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Corona Card Bennies

Military Credit Card Strategy In The Age Of COVID-19

Hot diggity, something to write about has emerged from this travel-less wasteland of government over-reach and communist rule. I think a new paradigm is amongst what was once the land of the free. Society as a whole has tipped its hand and shown the extent to which it will sacrifice liberty for that sweet sweet false sense of safety. A safety provided by the government, whom you may remember from such films as: Social Security, The DMV, The Post Office, and the VA (not to forget the ATF for my stamp collecting brethren out there). So, in typical free-market fashion, private companies have once again done what the government is woefully incapable of – adapt. And adapt they have by bringing unprecedented value to credit cards built for travel perks in a time when no one can travel. Behold, your new (gosh I pray temporary) normal.

American Express China Virus Perks

As per usual, Amex is at the forefront of banks in providing both out of the box thinking and convoluted value to its consumers. The new bennies to get fully torqued over are:

  • Platinum Card:
    • $20/month cell service credit May-Dec
    • $20/month streaming service credit May-Dec
  • Business Platinum Card:
    • $20/month cell service credit May-Dec
    • $20/month shipping service credit May-Dec
    • Additional $100 semi-annual Dell credit May-Jun and Jul-Dec
  • Green Card:
    • $10/month cell service credit May-Dec
  • Hilton Aspire:
    • $250 resort credit triggers for restaurant spend Jun-Aug
    • Free nights issued before 1 May 2020 expire 31 Aug 2021. Can be used any night of the week.
    • Free nights issued after 1 May – 31 Dec 2020 expire in 24 months. Can be used any night of the week.
  • Bonvoy Brilliant:
    • $300 Marriott credit triggers for restaurant spend Jun-Aug

Citi Wuhan Whooping Cough Perks

Citi didn’t pull out all the stops like Amex and just bestow free cell service to everyone but they did make a change that should take you from 6 to midnight:

  • Prestige:
    • $250 travel credit triggers for restaurant and supermarket spend May-Dec

Chase Kung Flu Grocery Perks

Chase and Amex have really amped up their bonus point multipliers but Chase Sapphire Reserve will give you the biggest return for spending. I’ll include both for comparison or in case you are in need of specific points:

  • Sapphire Reserve: 5x May-Jun
  • Sapphire Preferred: 3x May-Jun
  • United Club: 5x May-Jun
  • United (all others): 3x May-Jun
  • Southwest (all): 3x May-Jun
  • Hyatt: 3x May-Jun
  • IHG: 3x May-Jun
  • Marriott (all): 6x May-Jul
  • Amex Hilton Aspire/Surpass: 12x May-Jul (points count towards lifetime elite status)
  • Amex Marriott (all): 6x May-Jul
  • Amex Delta (all): 4x May-Jul

The TDWise Strategy (so far)

I waited a bit to write this just to confirm the reimbursements worked. It looks like Amex will be covering my cell bills for the foreseeable future and my streaming subscriptions at least until the end of 2020. I don’t plan to switch my grocery spending since the Amex Gold already gets 4x points and coupled with the Schwab Plat the cash value is 1.25 cents per point, giving an effective 5% back anyways. The only unknown now is which travel credits to blow on the fanciest dining I’ve ever done and which to liquidate to gift cards.

Cell Bills

Verizon makes it easy to liquidate these perks online by going to Bill > Payment Options > “Pay Another Amount” and applying $20 from each Platinum and $10 from each Green card to your account (just don’t save your payment methods or you’ll max out the number of cards you’re allowed to save). I also linked my bank account to autopay and even though autopay won’t be needed at all, it still codes the $10/month discount. My cell bill is about $120/month. Between the 10 Platinum cards and 3 Green cards that gives me $230 per month towards my cell service. This leaves me with an account surplus after Dec of $880, which will last me another 7 months beyond the credits. All told, I won’t be paying for cell service until August 2021. Thanks Amex!

Streaming

The streaming credits don’t have a great liquidation or banking method in place. So far I’ve applied my Showtime ($10.99), Hulu ($11.99), Netflix ($15.99), Audible ($14.95), CBS All Access (9.99), and HBO ($14.99) each to their own Platinum card for a combined monthly savings of $78.90. There IS a way to scoop up the residual credits into your Apple ID account but since Apple sends level 3 transaction data to Amex (I charged an Apple TV rented movie and was able to see the movie I rented under the transaction on Amex), it’s primed for a future clawback for not being an approved streaming charge that I would not like to risk. So I guess I just have a lot of free movie rentals now.

