Why is nobody talking about the Diners Club card?

Recently (as in this month) Diners Club re-launched consumer credit cards in the United States for new applications.  This is big news as Diners Club used to be a major player in the points game and has been closed to new applications for several years as the program has bounced from bank to bank.

My shiny new Diners Club card

My shiny new Diners Club card

They offer a flexible point program with several transfer partners.  Those partners are (via Flyertalk and 1:1 unless otherwise noted):

OneWorld: British Airways
SkyTeam: Delta Airlines, Korean Air.
Star Alliance: Air Canada, Eva Airways, SAS, South African Airways, Thai Airways.
Independent: Alaska Airlines, El Al Airlines, (50:1), Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Iceland Air, Southwest Airlines (1500:1200), Virgin Atlantic.
Hotels: Best Western (1250:3300), Choice (1250:2400), Hilton (1250:2000), Hyatt (1250:750), Intercontinental Hotel Group (1250:1500), Marriott (1250:1500), Starwood (1250:750).
Rail: Amtrak.

Realistically, only a few of these options interest me:  British, Delta, Korean, Aeroplan (Air Canada), Alaska and Starwood.  But truthfully, thats just as many (if not more) interesting transfer partners compared to both AmEx and Chase.

From Point A To has a great post explaining the wisdom of earning flexible point currencies as opposed to individual airline miles.

So I’d argue that Diners Club belongs in that heap– just as valuable as Amex or Chase points and only slightly less valuable than Starwood points.

Why else am I so bullish on the new Diners Club card?

The main reason is that the “Elite” version of this card offers three points per dollar at drug stores, grocery stores, and gas stations (pay at pump only).  There just so happens to be a three letter pharmacy up the street from me (and many of you, most likely) that sells pin-enabled gift cards for $4.95 each.  That’s potentially 1515 points for less than $6 (accounting for money order fee) that’s scalable to $5,000 (15,150 points) per day if you really want to max it out.

To put that in perspective, if you’re paying 99 cents per $499.01 money order to cash out at your local grocery store (where you can also do your weekly shopping and get 3X points with this card), you’re paying roughly 0.39 cents per BA, Alaska, Aeroplan, etc mile or roughly 0.65 cents per SPG point after transfer.

That means:

-A category 7 Starwood Hotel that normally costs 30,000-35,000 points per night (think: St. Regis Bali, St. Regis Mallorca, St. Regis New York) would run you between ~$195 and $225 per night–plus the fifth night free.  So the effective price could be closer to $150/night in 5 night increments… for some of the nicest hotels in the world.

-A round trip ticket to Europe in business class would run you 90,000 Aeroplan miles — or about $350 if you manufacture them via Diners Club card.  Yeah… a $350 round trip to Europe in business class.  Aeroplan does tack on fuel surcharge with many airlines, but not all of them.

Lagoon Villa at St. Regis Bali

Lagoon Villa at St. Regis Bali

90,000 may sound like a lot to manufacture, but it’s fewer than 60 $500 gift cards, and when you can buy 10 at a time, that’s just 6 trips to your local drug store…

Not only is the value outsized, but I’m generally scared to manufacture spending on that level with most of my favorite cards.  I simply value the relationship with Amex/Chase/Citi/Barclays too highly to risk a closure.  But the Diners Club card is issued by BMO Harris–a bank which offers exactly ZERO other cards I’m interested in.  If they sever their relationship with me, I won’t be happy about it, but it won’t be the end of the world, either.

So I bring this post full circle back to the post title: Why is nobody talking about this card?

The truth is… I don’t know.  It’s an awesome card.

One reason is that BMO Harris doesn’t offer affiliate links to blogs, so I’ll just throw that out there, and you can make of it what you will.

Another reason could be the $300 annual fee on the Elite version of the card, but in my opinion, that’s a small price to pay for:

-Primary insurance on vehicle rentals
-Airport lounge access in almost every major airport in the world
-Aforementioned triple points in many useful categories
-Chip & PIN functionality for worldwide acceptance
-Many other benefits like trip cancellation insurance, baggage loss, etc. etc.

Lastly, I suppose that the lack of a sign up bonus would be a negative for some folks, but when you can pretty easily earn a sign up bonus level of points every month with this card, I don’t find that to be a huge deal.

This card was a no brainer for me, and I think it should be for just about anyone interested in manufacturing any spending.

Travel the World For Free!

Comments

  1. How are you planning on liquidating that many OV and Vanilla GC? Serve/BB are not options any more.

  2. Thanks for the shout out to my post! Great summary of this new card – alot of very tempting features! Maybe another reason is the lack of a big signup bonus? Has Diners Club ever offered them in the past?

