How Did I Get Here? The Winding Journey to My New Sonesta World Mastercard

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Sonesta World Mastercard
Royal Sonesta Boston. Source: Sonesta

All the Reasons I Went After the Sonesta World Mastercard

Last week during a Miles to Memories Diamond Spending Podcast, I mentioned that I was recently approved for the Sonesta World Mastercard.  This information was met with a prompt deluge of laughter from Mark.  So intense were his guffaws, I couldn’t fully describe why the card works for my situation.  Which brings me to today’s article.  I found my way to the Sonesta World Mastercard for a combination of reasons.  Here’s why I easily decided to go after the Sonesta card, and how a few readers may benefit from it, as well.

Sonesta World Mastercard Welcome Offer

Bank of America’s Sonesta World Mastercard currently offers 60k points after $1k spend in the first 90 days of card membership.  Adding an authorized user unlocks another 5k points.  Sure, 65k points for only $1k spend sounds great, but what are the points worth?  While values are highly dependent on one’s personal situation, points are worth 1 cent per point (cpp) for several properties which interest us (more on that later).  I jumped for a $650 welcome offer with no card annual fee the first year.  But how did I come to that conclusion?  Because…

Sonesta World Mastercard
Bank of America Products? Meh.

Nothing Else Interested Me

Quite simply, we didn’t want any other Bank of America cards.  While my initial plans with Bank of America have definitely changed, the Sonesta card came out clearly on top compared to other BOA cards.  Here’s a bit more info on my situation:

  • Bank of America’s flagship cards (including Premium Rewards, Cash Rewards, and business versions) don’t interest me.  I’m even less interested in BOA’s Preferred Rewards program.  Specifically, I don’t want to park $100k with BOA for what I consider a gimmick.  I prefer my investments with another firm.
  • While I like Alaska Airlines credit cards, earning more in their program is definitely not a priority.  I have had tons of Alaska miles for years, but I haven’t needed to use any.  Adding more is nonsensical for my situation.
  • The Virgin Atlantic card welcome offer stinks right now (35k miles).  If a better offer existed, I may have gone after that card instead.

Timing and Application Rules

Here are a few of the limits on new BOA cards:

  • 2 new cards in 2 months
  • 3 new cards in 12 months
  • 4 new cards in 24 months

I had already obtained two BOA cards in the past two months.  Coupling this with the above limits, I wanted to quickly get a third and move on to acquiring cards from other banks.  Doing so maximized my efficiency in obtaining new BOA cards while balancing my new card goals with those other card issuers.

Sonesta World Mastercard Ongoing Benefits

In addition to the welcome offer, I’m a fan of the card’s ongoing benefits, including:

  • Big Spend Benefit:  Earn 30k bonus points at account anniversary with $7.5k spend in the past year.  That’s 37.5k points (7.5k for normal spend plus the 30k bonus) for a 5% rewards return (based on my 1 cpp valuation) for exactly $7.5k spend in a cardmember year.
  • Travel Pass Elite Status:  By simply holding the card, I obtain top tier status (it’s just called “Elite”) in Sonesta’s Travel Pass loyalty program.  I’m most drawn to this status because it provides complimentary access to all Sonesta lounges or free continental breakfast at properties without a lounge.

So, my long term hold strategy boils down to this.  For an annual fee of $75 starting the second year (none the first year), I obtain approximately $375 in point value, lounge access, and free breakfast.  I’m good with that deal.

Beyond spending exactly $7.5k each cardmember year, I don’t plan to otherwise spend on the card.  The card offers 3x earning at Sonesta properties, 2x on airfare/car rentals/dining, and 1x everywhere else.

Sonesta’s Growing Footprint

As of early 2020, Sonesta only managed 58 properties.  Since then, they have acquired RLH, the parent company of Red Lion Hotels and a thousand or so properties.  They’ve also obtained additional properties previously branded as IHG and Marriott.  Sonesta’s growth continues.  These acquisitions may not interest some, but it piqued my own.

