2019 resolutions: Big spend bonuses to hit

I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps it is too many years of failed #fitnessgoals (or those couple of years I successfully made it to the finish line of a marathon that inspired my continued complacency since) or maybe I just procrastinate long enough that my new year’s resolutions come just far enough in to the new year as to not qualify as the traditional January 1st goals. At any rate, when asked at a family gathering if I had any New Year’s resolutions, I answered in the negative. The truth was I figured that my credit card spending goals for 2019 were not ideal party conversation — but I certainly do have some goals for big spend bonuses this year.

First, should anyone do big spend bonuses?

We list the best big spend bonuses on this page:

Best Big Spend Bonuses

When the topic of “big spend bonuses” comes around, there is inevitably discussion about the huge opportunity cost involved. In the below analysis, I’ll be comparing the opportunity cost of spending on these cards versus the best ongoing cash back alternative available in my collective family wallet, the Alliant Cashback Visa’s 2.5% cash back (note that this card offers 3% back in the first year and 2.5% back in subsequent years) to determine the “cost” of the big spend bonus in each case.

However, you should also consider the opportunity cost versus the ability to spend towards new account welcome bonuses. The best way to amass miles and points quickly has long been (and likely will long be) new credit card welcome bonuses. Our Best Airline Credit Cards page alone lists a dozen cards that offer 50,000 miles or more with $3,000 (or less) in purchases required within 3 months. With just over $23,000 in spend one could earn 640,000 bonus miles from those offers — and that’s ignoring a couple of even larger offers that require $4K in purchases. It also totally ignores all of the transferable currency cards on the market. There is no doubt that new card bonuses offer huge returns on spend and without a doubt the quickest path to big rewards balances.

Of course, I don’t think it’s mathematically possible to get all of those bonuses within a short period of time as the Chase cards will be subject to 5/24, the American Express bonuses will be subject to lifetime language, the Bank of America bonuses will be subject to its 2/3/4 rule, etc.

However, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume what is true for me: going after these big spend bonuses will not affect my ability to go after new account bonuses. That is to say that I’ve found enough ways to meet spending requirements that I’m not giving up the opportunity for a new account by choosing these big spend bonuses. These are additional fruit to harvest in my case. The same may not be true for you: if you ordinarily have difficulty finding ways to meet minimum spend requirements, or you have tons of new cards you’d like to open, big spend bonuses might not make sense for you. It’s a calculation you’ll have to consider based on your spending patterns.

Big spend bonuses I resolve to go after

In no particular order, here are the big spend bonuses I plan to pursue:

1) AT&T Access More: Spend $10K, get 10K extra points

Opportunity cost vs 2.5% cash back card: $250

This one is an annual no-brainer for me — so much so that when I initially started outlining this post, I totally forgot about it. The AT&T Access More card has not been available for new applications for a couple of years now, but some have had success in product changing to it. A direct product change may no longer be possible, but this trick might still work.

The key card benefit is that it earns 3x points at “online retail and travel merchants”. That’s not quite 3x everywhere online, but it does award 3x at many online merchants.

For its big spend bonus, the card offers an extra 10K points when you spend $10K or more in your cardmember year. The great retention bonus I got on this card this year meant that I easily hit that requirement for my 2018-2019 cardmember year, but even without that bonus I will likely spend at least $10K online this year and come out of it having earned an effective 4x on those purchases — which is worth the $95 annual fee plus the $250 opportunity cost vs 2.5% cash back.

2) Radisson Rewards: 1 free US night per $10K spend up to $30K in purchases

Radisson Red Minneapolis – Studio with King Bed

Opportunity cost vs 2.5% cash back card: $250 per $10K ($500 this year)

Radisson Rewards is a program that doesn’t get much attention, and that’s kind of understandable: they just don’t offer that many upscale hotels in the United States. They do have a decent footprint in Europe, but without an easy path to free breakfast, they often get ignored in favor of Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott.

However, the Radisson Rewards credit card is one of the more underrated hotel cards in my opinion. While Radisson Rewards points are not incredibly valuable — our Reasonable Redemption Values lists them at 0.38 cents each — the main Radisson Rewards Premier credit card earns 5x everywhere. While that makes the earning rate unfavorable compared to my best cash back alternative, it only requires a slightly better than average redemption to come out ahead of a 2.5% cash back card.

