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Reader James asked the following on the Ask Lucky page of the blog a couple of days ago:
Would love to see a post with a roundup of all the cards with spend threshold bonuses like spend $40K on the AA Executive Card get 10K AA EQM, Hyatt Stays/Nights, BA companion etc….
As I’ve often said, I feel there are three components to the value of a credit card:
- The sign-up bonus
- The value the card gives you for everyday spend
- Any bonuses you may get for having the card long term
Regarding that last category, there are several cards out there that offer considerable value just for keeping the card in your wallet and paying the annual fee. Others offer bonus points or extra perks for reaching a certain spending threshold, and many of these can be quite lucrative.
As an overview, here are the main travel credit cards that offer bonuses for meeting certain thresholds:
Some of these are clearly a terrible idea (if you know anyone spending over $100K a year on a Hawaiian business card please give them my email address), but others offer a potentially great value, so I figured I’d also go through the cards one by one.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
Threshold bonus: Starwood Preferred Guest Gold elite status after $30,000 in net purchases in a calendar year.
There’s no doubt this is a high threshold, given that Starwood Gold status isn’t all that valuable. It gets you late check-out, “preferred” rooms, and free internet, but that’s about it. Spending $30,000 for that is a lot. That being said, I value SPG points quite highly (2.2 cents each), so if you have $30,000 of un-bonused spend in a year this is still a good option.
Redeem a companion certificate for British Airways A380 first class
Threshold bonus: Travel together award companion certificate after spending $30,000 on the card in a calendar year
So the issue with the companion certificate is that it’s only valid for travel on British Airways flights, and travel has to originate in the US. Of course the issue with awards on British Airways is the fuel surcharges they impose. For a roundtrip you’re looking at paying over $1,000 per person including taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges.
The funny thing about the companion certificate is that people either love it or hate it. I know people more desperate to collect them than Pokemon, that say “Only 120,000 Avios plus ~$2,200 for two people to fly between New York and London in first class? That’s basically a gift.” And then I know people that say “I have to pay $2,200 on what’s supposed to be a ‘free’ ticket? What an absolute scam!”
I stand somewhere in the middle. If traveling between the US and London I do think it’s a fairly good value. With most airlines you’d pay 125,000-135,000 miles per passenger in first class, so figure you’re saving that number of miles by using a companion certificate. Instead you’re paying roughly $800 per person in fuel surcharges. I’d say spending $1,600 to save 125,000-135,000 miles isn’t a bad deal.
And for that matter, if you want to fly British Airways first class you have no choice but to pay the fuel surcharges, since all of their partners impose them on award redemptions.
Threshold bonus: $100 American Airlines flight discount certificate after spending $30,000 in a calendar year.
I honestly can’t think of a reason to spend $30,000 on this card in a year. If you’re planning on spending that amount with American, or really want to earn AAdvantage miles, I’d probably put that spend on the Citi Executive card instead, but most people are better off with one of the SPG cards.
Threshold bonus: 10,000 American AAdvantage elite qualifying miles after spending $40,000 in qualifying purchases in a calendar year.
While this still isn’t a fantastic bonus, I generally feel that earning some elite qualifying miles is better than none. Unless you have a significant amount of American Airlines spend you’re probably best off putting extra spend on the SPG cards. Starwood points transfer to American with a bonus of 5,000 miles for every 20,000 transferred, so that’s typically going to be more lucrative.
Threshold bonus: 5,000 bonus miles after spending $10,000 in a calendar year.
I don’t think it’s worth putting $10,000 of spend on the card to earn 5,000 bonus miles, meaning you’re basically earning 1.5 miles per dollar for the first $10,000 spent. Ultimately I think there are better threshold bonuses out there and more valuable points to accrue. I value HawaiianMiles at maybe 1.2 cents each, so this spending bonus would be worth ~$60.
Threshold bonus: 20,000 bonus miles after spending $50,000-$99,000 in qualifying purchases in a calendar year, 40,000 bonus miles after spending $100,00 or more in qualifying purchases in a calendar year.
Seriously, please don’t do this. You’re getting between $240 and $480 in value for an outrageous amount of credit card spend. If you’re spending over $100,000 a year on a single credit card, or if you really want to accrue Hawaiian miles, you’d be better off putting that spend on one of the Starwood Preferred Guest cards, in my opinion.
Threshold bonus: 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles with $25,000 in eligible spending in a calendar year. Additional 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after spending $50,000 in net purchases in a calendar year.
Unlike the American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles cards, these bonus miles are both elite-qualifying and redeemable. On top of that, Delta has revenue component to their status program. That means in addition to earning a certain number of MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles) you also have to earn a certain number of MQDs (Medallion Qualifying Dollars), ensuring you’re spending an average of a minimum of 10 cents per mile to reach the threshold. However, if you have a co-branded Delta credit card that requirement can be waived by spending $25,000 on it in a calendar year.
So if you’re a Delta flyer, it probably makes sense to direct $25,000 of spend to this card. Beyond that depends on your elite status tier and whether or not the additional MQMs will make a difference. I value Delta SkyMiles at 1.3 cents each, so each threshold bonus is worth ~$130.
Threshold bonus: 15,000 bonus Medallion Qualifying Miles after spending $30,000 in net purchases in a calendar year. 30,000 bonus Medallion Qualifying Miles after spending $60,000 in net purchases in a calendar year.
Similar to the Platinum Delta SkyMiles cards, if you’re getting value out of this card otherwise I’d certainly spend the $30,000 to get the first bonus. Beyond that really depends on your travel patterns. I value Delta SkyMiles at 1.3 cents each, so each threshold bonus is worth ~$195.
