Over on Fox Business, there is some advice to a lost soul whose goal next year is to get from New York to San Francisco for the holidays. The advice columnist eventually hits upon the right answer, but leaves out some important points, as she spends most of the column talking about cards with rewards for spending. If you want enough for an airline ticket, it is much easier and much quicker to sign up for a card or two as signing bonuses are almost always going to be a quicker way of accumulating points than spending bonuses.
To her credit, columnist Cathleen McCarthy does recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred and its 40,000 point bonus. But she doesn’t say why this card is one of the top choices in this situation.
The reason is that our would-be traveler wants to travel around Christmas, and frequent flyer miles are notoriously difficult to redeem this time of year. The optimal course of action is a card with a large bonus that can be redeemed as a cash equivalent for an airline ticket. Chase Sapphire fits the bill. McCarthy mentions that the points can be redeemed to United miles, and normally that’s a good thing, but not this time of year. Log into United and look for available seats from New York to San Francisco around the holidays and you’ll see what we mean.
So the emphasis should have been: (1) Earning the points through a sign-up bonus, and (2) Points should be flexible cash-equivalents.
McCarthy did ultimately recommend a good solution. The 40K bonus on the Sapphire translates to $500 worth of airfare, which should be enough to cover a roundtrip ticket.
Another acceptable option would be one of the new Citi Preferred cards, which are offering bonuses of 40K and 50K ThankYou points on the personal and business versions respectively. It should be noted that both of these have somewhat high minimum spends of $6K each, so Chase is the simplest option. Citi, however, has a higher ceiling, and here’s why.
The Citi ofers equate to $400 or $500 in airfare, or $900 if you get both. But wait, there’s more: if you get the Citi Premier, you can increase your points’ travel redemption value by 33%. That card is available with a 25K TYP bonus. So if you get all three in the course of next year (trust us, Citi has no problem with folks having multiple cards), that’s 115,000 points which you can redeem for $1,530 in travel expenses. So maybe bring a friend or two home for the holidays, or travel first class, or book a hotel room for New Year’s Eve. Or maybe just get the $500 ticket and redeem the rest for Amazon gift cards to pay for your Christmas shopping.
You see why we like this stuff so much?