About a month ago, my sister-in-law had asked me for advice on which sign-up bonus is best for her situation. Some background: She only gets one or two new cards per year and can tolerate very little hassle when dealing with banks. So, the pressure was on, to say the least.
My first question was: How much spending can she take on comfortably in a three-month period (a standard amount of time on most credit card applications). Her answer: No more than $2,000, and preferably less. I didn’t even mention manufactured spending because it would be a hopeless case, trust me.
She also said she would prefer a card with no foreign transaction fees, since she plans to make some purchases overseas. Her credit is in the excellent range, and as I mentioned earlier, she applies for very few cards. So, I knew she would have a good shot at all the bonuses on my main list.
With that in mind, I started my research. My first inclination was to recommend Chase IHG Mastercard. Even though it’s not on my main list of bonuses, I consider it a good fit for most families, especially if both spouses can get one in each name.
My sister-in-law usually vacations with us, so it would add an extra hotel night we could have for just a $49 annual fee. However, I quickly scrapped the idea. Why? Because mine, my husband’s and my mother-in-law’s Chase IHG cards renew in the fall. For some unexplained reason, I got my father-in-law to apply in May.
I would prefer her Chase IHG card to renew in the fall as well. That way, we could have 4 certificates at the same time and could make a reservation for upcoming summer vacations.
Ok, Chase IHG card was out. I didn’t mention the Amex SPG increased offer because American Express is still not accepted in some locations, and as I said, my sister-in-law can tolerate very little hassle. Plus, she would have no use for SPG points in the foreseeable future. So, I turned my attention to Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Visa that at the time came with a 50,000 points offer. The bonus is down now, but should be increased before the end of the year.
That amount is good for around $800-$850 in flights on “Wanna get away” fares. My sister-in-law loves Southwest, and I’m pretty confident that she can redeem the points within two years, most likely when we book flights to Seattle for cruise to Alaska. Since it will be seven of us flying together on a weekend in the summer (that’s when all Alaska cruises take place), traditional mileage programs will almost certainly not be of any use.
My sister-in-law loves the fact that Southwest lets passengers check in two bags free of charge, and she is a pack rat! She will have no use for miles in a traditional program for at least 3 years. Since she doesn’t like getting new cards, I wanted to make this one count.
Both Capital One Venture and Wells Fargo Propel (my top 2 bonuses), require $3,000 spending in three months. But even if the number was $2,000, I would still advise her to pass because of the difficulties people are reporting when dealing with those banks, not to mention three credit pulls you can expect from Capital One.
A side note on Propel (pays no commission): It comes with a $100 airline reimbursement for incidentals, and my taxes on British Airways award tickets actually triggered the credit. So, in my case at least, this offer was worth $500, not $400. Just something you should be aware of, though YMMV
Back to my dilemma. There were two personal versions of Southwest card available: One with a $99 fee (paid me commission) and one with a $69 fee (paid no commission). Since I know for a fact that my sister-in-law will cancel the card before renewal, I thought the $69 version was a better fit and told her that as well. However, there was one benefit to the $99 version: The lack of foreign transaction fees. As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, that was one of her preferences.
She went ahead and applied through my site and got the Premier version that pays me commission. Totally her decision, I promise! The card was instantly approved. My plan for her is to apply for Chase IHG offer at the end of the year. If it’s not instantly approved, we’ll use the Southwest card as a leverage tool to reallocate the credit line.
What was the point in telling you all of this? Well, it was to highlight that every person and situation is unique and needs to be treated accordingly. There is no right or wrong answer, and I don’t claim to be an expert who knows everything. I can only make suggestions and provide tools that hopefully will make the decisions easier for you to make. But only YOU know what works for your family.
If you haven’t seen it, check out my new page at the top, called Free Consulting Service. I feel there is a need to provide an advice tailored to each family’s specific situation. This service doesn’t cost anything. Please, feel free to contact me, as I would love to help you design a plan to maximize points for your family.
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Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.