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One-Card Setup for Travel Rewards

TSlop
Valued Contributor

One-Card Setup for Travel Rewards

I've been casually debating with myself stepping down to a one-card setup for travel rewards, and the Venture card currently appears to be the best option. With a decent 2x base, travel partners, 2 free lounge passes per year (although useless to me until IAD opens), TSA credits, and a future upgrade path to the Venture X, it seems to me to be the best general travel card to dump all spend on in a single-card setup.

 

Anyone else have thoughts or recommendations on cards for a single-card travel rewards setup? I'm not really interested in the Amex Gold, since the credits are useless to me in offsetting the AF. The USB AR is appealing, but the base of 1x when not being able to use the mobile wallet, and the single year of lounge access, makes the Venture X appear (to me) to be a superior card at the moment. My CSP only really shines when it is part of a trifecta. My BoA PR doesn't have travel partners, and I'm only at the first tier of preferred rewards (it might be the top contender if I was at tier 2 or higher, but that is many years away for me).

 

*Please note that I don't want to debate if this is a good idea or not to stop maximizing rewards with my Chase trifecta and dropping to a single card. I'm merely looking for recommendations on the best travel cards to consider IF I were to go to a one-card setup. A one-card setup is always in the back of my mind, and my wife would absolutely love it if I didn't fret over maximizing credit card rewards anymore.


Message 1 of 8
7 REPLIES 7
longtimelurker
Mega Contributor

Re: One-Card Setup for Travel Rewards


@TSlop wrote:

The USB AR is appealing, but the base of 1x when not being able to use the mobile wallet, and the single year of lounge access,


The benefit (which is small compared to others, but 4 visits a year + 4 for a guest) does renew each year with the AF.   I agree the language used makes it seem a one-off, but...., from the FAQ: U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Benefits & Offers (myvisacardportal.com)

 

Q: What happens at the end of the initial 12-month Priority Pass Select membership?

A: Provided the Priority Pass Select membership benefit is still being offered by US Bank, and the Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite account is still open and in good standing, your Priority Pass Select membership will be automatically renewed for another year, without charge of a membership fee. If, however, the Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite account is closed for any reason, all memberships for that account in the Priority Pass Select program will be cancelled.

Message 2 of 8
TSlop
Valued Contributor

Re: One-Card Setup for Travel Rewards


@longtimelurker wrote:

@TSlop wrote:

The USB AR is appealing, but the base of 1x when not being able to use the mobile wallet, and the single year of lounge access,


The benefit (which is small compared to others, but 4 visits a year + 4 for a guest) does renew each year with the AF.   I agree the language used makes it seem a one-off, but...., from the FAQ: U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Benefits & Offers (myvisacardportal.com)

 

Q: What happens at the end of the initial 12-month Priority Pass Select membership?

A: Provided the Priority Pass Select membership benefit is still being offered by US Bank, and the Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite account is still open and in good standing, your Priority Pass Select membership will be automatically renewed for another year, without charge of a membership fee. If, however, the Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite account is closed for any reason, all memberships for that account in the Priority Pass Select program will be cancelled.


I learn something new every day, thanks! The language made me think it was only the first 12 months, so I never looked into it any further. I might have to dig into this benefit now and see what Priority Pass Select really offers, since our air travel will certainly be picking up in the future.


Message 3 of 8
wasCB14
Super Contributor

Re: One-Card Setup for Travel Rewards

Does Cap1 do transfer promotions? If you really want miles, it may be better to go with MRs/URs/TYs.

 

I have PH so I'd personally use my PR over VentureX.

Spend: BofA PR + WWFCR, BBP, Schwab Platinum, CFF+CF, Costco, Discover
Perks: IHG49, Hyatt75, Delta Platinum, "Old" SPG95
SD/AAoA Ballast: Arrival, CFU, DC
Upgrade/downgrade games: BCE, EDP
SUB: JetBlue, Amex Platinum
Mostly earning MRs and cash back as I use up hotel and airline points spread across several programs.
Message 4 of 8
TSlop
Valued Contributor

Re: One-Card Setup for Travel Rewards


@wasCB14 wrote:

Does Cap1 do transfer promotions? If you really want miles, it may be better to go with MRs/URs/TYs.

 

I have PH so I'd personally use my PR over VentureX.


I'm currently all in earning URs, so I'm no stranger to the point game. But if I dropped down to only using a single credit card, I'm not sure the CSP would outshine the Venture or Venture X. With the amount of spend that is non category, I'm thinking the Venture would pull ahead earning 2x on everything, even though those points are likely worth less than URs.

 

I'm not sure I could bring myself to ever ditch the trifecta, but I'm at least hoping to see what other people would choose in a one card travel setup and why. Somedays I find it fun knowing I'm maximizing spend with the trifecta and discover (the 4 cards that are permanently in my wallet right now), but other days I think it would be awesome to not worry about it and slap one card down on every purchase.


