My 2024 Credit Card Strategy

Core setup, new cards, travel redemptions, and hotel, flight, and car rental elite statuses.

Irtiza Hafiz
9 min readJan 5, 2024
Photo by Roxanne Desgagnés on Unsplash

After experimenting with many different card setups and consuming hours of credit card YouTube, blogs and podcasts, I came out with 3 important takeaways:

There is no one perfect strategy that works for everyone.

Simplicity reigns supreme.

Sign-up-bonuses (SUBs) will always outnumber points gained through everyday spending.

Based on these learnings, I have come up with what I think is a solid credit card strategy for next year.

Here’s what you should expect from this blog post:

  • Personal philosophy and use cases
  • Simple core credit card setup
  • Supplementary cards
  • New cards with high SUBs
  • Hotel, Flight and Car Rental statuses

Let’s get started.

Personal Philosophy

To maximize the value of credit card points, I had to be honest with myself about my current financial situation, my upcoming travel habits, and my general lifestyle.

After a thorough introspection, these are the notable points that I designed my system around:

  1. Based out of Atlanta, Georgia.
  2. U.S domestic travel mostly on Delta and United airlines.
  3. Annual trip to home country — Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  4. Annual trip to San Francisco, California.
  5. Chain hotel preference — IHG, Hilton, Hyatt, Choice (Cambria, Ascend, Radisson)
  6. Where available, non-chain hotels with competitive prices work just as well.

With multiple travel destinations, airline alliances, and hotel programs, it’s never easy to come up with a plan that works for all cases. I had to be strategic about my prioritizations.

I suspect that my most important trip of the year will be visiting my home city of Dhaka in Bangladesh. From Atlanta, it’s a 22-hour flight. I had to find out a way to reliably travel most of this round-trip flight in business class.

The other points — such as traveling domestically on Delta and staying on preferred hotel chains — were secondary.

Photo by Alireza Akhlaghi on Unsplash

Flying Business Class on Turkish Airlines

From Atlanta to Dhaka, the easiest way to fly business is through Turkish Airlines.

Round-trip business class tickets are only 105,000 Turkish Miles&Smiles points. Both Capital One and Citi transfers 1:1 to Turkish Airlines.

Sometimes it can be difficult to find award availability when booking flights only a few weeks ahead of time. In that case, Turkish Airlines also has an option to upgrade to business using points.

North America to Istanbul — 45,000 points to upgrade

Istanbul to Dhaka (South Asia) — 25,000 points to upgrade

In most cases, upgrading is a great use of points. I have consistently seen close to 3 cents-per-point (CPP).

Switching gears from international travel, Turkish Miles can also be used to book United Airlines. Actually, it’s one of the best ways to book United flights. There’s direct flights from ATL-SFO as well as ATL-LAX, so my annual trip to California also gets covered by Turkish Miles.

Photo by Trac Vu on Unsplash

Flying Delta Airlines in North America

Based out of Atlanta means my best chance of flying non-stop to anywhere in North America is Delta Airlines.

After having flown quite a few award flight on Delta Airlines with points, these are some of the best programs:

  1. Virgin Atlantic (~1.8–2.4 CPP; All major credit card issuers are transfer partners)
  2. Flying Blue (~1–2 CPP; All major credit card issuers are transfer partners)
  3. Delta SkyMiles (~1.5 CPP; American Express transfer partner)

Even though my credit card setup is based around Turkish Airline redemptions, I have also accounted for an easy way to accumulate and redeem points to book Delta Airlines using the above programs.

Hotel Free Agent

While I hold statuses with Hilton (Hilton Gold) and IHG (Platinum Elite), both through holding credit cards, I am not loyal to either.

When choosing hotels, my priorities are — price, location, and convenience. If one of Hilton or IHG happens to fit that criteria, I would happily reap the benefits of my elite status. Otherwise, I am happy to book outside.

In most cases, transferring credit card points to hotel programs is a bad deal, with one notable exception — Hyatt.

