So many points programs, so little time to rack up the rewards. Here's a shortcut.
Every credit card, airline, and hotel chain offers points or miles. With so many different kinds of points and miles available from so many different companies, how do you pick the right ones to collect?
One way is to consider each company’s vague promises of desirable rewards. Another is to be swayed by the seductive advertising of popular celebrities — if you adore the Tina Fey type, get an Amex Everyday card. But if you’re a fan of Samuel L. Jackson, go for Capital One Venture Rewards.
A better way is to consider your credit card much like the clothes you wear or the car you drive: You know you have dozens of choices, so you pick the ones that fit your personality and your budget.
So which credit card points fit which personalities? Here’s our analysis…
1. Costco shopper
Your card: Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
Those who shop at Costco know they’re getting better value for their money, even if they give up some of the trappings of the fancy department stores. The same is true of those who fly Southwest.
Southwest has no first class cabin or even seat assignments, so you don’t have to worry about getting upgraded or being assigned a middle seat. The Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards offer points that are worth 1.4 cents each toward their lowest-fare class, with no cancellation or change fees.
Better yet, those who earn 110,000 points in a year get a companion pass good for unlimited free companion tickets with paid or award flights. That sounds like a lot of points until you realize that Chase often gives out 50,000-point bonuses when applying for both the personal and the business card. Hint, hint.
2. The travel rewards nerd
This card has a cult following among those who love to earn points and miles.
Starwood is a relatively small hotel chain that includes brands like Westin and Sheraton. So what makes these points so highly sought after by those in the know? In addition to offering free nights with no blackout dates or capacity controls, Starwood points can be transferred to airline miles in the programs of over 30 different airlines.
Having this card is like having a Delta card, an American card, a US Airways card, and dozens of others, all at the same time. Better yet, every time cardholders transfer 20,000 points to miles, they receive a 5,000-point bonus, so it’s even better than most airline cards that offer just a single mile per dollar.
3. The no-nonsense person too busy to worry about points
Both of these programs offer double miles for each dollar spent on all purchases, and each mile is worth one cent as statement credits towards any travel expense. There are no blackout dates, no capacity restrictions, and no need to call the airline and beg them to allow you to use your miles when you feel like it.
These cardholders won’t be booking award flights in business class anytime soon, but no-nonsense types don’t have time to worry about those kind of frills.
4. The 1 percent
Your card: American Express Platinum
Are you the kind that can’t decide whether to get the new Lexus or the new BMW this year? Could you use a personal concierge to help you book travel, make restaurant reservations, or get great seats at the hot new show or next big game? Then you’re definitely the Amex Platinum type.
This card offers so many perks and benefits that the average cardholder is probably only aware of a few of the more popular ones — like airport lounge access, airline fee credits, and elite status with hotel and rental car programs. Take advantage of enough of those perks, and the whopping $450 annual fee will pay for itself.