Tag Archives: credit cards

Why Club Carlson is Best for Lazy MSers

There have been a number of posts recently about MS for hotels (see posts on the Frequent Miler, Saverocity, and Travel is Free (all great blogs btw)). In the past, I haven’t really focused on hotels since I’m a cheapskate and will do things like book overnight trains or sleep in capsule hotels or crash on people’s couches to avoid paying for hotel rooms. But as I get (slightly) older, I admit that I’m focused more on hotel redemptions, so these posts are helpful.

But a lot of these posts talk about how MSing on 5% cash back cards is best because it’s rare that you can get more than that value out of hotel co-branded credit cards. I totally agree. I would much rather earn 5% cash back than hotel points. But to get 5% cash back, you can’t just do your MS in your Cathay Pacific pajamas–you actually need to get your butt off the couch, put on some real clothes, and go outside (typically to grocery stores or gas stations).

Take Amazon Payments: it’s probably the easiest form of MS around. Granted, you’re capped at $1k per person per month, but you can do it from anywhere. But you’re not going to get a 5x multiplier. There’s another MS technique that’s relatively easy for me since I live close to a certain bank branch. But again, no 5x for that. So if 5x isn’t an option, what should you do?

I’ve said it before on my blog, but Club Carlson doesn’t get nearly the love that it should in the miles/points blogosphere. The Club Carlson credit cards are crazy good. 5x points would be meh by itself, but the extra free night for every award stay makes this card awesome. As long as you stay in increments of two-night awards, it’s like you’re doubling the value of your points. I’m heading to Sydney in a couple of weeks, and I’ve got 4 nights booked at the Radisson Blu Plaza (2 nights from my personal account, 2 nights from my business account, which is slightly dubious, but that’s another topic). Total points cost: 100k Club Carlson points. You can get that from $20k in unbonused MS since you get 5x everywhere. $20k of MS on a different unbonused card (like a 2.22% cash back card) would be $444 cash back. That’s good, but I doubt you’re going to get 4 nights at a nice hotel in a great location in Sydney for $111 per night.

Obviously, if you can get 5% cash back instead, the calculation is totally different. 5% back on $20k is $1000, and you can probably find a hotel for less than $250 per night that you’d prefer. But for those of us who are lazy and aren’t willing to go to the grocery store for our MS, Club Carlson is a pretty great program (with the normal caveat that their geographic footprint is more limited than many other hotel chains).

(Inefficient) Manufactured Spending to Hit Minimum Spend Requirements

In my mind, I arbitrarily divide manufactured spending into two camps: that which you do on an ongoing basis, and that which you do to meet minimum spend requirements. I don’t really do much of the former (mostly because I’m lazy, but also because I don’t have a car and live in SF where there’s a specific lack of many of the places that are critical to other people’s MS schemes), but the latter is a necessity if you want to take advantage of some of the most lucrative offers. Example: the Citi Executive AA card, which used to be incredible at 100k miles for $10k of spend, but is now still good at 60k miles for $5k in spend.

For someone like me, $5k of spend in 3 months is a lot. Unless I’m buying airplane tickets (which usually occurs in sporadic, unpredictable bursts), I probably won’t naturally hit that much credit card spending even if I put all of my expenses on one credit card, so I generally need to supplement my spending to hit credit card minimum spend requirements. But because the rewards for hitting minimum spend requirements are so much higher than normal, it’s worth it to me to pay more to accomplish these targets.

To be more concrete, for ongoing MS to be worthwhile, you generally need to get the cost below 1% or 1 cent per dollar “spent”. If it’s much higher than this, it generally isn’t worthwhile to do, since your ongoing credit card rewards are probably worth around 2% back (granted, there are many exceptions to this). On the other hand, for an offer like 60k miles for $5k in spend, you’re effectively getting 13 miles per dollar for your first $5k in spend. If you value AA miles at 1.5 cents per mile, that’s nearly 20% back, which means your manufactured spend could cost nearly 20% and you’d still be willing to do it to meet this minimum spend requirement.

