Guide to First World Problems: The Best Credit Card

Today's topic is credit card selection, one of my favorite first world problems.

Since I enjoy overly intense levels of research on an array of topics, I figured I might save you the trouble of looking up the pros and cons of which credit card is better for 20-somethings who want to travel for free and live the good life.  Below is my favorite battle-tested rewards-based credit card.  Generally rewards cards get you far better value than cash back cards, which is why I'm only covering that type of card here.








Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP)   

This beauty is unusual for a credit card because it's constructed entirely of metal.  While that's pretty intriguing by itself, that's not why you should get this card.

This card has way too many benefits, but the primary ones are about how you can get points:

  • 2x points on any travel (flights/hotels/taxis/trains/rentals)
  • 2x points on eating out at restaurants (normal restaurants/fast food/cafes)
  • 1x points on everything else
  • No foreign transaction fees (aka go H.A.M. abroad)
  • 7% Annual Points Dividend (take 7% of all the points you earned in the year and add it to your total points already earned)
  • 40,000 bonus points when you first receive the card

That's how you can earn points, but what can you do with these points?

Essentially you can do a 1:1 point transfer with several partner programs, where each point on your CSP equals one point in a partner's rewards program.  The partners include British Airways Executive Club, Korean Air SKYPASS, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Amtrak Guest Rewards, Hyatt Gold Passport, Priority Club Rewards, Marriot Rewards, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards.

Since you get 40k bonus points when you sign up and (at least on United) can book roundtrip award flights for as low as 25,000 points, this means you can already get at least one roundtrip flight booked from the start.  If you begin to move your spending strictly to the CSP, the amount of points (with the help of the bonus categories mentioned above) can add up quickly and you may often find yourself with a free roundtrip flight or two.

So why doesn't everyone get this card?  Mostly because people haven't heard of it, but also because there is an annual fee of $95.  However, the annual fee doesn't kick in for the first year, only after that.  So you can definitely try before you buy (and get free flights out of it too)!

Chase Sapphire Card Application

Ode to Foursquare

Whenever I tell people about Foursquare, they inevitably say something like, “Oh, you mean the check-in app?”  It’s true that Foursquare got its start by popularizing the term “check-in” and by adding game elements like badges to their app.  But today, Foursquare does much more.  Namely, their bread and butter has become personalized recommendations.  With thirty million users and literally billions of check-ins, users are demonstrating which places they like, which places their friends like, and how often they go back to those places.  As a result, instead of something like Yelp, which only shows places based on how someone feels about a restaurant or venue, Foursquare factors in whether or not someone went there, if they returned, and if they explicitly liked or disliked it.  

If you’ve ever read one of Yelp’s essay-length reviews, you don’t have to look far to find a one-star review with  someone saying, “Normally, I love hole-in-the-wall Thai places, but this one was the worst!  I didn’t like the way the chairs felt , which made my day even more horrible since I just broke up with my boyfriend earlier in the day...”  Foursquare, on the other hand, shies away from lengthy reviews and limits the user to tweet-length tips and simple "liking" or "disliking" of the venue.  That way you can recommend one or two things and that’s it.  This results in Foursquare showing unique results to each person based on where you’ve been before, where your friends have been, where you're located at that moment, the time of day, and a host of other variables.

Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley has explained the intelligence of the app before, using one very cool example: the idea of authenticity.  He explains that an American user who spends several months abroad in Spain could, for example, check in at tapas bars there.  Then when s/he returns to the States and checks into a NYC tapas bar, the check-in is given a greater authenticity value since the person would probably know what is more authentic Spanish food than someone who has never been to Spain.  In other words, the NYC tapas bar would have a higher rating because of her check-in than other tapas bars.  This is just one form of intelligence built into the Foursquare app, though Crowley says Foursquare data scientists are constantly adding more with every iteration.

Even their business model leads to more relevant search results.  Essentially, they sell merchant tools so that if I check-in at several coffee places, it might then tell me in the app that Starbucks is having a special for coffee lovers only.  Starbucks could set parameters such as “only target people who have checked into 5 coffee places in the last week.”  While many forms of marketing/advertising could interrupt the usual flow of what the user wants, in this case, even the advertising tries to be relevant to something I’m interested in.  Check out Foursquare at the links below:

iOS App Store

Google Play Store