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Tired of the basketball pictures?  Sheesh, you should have heard the folks at the office today!  I know nothing about basketball, but we can run a Card Madness bracket, that’s for sure!

I also want to say a quick thank you to all of our readers.  We’re having a lot of fun, and appreciate the engagement!  Game 17 was our first game to break 100 total votes, and not surprisingly, almost everyone voted for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.  To recap:

We announced the Card Madness 2019 tournament on March 15th.

After the Facebook polls, we released the bracket on March 18th, with some fan favorites voted into the tournament!

The first round saw a few upsets, and then the Games 9-16 produced major wins for Chase and American Express!

a basketball going through a net

Game 17:  Chase Sapphire Reserve (107 votes) vs. Synchrony Sam’s Club (4 votes)

As most of us expected, the Sapphire Reserve obliterated the Sam’s Club card from Synchrony.  The Reserve was our number 2 seed (tied with the AmEx Gold for highest number of Facebook votes) so it’s no surprise.  Despite the high annual fee, the Reserve offers frequent travelers exceptional value with benefits, fee credits, and flexible points.

Sound like a great card?  If you’re under 5/24, check out our Top Credit Cards page here!

Game 18:  Chase United MileagePlus Explorer (73) vs. Bank of America Virgin America World Elite Mastercard (20)

United defeats Virgin Atlantic,  73 points to 20.  Not a huge surprise here either, but the Virgin Atlantic award chart does offer some sweet spots to those that know ow to use it!  Our readers opted for the steady value of United’s programs, the Star Alliance, and the Explorer card’s priority boarding and checked bags.

Game 19:  American Express Platinum Delta SkyMiles (70) vs. Barclay Miles & More World Elite Mastercard (19)

Even with Lufthansa’s large European footprint, the card couldn’t stand up to the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card.  Delta’s SkyMiles currency has gotten a bad wrap in the past, but the recent flash sales give SkyMiles hoarders a whole new avenue to burn miles.  Our readers seem to have noticed…I certainly have!

Game 20:  Barclay JetBlue Plus Card (47) vs. Bank of America Travel Rewards (41)

If you bought tickets to these games, Game 20 was the one to watch!  Tied through most of the match, the JetBlue Plus card and the Travel Rewards card were slogging it out.  We checked the polls twice last night, and both times these cards were in a tie game!  In the end, JetBlue sent the Travel Rewards card packing.  A personal favorite of mine, I’ll be rooting for the JetBlue card in its next match!

Check this out below, all tied up at 10PM last night!

a screenshot of a computer screen

Game 21:  Barclay Arrival+ (27) vs. Chase Ink Plus (67)

Arrival+ put up a  good fight, but couldn’t complete with the Ink Plus.  As we’ve seen over the past few days, the PWaC family loves the Ultimate Rewards program.  So far in the tournament, Chase Ultimate Rewards cards are undefeated!  We’ll see if they can keep up the winning streak in Round 2.  Interestingly, all of the Ink cards in the tournament did poorly in the original Facebook polls, but have won their first round games.  We’ll see if their luck continues!

Game 22:  Capital One Spark Miles (20) vs. Citi ThankYou Prestige (67)

The Citi ThankYou Prestige defeated the Capital One Spark Miles 67 to 20.  This is one of the few matches so far where the high end card has defeated the lower end card.  Capital One in particular can leave a bad impression, since they’re a little stingy with approvals and credit limits.  By the end of the game, the Prestige’s benefits won out over Capital One’s newly transferrable points.

Game 23:  Bank of America Premium Rewards (67) vs. US Bank Aeromexico Visa Signature Credit Card (9)

This marks US Bank’s second loss of the tournament, with the FlexPerks Visa Signature the only US Bank card to win a Round 1 match so far.  If I had to guess, the BoA Premium Rewards card won due to a combination of the simplicity of the points and the presence of Bank of America.  A friend of mine, that I’d consider a fellow credit card enthusiast, has often commented on the proliferation of Bank of America, even though they don’t typically have the best product on the market.  Everybody has a Bank of America checking account, and then they go get a credit card to match!

