Last week, we announced our latest Frequent Miler team challenge: 3 cards, 3 continents. In short: Greg, Stephen, and I will each take 3 card welcome bonuses and leverage those bonuses and associated card benefits to plan the most incredible trip possible. Read more about that here. An integral part of the challenge — arguably the most challenging part — is our Drafting the Dream credit card draft which is coming up this Wednesday evening, June 22nd at 9pm Eastern live on our Youtube channel (link to our Youtube channel — subscribe now!). This post will detail how the draft will work, the rules we’ve set, and brief thoughts about strategy.
The premise of this exercise comes from a reader suggestion to incorporate some sort of fantasy draft into the next challenge. By “drafting” cards (and thus taking one card “out of play” with each participant pick), we can each end up with an entirely unique set of credit cards with which to work.
The Basic rules are:
- Each participant will be able to select 3 total credit cards (we’ll take turns each selecting one card at a time). We will then use the rewards that can be earned from the welcome bonuses on those cards to plan an epic trip to 3 continents.
- No more than $15,000 in total minimum spending requirements (if a player reaches $15K with their first 1 or 2 cards, we will only allow them to add additional cards that offer the welcome bonus after first purchase or to open a card(s) for benefits only and without the associated welcome bonus)
- Eligible welcome bonuses: We will be able to use any welcome bonus that is publicly available and listed on our Best Offers page, including any alternate offers that we list. If an alternate offer is targeted, we need to be able to share our screen during the draft and show the offer appear for us on the livestream.
- We will follow basic application rules. For instance, Chase does not allow one person to get both the Sapphire Preferred and the Sapphire Reserve, so we will not be allowed to choose both cards.
- Each participant is limited to the cards they choose. Benefits from other cards they may hold can not be used for the purposes of the making the rewards from the 3 chosen cards more valuable. For instance, if someone selects the Chase Ink Cash card in the draft but does not select the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve, they will not be able to transfer to airline and hotel partners.
- Total budget for annual fees and travel expenses (flights, award taxes, hotels, and other modes of transportation) of $1,000. We will have a separate budget for activities / food. While it will be possible to “cash out” points from the welcome bonus to pay for travel (by reimbursing travel purchases and/or turning points into cash back where possible), points can not be used to cover annual fees in whole or part.
- All card benefits can be utilized (including annual travel credits / statement credits, elite status given by the card, etc)
- We will assume only each card’s base earning rate while meeting minimum sending requirements. Players do get to use those points earned from minimum spending requirements with an assumption of base earn only (no category bonuses).
- Remaining spend can go on the card of participant’s choice: If a participant chooses cards with cumulative minimum spending requirements of less than $15K to earn the welcome bonuses, that participant can choose to put remaining spend on any of their 3 cards (we can each virtually “spend” a cumulative total of $15K on our 3 cards to earn the rewards for the trip).
Purpose of the draft and an example
This exercise will work as a “fantasy draft” in that each of us will be selecting our “dream team” of 3 credit cards in order to use their welcome bonuses to plan an epic trip. We won’t necessarily apply for these cards in real life as we probably already have most of the cards that we’ll be selecting. The purpose of this entire challenge is to show what an incredible trip can be planned with just 3 credit card welcome bonuses. Therefore, our selections in the draft are for the purposes of determining how many and which types of points/miles/rewards we will be able to use as we plan our respective trips.
For instance, a participant could select the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Citi Premier card, and the Capital One Venture card. In that case, that participant would be able to use the following rewards to plan the trip:
- 64K Ultimate Rewards points (60K from the welcome bonus and 4K from meeting the $4,000 spending requirement).
- 84K Citi ThankYou points (80K from the welcome bonus and 4K from meeting the $4,000 spending requirement)
- 83K Capital One Miles (75K from the welcome bonus and 8K from meeting the $4K spending requirement since this card earns 2x everywhere)
That participant will have used $12K of spending to meet the welcome bonus requirements, so they would be able to put their final $3,000 in first-year spend on the card of their choice. For example, if they put that spend on the Venture card, they would earn an additional 6K miles, yielding a total of 89K Capital One miles.
The above participant will have also used $285 of the $1,000 budget on annual fees, leaving them with the above points and $715 to book flights, hotels, and other modes of transport for the trip.
Draft order and details
In order to determine which set of cards each of us will have, we will host a live draft on Youtube on Wednesday, June 22nd at 9pm Eastern time. All five members of the Frequent Miler team — Greg, Nick, Stephen, Carrie, and Tim — will be on the live stream. Tim will MC and provide live commentary / analysis. Carrie will keep us up to date with picks made and budgetary status.
Each person will receive two minutes to make each pick during the draft with commentary and analysis from Tim in between. At the end of each round, Carrie will provide updates as to where our budget stands.
