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Which Credit Card Should I Charge $20,000 Worth of Airfare To?

I’ve been battling a cold for the past week and going to Walmart to liquidate gift cards has been really tough. I’ve been agonizing over my drop in manufactured spending until some good news came along: At least 20 of my family members in Australia are flying to India for a wedding and they want me to charge their flights to my credit card. That’s very easily a minimum $20,000 worth of free credit card spending! While I’m super grateful that they’ve offered to let me charge everything to my card, I’m now facing a conundrum of sorts: Which credit card do I put all of this spending on? 

Airport departure gate

The obvious choice seems to be the Amex Platinum Card, since it pays out 5x points per $1 on airfare booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel. It would earn me over 100,000 Membership Rewards points – enough to hitch a ride on Singapore Suites. The problem? I don’t have either of these cards right now. And I can’t remember which member of my family has had one (or both) in the past, deeming them ineligible for another sign-up bonus. So I gotta do some digging and wait for a new card to arrive in the mail. Not a huge problem, but just a fleeting thought.

My options right now, in terms  of the most lucrative travel category bonuses, are as follows:

Chase Sapphire Preferred  =  40,000 Ultimate Rewards points

Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card = 100,000 Club Carlson points

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card = 60,000 Hilton HHonors points

Discover It Miles Card = $600 cash back

Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard = $420 travel cash

Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express = 20,000 SPG points/25,000 airline miles

While I initially got excited about this $20,000+ in travel spend, I’m now realizing the picking are pretty slim in terms of credit card rewards. To put it into perspective, I do around $100,000 worth of manufactured spending every month, which amounts to a minimum of 100,000 points and miles. A single trip to my local mall earns me at least 10,000 miles or points with little effort. So it’s kind of disappointing to see the lack of travel category bonuses out there.

I am considering getting an Amex Platinum card because 1.) this presents an opportunity for me to  legitimately meet the spending requirement (and avoid the claw-backs that have hit other gift card churners). And 2.) After completing the spending requirement on the Amex Business card, I would end up with a total of 200,000 Membership Rewards points! That’s not nearly as great as 200,000 Ultimate Rewards, but it does get me a roundtrip ticket on Singapore Suites.

Of all the credit cards I do currently have access to, my dad’s Sapphire Preferred that I’ve been meaning to downgrade is offering the most appealing bonus. I’m headed to the Middle East in December and 40,000 points will cover about half of a one-way business class award. Or three hotel nights. The $600 cash back from the Discover It Miles card is also not bad. Putting $20,000 on the Citi Hilton Reserve Card wouldn’t turn up much in the way of rewards, but it would be get me halfway to Hilton Diamond status and complete the $10,000 annual spending requirement for earning an annual free night.

I’m still deciding whether to get a Platinum card for this and whether I even have enough time to wait for a new card to arrive. In any case, this saves me at least two trips to Walmart, so I’m happy to get a chance to earn a decent stash of miles without a lot of work.

Which of these credit cards would you charge $20,000 worth of airfare to?

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Ariana Arghandewal

22 Comments

  1. I would put it on my shiny new Chase Sapphire Reserve for 3x UR. Or maybe it was 5x when booking through their portal? Can’t remember. Either way, a value of $900 @ 3x or $1500 @ 5x (if 1 UR= $.015)

    Or, maybe try to purchase through the BOA travel portal with BOA Travel Rewards. There is also something like a 2000 point sign up credit right now, which would be an extra $200 statement credit.

    Booking through the BOA travel portal gives you 3x cash back, with a rewards booster of 25, 50 or +75% extra if you have a corresponding preferred status 🙂 If you could somehow park (a lot of) cash with BOA temporarily or otherwise qualify for the +75% bonus you would get 5.25% cash back, or $1050. It would be available as a statement credit, so I don’t think it would be reported as interest income, but am not sure.

    I don’t know if this is possible but I saw recently that a portal purchase doesn’t necessarily have to be made with that card- it might still give you points if you paid through the portal with another method. If this is true, it might be possible to double dip the rewards. I probably wouldn’t get too aggressive with this though, I wouldn’t want to jeopardize a gift like this that fell into my lap.

    I love this game 🙂

  2. Points rich, cash poor here.

    Personally, I’d use whatever yields the highest amount of cash back (or travel statement credit, which is almost the same thing).

  3. Get Amex plat business. With the sign up bonus + 2X for spending on AMEX travel site, that is 140K which is also good for 50% rebate on paid fares. Technically, you’ll be spending 70K on $1400 business flights on all airlines and economy flights on your airline of choice. If you go after any sort of elite status, the ability to buy business fares for cheap is very helpful and will be my strategy going forward instead of paying cash.

  4. What about the risk that some of your relatives might be late in their reimbursement? Even if you can float, what about the risk of late meaning forever?

    • These are the most trustworthy of all my relatives, so I don’t anticipate that will happen. As for payments being late, I think as long as I make it clear when I need the funds, it shouldn’t be a problem.

  5. I might be asking something that is better kept private, but how are you MS 100k a month? I was strictly using Bluebird but it got shut down. I’m a little lost on how to get back on the wagon. Can someone be so kind as to guide me in the right direction?

  6. I had the AMEX biz platinum and canceled just under two years ago. When this new 100,000 card came out I applied and they gave it to me. so maybe you can still get it. I even talked to a Rep and he mentioned my old card but it wasn’t an issue.

    • You can get it again but you won’t get the sign-up bonus if you’ve already had it. A lot of people keep this card for the travel perks and the increased airfare bonus, so it might be worthwhile even if you don’t get the bonus.

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