It had been almost a year since I initially applied for my first competitive credit card when I started looking at applying for another one. The American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card that I had been using was doing great. Our cash back return was higher than it had ever been. My wife and I had easily achieved hundreds of dollars between a 1% – 6% cash back rate along with the sign up bonus. We loved getting cash back on things we were already going to buy. Just by getting one credit card that was tailored to our purchasing trends, we became more focused on how to squeeze every cent out of each dollar spent. We were able to buy a multitude of gift cards at our local grocery stores which in turn gave us a 6% return for online shopping and dining out. Buying gift cards at grocery stores also gave us extra fuel points which then gave us cheaper gas (on top of the 3% cash back we were getting with our AMEX BCP). It was a great time, but little did we know there was so much more cash back potential out there.
My wife and I were planning on staying a few days in Bogota, Colombia and started looking at hotels and flights. We knew this was going to be a pricey excursion so we started to strategize how best to soften the blow. My wife had found a great package offered by Marriott which included airfare along with a stay at the Bogota JW Marriott. It looked like a great deal and that got me thinking. Since we would be spending all this money at one time through Marriott, maybe I should look at some of their credit cards to see if I could sweeten the deal even more.
Getting a hotel branded card seemed like a pretty good deal initially as it would maximize our rewards if we put our Bogota trip on the card. However, I was concerned about how it might limit our credit portfolio. How many more times would we be staying at a hotel, let alone a Marriott one? Could we put enough purchases on the card to compensate for the annual fee without sacrificing our overall cash back rate? It quickly became apparent that I needed to look at other options.
As I was doing my research I stumbled across the Barclaycard Arrival+ MasterCard. Although it would not give as high of a cash back rate, I liked the versatility the Arrival+ had to offer. The card also came with a large ($400) sign up bonus which would be very attainable after putting this trip on it. This card would be useful after our trip as it gave an average of 2.2% cash back on all purchases. In addition, with no foreign transaction fees this card would be ideal to use while traveling abroad. I ended up applying for the Arrival+ and utilizing the new card while in Colombia. Overall the trip was a great experience. You can read more about the details of our trip on my wife’s blog here!
I learned a lot when I started researching new cards before going on that trip. At first I was quick to think the automatic choice should have been a hotel branded card since that was where I would be spending the most initial money. However, as I quickly saw, the benefits for us would quickly diminish after the trip since we would not be staying at hotels on regular basis. I realized that we needed a card that would benefit us in the short term (high sign up bonus and no foreign transaction fee) and in the long term (solid overall cash back rate on all purchases). What was lacking in our current credit card portfolio was a good catch-all card that could cover the purchases where our AMEX BCP couldn’t get its 3% or 6% cash back on. The Arrival+ was a great addition for us by giving us 2.2% cash back on purchases our AMEX BCP previously was getting only 1% back. So our new strategy was for groceries, gas, and department stores we would use the AMEX BCP to get 3%-6% cash back and then use the Arrival+ to cover everything else giving us 2.2% cash back. This effectively more than doubled the cash back we were getting on”all other” purchases and the money saved started adding up very quickly.
The Arrival+ was another positive step in my journey. I was able to identify a gap in our credit portfolio and find a solution to increase our overall average cash back rate. But even with this addition more modifications to my credit portfolio were in store!