Point Me to First Class with Devon Gimbel MD | My Credit Card Journey: How It Started & What I’d Do Differently Now

40. My Credit Card Journey: How It Started & What I’d Do Differently Now

Dec 04, 2023

I recently returned from a conference full of inspiring women doing new and interesting things to increase access to points travel. One of these women is Jess Field, one-third of Travel Hacking Mom, a team dedicated to teaching others how to travel for free or nearly free using points. They have an amazing podcast episode about the five cards they’d use if they were just starting their points journey now, and it got me thinking about my own points journey and what I’d do differently.

I loved the Travel Hacking Mom suggestions, but I wouldn’t get exactly the same five cards they chose. What five rewards cards would I get if I was just starting out in points travel today? Whether you’re new to points or you’re an experienced player in this game, today’s episode is full of dos and don’ts that you can’t afford to miss.

Tune in this week to discover the first five rewards credit cards I got way back in 2010 and what I would do differently if I was starting all over again. While the cards I’m sharing today may not be perfect for you, this episode is packed with considerations you need to make when choosing your first rewards cards and starting your own points journey.


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What You’ll Learn from this Episode: 

  • The first five rewards cards I got on my points journey and why I chose them.

  • Why most of you out there should absolutely not do things the way I did.

  • The first trip I redeemed using points, and why I’d probably choose something different if I knew what I know now.

  • Why my thoughts about the best starter’s strategy have changed over the years.

  • How the official and unofficial rules around applying for rewards cards have changed over the years.

  • 5 rewards credit cards I’d use for starting my points travel journey from scratch today.

  • Some considerations and recommendations you can’t ignore if you’re starting out your own points journey.


Listen to the Full Episode:


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Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to Point Me to First Class, the only show for employed professionals, entrepreneurs, and business owners who are looking to optimize their higher-than-average expenses to travel the world. I'm your host, Devon Gimbel, and I believe that your expenses are your greatest untapped asset if you know how to leverage them. Ready to dive into the world of credit card points and miles so you can travel more, travel better, and travel often? Let's get started.

Welcome back to the podcast everybody. I hope you're all doing amazing. I'm doing amazing because lately I've either been planning trips, coming home from trips, or getting ready to go on trips. Really nothing makes me happier than traveling or planning travel

One of the trips that I've recently come home from was attending a points travel conference. The highlight of which was meeting other women who also love points travel, including other women business owners in the points travel space who are all doing really interesting and unique things to increase access to points travel to women from all different backgrounds.

Now I met a bunch of really incredible women there, but one of my favorites was Jess Field who is one-third of the Travel Hacking Mom team. In case you haven't heard of them before, Travel Hacking Mom is a business dedicated to teaching others how to travel for free or nearly free using points. I love that. Not only did we get to chat about points, but I was also really surprised when just told me that she listens to this podcast because I am a really big fan of the podcast that she does with her co-hosts called the Travel Hacking Mom Podcast

Recently, I was listening to episode 50 of the Travel Hacking Mom Podcast where Jess and her co-hosts, Alex and Pam, were discussing which five credit cards they would each get if they were just getting started with rewards cards now. I loved this topic so much that it got me thinking about the cards that I would get if I was just starting in this hobby today. 

Not only did I love the recommendations that Jess, Alex, and Pam made, but I also realized I wouldn't get exactly the same five cards that they chose. So I decided to do my own version of what rewards cards I would get if I was just getting started in points travel today. 

But before I tell you all what my top five cards would be to start out in this hobby from scratch, first, I'm going to tell you about the first five rewards cards that I actually got many, many years ago, why I got those cards at that time, and why most of you should absolutely not do things the way that I did them. First, let's back up to the pre-rewards card era. 

For me, this was circa 2010. I was in the middle of my residency in Boston. Up until that point, I had never had my own credit card. Partly because I was told that credit cards are horrible and dangerous and will get you into tons of debt. Partly because I had basically no money to spend. So there didn't really seem to be a point in getting credit cards for me. 

But in 2010, I got my first two credit cards, and I am not ashamed to admit that they were store credit cards. That's right. In one year, I became the proud owner of not only a Banana Republic credit card, but also a J.Crew credit card. The reason that I got these two cards was very simple. First, I needed some grown up clothes to wear to the hospital on days that I wasn't wearing scrubs. Both of those cards gave me a discount on my first purchase.

