My Credit Card Spending Priorities for 2020

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The biggest return on credit card spending is earning a card’s initial bonus. After that it’s either benefits that may be earned at specific thresholds on a card, or earning more than one mile per dollar on specific categories of spending. For me it’s about earning the elite benefits I care about, and some special perks on top that let me travel with my family more than I otherwise would.

Here’s how I’m prioritizing my credit card spending in the year ahead:

Southwest Airlines Business Card

I was approved for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card last month, and I’m waiting to meet the minimum spend required on the card because I want the initial bonus to post in January. That way it’ll count towards a companion pass in 2020. My goal is to earn the companion pass quickly, so that it’ll be valid for most of 2020 and then all of 2021.

The rules for the companion pass changed, it is going to take 125,000 points to earn it in 2020 (versus 110,000 points through end of 2019). So I’m going to be hitting the card hard, combined with some flights on Southwest early in the year – I can always count on my Thursday night Washington National – Austin work flights to be super expensive.

By the way I’ve written that you can use the card’s statement credit to reimburse Southwest Airlines inflight wifi up to 365 times per year, but here’s what I wasn’t positive of – could it be used more than once per day? Absolutely. My wife and I both have charged Southwest Airlines wifi on the same day (same flight) more than once to the card and both charges have been rebated back automatically.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card initial bonus offer is 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. That’s more than half the way to companion pass, which historically has been the best you’ve been able to do from a single credit card.

While the card is subject to 5/24, getting it doesn’t add to your 5/24 totals. Apply for this card, wait a month, then consider a Southwest personal card and earning the two bonuses together earns the companion pass as well without the kind of spending I’m going to do on my business card. (Personally my plan is to get a companion pass in early 2020, and then consider a Southwest personal card to help with getting another one in early 2022.)

Citi Executive Card

This year I’m just going to squeak back into American Airlines Executive Platinum status. I have my beefs with American, to be sure, however:

  • They’re the largest legacy carrier at my home airport (Austin)
  • They’ve got great internet on domestic flights, and that’s very important to me
  • The only thing worse than being an American Airlines Executive Platinum is not being one.

I’m going to fly American, so having elite status helps. I have the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® and this card (which is offering 50,000 miles after $5000 spend within the first 3 months of cardmembership) does two things for me.

  1. Admirals Club membership. Assistance from club agents has been a lifesaver during mechanical and weather delays. The amazing women in the Austin club in particular are true lifesavers, though I’ve always had above and beyond service from the legacy American Airlines agents at Washington National as well.

  2. Help towards elite status. $40,000 spend on the card earns 10,000 elite qualifying miles, and without that I wouldn’t be requalifying this year.

I gave a no annual fee authorized user card to my wife – that’s one of 10 possible free authorized user cards – and that gets her into American lounges when flying the airline.


American Airlines Admirals Club DFW Concourse A

Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Silver

I don’t just have the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® I have the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard® as well.

You can’t apply for this card directly, you can only product change an Aviator Red card to it. What’s unique about it is:

  • 5000 elite qualifying miles after $20,000 spend in a year
  • $99 companion ticket (valid for up to 2 companions at $99+tax each) after qualifying spend in a year
  • 5000 more elite qualifying miles after $40,000 spend in a year
  • 3000 elite qualifying dollars after $50,000 spend in a year

It’s a Mastercard and I have it set up in Plastiq to pay my mortgage. That helps get me started towards $50,000 in spend which I did on the card in both 2018 and 2019. I set up mortgage payments for about 18 months when Plastiq had a ‘mistake rate’ on such payments. (And they only let you pay mortgage with a Mastercard.)

Hyatt Visa

Less than a year and a half ago Chase launched a new World Of Hyatt Credit Card and it’s one of the cards most integrated into the benefits of its associated loyalty program.

You get elite qualifying nights just for having the card, and more elite nights for spending on the card. And as you spend and earn those nights you also earn additional benefits and free nights.

The initial offer is to earn up to 50,000 Bonus Points – 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus an additional 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend a total of $6,000 on purchases within the first 6 months of account opening.

You’ll receive 1 free night every year after your cardmember anniversary at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort and earn an extra free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort if you spend $15,000 during your cardmember anniversary year.


Andaz Papagayo Costa Rica

It comes with 5 qualifying night credits toward your next tier status every year and also earn 2 qualifying night credits towards your next tier status every time you spend $5,000 on your card.

It seems clear that $15,000 spend makes a lot of sense because in addition to the points you earn, you also receive a free night. And the card is the most valuable out there for spend at Hyatts, something I do a lot of.

Spending $15,000 on the card means earning 11 qualifying nights towards the 60 necessary for top tier elite status. When you use the free nights you earn from the card those count towards status to. You can transfer Chase points, such as those earned with a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, to Hyatt and redemption of those points for free nights counts towards status as well.

What’s more every 10 elite night comes with additional benefits (including more free nights):

# Nights Or Benefit
10 25k base points or 3 meetings Discoverist
20 35k base points 2 club lounge access awards
30 50k base points or 10 meetings Explorist, 2 club access awards, cat 1-4 free night
40 65k base points 5k points or $100 Hyatt gift card or 10k points off FIND experience
50 80k base points 2 confirmed suite upgrade awards
60 100k base points or 20 meetings Globalist, 2 suite upgrade awards, cat 1-7 free night, concierge
70 N/A 10,000 points or suite upgrade award
80 N/A 10,000 points or suite upgrade award
90 N/A 10,000 points or suite upgrade award
100 N/A 10,000 points or suite upgrade award

How I’m Using My Spending

I want to keep my American Airlines and Hyatt status, and I’ll earn additional benefits from doing both along the way including a companion ticket on American that’ll let me travel with my wife and daughter and an extra free Hyatt night. Add a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass into the mix that’ll be valid for most of 2020 and all of 2021 my travel will be greatly enriched.

This is a lot of credit card spend, and I generate it paying big bills via Plastiq, with reimbursable business expenses, and charging taxes to my cards. Of those only reimbursable expenses are ‘free’. Here are 7 tips for meeting spending requirements on a credit card and generating more credit card spending than you realized was possible.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

Comments

  1. Gary – reports in the Hyatt FT forum are mixed (via Chase agents) on the $5,000 per 2 elite nights 1) rolling over from 2019 wherever you are at end of year (so if at $4,999 in your interval, $1 in 2020 triggers the 2 nights) vs. 2) a clean break.

    Any chance you can ping your contacts for the official answer? Thx.

  2. Gary, curious what card do you use for estimated taxes? Or does it vary? I put estimated taxes on Hyatt this year to hit Globalist. I only have about 10 business nights a year, but those suite upgrades sure make for some great family vacations.

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