Outside the obvious choice, there are a few other programs that “can be” worth it, based on location and time of year:

  1. IHG — 4th-night free can give 1–1.5 CPPs
  2. Choice Hotels (Cambria, Ascend, Radisson) — Citi transfers 1:2, resulting in 1.5–2 CPPs

Because of the redemptions variability and my lack of loyalty, my goal with hotel stays is to use credit card SUBs where applicable, otherwise, book using cash directly with the hotel.

Core Credit Card Setup

Now that you have a good idea about what I am trying to optimize for, let’s dig into the fun stuff: credit card setups and strategies!

Capital One Venture X

  • Flat 2X on everything both domestically and internationally
  • 5X on flights and 10X on hotels booked through the Capital One portal
  • Transfers to Turkish Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Flying Blue, and IHG
  • Airport lounge access with Priority Pass
  • Good travel and purchase protections

This is one of the simplest premium travel cards out there. It’s easy to use worldwide, consistently gives you a good points return, and has an effective annual fee of -$5.

With the exceptions of restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, and booking directly with hotels and airlines, I pull out my Venture X for everything.

Citi Premier Card

  • 3X on Restaurants
  • 3X on Groceries
  • 3X on Gas Stations
  • 3X booking directly with hotels, airlines, and car rentals (outside Capital One portal)

I have my eyes set on the Citi Premier card. It perfectly complements my Capital One Venture X. I plan on applying for this, as soon as the end of January.

Citi transfer partners are perfect for my use cases.

  • Instant transfers to Turkish Airlines
  • Instant transfers to Virgin Atlantic and Flying Blue
  • Transfer to Choice Hotels (2:1) for 1.5–2.5 CPP hotel redemptions

Until I am approved for this card, the plan is to use the next card for some of the spend categories not covered by my Venture X.

American Express Gold

  • 4X on Restaurants
  • 4X on Groceries
  • 3X on Flights directly booked with the airlines
  • Transfers to Delta, Virgin Atlantic, Flying Blue, and Hilton

Even though the 4x multipliers are amazing, having used the Gold card for close to 4 years now, I have noticed a few major limitations:

  • International acceptance is very poor
  • Does not transfer to Turkish Airlines
  • Transferring to Hilton only makes sense during transfer bonuses. Otherwise, no worthwhile hotel partners.

Because of these reasons, I plan on removing this card from my core setup, the moment I get my hands on the Citi Premier card.

Supplementary Cards

Outside my core setup, there are a few other scenario-specific cards. Based on my travel habits and lifestyle, it might make sense to pull out these cards every once in a while.

Hilton Business Credit Card

I signed up for this card only for the 180,000 Hilton point sign-up bonus (SUB).

Once the next year’s annual fee of $95 posts on my account sometime in November 2024, I plan on canceling this card.

Until then, there are a few reasons to use the card:

  • Great 28X multiplier when used at Hilton properties
  • Gives me Hilton Gold status

IHG Premier Credit Card

The card gives me an annual hotel night, so it’s a keeper card.

It also gives the following:

  • Platinum Elite status
  • 4th night free when booked with points

I only plan on using this card when staying at IHG hotels, such as Intercontinental, Holiday Inn, Holiday Express, or Crowne Plazas.

American Express Blue Business Plus

  • Flat 2X MR points on all purchases up to $50,000
  • Has a foreign transaction fee, so cannot be used outside the United States

If for some reason I want to accumulate MR points — maybe for Delta or Hilton redemptions — I will bring this back to my wallet.

Until then, it will remain in my sock drawer.

New Cards to Acquire

Now, let’s move on to speculations and predictions.

One thing I have learned in the last 2 years is that credit card issuers constantly nerf cards or introduce new game-changing cards.

So, the predictions I make now (outside the Citi Premier) are subject to changes that are outside my control.

A couple of things to keep in mind before diving into the strategy:

  • 3 new cards is a sweet spot for me
  • Get a new card to either add to my setup or receive SUB and then churn
  • Never manufacture spending to hit SUBs
  • Only get new cards where SUB requirements align with everyday spending

That said, let’s look at the 3 new cards I plan on getting in 2024:

Citi Premier Card

This is the most important card to get in 2024.