  3. Not sure what you mean by ‘no one’ I’ll just note that I believe I was the first to post on this.
    http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2014/09/27/diners-club-back-open-new-applications-heres-value-proposition/

    I’ve seen posts on it over at The Points Guy and Rapid Travel Chai, just from memory.

    But the card which earns a category bonus is pretty pricey. And transfers to miles have historically been pretty slow. Plus no signup bonus currently (a decade ago my Citi-issued Diners Club did come with one).

    It’s great to have the card back, it’s not a BAD card, but it’s not going to be top of my wallet. I cancelled my legacy Diners Club a year ago, and I’m not applying for this new version.

    • We Fly Free says:

      Fair enough… I suppose “nobody” is a bit of hyperbole, but I do think the card is *extremely* undervalued relative to the rewards you’re able to easily earn with the card.

      Compare the amount of points you can earn with the Diners Club card ($5000 per day at 3X and theoretically unlimited per day at 1X) with the amount you can earn with the new Target prepaid product ($5000 per month max at 1X), yet the collective internet point world can’t contain it’s excitement for the Target card, and is barely talking about the Diners Club card.

      • I think the Target card opens up opportunities for folks not close to Walmart, and with a totally different purpose — it’s not category specific so good for meeting minimum spend or threshold bonuses, not for scaling the purchase and unload of gift cards — totally different market, likely different people interested.

        Whether or not it’s undervalued depends on your goals and the tactics you’ll employ towards those goals (which itself depends on your opportunity costs as well).

        It’s great to take a position and advocate for that position. I don’t think it makes sense to assume that others not advocating for that same position are somehow compromised with ill intentions. As opposed to just not seeing the world the same way.

        Best solution is to write posts laying out your analysis like this one!

  4. It is a great card, but only if you don’t have the premium features you mentioned from someone else.

    Chip and Pin? Barclaycard Arrival.
    Primary Insurance? A few Chase cards come to mind.
    Lounges? Amex Plat and AA Exec.

    Having said that, I would’ve probably grabbed this card if I weren’t hopeful for a sign up bonus in the future. 🙂

    • We Fly Free says:

      -The Arrival’s chip & pin functionality is limited at best. It defaults to chip & sign, and only if that fails does it, sometimes, attempt to process it as a chip & pin transaction. It’s far from guaranteed, and I wouldn’t want to be stuck with only an Arrival card, a low tank of gas and a chip & pin only gas pump in rural Europe…

      -The Chase cards have more ambiguous terms as to exclusions, limits, etc compared to Diners. Given the choice, I’d absolutely pick a Diners card for rental cars, but your point is well taken that the benefit (or close to it) is offered on cards with much lower annual fees.

      -Both cards cost ~35% more than the Diners card, and neither come with any bonus opportunities for “normal spend” other than Amex Travel or AA flights. The AA card also only gives you access to AA lounges…

      I agree that the lack of a sign up bonus is a negative, but, as I said above, the opportunity is there to earn a sign up bonus level of points on a monthly basis with relatively little work.

  5. frequent churner says:

    Simple answer, no bonus to bloggers to pimp this card. High annual fee, no bonus. Very hard to entice the dumb masses to sign up.

    It’s a specialty card for serious manufactured spenders who know how to maximize the awards. I hope it stays that way, less competition.

  6. frequent churner says:

    Btw, you have to factor in the annual fee of $300 in your cost per point calculations. At 500-600k points a year manufactured, the cost is around .42 – .44 cents per point. A bit higher than you claim.

    • We Fly Free says:

      Perhaps so.

      I’m hoping that a high level of spend may warrant an annual fee waiver, statement credit offer, points, etc.

      Your calculation also assumes you derive absolutely zero benefit from holding the card–of which I’d argue that there are a few for the frequent traveller; most notably being one of the few cards that offers true, primary chip & PIN functionality.

      I’d also argue that the extra marginal points I’m earning on gas (vs. 2X on my Ink), groceries (vs 2X on PRG), etc — which is sending I already have to do — is worth something as well. In fact, because I’m holding this card, I’m actually canceling my PRG card, so that’s a savings of $175/year. Calculating a true CPM may be more difficult than simply lumping in the fee to the MS total.

      • frequent churner says:

        I have the old Amex blue cash with uncapped 5x in groceries/drugstores/gas so for me the economics is different with my almost 100k/month manufactured spend, but 3x Alaskan miles is worth at least or more than 6x cashback to me. Either way, good card to have for MS.

  7. Wondering if you were part of the forced closure of these cards? Are you still able to go full steam ahead? I waited to sign up until it was too late as the card is no longer offered, but a friend of mine who signed up and went full steam ahead had his card locked and now closed for “spending habits outside the norm for the average family”.

    Any updates to provide?

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