Given the much higher return for meeting minimum spend requirements, you can employ different, less efficient methods to generate spend. Instead of buying cash equivalents and converting those cash equivalents to cash, you can just pay to process a credit card directly and eat the fees, which are normally around 3%.

There are numerous ways to do this, although I don’t necessarily recommend them. Here’s an example that I actively discourage: there’s a certain tech startup named after a shape that allows anyone to sign up to process credit cards, and they’ll send you a free reader that you can plug into your phone. They charge 2.75% per swipe, and the funds get deposited in your bank account the next day. If you need to spend $5k quickly, you could swipe your own credit card and pay $137.50 in fees. This isn’t worth it for ongoing manufactured spending, but it’s totally worth it to get 60k AA miles (that’s like paying 0.23 cents per mile) from the sign-up bonus. It’s also incredibly straightforward, as the money gets deposited into your bank account, which you can then use to pay off your credit card. No other intermediaries or social security numbers required.

Again, I actively discourage this approach using this specific company. I personally have never done this, but there are enough horror stories online about people getting their accounts disabled and money held for 6 months by this company that the risk isn’t worth it for most people (you also don’t really have a leg to stand on if this happens to you since this behavior is against their terms of service, so they have every right to shut you down and hold your money). However, this space has a number of competitors, and people have had success doing similar things with other companies. Tread carefully.

All manufactured spending carries risks, and you need to figure out what your risk tolerance is. Will you be okay if $5k of your money gets tied up for 6 months? $10k? What about longer? You need to answer these questions for yourself and only do what you’re comfortable with.

Results from My Most Recent Round of Credit Card Applications

Yesterday, I said that I had applied for three different credit cards. I was instantly approved for the Barclays US Airways card, but I received pending decisions for the Citi Executive AAdvantage card and the Bank of America Alaska Airlines card.

I called reconsideration for both Citi and Bank of America. The Citi call was pretty straightforward: I had essentially exhausted the amount of credit Citi was willing to extend to me (I already have 4 open Citi cards), so they wanted me to transfer some amount of credit from an existing credit card to open this new card, which I was perfectly happy to do. Some of the numbers the phone rep was saying didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me (at one point, she said I had $x credit limit on one card, which meant I could transfer $x+2000 to the new card), but I was going to close one of the cards anyway so I just transferred over most of the credit limit to my new card.

For Bank of America, they had actually approved me instantly, but there was a fraud hold on my account. This meant that I had to go through a couple of identity verification questions with a phone rep before she was able to tell me that my application was already approved.

Reconsideration phone numbers from Flyertalk if you’re interested:
Citi – (800) 695-5171
Bank of America – (866) 811-4108 – this line connected me to someone who wanted to talk to me about existing credit cards, but she happily transferred me to someone who could resolve the fraud hold on my application

All in all, a successful churn. I’ve gotten all of these cards before, so this was a true churn and not just an app-orama. I need to spend $7500 on the Citi Exec AA for 75k bonus miles, I’ll get 40k US Airways miles after first purchase for an $89 annual fee, and I’ll get 30k Alaska miles for a $75 annual fee. The AA miles will be useful given that I just put some JAL F tickets on hold for a potential new year’s trip to Japan (again), the US miles will be useful as they put me over the edge for an F redemption to Asia, and the Alaska miles I’m vaguely stockpiling in case I feel like doing another trip in Emirates F.

My Most Recent Round of Credit Card Applications

I wrote last week that I was feeling pretty meh about credit card churning, which is true. But it’s also true that not applying for new credit cards is like leaving miles on the table, and so I got off my butt today and applied for a couple of new cards.

#1 was the Citi Executive AA card. The 100k mile offer is gone, but there’s still a 75k mile offer alive, which is still a whole lot of miles for a card that seems to be endlessly churnable. And in order to meet the minimum spend requirement, I’ll need up my manufactured spending game anyway (currently at $0 per month), so I’m okay with the lesser miles offer since it requires lesser spend ($7500 instead of $10,000). I got a pending decision, though, so we’ll see if I actually get approved. I currently have a version of this card that I got in January at the 100k offer.

