My travel cards that will get a “workout” starting January 1st 2019! Time to buy (a lot).

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Gosh I love these cards!

Tuesday begins a month of heavy spending for a bunch of my travel cards. While some of these cards you can get, some you likely can not (no longer in the marketplace or hard to get, etc.). Let’s start with the simple one first.

I will do what it takes for my “free” upgrades

Delta Amex Reserve card (learn more). I will, in about a week, spend 30k on this card. I will pay my quarterly taxes and a bunch of creative spending (much still works as before but I would avoid Simon Malls). Why? We all know upgrades are REALLY going to be hard in 2019 with Delta. Holding the Delta Amex Reserve card (learn more) helps as does spending $25,000 per year across all your Delta Amex cards (#ProTip – the upgrade tiebreaker is 25k spend NOT 250k and that is confirmed on Also, once I get 25k spend done I am MQD exempt to Platinum. Lastly, my 30k spend will get my first round of 15k bonus MQMs to keep or give away. I will take my time on the next 30k as I have other cards to focus on.

This should work again for 2019

Non-Delta Amex Platinum Business card (learn more) I will, as this has worked for YEARS, buy 4x$50 Delta e-Gift cards to trigger the annual $200 travel credits (see this post for tips you need to know). I am NOT looking forward to the jump in annual fee for this card (going from $450 per year to $595) and I may dump it unless the new perk of the $200 Dell credit can be flipped some way – call that developing.

I love getting paid for status!

Expedia Voyager+ card. Sorry, but you can not get this card anymore (it seems to be gone from the market). If it comes back – you want this card. Why? It costs $95 per year and I get $100 travel credit (I simply buy 2x$50 Delta e-Gift cards). So it net pays me $5 per year to have yearly Gold+ status with Expedia that gives me a 30% pop in points I earn. I book all my cruises via Expedia after starting at TopCashBack to get 12%+ cash back on top of the points and perks!

Cha-Ching! Yes please, and again for 2019!

City National Crystal Card. Here is another card you likely can not get. It is without question one of my favorite EVER travel cards and for years now buying AA $250 e-Gift cards works just fine to trigger the credits for this $400 a year fee card. I plan on really ramping up my spend on this card in 2019 and will tinker with booking cruises with the points. Can’t wait to test and blog about the results.

No fee and 5x points? You betcha!

Chase Freedom card. I love earning 5x Ultimate rewards points that I send over to my Chase Sapphire Reserve card resulting in a net 7.5% return (both these cards, due to 5/24, you are unlikely to be approved for). There are so many creative spending ways to max this out for max 1% cost each quarter. You want this card, along with the Reserve, if you can get them and hold them forever (unless they destroy the benefits that is).

I do have to work to keep track of all my Delta e-Gift cards because as we know, Delta does not let you store them anywhere so if you lose them they are gone! Bottom line is all these cards have huge perks and by utilizing all of them paying the annual fee for the cards becomes much more palatable. – René



  1. DoDelta gift cards work for the travel credit at CNB? I just spent my $250 on $50 Delta e-gift cards thinking they followed the Amex rules. Please tell me it works 🙂

  2. @Pete – No. Almost nothing Delta works. Some have got credit for SkyMiles award charges but I have had no joy. I always just go with AA $250 cards and sell them.

  3. My husband and I just got approved and have received our CNB Crystal Cards. We each applied separately in a branch in CA. He’s retired got approved based on his social security check, but he has a hefty ira balance and our home is paid off. I did not get approved and after numerous correspondence by email with our bank person, she suggested we file jointly. I am a homemaker with no income but we do have three rental houses (fully paid off). Applying jointly did it and we were approved, so we now have 2 accounts with 4 cards between us. I would suggest applying even if you don’t have enough income, but still have assets.

  4. Sitting on insurance and cell phone bills that aren’t due until mid-January. Can’t wait unti Tuesday so I can get them paid and start in my 2019 spend!!

  5. Hi Rene – Thanks for another great post. I was looking at your manufactured spend post to find some of the ways you had previously mentioned to get a good start on the year when I noticed the mention of the Chicago Seminar. I haven’t been able to go in the past to this or the other ones that are offered. I know Chicago is typically in the fall and probably isn’t planned yet, but are any other locations scheduled yet for 2019?


  6. @Dale R – There are FTUs in March and May but I will not be going to those. Chicago is scheduled already and I am thinking of speaking as it is the 10th year for the event.

  7. Rene, why avoid Simon malls? Just picked up a few cards here to meet the extra MQM bump last year. Hoping they will count.

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