How Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Earns Credit Card Rewards

As the media and opponents dig into the background of the President’s nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, one story circulating is about Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s reported past credit card debt.

Notably, Judge Kavanaugh does not currently have any reportable credit card debt. And he explains his past credit card balances that exceeded his net worth excluding the value of his residence as the result of purchasing items ‘for friends’ that he was reimbursed for.

Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh incurred tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt buying baseball tickets over the past decade and at times reported liabilities that could have exceeded the value of his cash accounts and investment assets, according to a review of Kavanaugh’s financial disclosures and information provided by the White House.

White House spokesman Raj Shah told The Washington Post that Kavanaugh built up the debt by buying Washington Nationals season tickets and tickets for playoff games for himself and a “handful” of friends.

…Shah told The Post that Kavanaugh’s friends reimbursed him for their share of the baseball tickets and that the judge has since stopped purchasing the season tickets.

The President’s nominee to the Supreme Court was generating spending and earning tens of thousands of dollars worth of credit card rewards without coming out of pocket to earn his points. He reported $15,000 – $50,000 in debt across each of three cards, accrued at the end of 2016 and paid off at the beginning of 2017.

While we don’t know which credit card Kavanaugh was using for rewards (we rarely know card choices though President Obama has the J.P. Morgan Reserve née Palladium Card), he invests with Bank of America and Bank of America Premium Rewards cardholders who manage $100,000 in assets in total with the bank can earn 3.5x on travel and dining, 2.625x on other spend. He and his wife each have accounts with between $15,000 and $65,000.

Copyright: wolterk / 123RF Stock Photo

Kavanaugh’s choices are all the more impressive considering how often people in public life fail credit card rewards, and even basic management of credit.

On the other hand former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie put $1 million in bonusable travel expenses on an American Express card (his presidential campaign also spent over $1400 on an Uber ride).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The co-founder of a startup I was at a few years ago took the risk on his own credit to open the company Amex. The company went on to raise ~$150 million, and he racked up something like 10 million Amex points over that time, all for himself. The company later went bankrupt, but he had resigned before then – I have to imagine he’s still living large on all those points and probably will be for a long time to come.

  2. Where is the evidence that he earned a lot of hugely valuable loyalty program points from those expenditures explicitly mentioned in this blog post?

    Which valuable points were his credit cards actually racking up?

    Personally, I won’t be disappointed if Trump’s Kavanaugh gets squashed sort of like Obama’s Garland. Unfortunately, I think we will get another DHS/TSA-apologist Supreme Court Justice when it comes to Kavanaugh’s nomination.

  3. Wow – that’s all they’ve got?

    The guy pays for his friends season tickets, they pay him back their share then he pays off his credit card? Oh the horrors!!

  4. From what I’ve read so far, Kavanaugh seems like America’s answer to Mother Theresa. Unless folks are lying, I think all of us wish we were as good a person as Kavanaugh. I know I do. Just yesterday, he was spotted anonymously serving food to the homeless and the people who know him write things like this:

    That said, from what we know, his handling of his personal finances does not seem exemplary. Like going into credit card debt? Judge, what were you thinking? But at least he solved his debt problems. Millions of Americans don’t.

  5. ” buying baseball tickets over the past decade and at times reported liabilities that could have exceeded the value of his cash accounts and investment assets”. It sounds a bit fishy to me. How many baseball tickets did he buy to exceed his net worth? All these ” friends” could not buy the tickets themselves!

  6. Let the first among us that has not made a bad decision -ever – cast the first stone. Non-story. My husband is part of two groups that buy season tickets this way, a no-brainer. Judge K has the credentials and the skills. What is the saying….when you have the law, hammer the law. If you have the facts, hammer the facts. If you have neither, you hammer the table…

  7. @dotticahill Off topic here, but wasn’t it “the libs” that helped you, as a woman, get the right to vote?

  8. So now that he’s under the microscope, do his buddies still need some help buying tickets? Because I’ve got some minimum spend to meet and if I know they’re good for it…

  9. It’s easy to see what he was doing. Who knows if he was getting good points value or not but he WAS dumping his leftover assets at the end of he year, most likely to drop himself to a lower income bracket or show a deficit.

  10. @bzv Actually it was Republicans that gave women the right to vote. The 19th Amendment was introduced and reintroduced (after the democrats defeated it) by Republicans, and voted into law by an overwhelming Republican majority.

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