A Wine Lover's Credit Card

There is a very strong correlation between those consumers who enjoy fine wine and spirits, and those who love travel. For that reason, I believe this piece will be relevant to many readers. Also, for decades now I have exploited the benefits of funneling as many expenses through points-accumulating credit cards as possible. Your mileage may vary just as mine has, but experience suggests that it is getting increasingly difficult to get the better end of loyalty credit cards anymore.

A couple of years ago I fell for an introductory offer for one of United's MileagePlus card. It was laced with promises of preferential treatment, bonus miles, priority, perks, etc. After quite a bit of recent travel on United and realizing that reality doesn't measure up to those promises, I've decided to return to the card that, for nearly a decade now, has offered the greatest combination of accumulation and flexibility of use of points: the Chase Sapphire.

To give credit where credit is due, United is doing a terrific job on its most important deliverables: safety, timeliness, convenience and affordability. But, as has been the case with other loyalty programs like Marriott's, I've actually been laughed at out loud when inquiring about fringe benefits like upgrades, priority boarding, and free checked bags. By sidestepping the single-company loyalty constraints, consumers can use points the same as cash, or - even better - leverage the benefits transfer options to maximize their return on spending. 

Here's how that difference pans out: For every point you accumulate, you earn 1.25 cents of spending. So, if you were to meet their $4k of spending over 3 months, Chase's current offer would net you a bonus of 60,000 points. You could use those points as though they were $750 in cash to make a hotel reservation, book a flight, rent a car, or even shop on Amazon. Not bad. But here's where the program really shines: you can also transfer those points into a huge variety of partner programs like Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, or any of 11 different airlines including United, Southwest, and JetBlue. That's where you can really expand the value of points. Check this out:

Just before the pandemic locked down international travel, I transferred 120,000 points from Chase to the World of Hyatt points program. I could have used those points to book $1,500 worth of hotels, but instead booked 4 nights at the 5 star Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme - a stay that would have cost $4,200 - nearly tripling the return on point! (Hyatt has also been very generous with complimentary upgrades in my travels, especially as compared to former Starwood properties since Marriott acquired them.)

Yes, the Chase card has a $95 fee, but totally worth it. And, yes, Chase will give me a little bonus for everyone who uses this referral link to apply.

From now on (or at least until a new program comes along to unseat Chase's Sapphire,) I've learned my lesson: no more company-specific cards for me. I buy all my wine (and everything else) using this card.