In the next five years, Rob and I have big plans to travel as much of the world as we can. I have only one regret in life and that is that I didn’t study abroad when I was in college. So I am making up for that now.
Rob is always looking for ways to save on travel costs, and credit card signup bonuses are often a great source of savings. In the coming months we will be doing a lot of domestic travel as I start flipping houses in either Dallas, Raleigh, or Denver (Update: We picked Dallas!). With all of the domestic travel we have coming up, and the potential international travel in the next few years, we decided it was time to look for some new credit cards that give us perks specific to our current travel needs. These needs are: acquiring global entry, and easing the financial burden of domestic flights.
Goal #1: Global Entry (which gives you expedited entry back into the states when you’ve travelled abroad and gives you TSA precheck on all domestic and international travel.)
The Chosen Fulfilling Credit Card:Citi Prestige
Annual Fee: $450
Perks: 50,000 “Thank You” Points which could equate to $800 in travel on American (you can use the points on other airlines but the value isn’t as high), $250 of airline credit (on any airline) each calendar year (we will get this credit twice since we won’t be cancelling the card until February 2017), and one global entry application fee ($100) waived. All of these add up to $1400 in value. Subtracting the $450 annual fee, that leaves us a profit of $950.
Stipulations: In the first three months, from the day you were approved for the card, you must spend $3,000.
It doesn’t waive the application fee for both of us to apply for Global Entry (which admittedly is what we were trying to accomplish in the first place!), but the other perks of this card were just too good to pass up. The other card we considered was the American Express Platinum and while it did cover both our Global Entry application fees, the value of all the perks was only $800 ($350 in value after subtracting the annual fee).
Goal #2: Domestic Air Travel
Annual Fees: $69 for the Plus and $99 for the Premier
Perks: Once you have acquired 110,000 Rapid Rewards points you are eligible for the Southwest Companion program. This program allows the companion of the cardholder to fly virtually free (they still have to pay taxes and fees) EVERY TIME the companion flies, even if the flight is booked through rewards points. This perk lasts up to two calendar years, so to get the most bang for your buck you want to reach companion status as close to January as you can.
Stipulations: After spending $2,000, on each card, in the first three months of being approved, you receive 100,000 Rapid Rewards points (50,000 from each card*). After your first purchase with the Plus card you earn an additional 4,000 points. So within the first three months of opening both of these cards you will have 104,000 of the 110,000 points needed to get companion status.
*To get the 50,000 points from the Plus card, you must open the card through referral, it is not offered publicly anymore. Update: I am now able to refer people!Southwest Plus Referral. Southwest Premier Referral.I can’t refer people yet, but I should be able to soon, so if you are interested in a referral let me know. I would then get a 5,000 point bonus as well.
Rob and I got so excited about the incredible perks with these three cards that we applied and got approved for all of them within a couple of weeks. Now, if you have been keeping track you know, in order for us to get all these perks, we need to spend $7,000 in three months. In hindsight we probably should have waited a couple of months between getting each card so that our spending requirement goal wouldn’t be so high. But we’re in it now and crossing our fingers that we make that goal. I’d like to mention here that we are not spending money on anything we wouldn’t have spent money on before having these cards. We aren’t being irresponsible with our money and simply spending in order to get the points. We also will be cancelling all of these cards (or downgrading them if we can) before the second annual fee is charged. And remember, if you carry a balance or are in any way late to pay your bill, all the perks will be rapidly wiped out by the fees and interest. Only do this if you pay off your credit card bill in full at the end of each month.
It’s a bit crazy this little gaming of the system we do, but the rewards are definitely worth it. My next mission is to find a credit card for my own personal use that gives me everyday perks like cash back.
Update: we were able to secure all the perks from the three credit cards we opened at the beginning of the year! Since then, we’ve taken advantage of my Southwest Companion Pass for most of our travel over the last few months, and TSA Pre Check has made getting through security a breeze*. We’ve also made use of a few airport lounges with our Citi Prestige card’s Priority Pass perk. On one trip from LGA to DAL a would-be awful 6 hour delay turned into a fun and productive day at the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge!
*I can’t say enough about how fabulous TSA Pre is and how civilized it feels to not have to do anything at airport security but put my stuff through a machine and walk through a metal detector. I highly recommend it!