Game 24:  Citi DoubleCash (38) vs. American Express Business Platinum (56)

Another really close game!  The Citi DoubleCash and the AmEx Business Platinum were also tied when I logged on to check out the stats last night.  If you recall, the DoubleCash was voted in by the PWaC Facebook group.  Unfortunately, it just couldn’t stack up to the Platinum’s extensive list of benefits.  This game was tied at 27 points last night, but the Business Platinum team came out in huge numbers late in the game!

a screenshot of a survey

I’d love to see Ultimate Rewards continue their Round 1 Games undefeated!  Our final Ink card playing tonight in Game 31, will it beat the CitiBusiness card?  if the first 24 games are any indication, I bet the Ink will!  The tournament thus far has shown clear support for transferable points systems.  Last night was another big night for Chase and American Express, with Barclays eeking out a win over Bank of America in Game 20.

Follow the Challonge bracket here!

a screenshot of a computer

Our final 8 games for Round 1 are below!  If I’ve seen anything so far in the Round 1 games, these votes matter!

Central Division Round 1, Games 25-32

Game 25:  American Express Platinum vs. FNBO TravElite Card

The American Express Platinum is considered the cream of the crop, or at least it was, until the Sapphire Reserve was released.  I still consider the Platinum a great card, despite it’s high annual fee of $550.  At that price, you’re getting access to Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass membership, a $200 airline credit, $200 in Uber credits, Global Entry credit, and Hilton Gold status.  Plus, you’ll get 5x Membership Rewards on flights booked with airlines.

If you’re a fan of the AmEx Platinum (like me) you can check out the welcome offer on the card here.

FNBO is the First National Bank of Omaha, and apparently it’s a great card.  The card will earn you 3x points on travel, and 1.5x on everything else.  There’s no annual fee, but you still get a Global Entry credit and annual $100 airline credit for use on bags, seat assignment fees, and whatever else you can think of!  Points are worth 1 cent apiece, so this is more in the realm of a cashback card, than a true “points” card.  The TravElite card may not be as well known, but I consider it a serious contender in the tournament.  The problem is, its first round is agains the powerhouse Platinum!

Game 26:  Chase Southwest Premier vs. Chase IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

a building with a flag on the top

Save up those IHG points for a great stay at the InterContinental Amsterdam!

Two of the Southwest cards are in the Central Division of the tournament.  With major operations in Chicago, Houston, and Atlanta, the name seemed fitting!  The Premier is the mid-level Rapid Rewards card from Chase.  You’ll earn double Rapid Rewards on flights and 6,000 bonus points each year for an annual fee of $99.  The new IHG card has been met with mixed reviews.  Either way, the IHG Premier card offers good value for fans of the InterContinental Hotels Group.  Cardholders net themselves 10x points on IHG stays, double points on gas, groceries, and restaurants, and have automatic Platinum Elite status.  Plus, you’ll get an annual free night, AND every time you book at least 4 nights on points, you’ll get one free.

Game 27:  American Express Hilton Ascend Card vs. Chase Aer Lingus Visa Signature

Hilton games back to back!  We’ve got the Ascend in Game 27, and the Hilton Honors card below (and if they both win, they’ll go head to head in the next round!).  The Ascend is the middle card, sandwiched between the Honors and the Aspire.  If you hold the Ascend, you’ll shell out a $95 annual fee for the following benefits:  12X Hilton Honors at Hilton hotels, 6x at restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations, 3x everywhere else, and automatic Hilton Gold status.  You’ll also earn a free weekend night if you spend at least $15,000 in a calendar year on the card.  Chase recently introduced both the Aer Lingus and the Iberia cards.  Both closely resemble the British Aiways Visa, and all three earn Avios.  The Avios family of cards typically have huge welcome offers, and after that you’ll continue to earn triple Avios on purchases with Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, and LEVEL airline purchases.  If you spend at least $30,000 in a calendar year, you’ll also earn a Companion Ticket (with a TON of exclusions)..