We will take turns each selecting one card welcome bonus from our Best Credit Card Offers page. Once a participant selects a card, it belongs to that person and other participants may not select the same card.
We will be following a “snake draft” order, reversing the order of card selection in each round. In other words, the order of selections will be:
- Round 1
- Pick 1: Nick
- Pick 2: Stephen
- Pick 3: Greg
- Round 2
- Pick 1: Greg
- Pick 2: Stephen
- Pick 3: Nick
- Round 3
- Pick 1: Nick
- Pick 2: Stephen
- Pick 3: Greg
- Round 1
The purpose of the snake draft is to avoid the disadvantage of one participant choosing last in each round. We chose the order of selections based on the results of the previous relevant challenge, 40K to Far Away. In that competition, Greg finished first, Stephen second, and I busted the budget and finished third. We’ve reversed the order of our finishes for the draft selection.
Obviously this format is designed to create strategic obstacles and challenges to overcome. The $1,000 budget prevents one person from opening multiple ultra-premium cards. The snake draft arguably benefits Greg and I in that we each get an opportunity for back-to-back picks without fear of the next-desired card to complete our strategy being taken by someone else (sorry, Stephen!). We have allotted two minutes of time for each pick under the assumption that strategy may change based on which cards have been taken by the previous player(s).
For instance, it is widely assumed that with the first pick, I will have to take the Amex Platinum card. After all, the current welcome bonus provides more than enough points for a round-the-world trip in business class via ANA Mileage Club. Alternatively, 156,000 points (including those earned from the minimum spending requirements) could be used to book multiple of the numerous other Amex sweet spots.
However, knowing that Greg and Stephen are likely plotting a strategy that assumes the Platinum card is off the table, and knowing that each of them is likely to want to lean hard on Hyatt redemptions for hotel stays, I am very tempted to take one of the top Ultimate Rewards cards with my first pick. There are realistically only 4 Ultimate Rewards-earning cards any of us are likely to want: the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Cash, and Chase Ink Unlimited (none of us is likely to pick the Ink Business Preferred since the $15K spending requirement would mean that our other selections would have to offer a bonus after first purchase).
As it stands, if I take the Platinum card with pick #1, I think it is likely that Greg and Stephen will take the remaining Ultimate Rewards cards.
However, if I take a Chase Ultimate Rewards card with pick #1, that would undoubtedly cause a seismic shift in strategy for either Greg or Stephen if not both of them since Stephen will either change plans on the fly and take the Platinum card or be certain to scoop up the next-best Ultimate Rewards card. If Stephen takes the Platinum card, he can’t also take the Sapphire Reserve, so he could be stuck without Chase points at all.
For instance, if I took the Chase Ink Business Unlimited with Pick #1 and we assume that Stephen is also after an Ultimate Rewards strategy and he takes the Ink Business Cash with pick #2, Greg is stuck with a single Ultimate Rewards card: he’d need to choose between the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve card (since he can’t get both of them) — perhaps getting the Platinum card and only the Sapphire Preferred, leaving the Sapphire Reserve and its $300 annual travel credit to be scooped up by Stephen in round #2.
If instead I take the Sapphire Preferred card with pick #1, things get more interesting: neither of them could take the Sapphire Reserve and the Platinum card because the annual fees would exceed the budget. If one of them takes the Platinum card, they would need to select the Sapphire Preferred card in order to be able to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to partners. The Ink Unlimited or Ink Cash would provide Ultimate Rewards points, but those points wouldn’t be transferrable to partners without the Sapphire Preferred. The $15K limit on spending requirements means that one person couldn’t get the welcome bonuses on an Ink card and the Platinum card and a Sapphire Preferred (the $6,000 spending requirement on the Platinum and $7,500 spending requirement on the Ink card and $4,000 spending requirement on the Sapphire Preferred would put them over $15K).
Even if someone wanted to have the Platinum card and an Ink card just to redeem Ultimate Rewards points for cash back, those two cards will have used almost all of their intro spending capacity with two cards (the total spending requirements for those two cards add up to $13,500). Their third card selection would need to require $1500 or less in spend. If either of them takes both the Ink Cash and the Ink Unlimited, their third card would have to be one that offers the welcome bonus after first purchase — and they would be stuck without being able to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to partners. Could taking the Sapphire Preferred with pick #1 position me to also get one of the Ink cards with my second round pick? Could it force one of them to pass on the Platinum card altogether and leave it for me to scoop up at the end of round 2? I think that if I choose the Sapphire Preferred card with the first selection, things could get really interesting.
