Sometimes Using the Wrong Credit Card Is the Right Choice


A while back, I applied for the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Business card from Chase because it was offering a generous 100,000 points when I spent $3,000.

That was a 25% premium over the current 80k offer, so I jumped on it, knowing I’d be able to use the points haul for a nice little vacation.

I wound up with around 110,000 points when everything was said and done because I spent in some bonus categories and spent more than necessary to hit the bonus.

However, the particular Marriott hotel I have my eye on costs 40,000 points per night. And because Marriott gives you the 5th night free, you might as well try to stay at least four nights.

That meant I needed 160,000 points to get five free nights at the hotel in question. Unfortunately, I was short some ~50,000 Marriott points.

The cool thing is Marriott lets you reserve the booking as long as the point shortfall is taken care of at least eight days before your scheduled arrival.

Now let’s talk about earning those necessary points…

Keep the Marriott Card in the Sock Drawer

point shortage

Your first thought in this situation might be to spend more with the Marriott credit card to up your point balance. It is, after all, the card that got you all those points to begin with.

But it turns out you might be better off leaving it in the sock drawer and swiping and dipping with a different card instead.

For example, the Chase Ink Plus card earns 5X points on things like office supplies, internet, wireless, cable TV, and landline.

Meanwhile, the Chase Marriott card only earns 5X points at Marriott locations worldwide. And the next highest earning category only earns 2X.

Chances are you won’t be spending money at a Marriott before your trip to a Marriott, unless you’re a big time traveler.

So in this case, it might be better to keep spending with a card like the Chase Ink Plus in the higher bonus categories and then transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to Marriott.

Indeed, you can transfer your UR points at a 1:1 ratio to Marriott, so it’s basically the same value, though with the added step (work) of transferring the points.

More Flexibility, Less Waste

However, that means you’ve got a lot more flexibility too. And it means the points won’t go to waste.

If you overspend on your Marriott card and wind up with too many points, you’ll be stuck with some random amount of points, probably not enough for a free night or anything spectacular.

Conversely, if you wind up with too many UR points (is such a thing possible?), you’ll be able to redeem them for any number of things, or combine them with your other points to redeem a large reward.

In summary, there are two benefits to spending with other credit cards. Flexibility in redemption and a quicker way to earn points.

Take the time to think through your point-earning strategy before limiting yourself to the loyalty program you’re trying to earn points in.

Tip: You can earn points to send to Marriott via the Chase Sapphire Reserve card as well, and even Chase Freedom if you have one of the aforementioned premium cards.

By Colin Robertson

Colin created this blog after spending several years in a job that required him to scour credit reports on a daily basis. His goal is to help individuals better understand their credit and get the most out of credit cards.

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