The key to much of my travel right now is a mix of factors, my normal travel builds upwards of 100,000 air miles a year, this year is likely to surpass that number. Miles also come from purchases through online shopping portals set up by airlines, dining programs, and seasonal bonuses on flights, purchases and more. Biggest of all of the point earners is my credit card earnings.
Signing up for credit cards is a huge source of miles that I use to travel the world in premium class. December saw the addition of both the Citi ThankYou Premier card and the Delta SkyMiles Gold card. Both of the minimums were reached very quickly due to a lot of business travel at the end of 2015. Since I don't plan to sign up for any more cards for a few months, what are going to be my daily drivers for the near future.
In my wallet currently is what I think is a really good combination for normal spending behavior. There are three cards that stick with me all the time. The Citi ThankYou Premier card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex card. These three are the big earners and put points in the right spot for me. Arguably the Citi ThankYou points program is still lacking when is comes to having a major US Airline partner. The expectation from many is that American Airlines will be added as a transfer partner once the changes to the AAdvantage program are completed in the coming months.
The way I use these cards is under the expectation that Citi will add American Airlines as a partner soon.... of course if that doesn't pan out, then there are plenty of other transfer partners to take advantage of with ThankYou points. When spending I use the Citi ThankYou Premier card for all of my travel expenses, this category earns 3 points for every dollar spent, this is much better than the Chase Sapphire card earning 2 points per dollar in the same category. Also keep in mind that the Citi ThankYou card has bonus on gas purchases as well, where the Chase card does not cover this category.
As for that Chase Sapphire card, the bonus on restaurants is the same as the Citi ThankYou card. In this case I go for the Chase Sapphire card, this diversifies where my points are earned. Admittingly, resaurants are not a big part of my life, so this tends to be a low spend, where travel is a big part so those points add up much faster.
The last category is the everyday spend, this covers everything that doesn't land in a bonus category. For this type of spending, I make use of the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex card. This card only earns 1 point per dollar spent, as does all of the other cards. The place that this pans out for the best is that SPG has the largest number of transfer partners, something like more than 30 different airlines. SPG also has the amazing perk of giving you 5,000 extra miles to any transfer of 20,000 miles. This came in very handy when I needed points in my Alaska Airlines account, as every 20,000 mile increment gives 5,000 miles. Since I needed 50,000 miles, I transferred 40,000 miles from my SPG account and was given the extra 10,000 as bonus miles. You really can't beat that kind of a bonus.
Those are the cards I have in my wallet at the moment. When I get a new card, that makes its way into my wallet until I hit the minimum spend on it, then I pull it out and stick with these three again. These are pretty much my baseline cards, they never exit my wallet. Do keep in mind that Starwood Hotels is starting the process of merging with Mariott, so keep an eye out for news on what is going to happen with Starwood's loyalty program. Likely this is at least a year away, so I wouldn't fret about it for the time being. Just be aware that this program may change in the future and it may not be for the best, so keep an eye on it.