Furthermore, I think the big spend bonus on this card makes the value proposition for this card: earn a free (domestic US night) for each $10K spent up to $30K. My current cardmember year ends soon. I’ll be completing $20K in purchases, which will give me 2 free nights plus 100,000 points (plus 40,000 points at renewal with the $75 annual fee). Between $20K in purchases and the anniversary points, I’ll end up with 4 free nights at a top-tier 70K property. Is it a shame that the free nights are limited to US properties? It absolutely is. Still, I have a redemption lined up that will work out nicely.

For my next cardmember year, I intend to spend at least $10K. When combined with the 50K points earned and 40K anniversary points I could have 2 top-tier nights in the US at an opportunity cost of $250 (what I could have earned with the Alliant cash back card). I know I can always put a weekend away to good use. If I find another specific situation in which multiple nights could be valuable enough for me, I’ll consider spending towards the $20K or $30K thresholds.

3) Hilton Honors Ascend: Free weekend night after $15K in purchases

Opportunity cost vs 2.5% cash back card: $375

I’ve recently hashed out some of my disagreement with Gary at View from the Wing over the debate between Hilton and Marriott and I clearly like Hilton.

With two Aspire cards in my household, we already get 2 free weekend nights per year. Putting $15K in purchases on a Hilton Honors Ascend card will earn us an additional weekend night.

Making those purchases at a US supermarket, where this card earns 6x, will also yield 90,000 points. That puts me within striking distance of the 95,000 points required for another night at a top-tier Hilton (or gives me enough points for 2 or 3 mid-range Hilton nights). I think that’s not a bad value for the spending requirement. Based on the Reasonable Redemption Value of 0.45c each, the 90K points earned are worth around $405. Depending on how you value the weekend night certificate and whether or not you find a better-than-average redemption for your 90K points, the return on your US supermarket spend could be quite good.

All that said, the return here versus using an Amex Gold card becomes debatable. That card earns 4x Membership Rewards at US Supermarkets on up to $25K per year in purchases (then 1x). Spending $15K at US Supermarkets on that card instead would yield 60,000 Membership Rewards points. Amex recently ran a targeted transfer bonus of 1K Membership Rewards to 3K Hilton points. If you’re able to take advantage of something like that, your $15K in purchases could yield as much as 180,000 Hilton points. That’s enough for 2 top-tier nights and it keeps the points flexible rather than tied up as a weekend night certificate (and that’s not considering more valuable uses of your Membership Rewards points). If you aren’t going to both max out that card’s cap and spend on this card, this big spend bonus probably isn’t worth it.

Other big spend bonuses that intrigue me

As you can see above, I’m not considering big spend bonuses on airline credit cards. That’s because I don’t highly value airline elite status and I can generally get better value by maximizing category bonuses on flexible currency cards than I can through airline card big spend bonuses.

However, there is one airline card with a big spend bonus that may eventually intrigue me: The Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard. That card offers 7,500 bonus points with $15K cardmember year spend + an additional 7,500 points with $25K cardmember year spend. That’s in addition to earning 1.5x everywhere. If you spend exactly $25,000 on this card, it earns 2.1 miles everywhere. Since Virgin Atlantic is an Amex transfer partner, Chase transfer partner, and Citi transfer partner, I’m not overly excited about a 2.1x return as I’d rather be earning a flexible currency at a similar (or in many cases better) rate. However, if I ever want to go to Necker Island, I’ll need help spending towards Virgin Atlantic Silver status, and this card can provide that help with 25 tier points per $2500 spent (up to 50 tier points per month). Spending $5K per month on this card diminishes its everyday spend, but might be worth it if I someday decide to go after a week with Sir Richard Branson. At this point, that isn’t in any immediate plans, so I’ll probably be giving this one a miss for a while, but I could imagine doing this eventually.

The other big spend bonus that is on my radar is that of the World of Hyatt credit card. That card offers a free Category 1-4 night each year with $15K in purchases. The card also offers 2 elite night credits per $5K spent. That might become intriguing if I ever decide to go after Hyatt status again. The problem here is that going after Hyatt status would involve either spending a huge amount of money on the card or spending at least some nights at Hyatt hotels without Globalist status rather than finding a friend who can let me borrow their Globalist status with a Guest of Honor reservation. The reality would likely be a combination of statusless nights spent and spend on the World of Hyatt credit card, but I’m still not sure I’ll go after this as long as the Guest of Honor system remains as-is.