At that time, getting 20% or whatever off an entire purchase of clothing basically felt like winning the lottery to me. So it seemed like a win-win situation. I think that I may have also gotten free tailoring at Banana Republic with that card. So that was just an added bonus. Those were the only cards I had for a few years. But the only place that I actually used them was to make purchases at Banana Republic or J.Crew. Since I barely shopped for clothes, I barely use those cards. I still paid for everything else with straight cash. 

Fast forward two years and in 2012, I was in my last year of training doing a fellowship. I got my first real honest to goodness rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. Only I didn't actually get this card by myself. No, my husband had to convince me to get this card because he wisely realized that I should have an actual real credit card in my own name. I still had no interest in getting or using credit cards. 

So he researched all the different cards, proposed that I get the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and I think he may have even filled out the application for me online. Lo and behold, I was approved, and I became the proud owner of a Chase Sapphire Preferred card that then sat in my wallet collecting dust as I continue to use cash for all of my purchases.

Between 2012 and 2014, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card was my only real credit card. I slowly started putting some expenses on the card and got used to building healthy credit card habits like paying off the statement in full each month. I think that I vaguely understood that the card was earning points, but I had no actual clue what that meant. I had no plan or strategy around points at this time or whatsoever. 

By the end of 2014, I had actually finally transitioned to putting most of my expenses on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. By that time, we had about 250,000 Ultimate Rewards points that had been building up from the prior three years

The very first redemption that we ever made was to cash and every single one of those points through the Chase Travel Portal for two round trip economy tickets to Morocco on Iberia Airlines. Which, of course, now I cringe about because I can think of about a million better uses of 250,000 Chase points than two economy flights. But truthfully, at that time, it was an incredible redemption for us because we got to fly free to Morocco and had an amazing time. 

So the first thing that I want to mention here is that you might be able to relate to some parts of my story, whether you have a bunch of store specific credit cards because they offered you a discount, or you had a rewards card for years without actually using it for a lot of your spend, or you too cashed in hundreds of thousands of valuable Chase points for a couple of economy lights through the Chase Travel Portal, we all start somewhere

It wasn't until after I got home from that trip to Morocco that I really started to learn about rewards credit cards and points and the enormous potential they held that I started being more deliberate about getting new rewards cards and having a plan to earn points. So technically, my first rewards card was the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. I had that for years before I really understood what that card could do or how to use it. 

Now let's look at the next four rewards cards I got, what they were, why I got them when I did, and what I think about those cards as a starting strategy now. But before I tell you the next card that I applied for, which was the first rewards card that I got specifically for the purpose of getting into the points in miles hobby, I really wish that I could take a poll of what you all guess was the card I got. Because I'm fairly certain that none of you would pick the card I actually applied for, which was, wait for it, the British Airways credit card issued by Chase. 

Now you may be thinking, maybe she was expecting to travel to the UK a lot. Nope. You might be thinking oh, that card must have had some really compelling bonus categories that nicely complemented the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. She was being super strategic about maximizing the points that she could earn for her highest categories of spend. Nope again.

I honestly had almost no use for this card. But the reason I got it, and the reason I got it when I did, was because at that time, it had a limited time elevated welcome bonus. I think it was something like 100,000 British Airways Avios once you met the minimum spend requirement. The reason that seemed really appealing to me is because way back then there was a specific sweet spot for flying Aer Lingus from the East Coast to Ireland in business class. You could use the Avios earn on the BA credit card to book this sweet spot. 

Please don't ask me why even this was particularly compelling for me since I didn't have any specific plans to travel to Ireland, I did not live on the east coast anymore by this point, and way back then there was no hint of Qatar joining the Avios currency. So I'm not entirely sure why I thought this card and this offer in particular was so compelling. 

Truth be told, I think at that time 100,000 of any type of points sounded like a ton to me. I didn't yet understand the real difference between getting a card that earns fixed miles, like airline specific miles, versus getting a card that would allow me to earn much more valuable transferable points. So there you have it. My first independent grown up decision about which rewards card to go for, and I got the British Airways credit card. 

