BLUF: The churning game has changed. No longer do you just get a card for the one time bonus, but now you have more incentives than ever to keep a card open forever. Since AmEx has a strict 5 Credit (not charge) Card Limit, you need to maximize each card slot. (Please use my AmEx catchall link here to get to that goal). If done right, you and your player 2 can get $9,200 worth of travel credit to use towards your 30 days of paid leave per year.
My AmEx Credit Card Portfolio is currently in transition to a high yield card portfolio. I can only hold on to 5 AmEx Credit cards, and I am seeking maximum annual payout for during my active duty years. Currently we have maximum returns on the following products:
- AmEx Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant
- $300 Marriott Hotel Credit (Room and Incidentals)
- Free Anytime Night (up to 50K Points)
- AmEx Hilton Honors Aspire
- $250 Hilton Resort Hotel Credit (Room and Incidentals)
- $250 Airline (South West Gift Cards)
- Free Weekend Night (Any Hilton)
- Hilton Diamond Status (Free Breakfast or Credit)
- AmEx Delta Reserve Card
- Companion Pass (Up To First Class)
- Delta Lounge Access (When flying Delta)
I currently hold on to these 5 cards:
- Delta Platinum (Main Cabin Companion Pass)
- Delta Reserve (First Class Companion Pass)
- Hilton Honors Aspire
- AmEx Bonvoy Brilliant
- AmEx Bonvoy (To Upgrade To Bonvoy Brilliant #2)
I now know my lowest returns are my Delta Products since I live in Chicago and not Hawaii. Assuming I always go for $500+ a night hotels, we can get a solid $800 from each Bonvoy account every year. We can get a good $1,000 out of the Hilton Honors products as well. Now is it time for me to consider killing both Delta cards and replacing them with another Hilton or Bonvoy card. Here is the situation that made me realize both Delta Cards cannot justify their existence in my Card Portfolio:
My brother in law is a huge sports fan and wants to see every ball park in America and has never been to Citi Field. On June 29th there is a 3:10 PM game at Met’s park which is right in between LaGuardia and JFK. I have never been to JFK before, and there is a nice 50K Hilton Hotel right next to the airport with an executive lounge open on Saturday and Sunday:
I looked into a flight from ORD to JFK, and one Main Cabin tickets is about $366.60 for a total of $733.20 for the pair. If we use the normal Delta Platinum Companion Pass we only pay $395.20, or a $338 savings using the Platinum companion pass.
If we wanted to be super bougie we could get a pair of first class tickets for $1,089.20, or if we used the companion pass from our Delta Reserve card we only need to spend $573.20 for a $516 savings.
But If I just used Delta Miles I could use 98,000 Delta Sky Miles for the $1089.20 flight or a solid 1 cent per point. You can get this many points and more from the blue, gold, plat, and reserve Delta Cards.
Now in the context of upgrading a pair of companion pass tickets from Main Cabin to First Class we would be spending $395.20 versus $573.20 or the difference of $178 more to fly two people in first class. Without the companion pass we would have spent $356 more than coach to fly first. If you value the nicer seats, service, and hot meals then $178 ($44.50 a segment) may be a premium you want to pay to sit right in front. Maybe you like the simultaneous window and aisle “throne” seats like all the Port side seats in first on the ERJ-175 and CRJ-900:
I could only squeeze out $516 of value from this one card which is pitiful considering you get $1,000 from Hilton Aspire and $800 from Bonvoy Brilliant.
For a transcon flight from Seattle to Boston you would only save $456 max for a main cabin ticket. However if you use it for first class you could save up to $1,135.35!
The bottom line is if you are not using the companion pass to fly a long haul route like Hawaii to Mainland (only for Hawaii Residents) or trans con SEA to BOS or JFK, it might not be worth taking a spot in you AmEx Card Portfolio. It would be hard to get $1,000+ in savings using a companion pass for pure domestic travel. I for one am planning on replacing both of my Delta Cards with the Hilton Honors card and the Hilton Honors Ascend card to upgrade to my second and third Hilton Honors Aspire Cards.
Don’t get me wrong, the 3 Delta cards I got have been a boon for free Delta Sky Miles that I have spent on Champagne and free flights!
However with the lifetime (7 years De Facto) rules on earning bonuses, these cards have outlived their purpose. Once the portfolio is maxamized to Hilton and Marriott, I can stop opening new accounts to go under 5/24. These 3 Hilton Honors Aspire Cards, and 2 Bonvoy Brilliant Cards would generate:
- 3 Free Weekend Nights at any Hilton Worldwide
- 2 Free 50K nights at any Marriott
- $600 in Marriott Credit
- $750 in Southwest Gift Cards
- $750 in Hilton Resort Credits
Assuming we are using the free nights at a cost of $500 a night, the 5 card portfolio would mean $4,600 in free luxury travel every active duty year due to the $2,250 in annual fee waivers. With a player two you could get $9,200 to use towards your 30 days of paid leave per year. Again this is the greatest retention tool of all time!