Bottom line

Big spend bonuses aren’t for everyone. However, for those who can meet the spend without sacrificing other opportunities / bonus categories / etc, they can offer a decent value. In 2019, I only plan to go after three big spend bonuses, none of which are huge but all of which are valuable to me. Some will prefer to put spend on cards that earn status, but my spend will mostly be going towards free night certificates. Those come with their own drawbacks in terms of expiration and limitations — so my next resolution is going to be to use those certificates towards good value without letting them get close to expiration.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

More articles by Nick Reyes »

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MARK OSTERMANN
Guest
MARK OSTERMANN

Just an FYI if the Globalist adds your Hyatt number to the Guest of Honor booking you should still get the credit for the stay. My wife stayed at Baha Mar under one and the Grand Hyatt brand is properly checked off. We usually stay under my account so that is her only Grand Hyatt stay.

https://milestomemories.boardingarea.com/hyatt-guest-of-honor-award-bookings-who-gets-credit/

Biggie F
Guest
Biggie F

Hasn’t the Ascend card become a bit of a ratchet? I mean, when it was a Citi Hilton Honors card, the free weekend night was at $10,000 spend. The shock of it going up to $15,000 with the transition to Amex was mitigated by the fact that for many of us during 2018, getting to $15,000 could also get us to $10,000 (with proper timing) for legacy night from Citi. Two free nights for $15,000 made than an easy call. Also, Amex has been giving out the free nights pretty quickly after you hit the spend, whereas Citi didn’t cough up the free night until after you had paid another AF.

Think of the implication of this last point. You no longer need to pay the AF for the Ascend (the way you did on the $10,000 annual Citi weekend night merry-go-round.) You already have an Aspire card (or two). In your reasonable, assiduous calculations above, you don’t factor in the AF for the Ascend. But what if you were just to dump the Ascend, save the AF, and forego the $15,000 spend on the Ascend?

Or, more to the point, what if *I* were to dump the Ascend now? True, it did pop out a few nice spend offers, but maybe those would still show on Aspire if I/you/we were without the Ascend…?

MARK OSTERMANN
Guest
MARK OSTERMANN

I wouldn’t drop it I would downgrade it in the hopes of getting an upgrade offer on the no fee card.

I am okay with the increase to 15K from the citi card since the citi card had no good bonus categories where the ascend does. You can easily ms the 15K at the grocery store rack up a ton of points and the free night. With the Citi card at the end of 10K you were left with 30K points and a free night. With the Ascend you end up with 90K and a free night after 15K in spend at 10K you would still have double the citi card’s outlay at 60K. I think the output is worth the increase and I plan to go for it along with the Hyatt offer every year.

Steve
Guest
Steve

I wish people – bloggers in particular – wouldn’t say “you can easily do X and Y” when those things really aren’t available for a great many people. Not everyone has a grocery store where you can buy cards that allow easy liquidation options. Certainty it’s an “I can easily” and that’s fair enough, but it’s hardly something anyone can do if they lack the right store chains.

MARK OSTERMANN
Guest
MARK OSTERMANN

Fair point – I would assume most people reading about large spend bonuses are in that boat though – no? Otherwise you are better off focusing on welcome offers like Nick says.

Steve
Guest
Steve

With respect, that seems like odd logic, Mark. It’s like saying that the only people who would be reading to get this information are the people who already know this information.

The analysis could be “if you’ve got a grocery store that does MS at 6 points per dollar, this probably works. If you’re gonna be doing MS at 3 points, though, the value may not be there, relative to a 2% card or the following other cards, if you have them.”

MARK OSTERMANN
Guest
MARK OSTERMANN

Well said Steve – I can’t argue with you there. I will keep it in mind going forward of how to better word things so they are no so generalized. Thanks for the good discussion 🙂

Are there any cards that you value hitting the big spending bonuses on or are considering?

Steve
Guest
Steve

It’s all very YMMV, isn’t it? Like you, I have the Hyatt card. I used it to get the night at $15k and I hemmed and hawed on MSing to Globalist, but finally did it. I did $50k though befrugal—>GCM—>WM. Was it worth it? Would my Citi DC card have been better? I both value and hate these questions and uncertainties. Would $1000 cash be better, or will a week in a suite at the GH Kauai at winter holiday time soothe all self-doubt? I know it will make the gf smile, and that’s worth a lot.

I also have the Ascend and will probably make the $15k spend, even at only 3 points per. The opportunity cost, strictly speaking, isn’t 2%, but that minus 1.2% (or whatever you value 3 Hilton pts at) and a room night, and I guess I can live with that. It helps a lot when Amex gives you 20,000 extra points for your Ascend spend and 40,000 extra points for your Aspire, as they did this last quarter. If only they did that all the time…

Odd to say, but part of my own calculations is that sometimes I say, crap, I don’t know if I have the vacation time to actually use all these nights and benefits before they expire. Having Globalist and Hilton Diamond from Aspire ends up feeling like, can i actually use these both to make it worth it?

