4 Strategies for Maximizing Your Miles and Points in “Multi-Player Mode”
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INSIDER SECRET: Being added as an authorized user to your partner’s personal credit card will count toward your Chase 5/24 limit. But if you’re an authorized user on a small business card from most banks, like Amex, Citi or Bank of America, the account won’t show up on your personal credit report or add to your Chase 5/24 count.
When it comes to traveling the world cheaply with miles and points, doing it with a partner can actually reap dividends. Sure every 50-cent hot dog becomes two for a dollar, but there are a handful of tricks that make teaming up a great option.
Here are some strategies I regularly use to save money, earn points and maximize my value.
How to Make the Most of Your Miles and Points in “Multi-Player Mode”
1. Combine Your Finances
Your credit score isn’t the only factor banks look at when reviewing your credit card application. The income you list on your application plays a big part in determining how much credit the bank will extend to you. When you are applying for your second or third credit card from the same bank, that will come into play.
I’ve been denied in the past for already “having sufficient credit” with the bank. You can sometimes work around this by moving credit limits between cards, but in general the best thing to do is to make sure you’re accurately reporting all of your eligible income on your credit card application.
On many credit card applications you can (and should) include your partner’s income. For example, Chase applications include this extra description for the “income” box:
If you’re 21 or older and regularly use income from others to pay your bills, you can include that too.
Citi has a similar line:
If you are 21 or older, you may include income from others that you can reasonably access to pay your bills.
However, certain banks or card applications may ask for your “individual income” and in that case you should only list your own income.
2. Avoid Redundant Benefits
There are a lot of credit card perks that I consider essential to making the most of my miles and points, and many of them are attached to a card with an annual fee. Once you start collecting a handful of cards, those fees start to add up.
Some benefits make it worth having multiple cards with multiple fees. For example, many hotel cards come with some sort of a free night every year that you keep the card. So if you and your partner each have the card, you can get a cheap weekend away at a nice hotel every year.
These are some of my favorite hotel credit cards that come with a yearly reward night:
- The World Of Hyatt Credit Card
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express
- IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card – (value up to 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points)
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card – (value up to 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points)
For other perks like free checked bags, priority boarding or trip-delay insurance, you typically won’t need to have more than a single card with the perk you like. And the lounge access you get with some credit cards allows you to bring complimentary guests. So if you travel together a lot, you can easily get by with only a single Priority Pass airport lounge membership.
3. Stagger Your Credit Card Applications
Each bank has its own rules and restrictions when it comes to determining your eligibility for a specific card or welcome offer.
Chase has the most famous of these — the 5/24 rule. Because of this rule, Chase will not approve you for most of their cards if you’ve opened five or more cards from any bank (not counting certain business credit cards) in the past 24 months. Amex is a bit different — when it comes to American Express intro bonuses, you can only earn a bonus once per lifetime per card.
You never know when a great offer will be available, so it is worthwhile to put yourself in a position to grab a great deal when you see it. The way I do this is to make sure that either me or my wife is always under Chase’s 5/24 rule.
You can also use this strategy for other banks as well. Bank of America recently added a 24-month restriction to some of its cards, like the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card. Now you won’t be approved for the card if you currently have it or have had it in the past 24 months, so staggering your applications for certain cards can make sense.
4. Increase Your Flexibility With Pooling and Transfers
Airline miles are almost always most valuable when you redeem them for expensive flights, but you only see that value when you have enough miles for the flight. If an award ticket costs 50,000 miles, you’re usually out of luck if you only have 49,000 miles.
(Some airlines do allow you to redeem miles to partially pay for a ticket. For example, Delta’s Pay with Miles allows you to redeem Delta miles for 1 cent toward airfare in $50 (5,000 miles) increments. So you can pay for part of a ticket this way, but you’ll usually get a better value for your miles if you have enough to book the award outright.)
When you need more miles in a pinch you’ll usually have the option to purchase miles or receive miles from someone else’s account. But both of these options almost always come with fees. The cheapest solution to the problem is to stockpile flexible points with programs like:
Having the right transferable points can save you money. For example, I recently wanted to use United Airlines miles from my wife’s account to book her a flight. She needed a few thousand extra miles. Instead of paying to transfer miles from my United account (or paying to buy miles), I easily transferred points from my Chase Ultimate Rewards account to her United Airlines account.
In order to be able to transfer my Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly into someone else’s airline or hotel account, that person has to be an authorized user on your Chase account and live in the same household. You can also combine Chase Ultimate Rewards points into a single Chase account.
Each flexible rewards program has different rules. Amex will only let you transfer points into the loyalty account of an authorized user. (And starting this fall, you’ll only be allowed to make the transfer after someone has been an authorized user for at least 90 days.) I recently added my wife as an authorized user on The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express because as an Amex small business card, it won’t add to her (or my) Chase 5/24 count.
Marriott will let you transfer up to 100,000 points per calendar year to another account for free, and you can receive up to 500,000 Marriott points per calendar year as transfers from other accounts.
Citi ThankYou points can easily be shared, but there’s a catch — transferred ThankYou points expire after 90 days. Capital One miles are the easiest to move between accounts as they have no restrictions or yearly limits.
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