A good combination of credit cards to hold for frequent flyers

One of best combination of credit cards that I always carry in my wallet is Citi’s Thank You Premier Card (or Citi’s Thank You Prestige Card – gets you into a lot, if not all the Airline Lounges but comes with a hefty annual fee) and American Express Premier Rewards Gold card. TY Premier card carries an annual fee of $125 while AMEX PRG card has an annual fee of $175. I my honest opinion, one should always carry a combination of an American Express branded card and a MasterCard/VISA card as a lot of merchants do not necessarily accept one of the two (example: Costco that accepts only AMEX. A lot of mom and pop stores and restaurants do not accept AMEX). Most places will accept a MasterCard also if they are accepting a VISA card and vice versa. The only place that I know of that accepts only a VISA but not MasterCard is a neighborhood Dollar store where I end up using my VISA debit card.

A word of caution, Citi’s TY Premier card has one of the most confusing and complex reward structure that I know of. However hard I try, I can almost guarantee that I will not be able to be explain it to you all clearly. Even the experts at Citi are not able to! Hats off to those who designed the program. However, I will try my best to explain the program in this post.

Basically, you can potentially earn 2 points per $ on any spend. And to maximise value of these earned earns, if you redeem for airline tickets (which may also earn you miles, both RDMs and EQMs), each point counts for 1.333 cents. Thus, you can potentially get upto 2.66 cents worth of value from every dollar that you spend, not bad in my opinion. You can also earn a 0.2 points bonus on select everyday spend category like Gas, Drugstore and Grocery stores which bumps up the potential kickback up to 2.75 cents.

The way to earn 2 points per $ is based on one interesting feature of this card. If you charge your (or anybody’s for that matter) airline ticket including award tickets with a minimum of $50 charge on the card, your base points already earned will be matched to an equivalent number of bonus points up to the number of miles that your flights fly. I will try to explain this by citing an example. Lets say in January spend $2000 to this card and for simplicity, lets leave out the everyday spend purchases from this. You purchased a round-trip ticket from New York JFK to Las Vegas for a friend of you or somebody else. And this ticket’s first flight date falls within the same billing cycle, i.e., in January. When the statement closes, you will have earned 2000 base points. Plus if you had purchased a ticket, say a one-way ticket from New York JFK airport to Las Vegas International Airport, Thank You card will automatically award you bonus points up to the flight distance between JFK-LAS which is 2248 miles. These many points will be added to your bonus points up to the number of cumulative unmatched base points that you already have. and now you will have a total of 4000 Thank You points available for redemption. Your additional earned 248 points from flights will held for future when you will earned an equivalent number of base points. In addition, you also earn 20% for everyday spend categories. And when you redeem these points for Airline tickets, your points are valued at 1.33 cents per point. Thus your $2000 in spend gets you $53.33 worth of airfare or 2.66% in value without considering any everyday spend bonus or any other bonus.

This card right now comes with 50,000 sign-up bonus points and first year annual fee waived. If you are currently using no annual fee credit card that earns you 1 point (or 1 cent equivalent or 1%) per $ you spend, then this may be a good choice as it provides you 1.66% more value. This is assuming that you are spending at the minimum, $7500 in the year to compensate for the annual fee.

Additional benefits of Citi TY Premier credit card includes a decent companion pass program and a 15% travel discount program handled by Spirit Incentives.

Citi TY Premier’s companion pass is rather a discounted companion pass and not a real companion pass unlike Alaska Airlines Visa $99 companion pass. However, it does provide a reasonable benefit, in that your total price for two tickets is still lower than the total for two tickets from other non-discounted sources. I have found that you would get approximately 50% off the base fare of the second ticket. You will not get your choice of itinerary and airline and will be offered the lowest priced flights for your travel dates and city pairs.

I especially like the 15% benefits and find it to be reasonably useful by being a little creative with my travel itineraries. Just like companion pass, note that you do not have a choice in the flights or airlines when you call and they invariably will offer you 15% discount off the lowest fare for your city pairs on your desired dates. And 15% discount applies to international destinations too, as long as your travel originates in the lower 48 US states.

Talking about AMEX PRG, you can get 15,000 bonus points presently (or may be up to 75,000 bonus points) with first year fee waived. And after you get your new card, try call American Express at 1-800-297-3276 and ask them to apply one of the following offer codes to your application:

  • 5894: Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $500 in first three months
  • 5985: Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $1000 in first three months
  • 6661: Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $2000 in first three months
  • 5970: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $500 in first three months

I use AMEX card exclusively for all my Airline purchases after I have accumulated enough points from flights via my Thank You card that can be readily matched from future purchases. For most other purchases, I stick with my Citi Thank You Premier card.

These two cards form a great combination in general for most people who fly frequently or once in a while.

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About AwardGuru

I call myself an avid reward program follower. I have been following the world of loyalty programs closely for the last 10 years. In other words, as my friends and family like to address me, a “Guru” in the world of rewards, awards, points, miles and everything in between. Over the years, my exploits in this world of affinity programs, my interactions with other enthusiasts in this field, professionals and the industry experts as well as my own experience dealing with different programs, I have gathered my own knowledge base. Obviously, I try to maximize the benefits from flights, travel, hotels, car rentals, dining, shopping, credit cards, finance… anything and everything that earns points and miles and then further maximize the value of these accumulated points and miles.
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6 Responses to A good combination of credit cards to hold for frequent flyers

  1. Sahana says:

    Hi,
    This is really cool and informative. I would like to sign up for a credit card which will give me a some free miles but more importantly I need to get a large credit line with the card. I do not need a card with unlimited credit limit which shows up as $0 limit in my Credit report.

  2. awardguru says:

    Thank you for following my blog!

    See my latest post “https://awardguru.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/beware-of-cards-that-advertise-no-pre-set-spending-limit/” for more information on credit cards with “no pre-set limit”. I assume this is what you meant by cards with “unlimited credit limit”. I will provide you with some good card options in a few days.

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