The Marriott Factor

marriottI recently wrote a post explaining that I never pay bills because I have automated my finances. The reason: credit cards. In that post, I promised to write about how to select the credit card to use for accumulating rewards. Articles like this one in US News often provide generic criteria for evaluating which credit card to use, like: decide on which type of reward you want (points, cash back, gift cards), understand annual reward limits, and weigh your options.

Picking one or more credit cards should not be a generic process. The number one criteria you should use for determining which credit to use is YOUR LIFESTYLE.

I love to travel. It makes me happy and enhances my life. In fact, I have these weird criteria for measuring my happiness level in life. Because I love Marriott hotels and am 100% loyal to that brand, one of my happiness criteria is called The Marriott Factor: Each year I need to earn at least Gold status (>50 nights). Why? Because the perks associated with that status or above makes me happy! These two elements made it easy for me to select the type of credit card I use each and every day: Marriott VISA.

An example always helps. I have been saving Marriott points for years. I decided to use a large chunk of my points on my honeymoon at the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco. I booked a full week’s stay, all with points. And because I have Platinum Elite Status I get tons of perks that make ME happy: room upgrades with fabulous views, free Wi-Fi, and a room on the concierge floor which, on weekdays, means free breakfast, dinner and dessert! From gas, to my cell phone bill, car insurance and groceries. You name it. It all goes on there. Always. No questions asked. Ever.

I could have gone with a credit card from Delta (my favorite airline). The reason I didn’t is because I automatically get Silver status through my company. The perks of boarding first (domestic and international), automatic upgrades (based on availability) and a free checked bag is enough FOR ME so that credit card was a no go.

If you are a shopper, find a credit card that allows you to earn the maximum benefit at the stores you frequent the most. If you prefer free gas, find a credit card that gives you that perk. Like cash back? Find a card that gives you that. The key is to PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET. You also must know the rules on how to earn points. Marriott frequently has Mega Bonus offers: always sign-up! They also have a new program allowing you to earn Elite Lifetime Status which I am working eagerly to obtain! Maybe once I get there I’ll switch to a different card.

Again, choose a credit card that fits YOUR LIFESTYLENo two people are the same and the process for choosing a credit card rewards program shouldn’t be either! If you pay your bill off at the end of the month, the interest rate doesn’t matter. Once you select a card, monitor promotions, follow the company on twitter, sign up for emails, etc. STAY IN THE KNOW!