Dell

We have 1 Business Plat and that means $200 each half-year to spend on Dell. This is easy, we needed some home computing peripherals. Maybe I’ll get a drone in July, you know, for droning.

The Credit Card Coronathon

All told, there has never been a better time to justify annual fees (if you have to pay them), even in the wake of worldwide travel bans. Amex and Chase have even extended the minimum spend timeline for sign up bonuses out to 6 months. It sucks, I want to get back out into hotels I shouldn’t be able to afford and into airline seats I shouldn’t be able to justify, but in the meantime, the banks have made it easy to stick with their travel-focused products. I will make any further updates to card perks on this post. Everyone stay safe out there and tweet Elon to get out of California.

Amex Card Upgrades and Refreshes

Card Maintenance With Amex

We had a few exciting (if you’re a card geek) cards arrive this week that I’ve been waiting for since last year. They all come with much-improved benefits and changes to the overall travel strategy.

Bonvoy Upgrade

A year ago we got P2 (player two, non-military spouse) the AMEX SPG card right before it discontinued and closed out applications. This was then converted automatically into a plain old Bonvoy artsy card during the great Bonvoy rebranding and super hotel conglomerate release. We did not get a signup bonus or any great annual perks to write about. It was just a slow play dormant account, sitting there until the 1 year account anniversary.

Well, that anniversary hit and finally we were able to product change it to its big brother; the ultra-luxury Bonvoy Brilliant card. This change closes out our perpetual Amex credit card holdings (until they release a new must-have card) and grants us another free annual Bonvoy night (capped at 50k Bonvoy points) and another $300 annual Bonvoy statement credit. This brings the Bonvoy total to $1200/yr and 7 free nights/yr (four $300 credits and four nights from 4 Bonvoy Brilliant cards and three nights from 3 Ritz cards); a solid vacation option for any military family.

Delta Refresh

I like this new card design exponentially better. Numbers on the back, best hand feel of the big 3 airlines, a real class act.

Delta also made a much-needed card overhaul to its lineup. The most important change, of course, is the switch to a metal card with numbers on the back. Welcome to the party, Delta. Obviously, we immediately requested replacement metal forms of our existing Delta Reserve cards.

Also of note is the ability (with the Delta Reserve) to request cabin upgrades. Now, on every Delta flight, we have the option to select upgrade requests to first-class, business class, and Delta Comfort+. Granted, without medallion status these requests are in the back of the upgrade line compared to Delta frequent flyers, but the chance now exists. They also threw in 2 Delta lounge passes for friends and family per year and some new, but still difficult, ways to earn medallion status.

The best change of all, however, is the new feature on all Delta cards that allows you to pay with miles. Starting at 5k miles for $50, you can select, in 5k increments, miles to hack off portions of your ticket cost. This actually isn’t a great redemption value at 1 cent per mile, but it opens up a new loophole that has made Delta my now exclusively flown airline.

Delta Loophole

I’m having an internal struggle with writing about this. The info is publically available if you know where to look, but I don’t want to contribute to its public proliferation. That’s how loopholes get shut down faster. So as a compromise to keep it more in-house I will post the info in our closed Facebook group. Please, if you could, let me know with a comment on the Facebook thread if you found this info useful. I would like to gauge if it’s worth the effort. Thanks for reading!

Hilton Ascend is Returning to Hilton Surpass!

Really Hilton? This was the design that screamed Aspire? It looks so much like a card that costs $355 more than its younger brother.
Really Hilton? This was the design that screamed Ascend? It looks so much like a card that costs $355 less than its older brother.

Well, it would seem that Amex reads TDWise and caught on that calling both their cards worth writing about Ascend and Aspire might be a bit confusing (read my previously written take on the Aspire and Ascend). Starting July 18th Amex is righting their alliteration wrongs and changing the Ascend’s name back to the Surpass! No more constant confusion with constant alliteration. *stomps foot while staring at everything Bonvoy* If the name similarities finally got to them, I would hope the card designs did as well and look forward to a new face of Surpass. (Fun fact, I’ll bet you an enthusiastic high five that you didn’t even notice I swapped the card names under the above images.)

 

The AMEX Hilton Card

Hilton Card Review for Military

This card didn’t try, so neither will I.

Get the Hilton card, get the sign-up bonus, product change to your third Aspire in 366 days. Not much else to see here.  Really, I don’t even have one for a picture.

Hilton silver status, I GUESS.

As always, please consider using our referral link to get yours.