#2 was the Barclays US Airways card. I’ve had this card twice before (and currently have one card open). The current offers aren’t quite as good as they’ve been in the past (i.e. no first year annual fee waived anymore), but I applied for a 40k after first purchase, $89 annual fee not waived, 10k miles upon first (and only first) anniversary. I surprisingly got instantly approved. Pretty happy about this, as this card might possibly be going away with the merger, and reports on Flyertalk have said that it’s been a lot harder to get approved by Barclays reconsideration recently.

#3 was the Bank of America Alaska card. I’ve also had this card twice before (one open, one downgraded and open). The offer that I chose was 30k for getting the card, $75 annual fee not waived. Unfortunately got a pending decision on this one as well.

And that’s it. I briefly contemplated a Chase card (like one of those Chase Ink cards that bloggers endlessly pump), but decided against it for completely arbitrary reasons. I might regret that, but I can always apply for more cards in a couple of months. I’ll post again once I finish calling recon.

Things I’m Meh About: Credit Card Churning

I have a confession to make: I’ve only applied for one new credit card in the past 9 months. Last year, I got 11 new credit cards for nearly 500k miles and points and 4 free nights at hotels. This year, I’ve only gotten the Citi Executive AAdvantage card once for 100k miles.

I’m not sure exactly why I haven’t been more active in applying for credit cards, as they’re one of the easiest ways to accumulate lots of points. Part of it is due to not having particular uses in mind for the points. A lot of my previous credit card churns were very targeted to specific trips that I was planning (e.g. getting a Chase Hyatt card to use at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, getting the Hawaiian Airlines cards to transfer to Hilton for the Conrad Koh Samui when that was still a good deal), but I currently have relatively healthy miles balances on Alaska, US Airways, and American, so I don’t really need more airline miles (although I guess I’m no longer diversified with the US/AA merger), and I don’t care that much about nice hotels.

Miles and points are only useful if you use them (I guess there is some benefit to having a stash for emergency trips), so I don’t really see that much of a point in accumulating miles from credit cards just for the sake of it. And while credit card sign-up bonuses are a really great deal, they’re not completely free: even if there’s no annual fee for the first year, you’re paying with a credit score check, and meeting minimum spending requirements takes a non-trivial amount of cognitive overhead for me since I don’t really spend that much money naturally. There’s also the fact that banks seem to be increasingly clamping down on the actual churning part (i.e. getting the sign-up bonus for the same credit card multiple times), which makes me think that I should save future apps for when I really have a need for them. (On the flip side, a lot of cards are much more churnable than people think, and part of this misconception is due to the credit card salesmen aka points/miles bloggers perpetuating false information on behalf of the banks).

Just goes to show that I must be a pretty bad miles/point blogger.

Should I Cancel My Chase Sapphire Preferred?

It’s almost February (how did that happen?), which means that the 7% dividend on the Chase Sapphire Preferred is going to post in addition to my annual fee. Last year, I convinced myself that it made sense to keep the card for another year, but now I’m not so sure.

In my last post, I argued that manufactured spend could make it so that you could put all bonused spend on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and thus the 2x earning would make the annual fee worthwhile without too much spend on the card. But since that post, United has had a major devaluation for international premium cabin awards, and Hyatt has also devalued to a lesser extent. Vanilla Reloads are also increasingly difficult to find where I live.

Because of the devaluations, Ultimate Rewards points are less valuable to me than they were last year. I used to transfer the majority of my UR points to United to book first class awards on Star Alliance partners (see my last first class around-the-world hurrah), but that’s no longer going to be a great option. UR still has some interesting transfer partners in British Airways and Korean, but I’m particularly interested in premium cabin redemptions, which BA Avios aren’t great for, and I’m not sure I’ll accumulate enough UR points through my CSP to book fun awards with Korean.

