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I hate “one size fits all” travel. It’s just… not a thing. Even if we want to go to the same place, how we want to get there and what we plan to do after landing are almost always going to be different. I feel the same way about the pedantic travel hacking nerds who preach like evangelicals on which rewards cards to get and in which order.

The truth is: only you know how many cards you’ll realistically plan on applying for, only you really know where you want to go, and only you know where you want to stay and what cabin you’d enjoy flying to get there.

I want to take a moment to talk about my personal rewards credit card and points goals, to help illuminate the cards and loyalty programs I’m choosing to get me to where I’d like to go, as well as how I’d like to get there. They may not make any sense for you, or they may serve as the inspiration you need to dive in. Whatever the answer, no drama, either way…

a man smiling for the cameraFirst, I Don’t Have Many Credit Cards

Most travel bloggers have like 30, but that didn’t come in my starter pack. I use just a handful of cards and each has a place in my wallet for a definable reason, and usually it centres around the earn rates it offers, or a particular benefit, which I benefit from annually enough to justify the annual fees. In my wallet today, you’ll find…

  • Citi Prestige – I have this card for 5X earning on airlines and hotels, and mainly for the 4th night free benefit I can (now only use twice), but get more than $450 of value from each and every time. The lounge access works nicely too, but I already have that from others…
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred – It really is a great starter credit card. 2X on worldwide airfare and dining, low annual fee ($95) and an amazing 60,000 point welcome bonus. I use it because I value Chase Ultimate Rewards highly, and on non bonus category spending they are valuable points to earn.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – I carry this card for the 1.5x value of points toward any travel purchase, in addition to the solid earning on dining. For me, it’s being able to book any flight for sale with cash, using my points at 1.5 cents value that’s really solid. I use it all the time to book business class tickets as if I had paid cash, so that I earn miles and status.

a graffiti on a wallThe Cards I’m Going For To Reach My Points And Travel Goals

I’m a bit of a Japan freak, and I relish each and every opportunity to return. Each year, I try and plot how and when I can get back, and as one of the world’s more expensive cities, I also must focus on how I can afford to stay there comfortably, and being that it’s a long flight – get there comfortably too. With these goals in mind, I’m going for the…

Each of these cards is achieving something in the short term for me, but also offers something long term to keep me spending on the card. I keep finding it hard to justify high annual fees, and though I didn’t expect it, each of these offer $90- $95 annual fees – which are something I can stomach.

Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard

Annual fee: $90 Application link: here.

Virgin Atlantic has upped the welcome bonus on this card to 80,000 miles, with 60,000 after a very reasonable amount of spending. You need 95,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles for a round trip ANA business class ticket booked via Virgin Atlantic from the USA or UK to Japan, or 120,000 for First Class. Getting one, or more of these cards will go a long way in getting me to that goal.

Additionally, you earn 25 Virgin Atlantic “tier points” which are their elite status qualification system for every $2,500 you spend, with a cap of 50 tier points per month. That’s enough to get you to Silver, or for someone like me looking to retain Virgin Atlantic Gold – which includes access to Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse even when flying economy – those can really add up in the 1,000 tier point year required…

World Of Hyatt Visa Signature Card

Annual fee: $95 Application link: here.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never really cared about hotel chains. I try to stay boutique, and I really aim for specific neighbourhoods, often where large chains aren’t found. But Hyatt did something really cool last year which changed that, adding a huge collection of unique and boutique hotels from SLH, the Small Luxury Hotel group to their points portfolio. This includes my favourite Viceroy Hotel in Bali, and countless other amazing choices around the world. Now… the World of Hyatt credit card is extremely appealing…

The card offers a 50,000 point welcome bonus, 25,000 after $3k in spending and another 25,000 after another $3k in spending as well. The way I see it, this covers at least two nights at a luxury hotel where I’d be looking at $500 plus per night. With an annual fee of $95, I see that as an amazing value and the on going earn rates like 9x points on Hyatt Hotel spend, and 2x on local commuting costs are handy. Plus, the anniversary free night, and extra one if you spend $15,000 in a year is quite handy for things like airport stays…

Capital One Venture Visa Signature

Annual fee: $95 (waived first year) Application link: here.

I’ve decided that I need to fly Emirates first class again on the A380 while I still can, and Capital One’s Venture card offers an attractive 50,000 point welcome bonus and a few features I’ll plan to use long after I’ve upgraded my cheap business class ticket to first class using the points. Emirates sells great fares out of Europe, and I think 8 hours in first to New York is too much fun to pass up, and it’s one of the better “low tax” ways of using Emirates Skywards miles.

The thing about the Venture card that’s drawing me in long term is the 2X cash back or 1.5x airline miles on every purchase, but also the promotion which nets up to a 20% rebate on all hotel stays. That’s far better than any one loyalty program. As noted, I don’t really play the hotel status chase game the way I do with airlines, so I’ll take a larger rebate over a free fruit basket upon arrival in the room any day.

a glass of wine next to a windowIt’s All About What You Want To Do

There’s a more than fair chance that the things I’m talking about in here aren’t at all what you care about when you travel. That’s totally fine – don’t sweat! Sometimes it’s just fun to talk through the bigger picture of why rewards credit cards really are the single most valuable tool in unlocking the travel that you want.

Whether you want 10 trips in economy or 1 in first class, it doesn’t matter. Find a card that gets the job done for you, earns you the most points on the things you buy and then stay on the look out for the card that can complement what you’re already going for…

What do you think about my new credit card application line up?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Hi Gilbert,

    I got the Hyatt card last year and I’m glad I did with all of the great luxury boutique hotels that have been added. I’m similar to you in that I tend to like smaller hotels. There are quite a few redemptions that I’m excited about. I’m interested in getting the Virgin Atlantic card myself, although I wanted to wait for a better offer. I feel like this is the second-best offer I’ve seen from the card. Because of you, I’ve used Virgin’s redemption a couple of times now for first-class to Japan on ANA and in the new Delta One to LHR. If you’re not using anyone else’s referral link I would most appreciate it if you used mine. It’s below. Thanks for your help.

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