Travel More, Spend Less: Credit Card Reward Travel Questions Answered

Apr 23, 2024 |

The volume of credit card and reward programs offered in your inbox can give you a headache. It’s hard to keep track of all the offers, let alone understand them. Our recent webinar, “Miles and More: Mastering Travel Points Like a Pro,” did a fantastic job answering many top-of-mind questions about these offers. But our presenters, Jon Nickel-D’Andrea and Ben Nickel-D’Andrea from No Mas Coach, aren’t done—they’ve got more.  You have credit card reward travel questions; they’ve got answers.

So, here we go. Here are some hot-off-the-skillet frequently asked questions about traveling more and spending less with credit cards and reward programs.   

Do too many credit cards harm my credit rating? Should I open and close new cards?

The short answer is “it depends” because many factors affect establishing your credit. One factor is “length of accounts,” so if you constantly open and close accounts, this number will be affected. Assuming you’re paying them off and not carrying balances, having many cards will help your credit use ratio. The lower this is, the better your credit score will be. The key factor, however, is not to be late on your credit card payments. 

We are a couple that travels once or twice a year. What credit card do you recommend for credit card reward travel points?

In a scenario such as this, you should probably stick with a flexible travel credit card that allows you to earn points you can use for flights, hotels, or travel and a card that doesn’t come with foreign transaction fees if you’re heading out of the country. We choose the Chase Sapphire Preferred because you can transfer earned points to hotels like Hyatt and airlines like United and Air Canada or use them to offset cash prices in their travel portal. There are no foreign transaction fees, and the bonus categories are useful. 

When should I use a card that earns 3-5% cash back vs. one that earns airmiles?

It’s going to come down to what you value more. While 3-5% cash back sounds excellent on paper, using that cash on something like a statement credit or just depositing it into your checking account is very easy. For us, earning points and miles that can help offset otherwise expensive travel costs is more valuable. While you may only be earning 2 points per dollar, those points are often worth more than 1-2 cents each, depending on how you redeem them. 

What’s the difference between the American Express Gold, American Express Platinum, and the Capital One Venture X?

We saw a lot of questions about these personal cards, so as not to be confused with business cards, we thought of lumping them together. The American Express Gold is great for restaurants, grocery-store purchases, and airline purchases. While the cost is $250 a year, $240 is rebated in GrubHub and Uber credits, making the final cost around $10/year. The American Express Platinum, both the business and personal version, lacks daily spend but is amazing to hold for its fringe benefits like lounge access. The Centurion lounges are great respites from the chaos of airports, and the business card offers a 35% rebate when you redeem your points for certain travel. The Capital One Venture X is a versatile card earning a flat 2 points per dollar on all purchases and up to 10x through the Capital One travel portal. You’ll get Priority Pass access, just like the American Express Platinum, and access to their small but growing airport lounges portfolio. Their points are also transferrable to a handful of airlines and hotels. 

WATCH: Miles and More: Mastering Travel Points Like a Pro

Is transferring points to airlines better than using them directly to purchase travel?

It can be! Since redeeming points for travel directly through your credit card’s travel portfolio has a fixed value, you might find outsized value transferring to loyalty programs. Most of the extra value comes with business or first-class redemptions since coach travel often doesn’t make sense. The cost of coach tickets has been dropping lately, so it might be best to save for luxury redemptions. 

What’s the difference between the Delta Amex Gold and the regular Amex Gold?

The key to remember here is the difference between co-branded cards (like the Delta Gold) versus flexible cards (like the Amex Gold). Delta Gold, for example, only earns Delta SkyMiles and offers baggage waivers and flight credits. The Amex Gold offers Membership Rewards. Those Membership Rewards points can be transferred to airlines such as Delta, turned into cash, or used to offset travel cards. Co-branded cards are only good for people loyal to that specific hotel or airline and enjoy traveling with that one provider. 

How do you find what points are worth?

While most credit cards will tell you that their points have a fixed value, the actual value depends on your redemptions. If you’re transferring to an airline or a hotel, look at the ticket or hotel room cost and see if you’re getting more value transferring points to redeem them directly. Generally, we try to get at least 2 cents per point for most airlines. For example, if I redeem 100,000 miles, I want the cost of that ticket to be MORE than $2,000. If the ticket is less than $2,000, I’d probably pay cash and keep the points. 

What tools do you use to maximize your points?

We’re big fans of a few. AwardWallet helps us track our miles and points, and AwardLogic helps us find tickets to redeem our points and miles. We also follow several websites and blogs that help us find information and clue us into deals. Frequent Miler has a great blog and a fantastic Facebook community with tens of thousands of members who are constantly sharing information and deals that come their way. 

I hear that American Express doesn’t have value outside the U.S. Is that still the case?

Not according to what we’ve seen. You might find that American Express isn’t accepted as much as Visa or Mastercard at small restaurants or locations, but most prominent hotels and stores will accept it. This was the case a decade ago, and post-Covid, it seems more accepted. 

What’s the best way to find out about deals when they come around?

Find your favorite blogger and subscribe! We also follow many Points and Miles podcasts and learn from them. The Facebook groups we mentioned before also have a place to do local meetups. You might find that the person who lives three doors down is a points and miles guru, but you never knew it. So many of our best friends in this hobby live within a 5-mile radius of our house. 

There are also in-person seminars, such as the Frequent Traveler University, that hold events throughout the year. We’ll be speaking at the event in Seattle in May. We look forward to seeing you there if you’re nearby or can make it. 

American Express requires you to book through their portal, which can be more expensive. How do you avoid this?

This sometimes happens, as many of the flights you find searching on Google Flights could show as basic economy tickets. American Express usually offers one step above basic economy, so it can be more expensive over time. American Express doesn’t allow you to book flights through their portal. If you want to redeem your points directly for travel, you might need to book through the portal. You can still earn points by booking directly with the airlines with cards such as Amex Gold and Amex Platinum, and you can redeem points by transferring directly to travel partners. 

What’s the best card to use to earn points to go to (insert destination?)

Suppose you are not loyal to a specific airline. In that case, getting a general travel card like the American Express Gold or Chase Sapphire Preferred is best: your destination will be somewhere different each year, so locking yourself into an airline’s specific card might not be the best idea. Having flexible currencies will allow you to send your points to whichever airline is best for your destination. 

How do you find out which airlines head to a specific destination?

Wikipedia has amazing pages for nearly every airline on the planet. Try searching for “Wikipedia SEA Airport,” and you’ll see the page for Seattle, all the airlines that service the city, and the destinations you can get to. It’s the best free resource on the internet for airline travel! 

Where can we learn more about specific credit cards, airlines, hotels, and their values?

We write for various publications, including Forbes and Fortune. Most of our articles are about these topics, including the best ways to earn and use your points and miles. We also write about specific credit cards and some tools we use to maximize the value of your points. You can find Jon’s articles here and Ben’s articles here. 

How do you work with clients? What services do you offer, and what do you charge?

If you’ve made it this far in the FAQs and are still reading, we thank you. You’re probably a good fit for working with us! Many clients prefer a 1:1 consultation, as we can tailor your chat to specific situations. We also offer award bookings when you have many points and miles and don’t know where you want to go. While prices vary depending on the complexity of the request, we think you’ll find that the price you pay will pay you back 10-fold with the time saved and the knowledge received. We hope you’ll contact us via our email,, and ask us for help. 



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