Big Picture Questions: PRG + CSP vs. CSR and Points vs. Cash Back

QuestionsBig Picture Questions: PRG + CSP vs. CSR and Points vs. Cash Back
asked 2 years ago

In this new year I’ve been revisiting my credit card rewards strategies.  It all started when I realized that the MileagePlus X app no longer works for the Amex travel credit.  I’ve never been a fan of how difficult that credit is to use (locked into one airline and it only works for non-airfare purchases–there are reports of gift cards being eligible, but those reports don’t seem consistent).  I’m also frustrated with how American Express applies a surcharge to transfers to Delta.  I prefer to fly Delta (although I find myself flying Southwest more often), but SkyMiles aren’t worth that much to begin with.  I have travel planned this year that will use up all of my SkyMiles and I’ll be able to use my Amex credit on bag fees, so I’m fine for this year.  However, if I don’t end up keeping the PRG past this year, it doesn’t really make sense for me to be putting much spend on it, so I’m trying to work out my strategy.

 

I’m currently 7/24 until the end of October (but I won’t be below 5/24 until the end of December), so I’m not going to be able to apply for the CSR to get the massive sign up bonus before it ends.  I also have several different chase cards (CSP, CF, CFU, Hyatt, Marriott, & Slate), so I don’t expect to be able to bypass the 5/24 rule by getting preapproved at a branch (and I’m nowhere close to becoming a Chase Private Client).  I never thought that the CSR would make sense for me because I don’t really spend much money on travel in any given year.  I collect points specifically so I can travel without spending much money.  However, I started thinking about things…  Assume I did spend $ 300 on travel in a year: this makes my effective annual fee $ 150 for the CSR.  Between my CSP and PRG, I’m currently paying an effective annual fee of $ 190.  All of a sudden the CSR with its $ 450 annual fee starts looking like it makes sense.

 

I then started thinking about things on a per-point basis.  If I flat out canceled my PRG, my CSP would allow me to buy tickets on Delta at 1.25 cents per point.  This is approximately the value of SkyMiles, at least according to The Points Guy.  The CSR raises the value of UR points to 1.5 cents per point when used on travel through the UR portal.  This appears to be a better value per point, at least when redeeming for flights on Delta.

 

Things start falling apart for me when I start comparing the CSR to my Citi DC card.  On non-bonus category purchases, I can get 2% cash back on my DC card but only 1.875% (effectively) when spending with my CFU and redeeming with a CSR.  So if I were looking to outright buy Delta flights, it would appear that the Citi DC card provides a better return.  [EDIT: I’m an idiot; the redemption on the CFU is 1.5, not 1.25.  I have no idea how I came up with that number]. The obvious point I can hear you making is that the CSR and the CF offer bonus categories, and the DC doesn’t.  For what it’s worth, I spend a lot of money at restaurants every year (it was the only category I maxed out on my CF last year), so the elevated rewards on dining through the CSR would actually be a benefit to me.  (Canceling my PRG would also help me consolidate my restaurant spending onto one card–I’d also still get elevated rewards using my BCP on groceries and gas).  The CSR also comes with other benefits, of course.  I don’t fly that many times a year, but a priority pass would actually be useful for my travel plans this year (but we’re talking maybe 4 one-way trips… maybe 6).  I’d also be able to get Global Entry for free (but my travel partners for this year don’t have it and don’t plan on getting it or TSA Pre-Check).

 

So what I’m really here today to ask for is whether I’m right in thinking that the CSR actually offers more value to me than the CSP + PRG?  Is this even true if I don’t get any bonus to product change or should I wait to apply at the start of 2018 even though I could use some CSR benefits this year?  Also, with respect to your own strategies, how do you decide whether to go with points, points that can be used like cash, and cash back?

 

—-tl;dr version—-

 

Drop PRG and CSP to get CSR?  Product change without bonus now or apply with bonus in 2018?

How do YOU decide between collecting/redeeming points, points that can be used like cash, and cash back?

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