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The “Devil” Cards’ Advocate

An update: UR points no longer transfer to Amtrak and Avios 4,500-mile domestic redemptions are no longer available as of February 2nd, 2016.

Inspired by Devil’s Advocate posts on Travel Codex blog, I will introduce my own “whenever I feel like writing it” series. Created by my alter ego (we shall call her Julia), the posts will take a popular belief on certain credit cards and  defend it. Wait, what?

Well, think about it, my blog is contrarian in nature. So by arguing my own posts, I will be inadvertently supporting  prevailing views in the industry. Got it? Ok, let’s get down to business. What card shall we start with? Why, that would be our beloved Chase Sapphire Preferred, of course!

The “devil” aspect has to do with the fact that it’s not worth $95 annual fee for an average joe. Don’t get me wrong, the sign-up bonus is fantastic, no question about it. But I have long argued that it’s not worth renewing for most regular families. Emphasis on “most.”

My diabolical mind has created a family that is a perfect fit for Chase Sapphire Preferred.  Let me introduce you to to a married couple Chace and Ruby Fancy (names inspired by Chase, Sapphire and Preferred). They are ex-hippies, live in San Francisco and have two kids, ages 13 and 15 (an important fact).

They don’t own a car and take a trolley to work. They also grow their own vegetables and shop at a local food market or grocery store that only accepts cash. They live very frugally and only buy clothes from a thrift shop, that, you guessed it, only accepts cash as well. Their rent includes utilities, which they pay by check. They don’t live near Sam’s club and hate Walmart corporation for being the evil machine that it is.

Their biggest expenses are dining  and travel, which they prefer to pay with a credit card. They love Amtrak and twice  a year they like to take the whole family to Los Angeles by train. Their yearly credit card expenses break down this way:

1. Dining and travel: $8,000

2. Everything else (no grocery, gas or Amazon purchases): $8,000

They just want to get one credit card and that’s it, no m/s shenanigans, basically to keep it as simple as possible. My advice: Get Chase Sapphire Preferred. Why? If they use it for everything, they will have 24,000 Ultimate Rewards points by the end of the year. You can transfer them 1:1 to Amtrak Guest Rewards program.

That amount will take care of 4 roundtrip tickets from San Francisco to Los Angeles, since the route falls under special zone pricing. Here is a post on The Points Guy that lists other Amtrak bargains

When reserving paid fares, you can get a discount if your kids are age 12 and under, which is not the case with our hippie family.

lax-san fran

The award redemption starts at 1,500 points one-way,  and beats flying any day. Additionally, since they are collecting flexible points, they will have a measure of protection in case of devaluation. Remember, you can fly from San Francisco to Los Angeles on American for only 4,500 Avios one-way ( through British Airways program, Chase partner), which is a pretty good deal as well.

If they used Citi Double Cash card, they would get $320 in rewards at the end of the year. Roundtrip Amtrak fare costs around $250 for 4 people on that particular route, so 2 trips would be worth $500. Even if you deduct a $95 annual fee, it’s still considerably more than what we would get with a 2% card.

Interrupting this post for a quick segment within a segment, called #BetYouDidn’tHaveaClue, also inspired by Devil’s Advocate. The hashtag sign is here for “hipster” affect.

 Bet you didn’t have a clue that you can transfer SPG points 1:1 to Amtrak Guest Rewards! So why not recommend Amex SPG instead? After all, the annual fee is only $65 and you can make up for it through various promotions. BTW you can now register your Amex cards for Small Business Saturday. Thanks to my reader Chris L  for the reminder.

Well,  Amex is still not accepted everywhere and our family wants only one card for everything. Also, Amex SPG gives only 1  point on everything, no bonus categories. So even though the family is paying $95 annual fee on Chase Sapphire Preferred, it’s justified by double points they will earn on dining an travel.

OK, back to our regular programming. As you can see, Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great choice for this particular family. Are most families like the one I described? Nope. My point is, there is no perfect long-term card for everyone.

Some cards come pretty  close to being  universally recommended, like Amex Everyday Preferred and Citi Double Cash card. But they still have  flaws, and may not be  the right choice for you. Additionally, many notions (preached as gospel in this industry) simply don’t apply to an average family in America. Like I always say, do your own math and don’t listen to bloggers like me too much! #DoYourOwnThing

Readers, what other cards would you like me to feature in this segment?

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Author: Leana

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.

6 thoughts on “The “Devil” Cards’ Advocate

  1. So far, I am loving my Chase ultimate rewards points (got from Chase Business Ink though). I plan on having my husband and I get this other Chase card in the future. I love that the points can be used for cash, or Southwest miles, or Hyatt points (which seem to have a much lower points cost for hotel bookings).

    • Nancy, I love Ultimate Rewards too! In fact, I miss them a lot, since currently I don’t have any premium cards with Chase. I do plan to get Chase Sapphire Preferred next year.
      My suggestion to you and to all of my readers is not to get too attached to any rewards currency and always see if you can do better elsewhere.
      Getting the bonus is a no-brainer, but what do you do after that? People are creatures of habit and are likely to stick to the same card because it’s easier that way. Years go by and you don’t even notice that $95 charge to renew it. Those annual fees can really add up. Chase Ink is a decent choice, but I personally wouldn’t renew it. Sure, you can get 5% in rewards when you buy gift cards at office supply stores. But you can also go to http://www.giftcardgranny.com and buy them there, sometimes getting 25% discount. I do recommend you look into Amex Everyday Preferred. I linked to the analysis on it at the beginning of the post, in case you’ve missed it.

  2. Of course the Sapphire Preferred now comes with step-by-step directions on churning it every two years (in the T&C) and there are two parents in your story so there’s still pretty much no reason for them to ever pay an annual fee on the Sapphire Preferred.

    • Kenny, I couldn’t agree with you more! 🙂 I can’t envision a scenario where it makes sense for low-spenders to renew CSP. As I said, these people are looking for one long-term choice. The post implies that they don’t want to churn cards, but I probably should have made it more clear. Trust me, I am very fee-averse myself. The point of the post is to prove that there is no perfect card for everyone, not to sing praises to CSP.

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