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Credit Card Strategy: The Cards I Plan To Get Via Upgrades & Product Changes


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On Friday I wrote about the three credit cards that I’ll be applying for in the coming weeks and months, and I also mentioned that there are two further credit cards that I’d love to add to my portfolio but that I won’t be applying for. Instead, I’ll be upgrading/product changing two of my existing credit cards and hopefully getting these cards without any pulls on my credit file. This post is about those two cards.

Why I’m Upgrading/Product Changing

There are two reasons why I’m happy to upgrade/product change rather than submit new applications:

  1. I’ve already said that I plan to apply for three new credit cards and those applications will result in three hard pulls on my credit file. Applying for yet more credit cards shortly after those applications would see more credit pulls hit my file and significantly increase the risk of those applications being declined. I’d prefer that didn’t happen.
  2. One of the major reasons people prefer to apply for new credit cards rather than upgrade existing cards is because a new application usually offers a nice welcome bonus while upgrades often do not. With one of these target cards, however, I have reason to believe that, with patience, I’ll be offered a lucrative upgrade bonus. The second card isn’t currently offering a welcome bonus at all (at least not one that I care about).

Essentially, I don’t think I’ll miss out on much by upgrading/product changing, but by not pushing through two more credit card applications, I’ll save my credit file from two hard pulls.

The Hilton Honors Aspire Credit Card

Why I Want The Card

I already hold a couple of Marriott Bonvoy credit cards, I hold an IHG Rewards Club credit card and I’ve already said that I plan to get the World of Hyatt credit card, so it may seem a little strange that I now want to add the $450/year Hilton Honors Aspire Credit Card to my portfolio too. Rest assured, there’s reasoning behind what may appear to be madness.

The Hilton Honors Aspire Credit Card offers more points for Hilton stays than any other card on the market (14 points/dollar) and while that’s certainly very attractive, it’s the benefits of the card that are most appealing to me. More importantly, it’s the benefits of the card that make in an economically viable option for me to hold.

Aside from key benefits like a $250 airline fee credit, Priority Pass Select membership, and purchase protection (none of which I need), the Hilton Honors Aspire Credit Card also offers the following:

  • Complimentary top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status
  • A free weekend night reward valid at most properties in the Hilton portfolio every year
  • $250 annual credit valid at Hilton Resorts worldwide
  • $100 annual credit valid on stays of 2 nights or more at Waldorf Astoria & Conrad properties worldwide.

These four benefits alone are worth more than the $450 annual fee to me.

Pandemics aside, I usually travel to Asia at least a couple of times a year and it’s in Asia that travelers often find that Hilton’s Diamond status gets the best recognition – good upgrades, good executive lounges, and fantastic service are just three of the things that top-tier guests can expect…and that’s on top of the 100% bonus points and 4 pm late checkouts that Diamond status guests receive too.

It’s hard to put a figure on how much Diamond status is worth (it depends on the number of stays and the length of those stays) but I’d expect it to get me no less than $15 in added value per night.

The free weekend night that the Hilton Honors Aspire Credit Card offers is one of the easiest free night awards to use because it isn’t restricted to hotels of a certain category – it’s valid at almost all properties in Hilton’s extensive portfolio (there’s a small list of excluded properties). Even if I was to use this award on a staycation at home in California or here in London, I’d get at least $200 of value out of this benefit every year.

The $250 annual resort credit is valid at approximately 235 Hilton Resorts worldwide and with 110 of those resorts located within the United States and 81 of these located in destinations I often visit or would like to visit, I’d easily use up this benefit every year. This is a benefit that I value at face value.

The $100 statement credit that’s valid at Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties would work well for me because I can’t remember the last time a year passed by without me staying at one or both of these brands. Conservatively, I’d expect to get at least $50 of value out of this benefit but in reality, it would almost certainly be closer to face value.

Leaving aside the great earnings, the airline fee credits, the Priority Pass membership, and a host of other things that the Hilton Honors Aspire Credit Card offers, I feel confident that four key benefits will see me cover the annual fee every year. In practice, I expect the card to offer me a lot more than that so it makes sense to add it to my portfolio.

