Which Travel Credit Card to Replace an SPG Business AMEX for Lufthansa Awards?

Which Travel Credit Card to Replace an SPG Business AMEX?

Which travel credit card can replace an SPG Business AMEX for earning Lufthansa award tickets? TravelSort reader Mark comments on our post 2015: Which New Credit Cards We're Applying For:

“With Costco dropping Amex, we need to replace an SPG business card. We like to transfer points to Lufthansa and spend about $150,000 a year, looking for a card that earns points like SPG. Any recommendations?”

Anyone who does a lot of Costco shopping likely saw this past week's news that Costco is dropping AMEX as its credit card partner; see for example this WSJ article on the split. This isn't immediate, of course: the current partnership is effective until March 31, 2016, more than a year away. So for members such as Mark, there's still ample time to earn valuable SPG points on Costco purchases.

Looking ahead to when AMEX is no longer accepted at Costco, what are the other options for earning frequent flyer miles or transferable points that can be used to book Lufthansa award tickets? Here are the main options:

1. Lufthansa Miles & More MasterCard

The Lufthansa Miles & More MasterCard earns 2X miles per dollar spent on Miles & More airlines, which in addition to Lufthansa include Adria Airways, AirDolomiti, Austrian Airlines Group, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa Regional, Lufthansa Private Jet, Luxair and SWISS. 

Since the current signup bonus is only 20,000 miles, I highly recommend waiting to see if a 50,000 signup bonus offer returns, as it has been available several times in the past. Note that the $79 annual fee is NOT waived your first year, unless you're a Miles & More Senator or HON Circle elite member.

The advantage of earning Lufthansa Miles & More miles directly instead of miles in another Star Alliance airline such as United or Avianca is that you then have access to greater award availability, particularly Lufthansa First Class, which otherwise is typically only available to partners about 15 days in advance of departure (see Lufthansa First Class Award Space Booked 15 Days in Advance).


2. 60K Ink Plus Visa

If you don't need to fly Lufthansa First Class (or have great flexibility such that you can book a few days before departure) a good offer can be the 60K Ink Plus Business Visa, particularly if you've never had the card before, or haven't received a bonus for this card within the past 24 months. The card earns Ultimate Rewards points that can transfer 1:1 to United MileagePlus.

Don't forget that there are currently Discounted Lufthansa Business Class and SWISS Business Class Awards Available using United MileagePlus miles, although you do need to book by February 28, 2015, so this is mainly helpful if you already have a stash of United miles. I will say that my preference is for SWISS Business Class over even Lufthansa New Business Class, since the staggared seats, virtually all with direct aisle access, offer greater privacy for those traveling solo.

3. 50K United MileagePlus Explorer Business Visa

Similarly to the Ink Plus, the 50K United MileagePlus Explorer Business Visa could be a good bet for a business card with an attractive bonus. Business cards are always separate products than personal cards, so even if you've had the personal United MileagePlus Explorer Visa, you're eligible for the business version if you don't have the card and haven't received a bonus for this card within the past 24 months. 


4. Avianca LifeMiles Visa

I put the Avianca LifeMiles Visa lower down in priority, both because it currently only offers a 20,000 mile signup bonus, and because Avianca now blocks all Lufthansa First Class award redemptions. There are also no mixed class awards allowed, and it's a huge pain to deal with the LifeMiles call center. 


5. Wait and Apply Again for the SPG Business AMEX

If your goal is Lufthansa First Class or expanded award availability for business class, you'll need Miles & More miles. And to supplement any bonus miles earned from the Miles & More card or other existing Miles & More miles, SPG points are valuable since they can be transferred 1:1 to Miles & More with a 25% bonus when transferring in increments of 20,000 points (see SPG Airline Partners: Transfer Starwood Points to Miles). 

So whichever new business credit card Mark gets to replace his current SPG Business AMEX, it's a good idea to consider a new SPG Business AMEX in about a year's time. About once a year there's an enhanced signup bonus offer of 30,000 points, so I recommend waiting for that offer, before reapplying.

If you earn AMEX points from significant Costco spend, which non-AMEX card do you plan to switch to?

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50K United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card Bonus Offer

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