Unless you think I learned my lesson, let me reassure you, I did not. Because the next card I got, my third rewards credit card, was another co-branded airline credit card, the United Explorer card also issued by Chase. Now in my defense, I actually think this was a better decision at that time than getting the BA card for a couple of reasons. 

First, this card was also offering an elevated welcome bonus, I think something like 70,000 United Miles, and back then United Miles were actually really, really useful. It also felt super fancy because it came with two United Club passes that you could use annually and had free check bag and priority boarding. Since my home airport is a United hub, this was actually a pretty valuable card for me. I also had my husband sign up for his own United explorer card at the same time so he could also earn the elevated welcome bonus. This was my first foray into strategizing how to rope him in his my P2 to increase our points earning. 

Finally, with my next rewards card, the fourth credit card in my rewards card lineup, I hit a homerun. It was December 2016. The points travel world was rocked when Chase announced their new premium rewards travel card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, was being released. This card had it all. An enormous welcome bonus of a 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points, tons of perks and benefits to compete with the Personal Amex Platinum Card, and the novelty of being made out of metal, people. 

Nowadays, getting a metal credit card might not seem like that big a deal. But back in 2016, we lost our minds over this. In fact, that Chase ran out of the metal that they use to produce this card. It was so damn popular. But don't worry, I got mine along with that sweet, sweet 100,000 points signup bonus. Once again, I forced my husband to sign up for his own Chase Sapphire Reserve card. So combined, we earn a quick 200,000 Chase points

That brings me to the fifth rewards credit card I got just one month later, which was the personal SPG card issued by American Express. For those of you newer to the points travel hobby, you won't recognize this card because neither it nor the rewards program that it belonged to exists anymore. 

SPG, also known as the Starwood Preferred Guest program, was a hotel loyalty program that allows you to earn points predominantly through paid stays at their properties around the world. But the points you earned in their program were transferable points that function really similarly to how we think about Chase points and Amex points and other transferable points currencies now

There were great deals to be had with SPG points. They had some fantastic airline transfer partners with phenomenal sweet spots, particularly for international premium cabin flights. You could also use their points to get really, really incredible deals on hotel stays at properties that were aspirational and in places you actually wanted to go to the SPG program was so valuable and so useful that it was a darling of the points travel community until Marriott acquired them and then eventually just eviscerated the program. 

So there you have it. My first five rewards cards were the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, the British Airways card, the United Explorer card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, and the personal SPG card by American Express. If I had to start all over from scratch right now, only one of those cards would make my top five list. I'm going to make you wait just a little bit to find out what that is because first I want to talk about why I would do things very differently if I was just starting in rewards cards now. 

First of all, it goes without saying that I wouldn't apply for the SPG credit card again because it no longer exists. That's really, really unfortunate because, in my opinion, the SPG rewards program was infinitely better than the current Marriott Loyalty program that was birthed after Marriott acquired SPG. 

There's not much that anyone can do about rewards programs changing or even disappearing altogether thanks to corporate acquisitions. But it does remind me to be extra grateful for the rewards programs that I'm currently in love with that I still have access to. I really hope that they don't die as well. 

So why else wouldn't I get those same five rewards cards if I was starting from scratch today? Well, one of the biggest reasons is because the rules governing the rewards credit card game are entirely different now than they were eight or 10 years ago. Because eight or 10 years ago, it didn't really seem like there were any rules at all

That all changed dramatically when Chase unofficially introduced the now infamous 5/24 rule right around 2016, which stipulates that if you've opened five or more new credit card accounts across any issuer in the prior 24 months, you will not be eligible for a new Chase credit card

When the chase 5/24 rule first rolled out, it didn't apply equally to all Chase credit cards. At first, it seemed to only affect applications for the Chase Ultimate Rewards points earning cards. But it didn't seem to apply if you were looking to apply for any of the Chase co-branded cards, like airline or hotel credit cards or the Disney credit card or the Amazon credit card. 

