partner every other year and supplement with DL Patinum spend you can obtain Delta platinum status relatively cheap from CC spend. FM had a good post on this. I value opportunity cost at 2.2% since I can get 2.2% back on my Arrival if I put the spend there. I won’t put spend on another card unless (a) I would buy the resulting miles or points for 2.2 cents or (b) I am out of capacity on my Arrival and would give up opportunity unless I put the spend on another card. Unless you value the points + perks higher than the requisite spend x 2.2% none of these cards are worth it IMHO. A while back you wouldn’t buy UA speculatively for 1.5 cents when it came time to redeem your mypoints. In other words, you value UA less than 1.5 cents when it comes to speculatively accumulating them, so earning 1.5x on the UA card wouldn’t be worth it to you vs. earning 2.2% on Arrival. Same here. I won’t buy miles for anywhere near 1.5 cents. About the only card I might consider here is the DL reserve. If you put 60K of spend on it and value the 90K RDMs at 1 cent and 30K MQMs at 3 cents and deduct the annual fee of 450 you are making about 2.25% on your spend, ignoring the other card benefits like DL lounge access, upgrade priority, and F companion ticket. Now, I wouldn’t pay 1 cent for DL RDMs, but those other perks that come with the DL reserve might make it worthwhile for a DL flyer.

  5. P.S. The equation might be different for real business owners who have tax implications. I don’t know the finer details re. how taxes impact business owners, but to do this justice you really need to look at the deductibility of annual fees, taxation (or not) of cash back vs. points, etc. Being able to deduct the AF might make the higher annual fee cards like DL Reserve and UA Club much more compelling vs. cash back.

  6. Marriott Platinum is no doubt better, but gold is definitely worthwhile. Free breakfast, wifi, club lounge access and sometimes upgrades aren’t worhless.

    • @Scott – Since they implemented the concierge lounge access in June you are right, Gold membership has definitely increased in value. Although, this excludes resort properties. As a Platinum member I am hardly upgraded so not sure how often Gold members are upgraded.

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