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kmart00,

You wrote, So, I am thinking I might open a new rewards card.

The idea being that it could offset trip costs.

...

For this initiative, I am considering the three[sic] following options (and assuming I qualify--i have over 800 fico score):

Option 1: Amex Starwood SPG card -- 30,000 SPG points bonus / $95 annual fee after first year
Option 2: Amex Platinum -- 100k points (worth up to $1k in travel?) / $450 annual fee (so... that makes it work up to $550 in travel?)
Option 3: Citi Hilton HHonors care -- 75k points / $0 annual fee
Option 4: Chase Sapphire -- 40k points/ $95 annual fee after first year, 40k points enough for $500 flight


Already replied on the CC/CD board, so I'll just address the credit card issue here.

I take it you are trying to use the rewards bonus to help fund your vacation. I should point out that Chase Sapphire rewards points are also transferable to a Chase Freedom card, where you can convert the points to cash. If you do that, you can convert your 40K points into $400 cash for whatever you want. If I didn't already have a Chase Sapphire card, that's probably what I'd do.

BTW, Chase is also offering $100 cash-back if you open a new Chase Freedom card and spend $500 in the first 3 months. Link the Sapphire card to it and you can get $500 back.

In fact, Chase routinely offers bonuses for opening Checking, Savings and Money Market accounts as well as credit cards. I wouldn't be surprised if someone couldn't fund a vacation-on-a-budget if they went all-out with Chase's offers. Right now I'm doing a savings account offer worth $200. But I usually get some offer from them I take at least every other year.

As for every-day rewards cards, the most rewarding card in my wallet is my Fidelity Rewards Amex card. 2% cashback on everything. No tiers, no limits. YTD I've received $136 in cash and have another $49.82 awaiting redemption at the end of this billing cycle. I'm single, so your mileage will likely vary.

BTW, the Chase Sapphire card offers additional travel benefits, not found on most cards. For instance, I believe it offers free travel insurance and a discount when you redeem points for airfare. Also you get double points on all restaurant purchases. It's interesting that the current Chase Sapphire offerings have a $95 annual fee. My card doesn't. At least not yet. (When I opened my account, the Preferred card had some kind of linked account requirement that I didn't want to meet so my account is a straight Chase Sapphire - not the Preferred card.)

As for the other cards - I tend to avoid affinity cards (like the hotel-rewards cards above) and cards that require any annual fees. However, they might be worth it if you can get more value out of them than the initial annual fee. Just be very, very careful to close the accounts before the annual fee comes around again. And remember that having the account open for a short time will likely ding your credit slightly.

The affinity cards are particularly dangerous because you are locking yourself into staying at one particular hotel chain. If you are going on a budget vacation, locking yourselves into an expensive hotel chain might be no value at all since you might come out just as well by forgoing the card and booking at a cheaper hotel. Also bear in mind that if you haven't finalized your plans, making this commitment will automatically limit where you can stay and/or visit. Personally I'd avoid these altogether just because high-end luxury hotels usually are not a great value, IMO.

- Joel
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