So even in the beginning, there were still a lot of Chase cards that you could qualify for, even if you were over 5/24. Furthermore, there were lots of workarounds and loopholes where you could bypass the Chase 5/24 rule if you had certain status or relationships with Chase, like being a Chase private client. Well, if you don't know by now, none of that matters anymore. While there are data points of some people getting approved for new Chase credit cards when they're at or above 5/24, I still think it’s better practice to assume that once you're at 5/24, you simply won't be approved for any new Chase credit cards

It's this rule in particular that I think has impacted the rewards credit card landscape more than any other rule or program changed in the last 10 years. Because your Chase 5/24 score isn't just impacted by your history of getting new Chase credit cards. Your Chase 5/24 score is impacted by any new personal credit card accounts that you open, and even some business card accounts as well

This one rule, especially once it started applying to all Chase cards and there was essentially no workaround, means that now you have to be very deliberate and very strategic about which credit cards you apply for and in what order and at what velocity or pace. We never had to take that into consideration before. You could just apply for 10 new cards over a few months and then do it all over again a few months later. Not anymore. 

While I'm not sure that I would ever get the British Airways credit card if I was just starting now, I might get a United credit card, but I absolutely would not have it be one of my first five cards. Because of that Chase 5/24 rule, not only would I prioritize applying for Chase credit cards before branching out heavily into other points currencies. 

But I personally would also focus predominantly on getting rewards cards that are in flexible are transferrable points first. Airline and hotel co-branded cards would be much lower on my list of must have cards unless using credit card spend to help earn status in an airline or hotel loyalty program was a really, really high priority for me. 

But even beyond Chase’s 5/24 rule, we've seen more official and unofficial rules around credit cards emerge the past few years that have further impacted which cards you can hold, or the order in which you have to apply for them to be approved. If I was starting out from scratch now, I also would not be applying for both a Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card because Chase no longer allows you to hold two sapphire products at the same time.

Now, let me add just a little bit of an asterisk to this point because there are workarounds to this rule, but I'm not going to get into the weeds on that during this podcast episode. Instead, I'll just say that Chase will not approve you for one of the personal Sapphire cards if you already hold the other one. This is an example of what's called a family rule whereby a credit card issuer places limitations on how many credit cards within a specific card family you can hold at once.

Now years ago, you could hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and also get approved for a Chase Sapphire Reserve card or vice versa, but not any longer. So if you want a Chase sapphire card now you have to prioritize applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Not only does Chase have a family rule around the personal Sapphire cards, but they also have rules that dictate how often you're eligible to earn the welcome bonus or the signup bonus on a Sapphire card. 

Back in the before times, not only could you hold both a Chase Sapphire Preferred and a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, but you could also earn the welcome bonus on both cards. But now Chase stipulates that you can earn the welcome bonus on a Sapphire card only once every 48 months. 

So if you open one personal Chase Sapphire card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and you choose to cancel or product change that card after two or three years, you still cannot apply for and earn the welcome bonus on the Chase Sapphire reserve card until it's been a full 48 months since you last earned a welcome bonus on the preferred card. Chase is not the only credit card issuer that has become more restrictive in its approval policies.

In fact, one of the more recent restrictions that's hit the personal rewards credit card world has come from American Express, which recently announced that if you have earned a welcome bonus on the personal American Express Platinum Card, you won't be eligible to earn the welcome bonus on the personal American Express Gold card. This is a huge change for the Amex program. I don't think I'm alone in saying that I think it's a horrible change for consumers, but I wouldn't be surprised to see American Express expand this family rule beyond its personal credit cards to also affect the business cards at some point in the future. 

American Express also has some of the most restrictive language around earning welcome bonuses in general with its, quote, once per lifetime rule, which states that you're eligible to earn the welcome bonus on each specific Amex card once in your lifetime. Now luckily, there are some exceptions and workarounds to this rule. But what it does mean is that you want to be particularly strategic about when you apply for American Express credit cards to ensure that you're earning the highest welcome bonus possible for each card

While I've concentrated on highlighting some of the rules and restrictions that Chase and American Express have around their rewards credit cards, they're not the only card issuers with rules nor have I covered the entire list of restrictions governing card applications from these two banks. All of this is to say that compared to five or 10 years ago, there are so many more rules and regulations that you have to be aware of when you're putting together your rewards card application timeline. 

So that being said, where are my first five rewards cards now? What's my thought about whether I do things exactly the same if I was starting the rewards travel hobby now. Spoiler alert, absolutely not. What cards would I prioritize applying for as my first five cards if I was starting over right now?