We are allowing participants to choose an alternate offer if they are able to demonstrate that they can get the offer to populate during the livestream. For instance, if I could share my screen and show the ability to apply for the Amex Business Gold card’s targeted 130K offer, I could take that one and save a few hundred bucks in annual fees — leaving the Platinum card’s monster bonus (and monster hit to the budget) for someone else to consider.
At the very least, I hope the fact that they won’t know which card I’ll take until a little after 9pm on Wednesday night has them planning for contingencies upon contingencies — because two minutes will be up before you know it.
We’ll be live on Wednesday night, June 22nd at 9pm. Subscribe to our Youtube channel now and enable notifications and join us to see what happens — this is going to be a fun challenge.
well cant wait 🙂
hey I`m not seeing you live??
It’s not Wednesday June 22nd at 9pm Eastern yet :-).
If there weren’t already enough rules for the draft, it would be cool if you each had to pick 1 hotel card, 1 airline card, and 1 transferrable points card, and you could only have 1 CC from each bank.
Maybe should do what the real NFL draft does and change the amount of time between pick so it gets shorter with each round. 2 minutes seems a little short to react to what happens or look for alternatives during round 1 and 2. You don’t want to bore people but you also don’t want to have a bad a contest because a guy got flustered and so ends up with a crappy combo. Three or four minutes might be better.
One thing I’d really like to see is an accounting of time spent searching for and booking awards: an approximate tally of hours spent searching online, and at the very least a tally of time spent on the phone (both booking awards and dealing with any hiccups). The online search time will already be misleading as you guys have surely already done a lot of research on possible awards (maybe even pre-booked?) to make your draft plans and are already experts at it, but the phone time would be a more absolute indicator of one of the time-costs of each contestant’s trip.
Also, if anyone uses a paid award search tool, I think the cost of that should have to be accounted for in the $1000 budget.
Just an idea everyone has to take a virus test before and after if u test positive when ur home u LOSE !!!
The legal side will go on for years like 1/6..V Bernie
I think this challenge will show the value some of the mid tiered cards are offering right now. If the CSP still had the 80K offer it would be my #1 pick. Pair it with Amex Gold and Venture X and I think you’d have some good options.
Taxes and surcharges are extremely high (2x to 3x normal) right now. I assume these would all count towards the $1,000 budget limit. Would this significantly limit the ability to use a RTW award? And thereby affect the cards of choice in the draft?
Yes to all of that!
I think the dark horses are the Amex Gold 90k offer for less than half the annual fee of the Platinum.
Drafting the Platinum for an ANA rountrip or around the world flight seems like the smart play but ANA has fuel surcharges on a lot of their awards and partners so you’d have to draft a cash back card to make it work.
I think the Bonvoy Boundless with 5 free nights will be a top 3 pick. Again, going Chase will get you Hyatt with their low Cat 1-4 pricing is the obvious answer however you will be limited by the Hyatt footprint. I suspect that the location traveled will be dependent on award flights not hotel availability. Locking down 5 nights of hotel stays anywhere in the world with $95 annual fee is great value. The only downside is the $5000 spend, if it was $3000, I think it would be a slam dunk 1st pick.
Don’t get fancy, Nick. Sometimes the obvious play is still the best play. Just take the 150k plat. 60k for CSP and CSR are not great options in rd1, given the constraints of the game. I’m not sure they even get picked. I also think whoever takes the amex biz gold will be in a tough spot, since $10k MSR would lock them out of CIC/CIU. I also think the Bonvoy Boundless could sneak in there, but for $5k spend it would be tough to work in.
Here’s my mock draft:
Rd 1: Amex Plat 150k/$6k, Amex Gold 90k/$4k, CIU 75k/$7.5k
Rd 2: Citi Premier 80k/$4k, Amex Biz Gold 130k/$10k, CIC 75k/$7.5k
Rd 3: Aviator Red 60k/$0, Amex HH 100k+$100/$1k, Aviator Biz 80k/$2k
So in this scenario, Nick has 150k amex (ANA RTW), 75k Chase (Hyatt), and 60k AA (maybe some positioning flights).
Stephen has 220k Amex (maybe another ANA RTW, plus extra for Marriott or HH), 100k HH, and $100.
Greg has 75k UR, 80k TYP, and 80k AA. Lots of options but a tough hill to climb.
I’m pretty sure about the first 2 picks, but after that, I’m probably completely wrong!
But In this draft, Nick’s 75k chase points would not be transferable to Hyatt points
If Greg takes the Venture X, does Capital One immediately shut him down and he only gets the 0.5 cpp to use?
It’s funny, but this may be Greg’s only chance to get into the Capital One ecosystem.
I always root for Stephen Pepper…..please do not make him sleep on a park bench again!!!
ALL WE ARE SAYING…is give Pepper a chance
You could even say they should give Pepper a fair….shake 😉
Seriously though – I think that what I have planned for my trip could certainly be a contender for enough readers’ votes to win it provided nothing goes drastically wrong.
