Credit Card Makeover: Stacy Johnson

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I review dozens of credit card offers each week to find the best deals. My goal is to help you use credit cards to build and protect your money and credit. Check out more on our credit card page.

One of the great things about being Stacy Johnson, the founder of Money Talks News, is that he has access to his staff – some of the top personal finance experts in the world (and good-looking to boot). That’s what Stacy concluded after speaking with me, his credit card expert, about the upcoming plans for his honeymoon…

Stacy: I’m getting married in June and want to start accumulating miles – but I’ll be damned if I’m flying coach on my honeymoon. Got a favorite credit card in mind?

Jason: Congratulations, boss. And great call on staying out of coach for this trip. In fact, it can actually be more frugal to travel in business class. So what kind of miles do you already have?

Stacy: Well, I don’t spend a ton on my credit cards. But I do spend some, because I use one for Money Talks expenses like Web servers. Of course, I pay them off monthly. Right now, it’s all going on a Hess cash-back card that gives me 3 percent back on Hess purchases and 1 percent on everything else.

Jason: You’re using a gas card? And getting a pitiful 1 percent elsewhere? Didn’t you read my post about gas cards?

Stacy: Of course I did. I also have another Visa from FIA Card Services [Bank of America] that I haven’t used in a while, but it gives me miles for every dollar spent. Right now, it has 102,222 miles on it. I stopped using this card because, on the couple of occasions when I’ve tried to redeem miles, they said the days were blacked out. Plus, they wanted more money from me for the award. That’s when I decided miles cards had little value. Reading your stuff has reignited my interest.

Jason: Oh yeah, you’ve been leaving some money on the table with that other Visa card as well. If I were you, I would put all the expenses that you can pay in full every month on Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express – both personal and business. This card even made our list of one of the 5 Best Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses.

Stacy: Everything on one card? Why?

Jason: These points are like gold, just read the list of airlines you can transfer their points to. Then try to imagine all of the airline partners these carriers have, and you end up with almost every airline on the planet. You also get a 5,000-point bonus when you transfer 20,000 points to miles. So you get more airline miles from this card than you would from the airline’s own card. Awesome and weird, huh?

Stacy: Wow. But what do I do with the other 100,000 miles I already have on the FIA card? I can’t transfer them or anything, right?

Jason: As for your existing points, I think they can be used for airline tickets. The points are probably worth about 1 cent each toward any purchase, they claim with no blackouts, but you have to study their rules – or hire a lawyer to figure them out. Their complicated terms are actually why this card made No. 2 on my list of the 7 worst reward credit cards.

Stacy: OK, you convinced me to get the Starwood card. But what should I use at stores that don’t accept American Express?

Jason: Yeah, American Express isn’t accepted at all stores. As an alternate, I’d go with a Visa such as the Capital One Venture Rewards card. It offers the equivalent of 2 cents per dollar spent as a statement credit against any travel-related expense. Just book travel as you normally would with any airline, hotel, or rental car agency, and Capital One will reimburse you.

Stacy: Not bad…

Jason: At the same time, you still can earn miles and receive upgrades on your award travel itself. You can even get their Spark Cash card for businesses, since it simply returns 2 percent back on all spending in the form of cash. Best of all, you can use these Capital One cards if you take your honeymoon in a foreign country, because they won’t hit you with American Express’ 2.7 percent foreign transaction fee, which is the only thing I don’t like about their Starwood card. I’m also a big fan of Chase’s Sapphire Preferred card. It’s a Visa, offers 50,000 sign-up bonus points that can be transferred to some airline and hotel programs, and also has no foreign transactions fees.

Stacy: Thanks, Jason. Sounds like good advice.

Jason: I’m not a marriage counselor, but I’ve learned that a good credit card counselor can save just as many marriages…

Want a credit card makeover from Money Talks News? E-mail us and we’ll study the cards you have now – and give you easy, practical advice for saving more and earning more.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.

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