It will replace my AMEX Gold, and complete my 2 card setup consisting of:

  1. Capital One Venture X
  2. Citi Premier Card

Bilt Mastercard

It’s a $0 annual fee card that will help me earn points for rent.

Also, Bilt has most of the airline transfer partners I care about:

  • Turkish Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Flying Blue

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Unlike both the Citi Premier and Bilt Mastercard which will add to my core setup, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a strict churn play.

Here’s the plan

  • Sign up for the card
  • Get Approved
  • Pay the annual fee
  • Put $4K spent to earn ~60,000 Chase UR points
  • Transfer points to Hyatt
  • Hold the card for one year
  • Downgrade to a no annual fee Chase Freedom Unlimited

With those 60,000 Hyatt points, I can get more than 5 free hotel nights.

Upgrade AMEX Gold to Platinum + Downgrade

I currently have a “Upgrade to Platinum and earn $150K MR Points” offer on my Gold Card.

Once I get approved for the Citi Premier Card and it replaces the Gold card in my core setup, I will take advantage of this upgrade offer.

I will upgrade to the Platinum, complete the SUB requirement, earn the 150K MR points, and then downgrade back to the gold card after one year.

These 150K MR points can be transferred to almost 400K Hilton Points with the right transfer bonus.

Elite Status Plan

For most of 2023, I have held the following statuses:

  • Hilton Gold (by holding the AMEX Hilton business card)
  • IHG Platinum Elite (by holding the Chase IHG Premier card)
  • Hertz President’s Circle (by holding the Capital One Venture X card)

Here’s the plan for 2024.

Hilton Gold

I got quite a few upgrades in 2023 by holding this status.

In both Atlanta and San Francisco I got upgraded to upper floor rooms with better views, and also received food and dining credit for my San Francisco stay.

I plan on holding this status until the end of 2024.

IHG Platinum Elite

Similar to holding the Hilton Gold status, IHG’s Platinum Elite status has given me a couple of good room upgrades.

I also got some complimentary snacks and water, courtesy of the elite status.

In the long run, I plan on holding the IHG premier card.

Just by doing that, I will also hold my Platinum Elite level in 2024 and beyond.

Hertz President’s Circle

I didn’t rent cars enough in 2023 to notice any meaningful benefit of this.

In 2024, I will travel more around the United States, hence renting cars much more often.

Given I get the status just by holding the Venture X card, there’s not much else for me to do, apart from enjoying its benefits when I rent my next car in 2024.

Star Alliance Gold

I have never held any elite status with Star Alliance.

If I play my cards right, by the end of 2024, I just might guarantee Star Alliance Gold for until 2026.

Here’s the plan.

Turkish Airlines Elite tier matches to Star Alliance Gold. So, if I can figure out a way to get Turkish Airlines Elite status, I will also get Star Alliance Gold.

Now, what does Star Alliance Gold get me?

  • Star Alliance lounge access (including United lounges when flying domestically in the US)
  • Business class check-in (when flying economy)
  • Business class boarding (when flying economy)
  • Business class luggage handling (when flying economy)

To quality for Turkish Airlines Elite tier, I need to earn 40,000 status miles in 12 months. Once achieved, I will get Star Alliance Gold for 2 years.

To re-quality after 2026, I will need to earn 30,000 status miles in the first year, or 45,000 status miles in 2 years.

When flying from Atlanta to Dhaka (my annual flight) on economy, I earn around 20,000 status miles.

So 2 round-trip flights to Dhaka will get me very close to the required 40,000 status miles in 12 months. I also have trips planned to Istanbul and Greece this year, which can help get to that 40,000 miles faster.

I am optimistic of achieving Star Alliance Gold by the end of 2024. However, I won’t be too bummed if I cannot.

Closing Thoughts

If you have made it this far, thank you so much! I hope you found this valuable, or at least entertaining.

If you were inspired by any of the credit cards I mentioned and want to sign up, please use one of the direct links below. It’a great way to support me at no cost of your own.

AMEX Gold Referral

AMEX BBP Referral

AMEX Hilton Business Referral

Capital One Venture X Referral

Chase IHG Premier Card Referral

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Irtiza Hafiz

https://irtizahafiz.com Engineering manager who writes about software development and productivity.