When I look back at those first five rewards cards that I got, one thing that I think I did well was to get some solid transferable points earning cards. Between the CSP, the CSR, and the SPG cards, I had access to two transferable points currencies with great transfer partners. The other thing that stands out to me as a win from these cards is that I was able to capitalize on applying for several of these cards when they had elevated or all time high welcome bonuses

While I generally don't advocate waiting on getting a card that you know that you want just to see if the welcome bonus might go higher in the future, taking advantage of an elevated welcome bonus offer on cards that you already know that you want can be a great way to earn even more points, especially because. as I just mentioned, you might only be able to earn a welcome bonus on a specific card once every two years, every four years, or potentially once during your entire life. 

By the time that I applied for the United Explorer card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve with elevated bonus offers. I also knew the value of having my partner independently apply for their own version of each of those cards so that we could effectively double our welcome bonus points earning. But if I had to do it all over again, I would absolutely not get these exact cards in this exact order. I wouldn't recommend this specific card lineup for basically anybody else either. 

First of all, that British Airways card is a dud. Yes, it had a pretty amazing welcome bonus at the time that I got it. But otherwise, I would say that card is pretty useless, at least for me. I also think that most people don't need two co-branded airline credit cards as part of their initial five card portfolio. Instead, I'd recommend focusing entirely on getting rewards cards that earn flexible or transferable points like Chase points, Bilt points, Amex points, Capital One points, or Citi points. 

That being said, I do still have that BA credit card because it's one of my oldest credit card accounts. I didn't want to lose that account age on my credit report by canceling the card. I'm fairly certain that I haven't put any charges on that card in at least five years, but I hang on to it because it's one of my oldest cards. For a while I also kept it around so that I could cannibalize its credit line to move to other personal Chase credit cards. 

The United credit card that I got as my third card has actually been really useful for me. But that doesn't mean that I think most people should be racing to grab that card, at least not in the beginning stages of building out the rewards card portfolio. 

Now if you're very, very loyal to one particular airline, and you really want your airline spend or airline co-branded credit card spend to help you earn status in a loyalty program. Or if you're specifically aiming to earn a perk in a specific airline program like the Southwest Companion pass, then by all means add an airline co-branded credit card to your initial card lineup. But outside of those specific situations, I think most people don't need an airline co-branded credit card right away. 

I held on to my United Explorer card for a few years until I product changed it last year to the United Club Infinite credit card. I decided to product change this card because I really wanted access to United clubs when traveling, and because I value having access to the premier checking lane and baggage handling services. Since usually when I'm traveling domestically, I'm doing it on paid economy flights. So I love having some of the perks of status without actually having to earn status in the United Loyalty Program. 

Because I product changed from the United Explorer card to the United Club Infinite card, I did not earn the welcome bonus on the United club card. But that was a calculated move for me because I really wanted to preserve my Chase 5/24 slots so that I could remain eligible for more Chase Ink Business credit cards. 

Now the Chase Sapphire Preferred card that I first opened in 2012 got product change to the Chase Freedom Unlimited card in 2016 after I got approved for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card since I didn't really see the value in holding both of those Sapphire cards at the same time. Instead product changing the Chase Sapphire Preferred to Chase Freedom Unlimited would let me take advantage of the Chase Freedom Unlimited’s ability to earn 1.5 times Chase points on all non-category spend

Even back in 2016 I could see how valuable that pseudo-bonus category would be for me since my family has a significant amount of non-category spend annually. I particularly like the option to be able to earn Chase points specifically for my non-category personal spend. 

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card that I got in 2016 remains a mainstay in my wallet. I love that card like it's my third child, and I use it all the time. I love it so much that I'm not even willing to consider churning it just to potentially earn the welcome bonus on it again, even though it's been well over four years since I last earned the welcome bonus on a Sapphire card. It's simply too valuable of a card to me to risk potentially not getting approved for it again if I were to product change it to another Freedom card and apply for it from scratch in order to earn another welcome bonus. 

My fifth rewards credit card, that personal SPG card from Amex, got automatically turned into the Marriott Bonvoy credit card once Marriott fully eliminated the SPG program. While I still hold this card, I put no spend on it and get very little value from the Marriott Loyalty program in general now that I'm a huge Hyatt fangirl. 

