Where to put non-bonus spend?

Old Jun 15, 20, 7:32 pm
  #1  
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Where to put non-bonus spend?

Looking back over the last few years and we've amassed a lot of annual fees on premium cards (currently have 5 $450+ cards) as I was focusing more on maximizing the marginal reward for each dollar spend vs. the portfolio.

For the most part, I've determined which cards to cut and which to keep. However, I'm struggling with where to put non-bonus spend - which is our largest single spend category and thus has a significant impact on overall return. It also drives some of the scenarios I have for where to put other spend. Historically, the first $60k of non-bonus spend would go on the Delta Reserve and then to EDP or Fidelity 2% if I needed a non-AMEX. The MQM bonus and effective 1.5X RDM on spend made sense. Now that the RDM bonus is gone and 2020 status is extended so my MQM bonuses would be working toward 2023 status. That's too far out to care about today.

From a numbers perspective, the most attractive seems to be the Citi DoubleCash - 2% cash or 2 TYP. But I'm struggling with that b/c its Citi and that means keeping the Premier. I (like a few of us here) have been burned by Citi's tinkering in the past. It's hard to trust them. The alternatives seem to be: CFU (lower cash redemption and relying on UR to hold value or keep pay yourself back going), AMEX BBP (only good to $50k and then?), or just 2% cash (or move to BoA which adds friction to other areas for the Platnium rewards). What am I missing?

Given the current situation and that we're sitting on a lot of points across MR, UR, DL, Marriott, etc. Cash or optionality between cash / transfer is more of a focus right now (both MR and UR have pretty clear/stable cash out options). Ideally, I'd keep this somewhat in sync with where we are putting bonus spend (to avoid smaller balances across different programs). For cash back that doesn't really matter.
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Old Jun 15, 20, 11:15 pm
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Originally Posted by jalm1 View Post
From a numbers perspective, the most attractive seems to be the Citi DoubleCash - 2% cash or 2 TYP. But I'm struggling with that b/c its Citi and that means keeping the Premier. I (like a few of us here) have been burned by Citi's tinkering in the past. It's hard to trust them. The alternatives seem to be: CFU (lower cash redemption and relying on UR to hold value or keep pay yourself back going), AMEX BBP (only good to $50k and then?), or just 2% cash (or move to BoA which adds friction to other areas for the Platnium rewards). What am I missing?
What you're missing is that most people don't have >$50k (let alone >$60k) of non-category spend a year that they can charge to credit cards.

I'm not sure you mean by "tinkering" when referring to Citi. I've been using my Premier (never had and never wanted a Prestige) for several years, since I stay a lot at hotels for which I don't have a hotel program credit card, and so I don't see the problem with Citi TYP (and thus DoubleCash as the no-category solution) other than perhaps the choice of transfer partners being a less-familiar group than Amex MR's and Chase UR's partners. And the Premier is my one and only card from which I have successfully gotten spend-based promos each year I've called for retention due to the annual fee (I'm more interested in earning more points than in offsetting the $95 annual fee, but if the latter is what you want, they typically have an offer for that too).

So most people would say Citi DoubleCash and/or Amex BBP and your problem is solved. But I don't know what to say if $50k a year is a drop in the bucket for you.

A different concern that some people have is that both of these being 0 AF cards, they have foreign purchase fees, which make them not so great if you have non-category purchases overseas.
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Old Jun 15, 20, 11:34 pm
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Something I did for a year was put unbonused spend on my AMEX Surpass/Ascend. I put $15,000 of unbonused spend in a year (which for me is most of my unbonused spend) on the card and got a free Hilton weekend certificate plus 45,000 Hilton points. At that time, the bonus for grocery spend was helpful too. With two of you, if you each got a card, you could spend $30,000 on Hilton and have the enviable problem of where to spend The last $20,000. Of course this assumes that Hilton points and free nights are a highly desirable goal for you. YMMV based on your goals and hotel prejudices. In my case, I got the Hilton Aspire card and ditched the Surpass, so my unbonused mostly goes on the CITI Double Cash now.
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Old Jun 15, 20, 11:35 pm
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I put my non bonus spend on BBP and FUL. Thatís as creative as I get. And frankly I no longer have the drive or energy to really build up points. So sad. Why not get some new cards to earn SUP? I hadnít had a new card in 8 months but now have one arriving tomorrow. All non bonus will go on that. Funny how just one new card can bring such joy.
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Old Jun 16, 20, 4:58 pm
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I think the OP meant that Citi is constantly tinkering with their cards and reward programs more so than other issuers, which is true. The Prestige, Premier, Thank You Preferred/Rewards+, etc...have all been changed around multiple times in a handful of years.
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Old Jun 16, 20, 7:01 pm
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I currently use Citi Double cash and have no other Citi card. At the point where I may want to transfer cash to points, I will get another Citi card. For now I am good. I was using Chase Freedom Unlimited for non-bonus for the Hyatt transfer via Chase Sapphire Preferred. Backed off of that for the time being, since $15K spend would be 22.5K Hyatt points or $300. I am guessing i can find a $300 room that will satisfy me. Bottom line is it seems like cash is a better bet than points for the time being.
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Old Jun 16, 20, 11:43 pm
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Originally Posted by sdsearch View Post
What you're missing is that most people don't have >$50k (let alone >$60k) of non-category spend a year that they can charge to credit cards.