Message 5 of 8
digitek
Established Contributor

Re: One-Card Setup for Travel Rewards

I just saw this thread and know I'm late, but I've been thinking about this a lot lately, too. I'm going to rant a bit here I think, but I guess this is the spot for it and you all are the right audience for it.

 

I've been using the Altitude Reserve for over a year now with Samsung Pay on Samsung Galaxy phones that have MST. Samsung removed MST from the Galaxy 21 models forward, but it is still on all older Galaxies from the 20 down to the 7 or so. It lets you use Samsung Pay on POS terminals that don't support NFC by simulating a credit card to the magnetic swipe reader and works about 99% of the time on non-NFC terminals. With this setup I've been able to use the Altitude Reserve for almost all in person transactions except for a few cases where they have to phsyically take your card from you which are more rare now with COVID. About 90% are NFC enabled and I can use MST for the remaining 9%, with issues on maybe 1%. So it earns at x3 for practically everything in person, and redeemed for travel at x1.5 you are really getting 4.5% on all of it. It has some of the best benefits and insurance of any card out there including top tier travel insurance. Effective AF is an easy $75 since the $325 credit can now be used for travel or dining. Other major perk that is unique to it is no portals for redemption. You can book however you want with whoever you want and real-time-rewards will kick in for point redemption. Had a really bad travel portal experience during COVID where this is a big deal to me now. Changing plans made directly was very simple, booked through the portal was a nightmare.

 

It has one major blind spot and that is online shopping (excluding travel). It is not in person so can't use Mobile Wallet. Have tested and Google Pay on websites does not trigger the Mobile Wallet category. So with a 3% card you can cover that kind of spend, but there is kind of problem with that. I buy expensive stuff online every once in a while and AOD literally has no benefits all and my USAlliance card has benefits, but they pale in comparison to the Altitude Reserve's purchase protections and customer service when making a claim. Before I make the purchase I have to ask myself how much it is worth to have the AR's protections and deal with them if something goes wrong than the couple of bucks extra I'll make if I use the USAlliance card and its protections/claims process (which actually has a 1% FTF so if it is international I use AR for sure). I use the AR about half the time for stuff like this just because I am willing to pay a few bucks for the peace of mind if I am skeptical.

 

What I've realized is that even if I JUST used the Altitude Reserve for everything, I would be getting over 3% return rate even including the rare in-person or online stuff that I would be getting 1.5% on (1x earn rate base, but redeemed for travel is x1.5 so it is kind of a base 1.5% card). Just most of my spend is in on Samsung Pay compared to USAlliance card when I look at the distribution. I'd be getting probably in between 3.5-4% or so?

 

I'm not wanting to close all my other cards, but I've kind of wanted to just stop using them all and only use the Altitude Reserve. It already gets close to 80% I'd say.

- USAA Amex is only open because it is my oldest, gives 5% gas but this is literally like $10 a year over a 1.5% card

- Lowe's Amex - can use Samsung Pay with Altitude Reserve for 4.5% because this almost always in person

- Vantage West - I use for 5% Dining/Restaurants/Bars which is particularly bad for using Samsung Pay on a phone, but can use phone with AR about 50% of the time

- US Bank Cash+ - Utitlities can't use CC for autopay and charge fees makes it a pain to use and pretty much not worth it, 5% savings on Internet/Streaming is only a few bucks a year over a 1.5%, minimal savings

- Delta Plat - never use this except for Companion Pass, lounge access when traveling

- SDFCU - never use this any more

- Amex Amazon Prime - 5% on Amazon is too easy, I've only ever seen this card once when I first got it, will probably leave this one 

- USAlliance - 3% card with decent benefits that I've been using for anything else that I can't use AR on, which is about 10% of monthly CC spend.

 

I've spent a lot of time choosing the cards that I have and am proud of the line up, but I can probably take a pretty good guess at how much it will cost me in a year to not juggle all the cards and only use the Altitude Reserve for every single cc transaction.

 

I can also say that it might not make up for it 100%, but I would probably spend less/get more rewards from only using one card and not worrying about any thing else. I say spend less because I wouldn't have that subconcious reward optimizing/card deal/monthly credit thing driving you to spend on stuff when you aren't really even aware of it across all the different cards. I say get more rewards because they would all be consolidated to a single card, single pool, single purpose (travel) instead of being spread out over a bunch of different cards and redeemed whenever for a little cash back here and there. Also pretty important is that I'd only have to worry about spend on one card, one statement, everything super simplified to see in one account, bet the banks would hate this idea because have to bleed out spend/rewards when spread out across multiple accounts, has to be statistics to back this up.

 

If I'm honest with myself, I could close the USBank Cash+, SDFCU Premium Cash Back+, and Lowe's Amex without missing them much at all, might cost me like $20 a year in savings. I have to keep the USAA Amex it is my oldest by far and I've kept it in my car for gas and as a backup for years. The Amazon Amex is on business profile and too easy to use/redeem/manage to get rid of. Delta Plat is also on business profile and really easy because its only used when traveling for lounge access and companion cert and no reason to get rid of.