The AMEX Hilton Surpass Card

Hilton Surpass Card Review for Military

This card used to be called the Surpass Card until Hilton refreshed their card lineup. Then they called it the Ascend Card until Hilton stumbled across TDWise and my gratuitous sarcasm showed them the error in their ways. It is now back to being called the Surpass Card, which avoids the constant confusion between it and its older brother, the Aspire. I, however, will leave in my sarcasm below as a testament to what one blog can do.

Surpass Card Benefits

The Ascend card, not to be confused with the Aspire card, because those names aren’t at all similar or confusable, has an exhaustive list of benefits:

…and it’s exhausted.

Instead of putting “Ascend” anywhere on the card, Hilton decided to make the design practically identical to the Aspire for ease of telling them apart

Seriously, the Aspire is the older brother of the Ascend that inherited a lopsided amount of “the good genes” and left the Ascend with genetic scraps.  All you need to know is the Ascend has a dope sign-up bonus and can (should) become an Aspire in a year and a day.  That’s literally it.  But I would be remiss if I asked for your patronage in clicking our referral link with a nothing-burger post, so the rest of this article will be spent mocking the Ascend “benefits.”  Enjoy.

Hilton Point Inflation

Well, I guess we’ll start with the main contributor to Hilton point inflation: a $95/year card that gives you 12x points per Hilton dollar spent, 6x points for restaurants, supermarkets, and gas, and 3x points for every other dollar.  So many points, so little spent to acquire them.  You’ll also be thrown the gold status bone, again, since you already have it from, you guessed it, the Amex Plat. Don’t want to pay foreign transaction fees? You don’t have to, just like every other card with an annual fee everywhere.

A Not-So-Free Night “Benefit”

Oh, what’s this? A free weekend night benefit? Why yes, a free Hilton weekend night, just for you Ascend cardholder.  You just have to spend a measly $15,000 a year on your card for it.  I did not typo that last zero, that’s at least 3 other minimum spends for a weekend Hilton night. It’s getting wild in here. You will, however, be able to get to your Hilton free night in some style with your priority pass benefit.  Just don’t travel too much with it, as it’s a priority pass with only 10 free visits per year.  I was unaware such a priority pass membership existed, but the Ascend managed to gut that benefit as well.

All told, the Ascend isn’t a bad deal for the occasional Hilton traveler.  That $95 fee can be easily overcome, but so can the $450 on the Aspire, which must just go to show you that this card exists for people afraid of high tier annual fees.

As always, please consider using our referral link to get yours.

The AMEX Hilton Aspire Card

Hilton Aspire Card Review for Military

The Hilton Aspire card. Or is it the Ascend card? No, I’m pretty sure the Aspire is the good one.  Is it?  What mnemonic did I come up with for this? Gosh, I can’t even remember the mnemonic. This alliteration trend in card names needs to die. (Update: It did. See the Surpass post for more)

Instead of putting “Aspire” anywhere on the card, Hilton decided to make the design practically identical to the Ascend for ease of telling them apart

Top Tier Card Offerings

In all seriousness, it took me the better part of a year to remember that the Aspire is the good one.  By good one, I, of course, mean the $450/year one. Right off the bat, without even needing to mention your active duty annual fee waiver, this card pays you to own it.  It does this by way of 2 major annual statement credits that total OVER the annual fee.  Unheard of until the Hilton Ascend.

The first being a hefty $250 airline credit, working in the same fashion as the Amex Plat, just $50 higher. The second is a $250 Hilton resort credit, working in the same fashion as the Bonvoy Brilliant hotel credit, except that it isn’t across all Hilton’s, just the resorts.

There’s even a $100 statement credit at the Waldorf and Conrad resorts PER BOOKING (slightly complicated, probably not very used).  That’s $500 reimbursed per year at minimum, $600 if you get your fancy Hilton on.  For a $450 annual fee that YOU DONT PAY. Just stop reading now and get the card and then come back and check out what else you get. I’ll wait.

Hilton Diamond Status AND A Free Night

Back? Good. Now that you have the Aspire, you have Hilton Diamond status.  Bam, highest tier Hilton as long as you have the card. Need an excuse to use that sweet new status now?  Hilton Aspire has you covered with a free weekend night, every year, including the first year! Are you hearing this? $500 in reimbursable credits, a free weekend night, and diamond status, every year! Gosh, this game is fun.

Pro-Tip

Do you have the Surpass or plain jane Hilton card? Make those upgrades at the 366-day mark and enjoy the vast bennies of Aspire life.  Be sure to get the Aspire before you upgrade and then you can double, or even triple, dip the Aspire bennies.  Remember Amex has a 5 credit card limit and the astute TDWise traveler will have a plan to fill those 5 slots according to their travel needs.