In general, this means that the 2x spend on the Chase Sapphire Preferred isn’t as appealing as it once was. Instead of getting 2x UR on dining, I can get 5x Thank You points on my Citi Forward. Granted, 5x Thank You points aren’t going to get me in a first class cabin anytime soon, but it seems like neither will 2x UR. For travel spend, you can usually get 2x by using an airline’s co-branded credit cards (e.g. using an AA credit card to buy AA flights) and much more than 2x by using a hotel’s co-branded credit card (e.g. getting 10x on the Club Carlson Visa).

While I no longer carry around my CSP in my pocket for everyday spending, I do carry it with me when I travel internationally. No foreign transaction fee, and you get 2x on most things that I spend money on internationally (e.g. food and lodging). But the Chase Hyatt card is a good card to keep around just for the annual category 1-4 free night certificate, and it has no foreign transaction fee and 2x points on dining. So really, I feel like I’m mostly giving up 2x points on the international travel expenses where the co-branded card has a foreign transaction fee, and I think I’m okay with that.

The real thing that I think I’m going to miss is the credit card benefits. The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers really solid benefits that most people don’t even know about or take advantage of, but that give me a small amount of peace of mind when I use it to book travel. Specifically, this card comes with trip delay and trip cancellation insurance. While I haven’t actually used either benefit on my Chase Sapphire Preferred (although I have used trip delay insurance in the past), only one use of this benefit could cover multiple years’ worth of annual fees. I’m not sure if I have a good alternative for this yet.

Ultimate Rewards points are still going to be valuable, but I’m less enamored by the Chase Sapphire Preferred and its earning power since United and Hyatt devalued. If I still flew United, then international premium cabin redemptions would be more attainable with the combined earning of my flying and my credit card spend, but without the flying, I’m better off getting rid of my Chase Sapphire Preferred and trying to get a Chase Ink card and doing some real manufactured spend at 5x.

Using Credit Card Return Protection

It’s no secret that I love credit cards, and not just for miles and points. Credit cards often provide a variety of other benefits and consumer protections that make me prefer to use a credit card over any other form of payment, like trip delay insurance or return protection.

I usually don’t have occasion to take advantage of benefits like return protection or purchase protection because I just don’t buy that many non-consumable goods, but I recently decided to order some clothing online. Buying clothes online is always challenging because you often don’t know how they fit, and one of the items I wanted was final sale, so the store wasn’t willing to accept a return. But I figured that I’d use my Amex SPG for the purchase, which I know offers return protection. Return protection essentially says that your credit card company will cover you if the store doesn’t accept the return, provided that you call within 90 days of the purchase date and limited to $300 per item and up to $1000 total per year (see full benefits details)

Turns out that the final sale item wasn’t a great fit, and when I tried talking to the store’s customer service line, they said that they wouldn’t accept the return because it was final sale (and outside of the store’s 30-day return window). So I called 1-800-297-8019, which is the Amex Return Protection number, and asked to file a return protection claim. I reached a helpful phone agent who asked for basic information like the date of purchase, the items purchased, the total amount charged to the card, etc. And the next morning, I received an email saying that my return protection claim had been closed, and I saw a credit on my statement for the full value of the item I wanted to return. I didn’t even need to send the item to Amex. Pretty awesome, right?

Return protection is one of many reasons why I love credit cards. Obviously, don’t abuse protections like this, but it makes it easier to shop (especially online), when you know that your credit card company has you covered.

Planning My Next Round of Credit Card Applications (January 2014 Edition)

I’ve written in the past about my credit card strategy, and I usually have a pretty good idea of what I want to apply for during each round of applications, which I do every three months. But I’m really coming up empty this time around.

I’m coming up on my annual fee for my Amex Platinum card, and I was originally planning my churn this time around my Amex Plat. A long time ago, I was thinking of applying for the Amex Platinum Mercedes Benz version to get a new sign-up bonus and still maintain all of the benefits, but then Amex started explicitly disallowing the sign-up bonus for existing cardholders of personal Amex cards. So then I was thinking about applying for an Amex Business Platinum card and alternating between Amex Business and Amex Personal Platinum cards in the future.

