It’s one thing to be recruited by someone for something you earned or for something that you excel at. It must be quite a rush for the few elite athletes with enough talent to expect a phone call on draft day, for example. Students with perfect grade point averages and high placement scores often enjoy a deluge of scholarship offers to this country’s top colleges. As problems go, that’s not a bad one to be faced with.
Why then, are we so beleaguered to receive multiple credit card applications in the mail? We earned them with great credit histories, right? Right?! Most intelligent people I know just throw them away. Others apply for every card they can get their hands on.
I think having multiple credit cards is like having 25 different mothers-in-law: ONE is plenty! Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother-in-law to death and I think that’s the point. — I use one (1) credit card to travel with. I love my card.
Having one card makes expense reporting so much easier. It also earns an “off the hook” number of extra mileage points for my frequent flier program.
I didn’t choose my mother-in-law; I was fortunate enough to marry a woman with a saint for a mom. Imagine if you could choose your mother-in-law though: What would your criteria be? If I asked a hundred men that question, I’d get a hundred answers. The same is true with credit cards, what “works” for one person may not be the best for another.
There must be hundreds of credit programs out there with some sort of travel benefit aligned with their incentive programs. They offer “quicker rewards” or “no penalty” rewards. There are cards aligned with every frequent flier and/or hotel award point program you can think of. There are even Silver, Gold, and Platinum cards to aspire to within each program genre.
I based my credit card decision on three things:
1) The annual fee. I can’t expense the annual fee and some of these cards want more than $300 per year for the privilege. They boast an enormous amount of “advantages” but if you take a close look at the list, do you really need them? Would you ever use them? It’s a bit like looking at the 90,000 mile service option at your car dealer. They list 100 “points of service,” but seriously, do they really “inspect the battery” or does a technician just lift the hood and look to say, “yep, there’s a battery in there, alright!” My Silver points card earns the same number of points per dollar as the Platinum card at 1/4 of the annual cost. That’s the point, isn’t it? I don’t need “access to the Visa priority conference room at selected airports across the country.” Have any of you been waiting for a flight and thought, “Gee, I could be having a meeting right now. Boy, I wish I had access to a conference room!” Nope… didn’t think so.
2) Biggest point value for dollar. This takes some thought. Some cards boast, “quickest route to rewards” or something but take a closer look. When it comes to air travel rewards, lots of these companies pre-purchase certain “popular” tickets in bulk cheaply. Then when you want to cash in your “lower” reward total, they offer you several different round trip tickets to popular cities to choose from. Maybe that’s perfect for you. My family lives in Houston, I could use a free ticket to Houston now and again, but I have bigger goals in mind. I’m taking my wife to Italy in the fall, first class. Compare the reward points required for that little jewel across several credit card offers… the list narrows in a hurry.
3) Flexibility. Another thing to consider is, “what can I do with the reward points?” The Marriott Hotel reward program is top notch. In addition to free hotel nights, you can actually cash in points for gift certificates and other merchandise. When I cash in points for a vacation, I usually have some left over. I’ll convert them to Marriott Reward certificates which I can use to purchase ANYTHING the hotel offers… Massages, meals, gift shop accoutrements, snorkeling lessons, etc.
In the end, I’ve found the US Bank Northwest Airlines Visa Signature card to be very nice. Of course I live in a Northwest Airlines hub city, so that’s where I get most of my baseline “truly earned” miles.
When my company asked me to buy a $12,000 business class ticket to Tokyo, I was only too happy to put that on my Northwest card. An instant 12k ff miles isn’t too shabby! I can almost feel the sea spray from the Mediterranean… I wonder if I should take my mother-in-law?