I’m sure your entry will shake things up — hopefully you can spice up the regular grind of Greg and Nick’s luxury hotels and Yacht clubs. But “provided” is carrying a lot of water in that sentence.
I’m fairly confident I can get the cards I need for my trip. My bigger concern at this point is the different transportation links I need to go through in order to get to my first activity. That’s a big component of what I have planned, so if those plans get derailed, I’d be in trouble.
Derailed huh? Is that a hint…?
It’s possible that my choice of words was deliberate. Whether or not that was done to throw Greg and Nick off the scent though is another matter. Well spotted though 😉
not a fan of these contests you guys do at FM
Also @Nick Reyes, dont worry about Greg and UR strategy. Guarenteed he is excited about 80k Citi Premier offer and ability to transfer 2x points to Choice so he can spend, hours/days/weeks on the phone with Choice Call center to work out his premium hotel redemptions!
One wonders: does spending time on the phone with call centers on three different continents count towards the goal?
This is good and answered many questions I have accept for a couple– what about “pre-existing statuses” you may personally have (you all are Hyatt globalist I believe, Greg is Delta Diamond), you would not get any of the statuses simply by holding a card, except for Hilton Diamond w Aspire.
Also, airport lounge access would be a benefit of some cards but not others (PP for many, Centurion for AM Plat and Delta res, etc.).
Also, personally i will find it interesting if anyone employs the Bonvoy(ed) or IHG strategies for transferring points (or buying w $$) for any hotels requiring more points than the max value of a certificate. A really lousy transfer rate in my view, so I personally don’t regard this as any great benefit as I do not carry a large balance in either of IHG or Bonvoy currencies (nor do I wish to). The idea of transferring high value MR or UR points to provide the additional points just get into a hotel I would like (and used to be able to get into with the certs alone) makes my skin crawl. We’ll see if any of you gentleman actually use this as an effective strategy and turn my mind around on it (is that Marriott cc offer for the 5 free certs still available??)…. Thanks
We have to sort of pretend that we don’t have status. For example, we’re definitely not allowed to use upgrade certificates. But there’s nothing we can do about being upgraded at a hotel (or I should say that none of us want to turn down upgrades!) so we’ll try to get pictures of non upgraded rooms to show what we “bought” vs where we actually stayed. Same with airport lounges. We should default to using whatever lounge we’re entitled to based on our tickets and based on what cards we picked up in the draft.
Nick – here is my logic. Take the CSP. Steve and Greg will then (I think) be forced into Plat and CSR – and then the venture x or Amex Gold comes back to you because they can’t afford it.
So you would wind up with CSP/Amex Gold and your hotel card of choice. 64k chase. 92k amex (or 83k capital one) for only $345 in annual fee and 6k spend.
Greg – if I was you I,d consider the gold and venture x. Pair those together and screw nick if he goes this route.
No ruling on referrals?
It isn’t something we’ve actually discussed, but I think the stance would be that this isn’t allowed as we wanted to put together three cards and a trip that – in theory – anyone could do regardless of other situations like relationship status. An extra 30k Membership Rewards sure would be handy though!
Yes I agree
How clever and fun!
Will the draft be recorded? I can’t watch live on Wednesday night, but I would love to watch the draft.
Yes – although it’ll be live on YouTube, you’ll be able to watch it there afterwards.
Nick are you making a list of different combinations that would depend of what cards went after your first pick? Two minutes is not a lot of time. I am interested in seeing what surprises there are.
I sure am. I think we’re all planning contingencies. In my case, a lot can change in those 4 picks between my first and second turn.
Where do we place our draft guesses? I’m slowly piecing together my best guess for what each person will do.
You can fire away with your guesses right here in the comments! I also just shared the post to Frequent Miler Insiders asking for suggestions / guesses.
Do you have any contingencies in place if you apply for a card and don’t get approved?
They’re not actually applying for the cards since they probably already have them. It’s just a theoretical situation providing an example of what is possible for someone to do with 3 cards.
Yep, like MeanGeneGreen said – we’re not actually applying for the cards outright.
Nick – you guys might get inspiration from the credit card mock draft that we did back in 2017 on PWaC. It was a bit different in that there were 5 or us, and we picked 5 cards, and we didn’t have to actually plan a trip with the rewards, but it might provide some insight.
Somebody has to goto Istanbul which, one side is on Europe, the other on Asia.
Agreed, someone has to go for the free Turkish stopover. Whoever doesn’t get ultimate rewards will have Amex/ Citi or Amex/Venture. Turkish to Europe/Maldives then RTW. If you can get around Hyatt that’s arguable way superior. With Nick blustering so hard he’s gonna take the platinum 😉