But then Amex came along and said that they were discontinuing their lounge relationship with American Airlines and US Airways, and that they’ll offer a $200 additional airline reimbursement credit on those airlines for expenses between March 22, 2014 and December 31, 2014. Since Amex has historically reimbursed gift certificates purchases, I figure I’d wait until March 22nd to spend my additional $200 airline credit, and then cancel my Amex Platinum card, since Amex also historically does a pro rata refund of the annual fee. By waiting, I’ll still have to pay about $110 in annual fees, but the extra $200 airline credit should offset that.

Thus, I’m holding onto my Amex Platinum card for now, and now I don’t know what to do. It’s been about 15 months since I last applied for a Citi American Airlines card, so I could try to do that again (although many recommend waiting until at least 18 months), and my last Barclays card was about 9 months ago, so I could try to get my third Barclays US Airways card (although it’s supposed to be nearly impossible to get approved for a third card nowadays). I already got a Bank of America Alaska card and a Chase card in my last round of applications 3 months ago, so it’s probably a little soon to hit up either of those again.

That leaves business cards, and there are many of those since the only business cards I have are the Chase MileagePlus Explorer and the Club Carlson business cards. But ultimately, a large part of my indecision/apathy is that I’m currently sitting on a decent number of miles but I don’t have any specific redemptions in mind. Without a goal in mind, I’m not sure I should be accumulating miles and points all willy nilly, especially since it’s unclear what’s going to happen with the American and US Airways merger.

Thoughts? Am I crazy to not apply for any credit cards since I can start the churn cycle earlier by applying now? Right now, I’m leaning toward just waiting another three months to get rid of my Amex Platinum, get a new Citi AA card, and see if I have a better idea of what else I’ll want or need at that time.

Credit Cards I Currently Have

Like any good frequent traveler, I have a lot of credit cards (although I just cancelled 2!) Here’s a list of what I have (and have cancelled) and some preliminary thoughts on what I should get next.

Citi Forward (keep)
This was my first “points” card that I ever got, and I got it while I was in college. It still gets 5x points on restaurants, movies, and bookstores, but I have only used this card very sparingly since I got involved in churning cards since Thank You points can’t be transferred to any decent travel partners. Given the United devaluation, I think I might start using this card for my dining purchases instead of my Chase Sapphire Preferred, so this card might re-earn its place in my wallet for as long as it gets 5x on dining. No annual fee, so no point in closing this.

Citi American Airlines Visa (cancelled) + Citi American Airlines Amex (kept)
I got two Citi AA cards a little over a year ago. When the annual fees came up, I decided to cancel one and see what retention bonus I could get on the other. I wanted to try to hold onto one of them for the 10% rebate on AA miles redeemed up to the first 100k miles redeemed each year, and I chose to cancel the Visa card over the Amex card since Amex runs promotions like the recent Small Business Saturday and $25 off Amazon.com purchases totaling over $75. For the Citi AA Amex, they offered a retention offer of a $95 statement credit (the annual fee is only $85) plus 1000 bonus miles for each billing cycle where I spend more than $1000 for the next 16 billing cycles. Sold.

Citi Hilton Reserve (probably cancel)
I got this card for the sign-up bonus of two free weekend nights at any Hilton, which I used at the Conrad Hong Kong. I previously contemplated whether or not I should spend the $10k necessary to get the annual free weekend night certificate, and I ended up completing the spend, so I’ll at least hold onto the card until the certificate posts next year. Moving forward, I think it’s a little doubtful that I’ll hold onto this card since the spend threshold for the annual bonus is relatively high, and everyday spend of 3x Hilton points is not that compelling.

