Assessing my mom’s credit card strategy

I recently wrote a post about offering some advice to my brother about credit card annual fees. Similarly, my mom recently asked me what I thought should be her next card.

So like any normal son, I told her that I would write an entire blog about the question. She is also (probably) my only consistent reader, so I have to give her some reason to keep on coming back!

First, assessing her current situation

My mom is in a particularly envious situation as she has only signed up for one credit card in the past 24 months. In other words, she is only at 1/24, on Chase’s ‘5/24’ count.

I knew that she had taken advantage of the Chase Sapphire Reserve 100,000 points sign-up bonus [a little less than] two years ago, but I didn’t realize that was it! While this make things all the better for this post, it was a bit disappointing to think about all the points my mom had been missing out on.

Chase Sapphire Reserve and Gold Delta Skymiles card from american express

My mom does carry the Ink Business Preferred card as an authorized user, but we are going to assume she can get that taken off her credit report. So that leaves us with an almost clean slate of cards to apply for (in the sense she can apply to as many Chase cards as she wants — something I could only dream of).

Next, we determine a strategy

When my mom first texted me, she asked me what I thought about the new Marriott card. If you read my previous post, this card is obviously being talked about within my family quite a bit — but not necessarily for bad reason.

I think this card has some awesome benefits, that may well justify the card in itself, but right now the card is especially appealing because of its 100,000 points sign-up bonus. Those points are worth a few hundred dollars depending on how much you value Marriott Rewards, but that increased sign-up bonus is only going to last until July 12, so it’s worth the consideration right now.

But there are a few specific reasons why I would first go after more flexible award currencies:

  • Flexible awards not only have a higher value, but they also retain a higher value. The awards are transferable to a set amount of travel currencies, which protect you in the event that one of those specific currencies were to decrease in value.
  • Specific points currencies run the risk of decreasing in value after certain events (cough* merger *cough)
  • Playing off the last point, the specific points currencies essentially pigeon-hole your travel options into one airline/hotel.

So as far as a credit card strategy, I will recommend that she focus on maximizing her options with the one flexible points currency that she has already committed to, Chase Ultimate Rewards. And more specifically, she should focus on maximizing her daily spending bonuses.

Given that she is under the 5/24 limit, my mom has an incredible opportunity to load up on the Chase trifecta.

Laying out the plan

I think the best option is pretty simple, but it may not seem like the most sexy one from the start.

Chase Trifecta

One of the deadliest combos of credit cards on the market right now:

By adding the two Freedom cards, she would be maximizing her daily earning with Chase, then also have room to apply for other Chase cards, like the new Marriott card or Hyatt card. I do think that the increased sign-up bonus will come back eventually, I would definitely recommend applying for it now while the bonus is so high.

park hyatt paris vendome
Suite at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome

With just the Chase trifecta in her pocket my mom would get the following:

  • $300 ($150 from each Freedom card) or 30,000 Ultimate Rewards after $1,000 ($500 for each) in spend in the first 3 months
  • 3x points on travel and dining (Sapphire Reserve)
  • 5x points on rotating categories, which are currently on purchases at gas stations, Lyft, and Walgreens (Freedom) up to $1,500
  • 1.5x points on all other purchases (Freedom Unlimited)

Not only do I think that my mom will be able to max out the Freedom bonuses every month, but I also know she is earning merely 1x back on many purchases. With the Freedom Unlimited she will be automatically earning at least 1.5x back on all her purchases — so why not!

On top of the Trifecta..

On top of the two Freedom cards, I would then recommend getting the Chase cards that do fall under the 5/24 rule. Taking an example of the Marriott card (but unlike the Hyatt card), she will not be accepted for the card once she hits the 5/24 mark. So before she gets over that mark I will advise her to cash in on any bonuses that might seem enticing.

And from there, there are a lot of great other options that I think may be a bit out of my mom’s bounds for now. She is a bit more cautious when it comes to credit cards then me, but I will definitely have her follow my credit card strategy as I diversify from Chase Ultimate Rewards.

I am personally sitting in a position where I am consistently straddling the 5/24 mark — in other words, as soon as I drop below the 5/24 mark, I pick up another Chase card and am right back to being restricted. Once I finish my trifecta, and pick up a few more Chase business cards I will begin to look at American Express plentiful options.

The Blue Cash Everyday card has specifically caught my eye with cash back and grocery stores and gas stations. A bonus spend area where Chase lacks. But there are plenty of options around that.

Bottom Line

So, ultimately, I think my mom should focus on maximizing her spend with Chase Ultimate Rewards first. She has already built a nice base with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, so why not continue to earn points at an even better rate — and she’ll also get 30,000 points on top of that in the process.

From there, she can then go after the really great Chase cards that are offering increased sign-up bonuses like the new World of Hyatt credit card or the Marriott Rewards credit card. I think this also fits her relatively cautious spending habits. We’ll see though, she may have some select things to say and we may be updating the plan. I’ll keep you all in the loop!


Tucker is an avid points and miles enthusiast. Being fully involved in the world of credit cards and frequent flying for only a few years now, he brings a very fresh and unique perspective to the world of travel.

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