Other not as cool, but still sort of cool, card perks: 14x points for Hilton purchases, 7x points for restaurants, flights, and car rentals, 3x points for everything else (is it any wonder Hilton points are experiencing dramatic inflation?), another priority pass (same as Amex Plat), and all the insurances expected.

As always, please consider using our referral link to get yours.

The AMEX Bonvoy Brilliant Card

Bonvoy Brilliant Card Review for Military

Took them long enough.

What is “Bonvoy”?

This card was the SPG Luxury card for a short amount of complicated Marriott/SPG merger time. Why does this card have the word “Bonvoy” in the name?  Because Marriott, in their infinite wisdom, decided that “Bonvoy” was a terrific name to slap on the wild and haphazard ride of merging the SPG and Ritz Carlton Rewards programs with themselves.  It combines, sort of, the term Bon Voyage, roughly wishing someone a safe and enjoyable journey by boat. Since Marriott is a cruise line, it was the obvious choice. Brilliant.

This metal design has far superior in the hand feel compared to the lackluster SPG plastic.

$300 Annual Bonvoy Credit

While the merger may not have gone off with the streamline of a cruiseliner hull, it sure did launch some fantastic credit card options.  Enter: the AMEX Bonvoy Brilliant card. I jest, but honestly, I don’t care what they call it when it’s giving me $300 in SPG and Marriott property credits per year.  Notice it doesn’t work for Ritz Carlton, which has managed to remain separate but equal AND to retain their own high tier credit card through this merger. Anyways, that’s $300 each cardmember year (marked by account open date) that will auto reimburse charges you make to the card from participating Bonvoy properties.  Want free food on the property? Charge it to your room.  Want free whatever they do at spas? Charge it to the room.  Your room bill will be reimbursed if charged to this card up to $300.

Free Annual Bonvoy Night

But wait, there’s more!  You also get a free night at Bonvoy properties after every account anniversary if that room is worth 50k points or less.  There are some pretty great 50k point rooms in the Bonvoy portfolio, now free to you!  It’s like a 50k point signup bonus that doesn’t have a minimum spend and keeps coming as long as you have the card. No. Brainer.

So moving. So art.

Legacy SPG Card

Did you have a legacy SPG card from before the merger?  You now have a weird limited edition Bonvoy artsy designed card that can’t be applied for (this one isn’t brilliant though).  This weird Bonvoy art card gives you a free 35k point night annually and not much else.  Upgrade that bad boy to a Bonvoy Brilliant the day after your account open date anniversary and reap the above sweet rewards.  Pro Tip: get a Bonvoy Brilliant card first, then upgrade your weird Bonvoy art thing to a second Bonvoy Brilliant and double up on those recurring annual bennies.

Other Less Interesting Perks

Gold status with Bonvoy (acquired with Amex Plat), 6x points with Bonvoy purchases, 3x points with restaurants and flights, 2x points on everything else, 15 elite night credits, priority pass (acquired with Amex Plat), a complicated Ritz/St. Regis $100 property credit, yet another Global Entry credit, and all the insurances you’d expect with a high tier card.

As always, please consider using our referral link to get yours.

For those interested in the art and how the art was made into art

 

The AMEX Delta Gold Card

Delta Gold Card Review for Military

Gold is so bottom tier these days.

You get the Delta Gold card for the fan-freaking-tastic signup bonus of whatever they decide to offer at any given time (seriously, it changes almost monthly).  That’s about it.  It’s a $95 annual fee, waived the first year.  It gives you priority boarding and a first checked bag free with no foreign transaction fees and some purchase protections that, again, you probably won’t use.

Get this card, get the bonus, take some awesome Delta card trifecta pics for your blog, then realize you can only have 5 AMEX credit cards overall and in a year cancel it to make room for a better card.

As always, please consider using our referral link to get yours.

The AMEX Delta Platinum Card

Delta Platinum Card Review for Military

The AMEX Delta Platinum card, NOT to be confused with the AMEX Platinum card, has been confused at least twice at the Centurion Lounge front desk while I’ve been checking in.  Seriously, I’ve checked into a Centurion probably 10 or so times as of the writing of this post, and 20% of those times someone next to me attempted to gain entry with their Delta Platinum card.  I cannot imagine how often this happens for it to have happened twice next to me.  Don’t be that guy, you will take a walk of shame after your glimpse of the sweet, sweet lounge life from the wrong side of the velvet rope.