Chase Freedom (keep)
I haven’t used my Chase Freedom at all recently, but there’s no annual fee, so I might as well hold onto the card. My problem is that I very, very rarely actually buy things that can’t be consumed, so even the 5x points on Amazon right now isn’t compelling to me (prior to this past week when I was buying Amazon.com giftcards, the last time I bought something off of Amazon was in May to send a friend a wedding present; the last time I bought something for myself off of Amazon was over a year ago…). I really only maximize the rotating categories when it involves restaurants or drug stores, which clearly makes me a very bad mileage earner.

Chase Sapphire Preferred (keep for now)
This is generally my default card if I’m not meeting a minimum spend since all I spend money on is food and travel. I recently got a new card with a chip in it, which will be helpful in Europe, and the card is pretty solid all around with good benefits and no foreign transaction fees. I’m not entirely sure what to do with my Ultimate Rewards points now that I’ve essentially abandoned United, but there are still a couple of decent award redemptions on the chart (okay, maybe only one that I’m interested in). I figure I can always transfer to British Airways Avios or Hyatt if I don’t want to do United.

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Personal (cancelled) + Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Business (will cancel)
I cancelled my personal Chase United MilagePlus Explorer card before the annual fee posted, and I haven’t touched my business version of the card since meeting the minimum spend requirement. Why would you when the Chase Sapphire Preferred outearns both cards, even for tickets on United?

Chase Hyatt (keep)
Again, not really much of a reason to use this card given that the Chase Sapphire Preferred is superior in almost every way, except for spending at Hyatt properties themselves. I’ll probably keep this card and pay the $75 annual fee for the free annual night certificate at a category 1-4 Hyatt property.

Bank of America Alaska x2 (one downgraded; will cancel)
I recently got my second Bank of America Alaska Airlines card. My first one was downgraded to a no annual fee card that I will likely never use. Not that I’ve even activated the second card that I got recently, since the 25k sign-up bonus posts just for getting the card, not even for using it for the first time.

Bank of America Hawaiian Airlines + Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines (both cancelled)
I called to cancel both of these cards within the past week in anticipation of the annual fees hitting next month. No real reason to get these cards any more since I got them to transfer to Hilton points, but then Hilton had their massive devaluation.

Barclays US Airways x2 (kept)
My 10k annual bonus posted to my US Airways account for my first Barclays card, and the 15k bonus for spending $750+ for three months consecutively also posted for my second Barclays card. These are honestly some of my favorite cards. I’ll continue to hold onto them for as long as the merger makes it possible. I would absolutely love it if we could keep them indefinitely and earn 10k bonus miles each year for paying an annual fee, and if we could still earn 10k elite qualifying miles for spending $25k on the card annually. This of course is also assuming that the AA/US devaluation isn’t a bloodbath…

Discover More (keep)
Isn’t it great when Amazon Payments counts towards the current 5% category? This card is kinda like the Chase Freedom in that it’s not an essential card for mileage junkies to have, but it’s oftentimes a very nice supplement, especially since it comes with no annual fee and doesn’t compete with a Chase/Citi/Amex slot. And given that the trend seems to be increasingly that cash back will be king, there are oftentimes some very good cash back offers with this card.

US Bank Club Carlson Personal + Business (keep for now)
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m going to ride this gravy train for as long as possible. 5x points on everyday spend is the most compelling non-bonused option for me, considering that the highest redemptions are 50k per night, but with the credit card, 50k gets you two nights. And having the personal and business versions means I could get 4 nights for 100k points. And you can transfer points freely between accounts (assuming that the transferring account has Club Carlson elite status, which can be easily status matched and comes for free with the credit cards). Yes, the footprint is small, and the properties are not particularly aspirational.

Amex SPG (?)
I do not know what I should do with this card, but I have another couple of months to decide. I’m not a big spender, and I don’t really stay at SPG hotels. The points are flexible with their airline transfer partners, but transfers aren’t instant, and I accrue these points so slowly that I think it’s hard for me to hit the 20k increments necessary to get the transfer bonuses. I am a fan of Amex benefits, though.

