I Got My Companion Pass. What Card to Spend on Next?

I made it! I earned my Southwest Companion Pass for next year! And I swear, like Scarlett O’Hara with a handful of dirt, that I will fly more with that Companion Pass in 2022.

But what do I do now? We still have stuff to buy every month — groceries, a new roof, this and that. Which credit card to put the spending on now that I really don’t need any more Southwest points unti January?

My options are below. Everything but the last item is a card I already have in my wallet. Yeah, I pay some annual fees, but I get back most of that in free annual hotel rooms.

  1. World of Hyatt Card
    Why I keep it despite the $95 annual fee: I get a free stay at a Hyatt hotel every cardmember anniversary. This year, I used my free room to stay downtown Chicago with friends, which was hecka worth it. In 2022, maybe I’ll use my free room when dropping my high school senior off at the college of her choice!

    What I could earn by spending more on it: If I spend $15,000 on the card this cardmember year (which just started), I can earn a second free room.

  2. Marriott Bonvoy Card
    Why I keep it despite the $95 annual free: A free night every year + elite status.

    What I could earn by spending more on it: Just more Bonvoy points.

  3. Chase Sapphire Card
    Why I keep it despite the $95 annual fee: This is considered one of the best rewards cards. Chase points are really versatile; you can use them directly on flights or hotels from the Chase travel portal, or trade them for airline or hotel brand points. It also comes with DoorDash Dashpass. When you rent a car using this card, it provides primary collision damage waiver. And it offers trip cancellation/interruption insurance and baggage delay insurance, which I’ve never used but might sometime! Plus, apparently they just added a $50 annual hotel credit.

    What I could earn by spending more: Just more Chase Ultimate Rewards. But I love those!

  4. AmEx Hilton Card
    Why I keep it: No annual fee, option to earn Hilton points

    What I could earn by spending more: If I put $20,000 on this card, I can continue my Hilton Gold status.

  5. American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Card
    Why I keep it: No annual fee, gives me the option to earn AA miles.

    What I could get by spending more: Only 1 mile per every 2 dollars spent. Meh.

  6. Apply for a new card
    Advantage: Signup bonus! Plus, if I get a high-end one, I can qualify to renew my Global Entry pass or get one for another family member.

    Disadvantage: Figuring out if I can qualify for a new card right now, probably adding another annual fee.

Looking at these options, I can rule out putting any spending on Nos. 2, 4 and 5 right away. In fact, the only reason I keep these cards is because the annual free room on No. 2 is worth more than the annual fee, and Nos. 4 and 5 have no annual fee.

That leaves me with three compelling options: the Hyatt card, the Chase Sapphire card, or a brand new card. That second free night at a Hyatt can be a great deal, especially if you stay at one of the more expensive qualifying properties. And Chase points always come in handy.

On the other hand, I’ve been trying to plan an international family trip for awhile now, and I could really use more AAdvantage miles to get tickets for everyone. Since the current AAdvantage card I have kind of sucks, that would mean applying for a new AA card.

After perusing the available AA cards, I’m struck by the fact that you don’t even have to hit a set spending target to get 60,000 miles from the Aviator Red Credit Card right now. All you have to do is make one purchase and pay the $99 annual fee! Since 60,000 AAdvantage miles are worth about $600, that one’s basically free money.

I wonder if Barclaycard would give me the 60,000 mile bonus if I upgrade my current card to the Red? I just went on their online chat to ask them, even though it’s midnight. And guess what? The answer is nopedy nope!

Figured.

After looking through my whole wallet, I decided to apply for Red Cards for both Erik and me, and put one purchase on each. I’m not entirely sure if we’ll get the bonuses, because we have gotten a bonus for the same card before a few years ago. Still, it’s worth a try.

However, since there isn’t a minimum spend on that card, it doesn’t really solve my conundrum about what to put my spending on for the rest of the year. So I also applied for a Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard for each of us. A mouthful, eh? We should each get a 50,000 mile bonus for spending $2,500, and there’s no fee in the first year. Again, I’m not totally sure if we’ll get the bonus because we had the card before.

According to Million Mile Secrets, I can get this card bonus again if it’s been four years since I got it last. Has it? I think I originally got that card in order to earn miles for our 2016 trip to Australia, so probably! I know I could check my credit report to verify this, but I was feeling lazy, so I just crossed my fingers and applied.

After mulling all that over, here’s my three-prong plan for credit card use in the remainder of 2021:

  1. Immediately switch everyday spending from my Southwest Visa to my Chase Sapphire card, because it’s always good value, and I can use their travel portal to purchase one of our international flights, if I end up with enough Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  2. Apply for Aviator Red Card to try for the 60,000 mile bonus. Make one purchase.
  3. Apply for Citi AAdvantage card to try for the 50,000 mile bonus. Spend $2,500 on it.
  4. Apply for Citi AAdvantage MileUp card, which I’ve never had, and which has no annual fee. It’ll get me another 10,000 miles, after I spend $500.
  5. Once I have hit the minimum spend on these cards — which will happen in a month after getting them because we spend a lot of money — keep spending on whichever one has the best per-dollar mileage.

How will we know when we have enough AAdvantage miles? To take our family on an international trip, we’d need at least 300,000 miles. Between us, we currently have about 235,000.

So technically, I only need 65,000 more miles, but American is charging extra miles for a lot of flights, especially in summer, so I’m going to grab as many AAdvantage miles as I can until January!

On January 1, I’ll be back to trying to earn 125,000 points on each of our Southwest accounts, so we can get Companion Passes for 2023.

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