Why Paying for Travel With a Card That Earns the Most Points Isn’t Always Best

Signing-up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

Why Paying for Travel With a Card That Earns the Most Points Isn’t Always Best

Million Mile SecretsWhy Paying for Travel With a Card That Earns the Most Points Isn’t Always BestMillion Mile Secrets Team

Signing-up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.

Emily and I love to help folks get Big Travel with Small Money!  So we started a new series to help readers with their credit card strategy, to help them achieve their travel goals!

If you’re interested in being featured, send us an email or a message to info -at- millionmilesecrets.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

We received an email question from Million Mile Secrets reader Tom who wants to make sure he’s using the right card for travel purchases.

I just got the Chase Sapphire Reserve.  Should I use it for all travel purchases instead of the Citi Prestige® CardStarwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, or United MileagePlus® Club Card?

Best Credit Card For Travel Purchases
Paying for Travel With the Sapphire Reserve Will Earn Tom Valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards Points. But His Other Cards Have Excellent Benefits Worth Considering

Tom will earn 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points when paying for travel with the Sapphire Reserve.  And the travel category is broad, so it includes more than just airfare and hotels.

But there are times Tom might consider using one of his other cards depending on the type of travel purchase he’s making.

The Sapphire Reserve Is a Great Card to Use for Travel Purchases

In general, using the Sapphire Reserve for travel purchases is a good idea.  Because you earn 3X valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you pay for ANY of these types of travel:

  • Airfare
  • Hotels
  • Timeshares
  • Car rentals
  • Cruises
  • Campgrounds
  • Passenger trains
  • Buses, taxis, and limousines
  • Ferries, toll bridges, and highways
  • Parking lots and garages
Best Credit Card For Travel Purchases
Pay for Your New York City MetroCard With the Sapphire Reserve and Earn 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

And the Sapphire Reserve comes with $300 in annual travel credit.  Simply use your card for any travel purchase and you will automatically get a credit, until you’ve spent a total of $300 on travel.

You also get fantastic trip protection benefits when paying for travel with the Sapphire Reserve card.

But because reader Tom has other great cards in his wallet, he might consider using a different card for certain types of travel purchases.

3 Examples When Using a Different Card to Pay for Travel Might Make Sense

Tom has 4 cards in his wallet.  Here are a few examples when paying for travel with a different card could be a good idea.

1.   Looking for Superior Trip Delay Coverage?

The Citi Prestige is the best card to use for folks looking to get the superior trip & baggage delay benefits.  Because you’ll be covered after a delays of more than 3 hours.  The Sapphire Reserve only covers you after delays of 6+ hours.

Best Credit Card For Travel Purchases
Trip Delay Coverage Kicks in After 3 Hours With the Citi Prestige. This Is Better Than 6+ Hours With the Chase Sapphire Reserve!

Million Mile Secrets team members Harlan and Jasmin consistently use their Citi Prestige card to pay for travel because of the excellent trip delay coverage.  And Jasmin has successfully used this benefit to get reimbursed for meals and a hotel night!

2.   Paying for a Marriott, Starwood, or Ritz-Carlton Hotel Stay

With the AMEX Starwood card, you can earn bonus Starwood points when paying for hotel stays at MarriottRitz-Carlton, and Starwood hotels.

You earn 2 Starwood points per $1 spent at any of the 3 chains.  And depending on your travel goals, Starwood points can come in handy!  Because you can use them for more than just free hotel stays.

Best Credit Card For Travel Purchases
Earn Bonus Starwood Points and Redeem Them for an SPG Moment, Like Attending the US Open

You can:

3.   Boost Citi ThankYou Points Balance or Use the $250 Airline Credit

Tom can earn 3X Citi ThankYou points on airfare & hotel purchases when paying with the Citi Prestige card.  The 3X bonus category isn’t as broad as the Sapphire Reserve.  But flexible Citi ThankYou points are valuable for certain award redemptions.

You can transfer Citi ThankYou points directly to airlines like EtihadSingapore Airlines, Turkish Airlines, and many others!

Best Credit Card For Travel Purchases
Flexible Citi ThankYou Points Are Valuable If You Want to Book Award Flights on Transfer Partners Like Etihad

And you can now use Citi ThankYou points toward 4th night free hotel reservations when you book through the Citi travel portal.  So using the Citi Prestige (instead of the Sapphire Reserve) to earn bonus points on airfare and hotel purchases might make sense if Tom will use them to save money on hotel stays!

Don’t forget, the Citi Prestige comes with a $250 annual statement credit for airline fees such as airfare and baggage fees.  So reader Tom will definitely want to use this card to at least get the $250 savings!

Bottom Line

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a wonderful card for travel purchases!  Because you earn 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points.  And the travel category is broad.  So it includes much more than just airfare and hotel purchases.

With the Sapphire Reserve, you also get $300 in annual travel credit and excellent trip protection benefits.

But you might have another card in your wallet that could be useful for certain types of travel purchases.  For example, the Citi Prestige comes with the best trip & baggage delay benefits.  Because coverage kicks in after a delay of more than 3 hours!

So in addition to figuring out how many points you’ll earn, it’s always good to consider the card benefits when making a travel purchase.

Feel free to leave a comment or send a message on Facebook or Twitter if you’d like help with your credit card strategy!

If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 36,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another update!

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

More Info

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!


by Newest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

I would also add that since he has the United MileagePlus club card, it would make sense to pay for United flights with that card since it requires usage of that card to get the free checked bag benefit (unless he already has status with the airline).