It’s about that time, I’d been itching for some new credit cards. In this latest App-O-Rama I was approved for three of four cards. Before you freak-out, read this post about your credit cards and credit score, you might be surprised.
As more and more people become interested in free-travel, banks are becoming overly sensitive to folks, like myself, who sign up for credit cards often. (I’m not blaming them). That said, three of four applications being instantly approved is nothing to complain about.
Card #1 Virgin America Visa Signature
This card is not super popular, I think I know why. For starters, it only offers 10,000 points which seems pretty weak. Secondly, it has an annual fee of $49 the first year, never fun, I know.
Those things out-of-the-way, let me tell you why it should still be considered if you have already signed up for a bunch of credit cards.
This card is probably going away soon. Virgin America has been acquired by Alaska Airlines. The merger is in process and it is only a matter of time before this card is changed or dissolved. Either way, it is best to sign up now and get the points while you can. They do offer this card in the “premium” form, 5,000 more bonus points but $100 more in annual fees. I’m fine with the base Visa Signature card.
Great value on Hawaiian Airlines
You can use your Virgin America Elevate points for award flights on Singapore Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and Emirates to name a few (Emirates has hefty fees). You can fly one-way from the West Coast to Honolulu at just 12,000 points. If you tack on your $49 annual fee and the $5 security fee, you are looking at $54 plus 12,000 points for a one-way to Hawaii.
I just checked and one-way flights from Phoenix to Honolulu run about $350 on Hawaiian Airlines. You must spend $1,000 to receive the 10,000 Elevate points. That means if you spent just $1,000 more, you’d have a total of 12,000 points. ($1 spent = 1 Elevate point)
Spend $2,000, pay $55, and you have a one-way to Hawaii valued at over $330 (in some cases). Not the best value, but certainly nothing to overlook as this card will not be around forever.
Flights within Asia
As mentioned, Singapore Airlines is an Elevate partner, with intra-Asia flights starting at 3,600 points one-way in economy. A sweet-spot is for short-haul business class flights such as Singapore to Bangkok. This flight, at roughly 2.5 hours, requires only 7,800 points plus $26 in fees.
Cash price for a business class flight between Singapore and Bangkok is running about $700 one-way. Assuming your annual fee of $49 and the $26 surcharge for booking this award flight, you are only spending $75 and 7,800 points for flight that would cost over $700 if paying cash.
How about Dubai?
You can fly from Singapore to Dubai, UAE, for just 12,000 Elevate points one-way in economy. This is a great redemption on Singapore airlines with just $24 in fees.
Now, this 7 hour and 15 minute flight would actually cost much less if booked as a round-trip, but that isn’t always how I travel. Being able to book this 7+ hour flight on one of the world’s best airlines for 12,000 points + $24 one-way is a steal. (even accounting for the $49 annual fee)
Use this link to see how far you can make your Virgin Elevate miles stretch.
Barclay Arrival Plus Mastercard
This card is a cash-back ‘travel’ card. Your 50,000 bonus points can be redeemed for $500 in travel. No annual fee the first year, and a $3,000 minimum spend. Since you earn 2x points, your minimum spend earns you an additional $60 credit, bringing your total to $560!
All you need to do is make a travel purchase of $100 or more and use your points to erase that travel charge. (IE: $145 travel purchase = 14,500 points to erase)
This is the perfect card for erasing rental car, theme park, and cruise purchases in addition to the usual flight and hotel costs. Folks ask how I travel for “truly” free, it is thanks to this card. All the little fees, such as our week-long rental car or international award flight fees, can be erased. When you can use your conventional points for flights and hotels, it makes things very inexpensive to erase your rental car costs as well.
American Express Hilton HHonors credit card
This is a new card for me. American Express limits a new card sign up bonus to ONCE per lifetime, per card, across all their cards. (unless you are targeted with different language)
You’ll earn 80,000 HHonors points after spending $2,000 in 90 days. This card has NO ANNUAL FEE ever which makes it a great first card. (since you want to keep your oldest accounts open)
Hilton HHonor points are known to be the lowest in value across all loyalty programs. That said, there are some sweet spots if you know where to look. You can find all Hilton properties and see the points needed for a free night using Award Mapper.
We stayed in the Hamptons? (hint: no)
We recently stayed at this Hampton Inn & Suites in Bakersfield, CA. This property requires only 10,000 HHonors points for a free night. You could, in theory, stay for 8 nights using this credit card bonus. You would pay NO fees and get free breakfast each morning. Cash price is about $110 per night, that means you would be getting over $800 in value from this card if redeemed at this property.
We stayed here just one night on our drive to Monterey and found it to be very comfortable. The hotel was clean, pillows were nice, and we were upgraded to a suite with a desk, table, and couch. The breakfast was nothing to hoot about but I did like the turkey sausages.
Another low-point option is this Hilton Garden Inn in Hanoi, Vietnam. At as few as 10,000 points per night, you could stay up to 8 nights here for FREE. Nightly cash prices range between $70-$100 so you would be getting well over $500 in value from the 80,000 point credit card sign-up bonus.
Here is the value I expect from the three cards I signed up for in one app-o-rama. (conservative estimate)
$300 – Virgin America Visa
$560 – Barclay Arrival Plus Mastercard
$400 – Hilton HHonors Amex
$1,260 in free travel with just $49 in annual fees
Now, I can meet the minimum spend requirements on these cards rather easily using Plastiq.com and reselling on eBay. The hardest part is figuring out where to travel to next!
Oh, I was declined for the Bank of America Alaska Airlines credit card, how depressing..