It hurt a little drawing that on top of such a legend

The Delta Platinum card is pretty awesome in the way of airline card offerings, which is a breath of fresh air if you just read through my Delta Reserve article.  It’s a $195/year card, putting it in an awkward middle ground between the slew of $95/year cards and the premium $450/year cards.  Let’s call it the Delta Comfort area, not quite first-class, but definitely a step above the main cabin, shared only by a select few tall individuals that value (need) those extra inches of legroom: AMEX PRG, and I think that’s it.  But just like Delta Comfort, it is an oh so sweet spot to sit on short domestic hops.

Sign-Up Bonus

Best feature? Frequent 70k bonus mile offerings for $3k spend in 3 months AND a $100 statement credit after your first Delta purchase.  I recommend a $7 drink on the flight to trigger it, giving you a free $93 and a free drink.

Delta Companion Pass

Second best feature? Another companion pass, baby.  This one isn’t as lavish as the Reserve companion pass as it is only valid for the main cabin, but it can still be worth a pretty penny for a free companion ticket anywhere in the US, round trip, every year you own the card (after first card anniversary).  On a $195/year card.  Even without an annual fee waiver, this is an easy win for any Delta traveler.

The new industry standard should just be all numbers on the back.

Fringe Benefits

Third best feature(s)? Priority boarding, first checked bag free, and no foreign transaction fees.  Really, anyone would do well with this card that flies Delta, just like anyone would enjoy those extra inches of legroom.  That’s typically the beauty of the awkward middle ground, it’s worth it to be there.

And Onto Things You Won’t Use

This one has a mileage bonus as well, 10k miles (and 10k MQM) for $25k spend per calendar year up to $50k, but as with every card spend bonus out there, this money is better spent on another cards’ sign up bonus.  Discounted lounge access at $29/person, which is silly to pay when you have an AMEX Platinum.  Also included is the standard secondary car rental insurance, baggage insurance, warranty extension, return protection, and accidental damage or theft insurance.

As always, please consider using our referral link to get yours.

The AMEX Delta Reserve Card

Delta Reserve Card Review for Military

All the blur.

For a $450/year premium card, the Delta Reserve has got to be the runt of the litter.  I can’t imagine why anyone in charge of marketing this hasn’t jumped on board the metal core, numbers on the back, fancy welcome package bandwagon yet but, man, it was like getting a run of the mill USAA card in the mandatory-pieces-of-flair department.  I don’t even have any cool pictures for you on this one, just an overly pixelated card front because, again, why aren’t the numbers on the back?  This might make me a little perturbed if I wasn’t, you know, getting this card for free and whatnot.

Delta Reserve Companion Pass

The Delta Reserve DOES come with a unique perk among the premium airline cards though (despite it NOT coming with other premium perks) called a companion pass.  This is a once a year voucher (after your first card anniversary) for you to take a companion with you, free of charge, on any booked flight in the continental US in either first class, Delta comfort, or main cabin. Not a bad deal considering the potential value you could get out of that.  It could absolutely justify the annual fee if you needed such justification.

At least the whole set is uniform in its blur, I guess.

Delta Reserve Lounge Access

It, like its competitors, grants you Delta lounge access, but unlike its competitors, it is not a lounge membership.  This means you cannot bring anyone else in with you (you can but its $29 per guest, max 2 guests), just yourself.  You should already have this perk with the AMEX Platinum but if you’re OCD like me you still want to collect all 3 of the premium airline cards (Delta, United, AA) because why not have two methods of entry to the lounge?

Sign-Up Bonus

Probably the most significant perk is the sign-up bonus, which sits at a healthy 40k miles (and 10k MQM) after $3k spend in 3 months.  You can also earn 15k bonus miles (and 15k MQM) after $30k spend in a calendar year up to $60k but that money is obviously better spent on other cards’ minimum spends. From time to time this bonus will increase as high as 70k miles so give it a bit to pop up if you have the time.

Fringe Benefits

There is also a concierge that probably isn’t as good as the AMEX Plat, but I haven’t tried it.  There is a first checked bag free on Delta flights but you probably get that with a CAC card at check-in anyways.  Baggage insurance, priority boarding, secondary rental car coverage (lame), no foreign transaction fees, and some sort of travel accident insurance.  And then there’s the standard additional year of warranty on things you buy, return protection, and purchase protection for damage or theft.

I’m a little hard on this card because there’s something to be said for presentation on a card with a $450/year price tag.  If it wasn’t for the companion pass I’m not sure I would recommend it over the other two major airlines but the bottom line is this card deserves a spot in your collection for the signup bonus (of course) and that companion pass.  I also enjoy completing sets of cards and this completed two sets for me.

As always, please consider using our referral link to get yours.