What’s In My Wallet?

I was going to title this after the popular catchphrase coined by Capital One, but didn’t want to take the chance of getting  a cease and desist letter.

Credit cards are one of the focal points of nearly every frequent traveler blog. So, I thought I jump right in and inventory what I carry around on a daily basis. I don’t sign up for several credit cards a year just for the bonus then cancel them. I don’t sign up for a personal credit card then also sign up for the business version just to get double the bonus. Some bloggers travel so they can blog. I blog because I travel. With that said, I get enough points based on the few credit cards I have and my extensive travel through work.

American Express Platinum

Major Benefits

  • $200 Airline Credit
  • Centurion Lounge Access
  • SPG and Hilton Gold Status
  • Concierge
  • Global Entry Credit
  • Fine Hotels & Resorts Program
  • Roadside Assistance

AMEX Platinum

There are many “high end” credit cards these days such as the Citi Prestige, and the Ritz Carlton credit card. All these cards offer similar benefits in terms of travel credits, and luxury hotel programs.

I decided to go with the Amex Platinum as I already had a charge card with them and this was more a “product upgrade” rather than application for new credit. Additionally, as many will say, Amex has great customer service.

The $450 annual fee is hefty but with the $200 airline credit benefit, the annual fee is essentially reduced to $250. The only caveat with the credit is you need to pick a specific airline and it only counts towards incidentals (not airfare). Many people however buy low denomination airline gift cards to get around this. Amex definitely has room to grow in this space as the Citi Prestige doesn’t have either caveat associated with it’s credit (and the Prestige credit is $50 more).

I actually use this credit to take $200 off my annual United Club membership. As a Premier 1K with United I get all the main benefits of their co-branded cards with my status so I don’t see much value in getting another high annual fee card just for this benefit.

The real shining star of this card is access to the Centurion Lounge. Through M&A in the airline field, the platinum card lost some its airport club benefits. American Express responded by building out their own network of lounges which are pretty great compared to what the airlines are providing. There aren’t many Centurion lounges currently, but they are expanding. These lounges include a full hot buffet. Where other airline clubs normally offer light snacks, American Express offers a full hot meal which differs by location. Additionally, the Centurion lounge has a full complimentary bar unlike the airline clubs which normally charge for top shelf drinks.

Another nice to have benefit is SPG and Hilton gold status. Personally, I’m a Marriott guy, so if it wasn’t for this benefit I wouldn’t have any status with SPG or Hilton. On occasion though I do stay at SPG or Hilton properties and it’s nice to have mid-tier status. SPG gold isn’t anything to write home about, but Hilton gold comes with complimentary breakfast which is always nice. I recently went to Luxor, Egypt (no, not the hotel in Vegas) and as a Hilton gold I was given a room with a view of the Nile which normally cost extra. I was also given an early check in of 9 AM and a late check out of 9 PM since I was on a late flight back to Cairo. So, yeah, having gold status with Hilton definitely made that trip more enjoyable.

Many cards come with a concierge service these days, even lower annual fee cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. American Express touts that they have relationships that other providers don’t have (allegedly). Now, I’m not some snob who needs a middle man to do basic task for me. I can make my own reservations on OpenTable. I can order my own flowers. However, when my friends and I wanted to go to The French Laundry, which is regarded as one of the best restaurants in the world, I called American Express to help secure a reservation. I gave the concierge a list of dates I would prefer and after a few weeks they got us a reservation.

The card also comes with a credit for Global Entry, which saves me tons of time. The lines for immigration at airports like SFO, or EWR can be long. With Global Entry you go up to a kiosk and you’re on your way. Additionally, enrollment in Global Entry also grants you TSA Pre, which I couldn’t live without these days.

Fine Hotels & Resorts is a hotel program where card members get preferred pricing and perks such as complimentary breakfast for two each morning, room upgrades based on availability, and late checkout. I haven’t used this program yet as when I travel for leisure I typically use my Marriott Points accumulated through work. It’s always good to know that I have this benefit in my back pocket though.

There are other small benefits as well which are nice to have. Roadside assistance is one of them. Again, never used it, but nice to know its available. If you ever run out of gas, or need a tire replaced, American Express can help.

You only earn one point per dollar spent with this card, making it more of a benefit card than a spend card. American Express is lagging behind the Citi Prestige card again here by not offering any bonus categories such as travel, or dining.

Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card

Major Benefits

  • Free Annual Category 1-5 Night
  • 15 Elite Nights Annually
  • 1 Elite Night per $3,000 Spent
  • 5x Points on Marriott
  • 2x Points on Restaurants, Rental Cars, and Airline Tickets

Chase MR

Since I’m a Marriott guy, I have a Marriott card. The main point of this card is maximizing the amount of Marriott points I get.

In terms of benefits, the card offers a free night at a Category 1-5 property annually, which easily offsets the $85 annual fee. The certificate is added to your account and is easy to make a booking via the website or over the phone.

The card also gives you 15 elite nights per year which is good for Silver Premier status. The card also gives you a bonus elite night per $3000 spent. Marriott counts all elite nights and points accumulated towards lifetime status, so this card will help you towards those targets as well.

The main attraction of this card is putting Marriott charges on this card for even more points. Marriott charges earn 5 points per dollar spent. This includes any Marriott charge which can be at the lobby Starbucks. For example, lets say we had a $1,000 hotel charge. By default you’d get 10,000 Marriott points (10x). You add that charge to your Marriott credit card, now you’re getting an additional 5,000 Marriott points (plus any bonus points you get from having elite status).

Survey Says

The platinum card from American Express is a great card for benefits, but I wouldn’t recommend putting too much spend on it. American Express offers other cards which have better point earning structures (PRG, and the Everyday card). The Marriott card is great if you stay at Marriott properties often. Based on your travel preferences, there is a card out there to compliment that.

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