Which then leaves me saying, no, sorry little Radisson Rewards. Since your card abandoned the second night free perk and your bonuses are US-only nights, you are the runt of the litter. Bonus spend here is harder to justify with having all the above already lined up. But maybe it would be worth it if it was all I had.

MARK OSTERMANN
Guest
MARK OSTERMANN

I am in the same boat with you on Radisson. I need to get a third option going since IHG and Marriott are dead to me but I don’t really want to allocate any spend to it. I may just grab a bonus and then collect the anniversary points from the annual fee until the points are needed. The card offers decent returns but there are so many other options.

I don’t look at status from Hilton as much since it comes via their credit card so it seems like just a plus for having it. It really doesn’t factor into my calculations of the value of their credit cards either – just a bonus. I treat PP memberships much the same since everyone gives them away these days.

So I guess I would say the Hyatt status is the only one you are spending time or energy on so I wouldn’t stress about it too much.

But I am also not into looking at opportunity costs because a majority of the time we are taking the better opportunity and getting a return of over 2%.

Biggie F
Guest
Biggie F

Good point re downgrading… will fish for an offer/waiver (since I ended up putting close to $20,000 on card in 2018), then downgrade if nothing forthcoming.

And, yeah, count me in on the Hyatt spend, too, since simultaneously I’ll be racking up night credits toward Globalist.

Which, semi-coincidentally, is sort of the point. You have to figure out where you are in all of this for any of these rules-of-thumb to work for you. A lot of the value of high spend on a card depends on “lifestyle” (not my favorite term, but there it is). Our family spend is no longer at grocery stores, and I’m not into MS. Whereas I know you are not interested in chasing hotel status … but it’s a big deal for us. Same thing “internally”: Once upon a time it meant a lot for me to be an AA Executive Platinum (or, more to the point, its precursor, a US Chairman’s Preferred), so I would hold two Barclays airline cards and spend on them for EQMs. Now I have shed Barclays like a snake shedding skin. Or have they (and AA) shed me? Anyhow…

MARK OSTERMANN
Guest
MARK OSTERMANN

I do love the new Hyatt card and how it makes reaching status easier. Even people who don’t stay often can pretty easily snag two Lounge Certs at 20 nights via the 5 nights from the card plus some earned from spend. Throw in a few award stays and you are pretty much there.

toomanybooks
Guest
toomanybooks

Maybe I missed it in your post, but there is something else with the Hyatt card.

You get a cat 1-4 night every year on renewal in addition to the one for $15K spend. And when you get to 30 nights with Hyatt, you get a third cat 1-4 from WOH. Then at 60 (hard for many people to reach, sure), you get a cat 1-7.

This strikes me as a great proposition. I know some people say that getting top value out of a cat 1-4 night is difficult, but there are some decent possibilities out there IMO. For me the cat 4 Hyatt Regency Chicago on Wacker is an excellent place to put up visiting family/friends and it can go over $500 a night (Hello, National Restaurant Show in May!), with lots of suites.

Hyatt had a great stacking promo in the fall allowing cat 1 redemptions (which count for status) with a very nice rebate of points. I know folks who accumulated a lot of nights for very few points expended, net.

Agree on Radisson. Free nights x 3 at $10K spend each is highly underrated. But then again, I live near a nice Radisson Blu.

If I lived in Superior, MT, it would be a totally different story.

MARK OSTERMANN
Guest
MARK OSTERMANN

I know it is only a Hyatt Place but I really enjoyed the Cat 4 HP Marathon and it offers a lot of value since everything is expensive in the Keys. Also enjoyed the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress which I think is expensive for Orlando but that is the perfect reason to use a free night cert.

5150d
Guest
5150d

+! for comparing to the ALLIANT Cash Back Visa. 2 1/2%. Love this card.

MSer
Guest
MSer

The value of the Ascend card only really kicks in with $40K spend and earn Diamond status. I view the weekend night as an offset to the $95 AF.

Everyone should have an Amex Gold…or two.

Amex Delta Reserve w/$60K spend at 2x is marginally worthwhile if it helps get you over the Diamond status hump. (Although this will be the last year I bother since Skypesos are so terrible). Can trade the ability to gift gold status to mostly offset the $450 AF.

Gerhardt
Guest
Gerhardt

For the AT&T Access card, are you just using that at Amazon/retail since Plastiq no longer works for 3x? Considering going for it, but don’t want to restart the clock for her TYP cards.

Also does the clock restart as soon as you request a conversion or when it actually converts? I’ve started the conversion to the regular Access card and am wondering if it’s already too late.

Thanks for any input!