succumbing to the credit card "point" game?

I read with some bemusement the miles and credit card blogs reporting on all the sign-up bonuses and benefits offered by credit cards. For the most part, I have avoided playing that game. Yes, I have chosen my credit cards based on the benefits — admission to airline lounges and travel credits. I once applied for a pair of British Airways cards — one for my wife and one for me — because they were offering 100,000 miles per card; I've held onto that card for the annual 2-for-1 award travel opportunity. In other words, I choose credit cards based on their perceived usefulness to me.

I'm going to Australia this September and recently purchased tickets for that trip. I could find no award availability on the SFO-SYD non-stops; I was unwilling to fly United economy to Houston for business class flights to Sydney. How to pay for those tickets? I contemplated the possibility of cashing in (most of) 42 years of accrued American Express points for one of the tickets but wrestled with the suspicion that getting 1¢ of value per point was not my best use of those points.

Posting a question on FlyerTalk for advice, I was surprised by the answer. While my American Express Platinum personal card yields 1¢ for a redemption, the American Express Platinum business card yields 1.5¢ per point. By procuring a business card (which I did on the last day before its annual fee increased), I increased the value of my stash of points by several thousand dollars. I reason this transaction was well worth the annual fee.

Moreover, Amex offers a signing bonus of 75,000 points when spending $20,000 within 90 days. My tickets on Qantas would get me most of the way there with one purchase, but... herein lies the wrinkle. The Platinum business card yields 5x the points only when purchasing airfare through American Express Travel Service. However, I didn't want to book through Amex, meaning point yield would be only 1.5x the spend (for a purchase over $5000). My personal Platinum card, on the other hand, yields 5x the points on any air booking, even one made through the air desk at Brownell Travel. Because I will receive a substantial commission on that booking, it made sense to use my personal card for this transaction. (Because commission percentage information is proprietary, so I can't publish that.)

So I bought the tickets with my personal Platinum Card. This yielded me an extra 3.5x points per dollar and a four-figure commission in cash. The personal Platinum purchase will net a return roughly equivalent to the 75,000 point sign-up bonus, but leaving me in the position of still having to make that 20K spend by the end of April. Decisions still to be made: canceling the personal card in May, canceling the business card after one year (and spending my points), or keeping both.

Have I succumbed to the credit card game? I'd be interested in your thoughts.

copyright (c) 2019 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

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