￼Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
Threshold bonus: 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points (up to 15,000 Tier Qualifying Points annually) for every 10,000 spent in qualifying purchases.
I am not a Southwest flyer, and unless you’re shooting for the Companion Pass I generally don’t think it makes sense to put much spend on these cards. If you’re short a few tier points this could be worthwhile, but I don’t think this threshold bonus is otherwise valuable as such.
Threshold bonus: 10,000 bonus miles after spending $25,000 in a calendar year.
The main benefit here is that by having a co-branded MileagePlus credit card, the Premier Qualifying Dollars requirement for Premier Silver, Premier Gold and Premier Platinum qualification is waived if you spend at least $25,000 on the card in the year. Given you’d also receive the threshold bonus for spending $25,000 on the card, this is a good option for those flyers.
With the spending bonus, you’re basically earning 1.4 MileagePlus miles per dollar spent on non-bonused categories for the first $25,000, which is pretty tough to beat. I value United MileagePlus miles at about 1.4 cents each, so this spending bonus would be worth ~$140.
Threshold bonus: Up to 15,000 status points on cards with an annual fee — you’ll earn 5,000 status points for every $10,000 of eligible purchases on your card, up to a maximum of 15,000 status points per calendar year.
Virgin America offers Silver status once you’ve earned 20,000 points in a year, and Gold status after 50,000 points. If you frequently fly Virgin American and this spend would push you to the next tier of elite benefits, then this might make sense. For everyone else though, keep in mind that these are status points, not redeemable miles.
Threshold bonus: Spend at least $25,000 on purchases in a year and redeem the necessary miles for a Virgin Atlantic Economy reward ticket and get a companion reward ticket for half the miles.
Unless you fly a ton on Virgin Atlantic, it likely doesn’t make sense to reach for this bonus. The card offers 3 miles per $1 spent directly on Virgin Atlantic purchases, and 1.5 miles per $1 spent on everyday puchases. That’s a good earning rate, though Virgin Atlantic levies hefty fuel surcharges on award tickets, so I’d rather accrue miles with a transferable currency and redeem awards through the Delta SkyMiles program.
Threshold bonus: Additional one night towards elite status for every $3,000 you spend.
I value Marriott Rewards points at 0.8 cents each, so you’re looking at a return of 1.6% on bonus categories and 0.8% on everyday spend. Unless you’re putting money on the card to requalify for status (since the card offers one elite qualifying night for every $3,000 spent) this probably isn’t worth putting spend on at all.
So if you’re committed to the Marriott program and just need an additional night or two to reach the next elite tier, this is a good option. Otherwise I’d direct that spend elsewhere.
Threshold bonus: Gold Elite status after spending $10,000 in qualifying purchases in a calendar year. Platinum Elite status after spending $75,000 in a calendar year.
This card is interesting because it offers Gold Elite status automatically for the first year of membership. You can maintain Gold Elite status in subsequent years in which you spend at least $10,000 on the card. You can also receive Platinum Elite status for any year in which you spend $75,000 on the card (I wouldn’t recommend this).
Threshold bonus: Free weekend night certificate valid at virtually any Hilton property worldwide after $10,000 in net purchases in a year. HHonors Diamond status after spending $40,000 in qualifying purchases in a cardmember year.
Last year I made an effort to reach the $40,000 in spend on this card to achieve Diamond status, and I sorta regret the decision. I haven’t noticed any appreciable difference in Diamond status compared to the Gold status that comes with the card, so while I think spending $10,000 for the free night makes sense, I would direct excess spend elsewhere.
Threshold bonus: HHonors Diamond status after spending $40,000 in qualifying purchases in a calendar year.
Ultimately I don’t think HHonors Diamond status is worth the opportunity cost of putting $40,000 of spend on this card. While Hilton probably offers the most valuable mid-tier status at their Gold level, I just don’t find Diamond status compelling enough to go out of the way for.
Threshold bonus: Free night certificate after spending $12,000 on the card in a year
On one hand I think a free night certificate after spending $12,000 on their card is generous, since Fairmont has some really great properties. At least it would be in conjunction with other valuable points. While there are many awesome perks to Fairmont’s program, I find their award chart to be a bit overpriced. A free night in a base room requires between 25,000 and 65,000 points per night, and aside from their credit card or actual Fairmont stays, their points are rather tough to rack up.
So the issue is that I doubt I’d ever get any value out of the points I earn on the Fairmont credit card, since it would take me a long time to earn enough points for a free night at a property I’d like to redeem at. The free night itself might be worth the $12,000 of spend, but I wouldn’t value the points otherwise earned far beyond that. So generally the free night threshold doesn’t tempt me.
Threshold bonus: Receive 2 stay credits and 5 night credits toward Diamond status upon spending $20,000 in each calendar year. Receive an additional 3 stay credits and 5 night credits toward Diamond status upon spending $40,000 in each calendar year.
The Starwood American Express cards offer additional credit towards elite status just for carrying the card and paying the annual fee. The Hyatt card only provides bonus elite credits when you meet the spend thresholds. I value Hyatt Diamond status tremendously, so if you need a few additional stay or night credits this is potentially worthwhile.
As you can see, the above spend thresholds really vary in terms of value, ranging from extremely valuable to almost laughable. It’s tough to beat a card with a good return on the categories you spend the most in, plus a threshold bonus.
Which card threshold bonus do you find most valuable?
Non-Affiliate Product Disclaimer: The information for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business credit card has been collected independently by One Mile At A Time. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.