Reader Question: Miles for Credit Cards and Investment Accounts

Reader Addicted to Travel writes:

Please advise on which cards we should ditch and which we should convert, etc. without hurting our credit rating by making too many moves too quickly.

We’ve used Amex Gold Business Membership Rewards because in the past there have been excellent promos to convert points to Delta SkyPesos, sometimes 40% or even 50% bonuses. These accrued quickly enough to cover 2 r/t flights via AF to South Africa in business class this past summer. However, we’ve noticed that there haven’t been any promos lately, so we are edging away from Amex and wondering what else we should consider. BTW, we already have Chase Sapphire (and earned the 50K points last summer). Currently we also have a Mastercard with FIA CardServices.(zero balance, seldom used, members since ’76, credit limit 5K). We also have a Sears Mastercard (seldom if ever used), a PayPal Mastercard (about a $500 balance per month, paid in full, does offer some reward points), an Amex Blue (seldom use,d sometimes a $50 monthly expenditure, paid in full), and a WalMart card (never used, Lord knows why hubby signed up for that one–must’ve walked into the store and been nabbed by some talkative employee].

Second question: We also have about 200K cash sitting in different bank accounts, doing nothing. We also have a substantial amount in IRA/SEP accounts and trust funds–is it possible to transfer that to other brokerage firms and receive miles/points for those accounts?

Lots of stuff going on here. It’s certainly true that American Express membership Rewards has become less valuable over the past year with the loss of Continental as a partner, the increased redemption rates with British Airways Avis and Air Canada’s Aeroplan, and the introduction of fuel surcharges at Aeroplan (and more minor changes, like Amex partner All Nippon adding fuel surcharges to Virgin Atlantic awards). But I see no reason to believe that transfer bonuses, such as to Delta, are over. And I certainly still use my American Express Premier Rewards Gold card for triple points on airfare and double points on gas and groceries.

You’ve got a bunch of cards, though, that you need to sideline. Of the cards you mention, the ony ones worth actually using are the American Express Business Gold Rewards card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Now, that doesn’t actually mean cancelling the rest, if there’s no annual fee on the cards just stick them in a drawer. But don’t put spending on them.

Focus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — double points on all travel and restaurant spend, no foreign currency transaction fees (you save 3% on all transactions outside the US!), points are flexible because they transfer to United, Southwest, British Airways, Korean, Marriott, Hyatt, Priority Club, and Amtrak.

And then put only spending that’s bonused by the American Express Business Gold Rewards card on that card — triple points on airfare, double points on advertising (GoogleAds!), gas, and shipping.

Much simpler and much more rewarding than the way you’re currently spreading out your credit card use.

With that settled… congratulations on having discretionary cash available. I’m not going to offer you investment advice, I know better than that! But I’m happy to tell you about the best available mileage offers. In fact, at the end of December I laid out several lucrative mileage offers for funding brokerage accounts, most of which have been extended in the new year. And despite their new $12 per month fee, I’m still banking with BankDirect which provides generous signup bonuses and 100 American AAdvantage miles each month for every $1000 in average balance.

Hope that helps!

Got more questions? Ask away!

(Do know that links to credit card applications will provide me with a referral credit if you are approved. There’s no obligation to use my links for these cards, but I appreciate it if you do.)

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. Curious – why do you always put “GoogleAds!” in parens after the advertising bonus. Is there an easy way to generate points via GoogleAds that I am missing. Or is it just that business owners should keep that in mind for their advertising spend.

  2. The 2x points on shipping and advertising really add up if you are in online retail. Anyone in that business should be considering the AMEX Biz Gold. I used to spread it all out over the SPG, Hilton and Delta cards but now I can’t justify not putting the shipping and advertising on the gold card. Also SPG AX is advertising 3x points on Facebook ad spend. Not sure how long it will last.

  3. Keep in mind that if your FIA card collects points, it likely has the little-known transfer option to Aeroplan. It’s just a 1:1 transfer and I’ve never seen any bonuses offered, but last time I did a transfer it was instantaneous!

    It’s fairly hard to find the Aeroplan transfer option on their (worldpoints?) website, and no one will know about it if you call. However, you can still find some good deals on their award charts even following last year’s devaluation.

  4. We did not receive 1099’s from our citibank miles (75k). Are only certain miles promotions subject to 1099’s from citibank?

  5. I used to read your blog daily, now almost everyday you are hawking the Chase Sapphire card. Granted it is a great card, but every credit card question shouldn’t lead to a response from you about the Chase Sapphire card. How much did Chase pay you to sell out?

  6. I like the Starwood offer and the points are better than airline points. But the fine print states that the account must be funded for 6 months to get 50% of the points (and 9 months for all points). That’s a long time to tie up cash unless it is just sitting around. Fidelity offers don’t appear to have the same restrictions.

    Of course, if anyone has experience with hit-and-run at TD Waterhouse that would be good to know.

  7. @Addicted to Travel $200K deposited in BankDirect gets you nearly enough AA miles {240K} for 2 AA First Class R/T Saver tickets US to Europe. Every year ! {10K short is easy to make up with incidental promos}. Total cost $144. And you can withdraw it all on a moments notice if you need it. Easy as writing a check.

    @Rob If you could read, you’d have seen this “we already have Chase Sapphire card”. So Gary wasn’t trying to get them to sign up for it, with his link. They already have it, he just said it’s a good card to use. Which even you acknowledge is true.

    Yes, if its one of the better cards, every credit card question WILL lead to mentioning one of the better cards available. Of course it will.

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