My Plan

The Hilton Honors Aspire Credit Card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 150,000 points after a successful applicant spends $4,000 on the card in the first 3 months of card membership, and that’s a bonus I value at a $600. Ordinarily, that would be a hard bonus to give up, but I’m not sure that I’ll have too.

Up until April 2019, I held the entry-level Hilton Honors credit card (which is a great card for anyone getting started in the miles and points world) but then Amex offered me 150,000 points to upgrade to the Hilton Honors Surpass card and that was an offer I couldn’t resist.

I still hold the Surpass card today and with American Express currently sitting on a colossal number of Hilton Honors points, I fully expect to be offered another big bonus to upgrade to the Aspire card at some point in the next 6 months. Yes, the upgrade bonus may not be as high as 150,000 points this time around and I may have to show a bit of patience before an upgrade bonus is offered, but I’d rather wait a while and take a lower bonus than risk a 4th credit card application in what will be, for me, a relatively short period of time.

The Citi Double Cash Card

Why I Want The Card

The no annual fee Citi Double Cash Card was a card I held in my portfolio back in the days when the 2% cash back that it earns on all purchases (1% cash back when a transaction is made and 1% when that transaction is paid for) couldn’t be converted to Citi’s ThankYou points. In those days, cash back wasn’t a big focus of mine and, after a period of inactivity, Citi closed down my account without warning and the card disappeared from my wallet (that was a tough way to learn a very simple lesson!)

Cash back still isn’t a big focus for me but because I hold the Citi Premier Card, the cash back that the Citi Double Cash Card earns can now be converted to a currency I find useful (Citi ThankYou Points). This card would be a lot more useful to me this time around.

I value ThankYou points at 1.5 cents each so, as 1% cash back converts to 1 ThankYou Point, the uncapped 2% cash back this card would offer me would effectively see me earning 2 ThankYou points per dollar. That’s an effective return of 3 cents or 3%.

With the Citi Double Cash Card in my wallet, I’m guaranteed never to earn less than an effective 3% back on any transaction I make in the US (the card charges foreign transaction fees so I would never use it outside of the US) and that’s a very good reason to add it to my portfolio.

My Plan

I currently hold an old Citi ThankYou Preferred Credit Card (it’s a card that’s no longer open to new applicants) and I have no use for it whatsoever. Generally speaking, Citi doesn’t usually allow holders of its various ThankYou cards to product change to a card that doesn’t offer Citi ThankYou points as its primary rewards currency, but exceptions are made. A couple of weeks ago, when I first started formulating my plan to refresh my credit card portfolio, I called Citi and asked about swapping my ThankYou Preferred Card for the Citi Double Cash Card and, after a moment to check my account, the representative confirmed that this was a move that Citi was prepared to sanction.

As the Double Cash Card is not currently offering a welcome offer that’s of any use to me (I don’t need an 18 month 0% interest period), I wouldn’t be missing out on anything by product changing rather than submitting a new application, so I’m more than happy to give up the ThankYou Preferred Card in exchange for the Double Cash Card. In fact, this will probably be a card that appears in my portfolio in the next few days…I just need to make some time to give Citi another call.

Bottom Line

It will take a bit of time and patience before I can add the Hilton Honors Aspire Credit Card to my collection but as I’m in no rush to get it, I’m happy to wait an see what upgrade offers Amex starts throwing around when it realizes that it can’t just sit on the pile of Hilton Honors points it currently has. The Citi Double Cash Card will be a card that I pick up in the next few days (next week at the latest) and will play a key role in ensuring that any spending I make in unbonused categories will earn me an excellent rate of return.

A Favorite Card

The Hilton Honors Aspire Credit Card from American Express is a high-end credit card that comes packed with benefits that make this a must-have card for anyone who loves staying at Hilton properties. This card is currently offering a huge 150,000 point welcome bonus (after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months) and offers cardholders Hilton Honors Diamond status for as long as they hold the card. (Annual fee: $450) Our Favorite Benefits:

  • Hilton Honors Diamond status
  • $250/year Hilton resort statement credit
  • Complimentary weekend night every anniversary
  • Membership of the Priority Pass lounge program
  • Earn 14 points/dollar on Hilton purchases

Click for more details on the Hilton Honors Aspire Credit Card

Regarding Comments

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser or any other advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility or any other advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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