I'm not sure you mean by "tinkering" when referring to Citi. I've been using my Premier (never had and never wanted a Prestige) for several years, since I stay a lot at hotels for which I don't have a hotel program credit card, and so I don't see the problem with Citi TYP (and thus DoubleCash as the no-category solution) other than perhaps the choice of transfer partners being a less-familiar group than Amex MR's and Chase UR's partners. And the Premier is my one and only card from which I have successfully gotten spend-based promos each year I've called for retention due to the annual fee (I'm more interested in earning more points than in offsetting the $95 annual fee, but if the latter is what you want, they typically have an offer for that too).

So most people would say Citi DoubleCash and/or Amex BBP and your problem is solved. But I don't know what to say if $50k a year is a drop in the bucket for you.

A different concern that some people have is that both of these being 0 AF cards, they have foreign purchase fees, which make them not so great if you have non-category purchases overseas.
I didn't mean to imply that $50/60k was a drop in the bucket. It's a lot of spent, and most of our non-bonus spend. It just means we have to be mindful of some caps in thinking through what works.

Originally Posted by kdm31091 View Post
I think the OP meant that Citi is constantly tinkering with their cards and reward programs more so than other issuers, which is true. The Prestige, Premier, Thank You Preferred/Rewards+, etc...have all been changed around multiple times in a handful of years.
Exactly. They seems to always be making changes. Some positive. Some negative. I feel like it's always a guessing game with them. I've also found you have to be more diligent with monitoring than other banks. I recall a time a while back I got burned with some expiring points which I thought I had transferred but for one reason or another a different pool of points were transferred. Anyway, it seems like there are more gotcha's with TYP than UR/MR.

Originally Posted by Stgermainparis View Post
I put my non bonus spend on BBP and FUL. Thatís as creative as I get. And frankly I no longer have the drive or energy to really build up points. So sad. Why not get some new cards to earn SUP? I hadnít had a new card in 8 months but now have one arriving tomorrow. All non bonus will go on that. Funny how just one new card can bring such joy.
I miss the new card feel.. It's been too long. I wish there were SUBS i was interested in that I was eligible for.

Maybe I need to give DC another thought...
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Old Jun 17, 20, 11:20 pm
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Originally Posted by jalm1 View Post
I recall a time a while back I got burned with some expiring points which I thought I had transferred but for one reason or another a different pool of points were transferred. Anyway, it seems like there are more gotcha's with TYP than UR/MR.

[...]

Maybe I need to give DC another thought...
Yes, TYP is more complicated than UR/MR, but then there's a dedicated Sticky thread in the Citi forum for most TYP issues:

Citi ThankYou points - cancel, downgrade & expiration considerations

of which there is no exact equivalent in the Amex or Chase forums.

So while you have to learn a lot more about Citi TYP points than about Amex MR or Chase UR, there's a good place to learn that here on FT.

Also, you should never to be in a situation with expiring points, and then you won't have to worry about which points get transferred first. But to do that, you have to know how to keep your points from expiring. If you "share" your points, they automatically expire. If you cancel a card rather than downgrading to a no-fee TYP card, they automatically expire. But if instead of canceling you downgrade to a no-fee TYP card, the points are maintained as long as you hold that card (but use it at least occcasionally, because Citi likes to cancel inactive cards).
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Old Jun 18, 20, 1:33 am
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Unbonused spend for me generally goes on the CFU (I also have the CSR and the Ink Cash). I have found good use for URs for UA/LH J redemptions and Hyatt rooms in recent years, I diversify with MR cards and an assortment of others that I mostly hold for benefits such a free nights....
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Old Jun 19, 20, 9:03 am
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For non-category in-person spend I use Altitude Reserve, which gives 4.5% cashback equivalent. For online I use either AT&T Access More card for 3x TYP or Rakuten card for 3x MR. If those doesn't work, I use either Amex BBP for 2x MR, Citi DC for 2x TYP, or one grandfathered card, which gives 3.33% effective cashback.
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Old Jun 19, 20, 9:30 am
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I would look at the wiki on this thread and look thru the 2%+ cards:
Which card(s) to use for high spend or large purchases? [Consolidated]

Personally, I put my non-bonus spending on BoA Premium Reward (2.625% for plat honor client) or CFU transfer to CSR (2.25%+ value for me).
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