Game 28:  American Express Hilton Honors Card vs. Bank of America Spirit Airlines World Mastercard

The base Hilton card from AmEx offers you 7x Hilton points on Hilton stays, 5x when you swipe for dinner, gas, or groceries, and 3x on everything else.  You’ll also have complimentary Silver Elite status just for holding the card, with the ability to upgrade to Hilton Gold Elite status after $20,000 spend in a calendar year.  I know you guys don’t really like Spirit, but I’m going to try to sell you on it…ready?  The Spirit card earns double Free Spirit miles on all purchases!  The first year, there’s no annual fee, then it goes up to $59.  Bank of America will give you 5,000 miles every year, AND you get Zone 2 boarding on every flight.  Listen, it’s not for everyone, but for a frequent Spirit flier, it might just work.  Plus, it’ll keep those miles from expiring every 3 months!

a yellow airplane in the sky

Game 29:  Barclay AAdvantage Aviator Red vs. Barclay Frontier Airlines World Mastercard

The business Aviator card won Game 4 against the Avianca Vueda Visa card, can the Aviator Red win too?  If you pay for your American flight on your Aviator Red, you’ll earn double AAdvantage miles, and you’ll also get your first checked bag free, 25% savings on in-flight purchases, and preferred boarding.  (Plus, this card usually has a fantastic welcome offer!)

The Frontier card offers 5x miles on Frontier purchases and 3x at restaurants.  What makes this card most interesting though, is the ability to access Frontier’s Family Pooling.  With Frontier’s quickly expiring miles, this is a great benefit in my opinion!

Game 30:  American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles vs. Chase Southwest Priority Visa

AmEx offers quite a few Delta cards, and the Gold SkyMiles.  Delta has some big fans out there, even though their SkyMiles program gets a bad wrap.  With the Gold card, Delta passengers will get double SkyMiles on Delta purchases, free checked bags, and 20% off in-flight purchases.  The Southwest Priority card is the newest Southwest card to hit the market, and can be extremely useful for frequent Southwest fliers.  Weighing in a at a $149 annual fee, you’ll earn double Rapid Rewards on Southwest purchases.  Unlike the Plus and Premier cards, every year you’ll also get 4 upgrades, a $75 credit on Southwest purchases, and 7,500 Rapid Rewards.

Game 31:  Chase Ink Business Preferred vs. CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard

Battle of the business cards!  I’m betting the Ink will beat the AAdvantage here, major points for flexibility.  Ultimate Rewards cards haven’t lost a match yet, and I assume the trend will continue.  Ink Preferred cardholders earn triple UR on travel, shipping, internet, cable, phone, and online advertising.  The Ink Preferred also grants access to the Chase travel portal and transfer partners, really maximizing the utility of the points.  The CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select is a great option for American Airlines customers, with double miles on purchases with the airline, gas, car rentals, telecom, cable, and satellite.  You’ll also get access to priority boarding, discounts on food and drink while on American Airlines metal, and free checked bags.

Game 32:  Chase World of Hyatt vs. American Express EveryDay Preferred

The World of Hyatt card is a fan favorite, and although the former “2 free nights” welcome offer was much better, the card still provides decent value.  For a $95 annual fee, you’ll earn 4x Hyatt points on Hyatt stays, 2x points on gyms and fitness, travel, mass transit, ride-sharing, and restaurants.  Cardholders will also get one free night annually, with the chance to earn a second free night, for use at hotels in categories 1-4.  The EveryDay Preferred, on the other hand, is a daily driver for a lot of people.  With triple Membership Rewards at grocery stores, double on gas, and a 50% bonus on earned points if you use the card at least 30 times each statement cycle, it’s a great way to accumulate Membership Rewards.

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