Amex Platinum (will probably cancel)
I got this card in January 2013 when they were offering 100k Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus, which means my annual fee will be posting next month. I am switching to American as my primary carrier, but Amex just announced that the Amex Platinum will no longer provide lounge access to AA lounges while flying American. There are Centurion lounges in DFW and LAS (and SFO in the future, which is more relevant to me), but I believe the Centurion lounge at SFO will be in Terminal 3, not Terminal 2, which is not helpful when flying AA. I got an offer for an additional $200 in AA statement credits due to this benefit change, so I figure that I should hold on to the card at least through the end of March 2014 to take advantage of this offer. Beyond that, I’m not sure what to do. I like Priority Pass, but if I’m switching to oneworld then I don’t really need Priority Pass since I’ll have lounge access through my oneworld Emerald status. I might try doing the alternating churn thing with the business version of the Amex Plat.

I currently have 16 open cards. For my next round of credit card applications, I’ll probably try to push my luck and actually churn some of the cards I’ve already had. It’ll have been 15 months since I last applied for a Citi AA card, so I might try to get one of those, and I might also try to get a third Barclays US Airways card before it disappears forever. Besides those cards, I haven’t quite decided, so I’m open to suggestions.

Choosing Which Credit Cards to Hold or Cancel and Calling the Citi Retention Line

My first major set of credit card applications was October 2012, where I got a Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa, a Citi American Airlines Visa, a Citi American Airlines Amex, and a Barclays US Airways card. I decided to outright cancel the Bank of America Alaska card in preparation for applying for a new one for my last set of credit card applications, although I ended up downgrading instead to a no annual fee card (which still charged me an annual fee, but that’s the subject of another post). I also decided to cancel the Citi AA Visa, as I definitely didn’t need two American Airlines credit cards.

That left the Citi AA Amex and the Barclays US Airways card. If you redeem American miles frequently, then holding a Citi American Airlines card is a good idea because you get a 10% mileage rebate on all redemptions up to the first 100k miles you redeem each year (i.e. you can get up to 10k miles back this way), and 10k American miles are worth more than the $85 annual fee for most people. In addition, I decided to hold onto the Citi AA Amex over the Visa because of the chance that Amex Small Business Saturday would offer rebates to Amex cards used at small businesses, which would further offset the annual fee. However, I wasn’t wedded to holding onto this card since I can add another Citi AA card to my next round of credit card applications in January, as the 12+ month churn cycle for Citi cards still seems alive and well.

For the Barclays US Airways card, I was a little bit on the fence. I signed up for a version of the card that gives 10k bonus miles every year, which again is generally worth more than the $89 annual fee for most people. But what made me decide to hold onto the card was the offer that I got for a 25% mileage rebate on award redemptions, and this offer was targeted to this credit card. So given that holding onto this card will earn me 32.5k miles (10k from anniversary bonus; 22.5k from a 90k award redemption to take advantage of the 25% rebate offer), I think it makes sense to keep it for now.

So for the Citi AA Amex card, I decided to call the number on the back of my card to see what they could do for me about the annual fee. When I told the phone rep that I wasn’t sure whether or not the annual fee was worth it to me, she told me about all of the meaningless benefits like priority boarding and a free checked bag (meaningless to me because I’ll be AA Executive Platinum next year). When I told her that I didn’t care about those benefits, she offered me 500 miles to keep the card since I was a valued Citi customer.

500 miles? I thought she was joking. But she was seriously offering me 500 miles to pay an $85 annual fee. 500 miles is worth maybe at an extreme valuation $10 to me. At that point, I was mildly offended, so I told her to just cancel the card if Citi valued my business at 500 miles.

At that point, she came up with a much better offer: a one-time statement credit of $95 (the annual fee is only $85), and the opportunity to earn 1,000 bonus miles for each of the next 16 billing cycles where I spend more than $1,000 on the card. I don’t need to do anything to get the $95 statement credit, and 2x miles on all spend for the first $1,000 spent each month is pretty compelling. Offer accepted. I’ll be sure to start bringing this card to me whenever I go to CVS for the next 16 months.