So out of my first five rewards credit cards, only two of them remain in my current card portfolio, and only one is a mainstay in my wallet that I actually use on a regular basis. Reflecting on these first five cards that I got and what's happened to them since brings up two main points about the rewards card world. 

First, things change. Things can change a lot in just a few years. Amazing loyalty programs change or disappear altogether. Credit card issuers introduced new rules and restrictions that might turn your card portfolio plan upside down. Your next favorite rewards card might not even exist yet. The rewards card world and points travel in general is dynamic and is always changing. 

I see this as a positive thing, but it's also a reminder for all of us to not get too wrapped up in any one card, any one points program, or loyalty program. Because chances are, it's not going to look exactly the same in a few more years as it does now

Second, there's a lot of talk in the rewards card world about churning and burning and getting new rewards cards, earning welcome bonuses and then product changing or closing cards after a year so that you can start the cycle again. But I don't personally adhere to that. In my opinion and experience, the great rewards cards are worth hanging on to for the long haul. There will always be more cards to apply for, new cards that get introduced, and new opportunities to earn points. 

If you have a rewards card that is foundational to your card portfolio, love it and hang on to it. Since those first five rewards cards, I've gone to add 22 additional personal and business credit cards to my card portfolio across four points ecosystems. But what would I do if I was starting from scratch today? What rewards cards would I get first, and why would I prioritize those?

I'm going to get to that in just a minute. But first, I feel like it's important to state that just because these would be my top five picks, that doesn't mean they're necessarily the best rewards cards out there or the only great cards to start with. They're just the cards that best fit my spend patterns and my travel goals and priorities

The first rewards card that I would apply for is one of my all-time favorite cards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. If you have any interest in earning Chase points, I think it does make sense to prioritize applying for Chase cards early in your card journey given the Chase 5/24 rule. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is one of the three Chase cards that unlocks the ability to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Chase’s airline and hotel transfer partners. 

Compared to the other Sapphire card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers better perks and benefits and also stronger bonus points categories that overlap well with areas where I have significant spend. But if the annual fee of the Chase Sapphire reserve card makes you gag a little bit and you still want a foundational Chase points earning credit card then the Chase Sapphire Preferred card would be a great substitute. 

My second pick for rewards card is a card that I consider to be incredibly underrated given its long term points earning potential, and that is the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. Traditionally, this card does not have a particularly amazing welcome bonus unless you're fortunate enough to snag it when Chase is running a special promotion on the card. But even with its standard welcome bonus of 20,000 points, I think this card deserves a spot in anybody's wallet who values earning Chase points

That's because the Chase Freedom unlimited earns 1.5 times Chase points on all non-category spend, which I think makes it a fantastic companion card to either of the personal Chase Sapphire cards. Especially if you have significant non-category spend annually, this card is an absolute points earning powerhouse over the long run.

With my third card pick, I would branch out of the Chase ecosystem and grab the personal American Express Gold card. Now, I love this card for four main reasons. First, within the Amex points ecosystem, it is a points earning superstar with its four times points bonus earning on grocery and dining spend. Second as one of the American Express membership rewards points earning cards, this card allows you to earn Amex points for your online shopping through Rakuten, which can significantly increase your Amex points earning.

Third, thanks but no thanks, to the recently entered reduced welcome bonus restrictions announced by Amex this year, you will no longer be eligible to earn the welcome bonus on the personal Amex Gold card if you already hold the personal Amex Platinum card. So you absolutely want to be strategic about applying for the personal Gold card before you apply for the personal Platinum card.

Fourth, the personal Amex gold card has a fantastic welcome bonus of 90,000 American Express points when you apply for it through a referral link from a friend or family member who already has the card. That's just a phenomenal welcome bonus for a personal rewards card. 

For my fourth pick, this is a toss-up between two heavy hitting premium rewards travel business credit cards, the American Express Business Platinum card and the Capital One Venture X Business card. Now I currently have both of these cards, but I would absolutely prioritize getting one of them in my initial five card lineup for four reasons. 