Sonesta World Mastercard
Stephen F Austin Royal Sonesta. Source: Sonesta

Intriguing Properties

We don’t have any immediate, specific stays planned for Sonesta properties.  But in the next year or so, I’m interested in staying and/or redeeming at several Sonesta properties, including:

  • Stephen F Austin Royal Sonesta Hotel, Austin, TX:  30k points per night, ~0.7 cpp
  • Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel, San Francisco, CA:  30k points per night, ~0.7 cpp
  • Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island, SC:  30k points per night, ~1.4 cpp
  • Sonesta Simply Suites Dallas Las Colinas:  10k points per night, ~1 cpp

Again, these are just a sample of properties we are interested in and valuations based on my own research.  I’m looking forward to digging into more high-value finds, especially in the lower categories.

My Soft Spot for Hotel Cards

I love hotel credit cards.  From a young age, I’ve enjoyed exploring different hotel brands.  While I’ve enjoyed staying at luxury properties over the years, I’m now perfectly comfortable staying in mid- and (gasp) lower-tier chains as necessary while pursuing my travel goals.  Other than bank points, hotel currencies are my second favorite.  I enjoy how easy it is to redeem hotel points compared to airline miles.  Sonesta has properties across the spectrum, from extended stay through luxury, and I’m excited to try out their products at various tiers.

Going Beyond the Obvious

Since I already hold what I consider to be the best overall cards available, I now pursue many cards which others may quickly consider niche, lower value, or both.  That’s fine with me.  And with Bank of America, it was either this third card or nothing for me.  By pursuing the Sonesta card, I’m looking forward to unearthing hidden gems.

Sonesta World Mastercard

Pet Policy

Leading up to our recent dog adoption, I’ve paid more attention to various brands’ pet policies.  While researching Sonesta before my card application, I noticed that most properties I viewed accepted pets for a reasonable fee (starting at $25).  Fees increase at the higher-end properties, but I’ll be happy benefiting from the policies of the lower-category properties.

Sonesta World Mastercard – Conclusion

Summing up, the Sonesta card is a great option for us.  It definitely won’t be the right call for many out there, but I do think it deserves more attention.  From my perspective, the key is to go beyond one’s initial gut feeling about any one product to determine a good fit.  Sure, a niche card isn’t worth the jump in many circumstances.  But conducting one’s own due diligence can reveal hidden value.  It only takes one such win to validate that effort.  I’ll continue searching while others continue laughing.

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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8 COMMENTS

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Counterpoint: BoA biz cash rewards card has a $750 SUB with $5k spend. Card earns 3% CB at OSS (or pick another category you can spend creatively in). Spending the MSR $5k at Staples/OM will earn a total of $900 ($750+$150) CB. There’s no AF. Further, if you spent the $7500/yr that you’re putting on the Sonesta on a 3% CB category instead then you’d be earning $225 per year. Considering the Sonesta’s $75 AF I’d say ignoring a CB BoA cards seems to have a fairly high opportunity cost (to me it looks like ypu’re buying at almost a penny a point over the first 2 years)

    • Parts Unknown,

      I can certainly understand many picking the BOA Biz Cash Rewards card over the Sonesta card for all the reasons you mentioned. It wasn’t the right call for my situation, though. I have no need for more spend capacity in the Biz Cash’s office supply or other bonus categories. The Biz Cash $750 welcome offer is better, but it’s not enough for me to prioritize over the Sonesta card’s welcome offer and ongoing benefits. Different strokes for different folks.

  2. Would seem like a good deal with the 60k sign-up bonus IF the redemption rates are indeed as listed on the site. Does anyone have an experience redeeming points? Are the 30k hotels always available at 30k or do they charge more or block rooms on weekends, etc.?

    • Christian,

      All good points – hopefully someone with experience will chime in. Since I was just as interested (or more) in the lower category properties, I haven’t been overly concerned.

  3. Hubs & I both got the card when first offered for St Maarten’s awesome prop. Never got to go cos of Covid & probably not even use there now since so many other great props added now + some addtl good IHG props added 8.20.

    You can’t earn Sonesta points outside the cc is a very good reason to get & 102,500 points after the first year is worth $825.

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