Deciding on my next points and miles credit card

A few months ago, I signed up for the American Express Starwood Business Card. At the time, the card was offering up to 35,000 Starpoints after meeting the initial spending requirement. I applied on the last day of the offer, April 5, and my wife and I are close to earning the full 35,000 point bonus. So I am in search of my next points and miles card. 

I am looking for a business card

I am currently in violation of the Chase 5/24 rule which makes me ineligible for the vast majority of Chase rewards cards. Because I am in the process of accumulating points and miles for a return to Europe next summer, I am very interested in acquiring the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. I do not want to delay my eligibility any longer than necessary, so I do not want to open any more credit card accounts until I come into compliance with the 5/24 limitation. The good news is that business cards from several banks do not count against this restriction since those cards never hit your personal credit report. Two of these issuers are American Express and Citibank and both have attractive business card offers at the moment.

American Express Delta SkyMiles cards

American Express is currently offering the highest ever sign-up bonuses on its Delta card offerings including two business card products. 

  • Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you make $4,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 4 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 4 months. Special offer expires on 7/5/17.
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card: Earn 10,000 MQMs and 70,000 Bonus Miles after you make $5,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 4 months. In addition, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 4 months. Special offer expires on 7/5/17. 

I drained my and my wife's SkyMiles accounts for this year's trip to Europe, so either of these offers would be a great way to jumpstart rebuilding those balances. The question is which offer is better for me?

I do not fly enough to worry about qualifying for status with an airline, so the 10,000 MQMs with the Platinum card have no value for me. Because I hold the personal Delta Platinum card, I already receive all the card benefits of either business versions of the card, the difference in benefits between the Gold and the Platinum version are similarly unimportant. The question essentially comes down to the value of the sign-up bonus versus the spend requirement.

Amex Delta cards: SkyMiles/$ of Spend and Return

Amex Delta cards: SkyMiles/$ of Spend and Return

There are two ways to consider this. First, how many points would I earn per dollar of spend? The table to the left shows the total points earned for each card upon completing initial spend including the points earned on the spend itself (1 SkyMile/dollar). Assuming I make a Delta purchase as part of the initial spending in order to earn the statement credit, that Delta purchase would earn double SkyMiles. For the Gold card, I would earn 64,050 points for spending $4,000, $50 of that with Delta. That comes to 16.01 SkyMiles/$ of spend. For the Platinum card, the numbers are 75,100 SkyMiles for $5,000 of spend, $100 of which with Delta, for 15.02 SkyMiles/$ of spend. From a "spend efficiency" standpoint, the Gold card is the better offer. The extra 1,000 miles from the Platinum card is not a bad opportunity, but spending the extra $1,000 would effectively earn 11 SkyMiles/dollar. For me, that $1,000 is better spent in pursuit of the next signup bonus.

An alternative analysis is the effective return on initial spend. Each Delta SkyMile is valued at 1.2 cents per the June valuations by The Points Guy. As part of my initial spend, I would make a Delta purchase to earn the available statement credits. (As noted, I assign no value to the Platinum card MQMs because these are no use to me. If MQMs benefit you, you would need to consider how to value these miles.) For the Gold card, the total signup value is $818.60 for a return of 20.5%. The Platinum card returns $1,001.20 of value or 20.0%. As with spend efficiency, the incremental spend required for the Platinum card is less beneficial than the spend required for the Gold card.

For both analyses, the Gold card comes out slightly ahead and frees up $1,000 for other points-earning opportunities. The good news is that American Express tends to have special offers on its Delta cards fairly regularly, so I can probably get one card now and the other during the next promotional period. If I opt for a Delta card for my next new card, I will go with the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card. However, this is not the only attractive current promo from American Express.

The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express OPEN

The Blue Business Plus Credit Card offers 20,000 bonus Membership Rewards points

The Blue Business Plus Credit Card offers 20,000 bonus Membership Rewards points

Last month American Express launched the Blue Business Plus Credit Card. Via links through affiliates such as One Mile at a Time, the card offers 20,000 Membership Reward points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of card membership. This sign-up bonus is low, but the card does not carry an annual fee. What makes the Blue Business Plus Credit Card especially attractive is the 2x Membership Rewards points per dollar the card offers on the first $50,000 of spend annually. For categories that do not offer bonus points, this card would be a lucrative choice. 

Obviously, neither the points per dollar of initial spend nor the return on the sign-up bonus are competitive with the Delta card offers. However, for every $1,000 of non-bonused spend going forward, I would earn an additional 500 Membership Reward points. With each point worth 1.9 cents, the card returns 3.8% on everyday spend, an incremental return of 0.95% over the possible 1.5x points of the Amex EveryDay Preferred Card. The package is attractive, but just how attractive?

For me comes things come down to whether I have a short-term or long-term perspective on points accumulation. Does the sign-up bonus - which may not last long - entice me to move this card to the top of my list? I think I have sufficient points and miles for next year's trip, so that would favor the steady but quicker accumulation of points from daily spending. Another factor is how many new cards I may get in the coming year that would divert most of my spend in pursuit of a large signup bonus. Honestly, I need to do a deeper analysis to estimate how many points I would likely earn from this card versus my Amex EveryDay Preferred Card. 

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

For a limited time with the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®, Citi is offering 60,000 American AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months of card membership. I previously had the personal version of this card when the signup bonus was only 50,000 miles so this is a nice bump. The card does carry a $95 annual fee but that is waived in the first year. The card offers some valuable benefits:

  • Preferred boarding on American domestic flights
  • First checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, as well as business expenses at certain telecommunications and rental car merchants, and at gas stations
Citi AAdvantage cards: AAdvantage Miles/$ of Spend and Return

Citi AAdvantage cards: AAdvantage Miles/$ of Spend and Return

The card is very efficient in initial spend at 21 AAdvantage miles per dollar. This surpasses the Delta Gold card by over 30% due to the lower spending requirement and the American miles are slightly more valuable than Delta miles. With a value of 1.4 cents per mile, the signup bonus is worth $840. The signup value return is higher than the Delta product even though Citi does not offer a statements credit. Combined with the miles earned by spending $3,000, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® returns a fantastic 29.4% on initial spend! That return would be slightly better by putting my wireless charges on the card.

I have a moderate balance of American AAdvantage miles, a little more than enough for a one-way business class ticket to Europe. Adding 60,000 miles would put me very close to a second ticket. Living in Atlanta, flying internationally with American and oneworld partners is a little more involved than with Delta and SkyTeam airlines, but, ultimately, I am fairly agnostic on airline alliances so long as I can get to Europe in a lie-flat seat. Another positive is that I only have to spend $3,000 to earn the bonus. While that won't save months, it means I can move onto the next bonus opportunity that much quicker. The more I think about it, the more I find myself leaning strongly toward applying for this card. I have had good luck with business card applications with Amex, but I have not applied for a Citi business card, so hopefully that would go just as smoothly.

So which card to get?

That is not an easy question. I would love to have all three cards, but I don't engage in manufactured spend, so I only pursue one signup bonus at a time. The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® offers a great combination of spend efficiency, return and unlocking my existing AAdvantage mileage balance for a second ticket. This would mean missing another round of enhanced bonuses on Delta cards, but those will likely come around again later this year. Finally, I would hate to miss out on the signup bonus on the Amex Blue Business Plus Credit Card, but the most attractive feature of that card is the ongoing 2x points on all spend. Even without a bonus, I intend to get that card. I plan to decide this weekend and apply for one of the three, so I will let you know which way I go!