First, both of these cards are fantastic for earning increased points on non-category spend. The Amex Business Platinum Card earns one and a half times points on all expenses that are over $5,000, and the Capital One Venture X Business card earns two times points on all spend.

Second, both of these cards are charge cards, which I think are invaluable if you have high expenses, especially if you have high individual expenses like tax payments or other business expenses because charge cards don't have a preset spending limit like traditional credit cards do. Charge cards like these are ideal particularly for individual high expenses because not many traditional credit cards will have a high five figure or six figure credit limit.

Now most of you might not be walking around with a bunch of individual five figure or six figure personal expenses. But if you own a business, it's entirely likely that you do, and you need a card or cards that allow you to make those purchases easily without having to split them up between multiple different credit cards. 

Whether you're purchasing vaccines for your medical practice, a piece of expensive equipment for your business, or have a multiple five or six figure advertising budget for your online business. Business charge cards can be invaluable for making your businesses run smoothly and earning you a ton of points along the way. 

Third, because these are business charge cards, they don't add to your Chase 5/24 score. So those valuable slots remain open for additional Chase cards that you may want to apply for in the future. Fourth, while these cards require high spend to earn the initial signup bonus, those bonuses are generous at 150,000 points or higher. 

Now these cards absolutely are not for everyone. But if you have a business or if you have high non-category personal spend that you want to be able to leverage to earn tons of points, I think either of these cards deserves a spot in your wallet. That's not even taking into account the potential benefit of lounge access with either of these cards. As the Amex Business Platinum Card will get you into American Express Centurion lounges, and the Capital One Venture X Business card gives you access to Capital One lounges. 

Of course, neither one of these cards does me any good in my home airport since O'Hare is a veritable lounge desert, but if your home airport has Centurion or Capital One lounges, I can't even imagine how much more useful that would make these cards

Even though American Express and Capital One are different points currencies than Chase, I think that both of these complement and overlap well with Chase transfer partners and also offer some unique transfer opportunities that are not covered by Chase

Like I said before, these credit card picks are my top five because of my particular spend patterns. But what if you don't have a business? Or what if you don't have high personal spend to necessitate getting the Amex Business Platinum card or the Capital One Venture X Business card?

Well, in that case, my top pick for an alternate card in the number four slot would go to the American Express Blue Business Plus card, which is a solid contender given that it earns two times Amex points on all spend up to $50,000 spent annually, and it has no annual fee. So it's a no brainer card to keep in your wallet year after year. 

Finally, for my fifth pick, I would go with a card that I'm going to admit upfront probably should not make everyone’s top five rewards card list. That's the World of Hyatt Business credit card issued by Chase. This card makes my top five list because I get tremendous value from the World of Hyatt Loyalty program

The Hyatt Business card allows me to earn five qualifying nights towards globalist status in the world of Hyatt program with every $10,000 of cumulative spend, I put on the card. Earning globalist status usually requires 60 qualifying nights per calendar year. I don't stay in Hyatt Hotels 60 nights per year even though we almost always do stay in Hyatt properties when we travel. 

Holding the World of Hyatt Business card allows me to make up the difference between the nights that I actually stay in Hyatt Hotels annually and the 60 qualifying nights that I need to earn globalist status by earning additional qualifying nights through credit card spend. 

The personal World of Hyatt credit card also allows you to earn qualifying nights towards status using credit card spend, but the business card earns qualifying nights towards status at a faster rate than the personal Hyatt credit card. So I prefer it for that reason. An added benefit of the business version of the Hyatt credit card is that it does not add to your Chase 5/24 score while the personal version of the card does. 

But what if you don't care about Hyatt status or any loyalty program status at all? In that case, I would substitute out the Hyatt Business credit card as my number five pick for the Bilt credit card, which I consider to be the most innovative new rewards card that we've seen in a long time. 

The Bilt card is unique among rewards credit cards because it is the only card that allows you to earn points, and transferable points at that, for paying rent. If this card had existed 25 years ago when I was paying rent in Berkeley, or 15 years ago when I was paying rent in Boston, I would have grabbed it in a heartbeat. 

There's simply no better way to leverage what is many people's largest annual expense or one of them to earn valuable transferable points. Even if you own your home and don't pay rent, the Bilt card can still be a fantastic rewards card given its great transfer partners and the ability to earn bonus points for dining or travel expenses. 