 

This leaves the Vantage West and USAlliance Cards, which are the only 2 that I actually carry with me. The AR is in my phone and I almost never use it in person for anything currently; I don't carry the actual card. If I dropped the Vantage West for Dining/Fast Food/Bars I could still use Samsung Pay/AR about 50% of the time for that category and only lose be losing .5%. I actually do use the AR with Samsung Pay for all Dining/Fast Food/Bars that I can because I try to get as many of those points as possible. That leaves the USAlliance and from what I can tell it would cost me about $100 a year to use the AR at 1.5% instead of that card at 3%. I only use it as backup when I can't use Samsung Pay in person, which is rare, or for online shopping that isn't Amazon, which is a decent amount of spend, but not sure it is enough to juggle it. I'd get a lot better purchase protections, insurance, customer service,  and web/phone app than the jinky outsourced USAlliance CU compared to US Bank. 

 

I just picked up the First Tech Odyssey Rewards strictly for PIN priority so didn't really include it, but from what I understand Altitude Reserve has nothing in this category, can't even request a PIN backup card. Can use Samsung Pay a lot when abroad, though, and then this Odyssey card for anything else.

 

I've always noticed that rewards cards are strange in that the higher spend you have the more its worth to juggle them all, but if you have a lot of spend then it becomes less worth your time to spend maximizing CC rewards and you just don't really care that much anymore. Not saying I'm getting to that level..........but if it will only cost me ~$150 a year in rewards to only use one card 99% of the time and not have to juggle so many I think it might be worth it. Like I'd only carry the AR card and use it 100% of the time at 1.5% if I couldn't use it with Samsung Pay on my phone. All other cards combined only save about ~$150-$200 as oppsed to either Samsung Pay with AR at 4.5% which is 80% of spend or AR card at standard 1.5% to cover the other 20% of spend. Delta Plat and First Tech Odyssey are singular purpose cards so they don't count.

 

It's been a good run, but things are winding down and I am looking to simplify. If that means costing me a little bit in rewards I am at the point where I am OK with that. I won't be closing any cards, but I'm going to do this. I'm going to consolidate all my spend on one card and see how it goes for a bit. I was thinking about doing this for a few months now and in writing this all out I have talked myself into it. I figure it will cose me about ~$10-15 a month in rewards if I go solely by the numbers, but I'm feeling that number is much smaller in practicality when you consider the benefits of only using one card and not having rewards and spending spread out across multiple cards. Pretty sure this will ultimately reduce spending and increase reward effectiveness through sheer act of single card simplicity. If nothing else I know it will make things really simple and easy for me to manage so hopefully it reduces some stress! 

 

Sorry for the long post, but kind of talking to myself out loud. I guess my point was that if there was ever a single card to use for travel, the AR with a Mobile Wallet is probably the closest thing to it and this post talked me into giving it a shot.

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Message 6 of 8
TSlop
Valued Contributor

Re: One-Card Setup for Travel Rewards

Whew, that was quite the post @digitek!

 

I'm still debating what I will do. It seems like we are fairly similar in thinking for why a one-card setup is appealing. As I've mentioned, I'm currently all in for gaining URs, with the goal to offset some costs for a Maldives trip in a few years. Despite that, the urge to simplify to a single card is always looming large in the back of my head. And with future travel, I'd like to keep that one card a travel card.

 

I'll have to take another look at the AR. I've always been interested in it, and the effective AF is below my CSP. The credits are definitely appealing with the (hopefully permanent) dining being included. I use mobile wallet wherever possible, but you make a good point about online purchases.

 

I probably wouldn't close any of my no AF cards, so I'd probably keep 5% going for Amazon purchases, and switch my CCR back to online to catch the rest. I won't need to carry those in my wallet anyway.

 

I'll keep thinking about this. I'm coming up to a (imaginary) crossroad soon. I'm about to close and reopen my CF to snag a CFF and another 20k URs. Since an AR appears to be a little fragile with applications, I'll have to decide if I should start building my relationship with USB and get their Go card now (I have a USB corporate card but I hear that doesn't count as a relationship) and then research the AR application criteria (1/12?).


Message 7 of 8
digitek
Established Contributor

Re: One-Card Setup for Travel Rewards

It is kind of a stange card to get because you have to currently have some kind of account with them. Have heard of getting a simple checking account and then one week later getting Altitude Reserve. Altitdue Go is a sweet card, but unfortunately points don't transfer to the Altitude Reserve. I got the Cash+ first to start my relationship with USBank a few years ago, but would probably get the Go now like your plan.

 

Their underwriting is really strict now and I think you are right about 1/12 so having a long term plan is a good idea. Maybe not even getting the Go and just establishing relationship with Checking will be better off since it won't be a new CC account or CC inquiry.

 

Sounds like you have an idea of what you want to do. Get UR's as much as possible until you fully switch, which is solid. Good luck with whatever you decide!

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