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Million Mile Secrets reader Steven emails in:
I am 22 years old and in a few weeks I am starting a Chicago based job in management consulting. After my 6 month training period, I will begin traveling 3-4 days a week. As of now I do not know if I can bill the travels to my credit card or if they are expense directly to my company. Nevertheless, I am wondering what the best every-day spending credit card is for my situation?
I currently have the Chase Freedom Visa with an 8k line and a perfect credit score. My average total monthly charges come out to roughly $1k. Many of my co-workers have Amex Starwood Preferred Guest and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards. However, I have access to government rates at hotels so I do not know if it is worthwhile to use a credit card’s reward reservation program/system?
Do you recommend a Starwood, Sapphire, or different card in my situation? Or should I just keep my Chase Freedom card? I do understand that it can be worthwhile to open multiple credit cards for their opening perks but I don’t have the time to keep chasing offers.
Management Consultant jobs are great for earning lots of miles and points because you travel and eat out a lot and someone else reimburses you for the bills! Now, if only you could earn points for each slide deck you make. :)
Credit Card Policy
Steven should confirm if he can use his personal credit card for business travel expenses and get reimbursed for them. Some companies require employees to use the corporate credit card which usually means less miles and points.
But some companies let you use your personal card and will reimburse you for expenses.
If Steven’s company requires him to use a corporate credit card for his travel expenses, he should check with colleagues and find out if this is another corporate policy which is just on paper. Or if it is actually enforced. As always, he should do what he is comfortable with.
I’ve worked in companies which had policies which required you to use the corporate card. In one company, this was enforced and in another company it wasn’t and many folks used their own card.
If Steven is forced to use a corporate American Express card, he could pay $90 and link it to his personal American Express Membership Rewards account and earn points for his business spending. However, he should check with his HR department to see if this is okay.
Best Cards for a Consultant
1. Chase Sapphire Preferred
Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the perfect card for a consultant. Steven will earn 2x Ultimate Rewards points for travel and dining. Consultants do lots of travel and dining - besides work until midnight! – so Steven should get this card.
Steven will earn 2x Ultimate Rewards points for car rentals, parking, toll, flights, hotels, cabs, and expenses through a travel agency. It is hard to imagine a better card for someone who will spend most of his time traveling!
Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to different airlines and hotels in a 1:1 ratio.
- British Airways
- United Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
- Ritz Carlton
- Korean Air
- Priority Club
But Steven shouldn’t transfer the points unless he has a redemption with a particular airline or hotel because he can’t transfer his points back to Ultimate Rewards.
My favorite transfer partners are United for international business or first class awards, Hyatt for hotel stays, Southwest for domestic US flights and British Airways points for use on short distance American Airlines flights within the US.
Steven can also unlock the value of his existing Chase Freedom card with the Sapphire Preferred card. That’s because he can now transfer points from his Chase Freedom – which earns 5X Ultimate Rewards points in different bonus categories – to his Sapphire Preferred and from there to airlines and hotels such as United, Hyatt, etc.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2 Ultimate Rewards points for ALL travel, so Steven doesn’t have to juggle around different airline cards to earn the maximum amount of miles. Most airline credit cards earn 2 miles per $1 spent with a particular airline. But Steven will earn 2 Ultimate Rewards points on all travel and dining which he can transfer to different airlines including United, Southwest, British Airways etc.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, so Steven saves ~3% when he uses the card outside the US.
He can convert his Ultimate Rewards points into cash back (1 cent per point) or book travel via the Ultimate Rewards portal at 1.25 cents per Ultimate Rewards point.
2. American Express Starwood Preferred Guest
The American Express Starwood card used to be the best all-purpose travel card for many, many years until the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It is a useful card for a traveling consultant to have if he plans on staying at Starwood hotels, though Steven should wait a few days until the better 30,000 point offer is out.
Steven should have the Starwood card if he plans on staying at Starwood hotels because he’d earn 2 Starwood points per $1 spent at Starwood hotels. He’d also earn 5 nights and 2 stays towards elite status just by having the card, though I’m sure he’d earn Starwood elite status fairly easily on his own if he is a traveling consultant.
I prefer to use my Starwood points in Starwood hotels, but Starwood points can be transferred to many airlines in 1:1 ratio. You get an extra 5,000 Starwood points when you transfer points in increments of 20,000, so you’re effectively earning 1.25 airline miles per $1 spent (assuming that you spend enough to transfer in increments of 20,000 points).
1.25 air miles per $1 is a good earning rate, but Steven is better off using the Chase Sapphire Preferred because he earns 2 Ultimate Rewards points for ALL travel and dining. And 2 Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to 2 airline or hotel points.
That said, if Steven wants to collect American Airlines miles, the Starwood card is better because he can transfer Starwood points to American Airlines. But he’d earn only 1.25 American Airlines miles per $1 spent for most of his travel expenses. That’s why he is better off using the Chase Sapphire Preferred for his travel expenses which will earn 2 Ultimate Rewards points per $1.
But he can use the American Express Starwood for stays at Starwood hotels and for non-travel and dining expenses.
If Steven stays at Starwood hotels exclusively, the American Express Starwood card would double-up as a hotel card and he wouldn’t need to get a separate co-branded hotel credit card.
If he’ll be staying at a different hotels chain, it could sometimes make sense for Steven to get the credit card for that hotel – like the Citi Hilton Reserve card. Starwood hotels are nice, but you can’t find them everywhere.
Triple Dipping With Hotels
1. Using a Credit Card
Steven asks if he can earn extra points at hotels if he uses government rates. He absolutely can!
Steven will earn extra points for using any travel credit card (he doesn’t have to use the hotel co-branded credit card) to pay for his hotel stays.
Let’s say that Steven has a $1,000 bill at the Hilton. He will earn 2 Ultimate Rewards points per $1 if he uses his Chase Sapphire Preferred, so he’d earn 2,000 Ultimate Rewards points ($1,000 bill X 2 Ultimate Rewards Points).
If he pays with his Citi Hilton Reserve card he’d earn 10 Hilton points per $1 or 10,000 Hilton points ($1,000 X 10 points per $1). He’d earn 12 points per $1 with the American Express Surpass, but the better card depends on how much he spends. That’s because he earns 1 free weekend night with the Citi Hilton Reserve after spending $10,000 each calendar year.
2. Using His Hotel Loyalty Number
In addition, Steven could ALSO earn points for the actual stay at the hotel if he has signed up for a hotel loyalty program and included his membership number in the reservation.
While the terms and conditions suggest that government (and corporate) negotiated rates won’t earn Hyatt stay credit or points many readers have gotten stay credit and points on a government stay. However, your miles may vary (YMMV). I’ve also earned Hyatt points and stay credits when I’ve used my corporate Hyatt code.
3. Registering for Hotel Promotions
Steven should register for hotel promotions like the Hilton or Starwood promotions to earn even more points. Here’s a list of current promotions from Loyalty Traveler.
Steven can look forward to lots of travel, dining, long hours, and miles and points! It is hard to go wrong with the Chase Sapphire Preferred & the American Express Starwood card and 1 other hotel credit card if Steven won’t be staying at Starwood hotels.
Steven can also extra points for paying his hotel bills with his credit cards & his discounted government rates may earn him extra points.
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