I swear this happened the other day because I could not make this stuff up, even if I tried. And it’s by far the number one mistake people make in gathering miles and points. I’m in line to pay for groceries and the man in front of me pulls out a credit card to pay for his items. I have a curious nature, so I always look to see what credit card people use for their expenses. I contorted my body in several different directions in order to catch the name on the card and it was a, drum roll please… TJ Maxx Credit Card. Who knew TJ Maxx even had a credit card? And I’m not judging people who shop at TJ Maxx. Observing this man using his TJ Maxx Credit Card at a grocery store reminded me of all the other friends and family members I have who use these affinity cards. Using affinity cards doesn’t make sense if the goal is to travel more for less. Credit cards that accrue flexible points and miles so they can be used on various airlines and at multiple hotel chains makes much much much better sense!
For instance, I have a good friend, as well as a cousin, who put all their spending on their Chase Southwest Airlines Credit Card. They can use those points to fly their kids home for visits. Many times I’ve explained that credit cards offered by Chase that accrue flexible points can still be used for flights on Southwest Airlines but also for many other trips and hotels, too. They are both still stuck on the concept of affinity for Southwest Airlines. I’m all for affinity, but not at the expense of flexibility with miles and points! To use a grocery analogy, why put all your eggs in one basket?
Another friend puts all his spend on a Chase United MileagePlus Credit Card. He asks me where I get so many points to use on terrific hotel stays, and many times I’ve explained about flexible points that can be used both for flights and hotel stays and yet he keeps using his Chase United MileagePlus Credit Card.
I know we live in a miles and points bubble, and what may seem obvious to us is still a concept that’s challenging for many to grasp. Yet outside in the real world, there are people who still write checks, pay with cash, and use these restrictive affinity credit cards. I think the affinity credit card concept, which many of us, including myself, started out with years ago, whether it was for a certain airline, hotel, or even gas stations, is still being held on to by too many people. And I think it’s the number one mistake people make in the miles and points game.
However, when the light bulb goes off and someone is ready to make the shift from an affinity card to a credit card that accrues flexible points, when they ask me which card to start with, the card I always recommend is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card. It’s probably the card most of us got started with as well, and it’s still a great card to get started with today.
Here are the features of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card:
1. There’s a sign-up bonus. After meeting the minimum spend of $4,000 in 3 months, you’ll receive 50,000 bonus points. Don’t forget that the card earns double points on travel and dining. The Ultimate Reward points are flexible and there are many transfer partners. My two favorites are Hyatt and United.
Here are the transfer partners:
- Airlines: United, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Air France KLM, Southwest Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Iberia, Aer Lingus
- Hotels: Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton
2. The fee on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is $0 for the first year and then $95 each year.
This makes it a good card to start with, use, and then see whether or not you get value from the card. If you like to travel and eat, and benefit from earning double points, I’m betting you’ll get good value from this card!
It’s true that there is no one right card for everyone to begin with, but I know the people who ask me how to get started also want to keep things simple. While there are hundreds of travel credit cards to choose from, and everyone’s goals and spending is different, for most people I know who want to travel more for less, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card is a good choice.
While some of us have had the Sapphire card for years, and wouldn’t consider ourselves newbies, there are always people just getting started using travel reward cards and they need a solid suggestion from someone who has already been down the road.
Any questions, let me know. When your friends and family ask how to get started with travel credit cards, which ones do you recommend?