Credit Card Game Update

Today, I received the Wyndham Rewards Earner Card, which is a no annual fee credit card that earns rewards for Wyndham hotels. This is what is affectionately called a sock drawer card. You get it, earn the sign-up bonus, and then leave it in your sock drawer. I took advantage of a mail offer, which didn't exactly offer the greatest sign-up bonus. Upon approval, I only got $750 in credit.

The Wyndham Rewards Earner card is issued by Barclays. I have another card with this bank, the Choice Privileges Visa card, which is no longer offered. I would have canceled the card, except it is my oldest card. When I started building credit, the Choice Privileges card was my first non-secured card. When I first got it, I was mainly staying at Choice Hotels as they were within my budget. Besides being helpful to my credit score, the Choice Privileges Visa is helpful for road trips. I'm more likely to find one of their hotels in a small town than a Hilton or Marriott.

Similarly, the Wyndham Rewards card is beneficial for a status boost and earning points to stay at Wyndham hotels, which are also more likely to be found in small towns. Another benefit of the card is that Wyndham has a great point redemption program. I think Wyndham tends to market their hospitality towards families. Thus, you could conceivably stay at Wyndham motels for work, building up points to take the family to an upscale property. Point redemption is roughly equal whether you stay at a motel or upscale property. They know how to hustle to earn your dollars.

Despite my admiration of their marketing focus, I think their target demographic is rough on their properties. It's less evident when you stay at their higher-end properties, like the Wyndham Garden. But, you don't typically find these when you're riding down the highway and are ready to pull over for the night.

In addition to the new credit card, I have also started using an app called Max Rewards. The app uses your location to recommend which one of your credit cards to use to pay at your present location to maximize your credit card rewards.

Thanks to this app, I have dusted off the PayPal Mastercard. This card earns 2% cash back on all purchases. If you pay with the card using PayPal, then you get 3% cash back. Earning 2% is not great. But, it establishes a base earning rate. There are plenty of instances in which my other cards only pay 1% on spending, such as my utilities.

Max Rewards determines which credit card will earn the highest rewards at particular locations. As it turns out, the PayPal Mastercard has utility for shopping at some places that do not fit the 3% or 5% spending categories. Earning 2% is better than 1% in this case. Yes, it's a small amount. But you'd be surprised how this stuff adds up over time. I have heavily subsidized vacations by playing the points and miles game in conjunction with credit card rewards.

For example, we stayed at an Embassy Suites in two rooms for a couple of nights. Rather than pay all of it with points, I chose to pay $100 and the rest with points. Along with incidentals and taxes, it came out to about $280. At 14 points per dollar of spend, and with seasonal promotions, we earned thousands of points. It almost pays for another night. It's an obnoxious amount of value despite being a less than ideal point redemption.

The disadvantage of doing these things is that it's a bit of a cognitive burden to keep track of what cards to spend where. This is why the Max Rewards app is so helpful. I would not have thought to use the PayPal card otherwise. It would have been in my sock drawer.

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