So there you have it. Those are my top five picks for rewards credit cards that I would grab first if I was starting in the points travel world from scratch today, along with a couple of honorable mentions of substitutes that I think are also worthy contenders. Before we wrap up today's episode, I just want to say a few things about my top five list. Why these cards in particular are great for me, and how you can think about building out your own rewards card portfolio, even if none of these cards are appealing to you. 

Because the truth is these specific five cards probably aren't going to be the most amazing ones for you. My top five card list works for me because it includes foundational transferable points earning cards from two to three major points currencies that complement each other well.

By mixing business credit cards into my lineup, I ensure that my Chase 5/24 score remains low enough that I continue to be eligible for new Chase rewards cards, which is important to me because Chase has a lot of fantastic points earning cards. I like having 5/24 slots open to be able to take advantage of elevated card welcome bonuses or adding additional rewards cards to round up my card portfolio. 

But if you don't care at all about earning Chase points or preserving your Chase 5/24 score, you won't have to be strategic about which cards you open or the velocity at which you open new personal credit card accounts as much as if Chase is an important points currency to you. 

Now, if you're an astute podcast listener, and I assume that most of you are, you might have been listening to my top five list and started tallying up the annual fees of the cards that I mentioned. If you did, you would be right to notice that combined, my top five card list carries total annual fees of either $1,394 or $1,739 depending on whether I go with the Capital One Venture X Business card, or the Amex Business Platinum card is my number four pick. That's a lot of annual fees for a five card portfolio. Because we all know I didn't stop at just five credit cards. 

That level of annual fees is not going to be appealing for everyone, but it is tolerable for me for a couple of reasons. First, since I have my own business, the annual fees on my business credit cards are deductible as a business expense. Now for those of you who also run your own businesses, please do not take this is official tax or financial advice. Confer with your own tax professionals about your own business expenses. 

Second, I consider the cards in my top five list to be foundational rewards cards for my personal and business spend. I get enough value from the points they earn me as well as their non points earning perks and benefits to justify those annual fees. Not every card you get is going to be one of your forever foundational points earning cards so you're probably not going to hold on to certain high annual fee cards year after year after year

Finally, a big reason these particular cards made my top five list is because I don't actually apply for new rewards cards all that often. That means that, for me for a lot of the year, I'm not using my spend to earn a welcome bonus on a new rewards card. So it's even more important for me to have cards in my wallet that can consistently earn me increased points for my personal and business spend, especially for what's considered non-category or non-bonus spend. 

That's why I rely so heavily on cards like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, the Amex Business Platinum, and the Capital One Venture X Business cards. Your preference might be to always have a new credit card in hand where you can focus all of your spending in order to earn a welcome bonus and then shift that spend from new card to new card. That's not a bad strategy, but it's not practical or sustainable for me. 

Which brings me to my final point, which is that there are so many different great rewards cards and so many different ways to play this points travel game. I've shared with you my top five picks for rewards cards if I was starting out today, but that doesn't have to look like your top five picks for rewards cards. It’s always important to keep in mind that your decisions and choices around credit cards, how you earn points, and how you use points should be dictated by your personal spend patterns and travel goals and priorities. 

Now, I hope that you've enjoyed today's episode, and I'm really curious to hear what you think about my top five rewards card choices, and whether your top five choices look the same or entirely different. Visit me over on Instagram at PointMeTo_FirstClass or send me an email at podcast@pointmetofirstclass to let me know. 

Finally, if you want personalized help picking your first five rewards cards or your next five rewards cards, I want to invite you to join me inside Points Made Easy, my online course where I teach you everything you need to know to optimize earning points for your expenses and how to get thousands of dollars’ worth of travel from the points that you earn. It’s the only place where I give hands on personalized guidance and help you create a points plan that's unique to you. 

To grab your spot on the waitlist to hear when enrollment in Points Made Easy opens up again, just head over to www.pointmetofirstclass.com/pointsmadeeasy. Have a great week everybody, and I'll see you again next week same time, same place. 

Thank you for joining me for this week's episode of Point Me to First Class. If you want more tips on turning your expenses into travel, visit pointmetofirstclass.com to learn more. See you next week.

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