Linking Travel & Credit Card Optimization— John Taylor Garner, founder of Card Curator

    

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Let’s start with a simple question. Why do you have points and miles?

There are currently 1.1 billion credit cards in circulation in the U.S. At a year-end average annual percentage rate (APR) of 14.58%, credit card banks and issuers generate over $118 billion in revenue on Americans’ $810 billion credit card debt. Unlike any other country in the world, these returns allow U.S. card issuers to offer large, attractive sign-up bonuses to lock in new and long-term customers. At the same time, the travel industry, airlines, and hotels benefit from partnering with banks through rewards and miles programs to deepen their brand loyalty. Et voilà, the most exciting travel deals you sort of knew you had, are born of two industries with every interest in you not taking full advantage.

If you’re anything like the two-thirds of Americans who don’t know their credit card benefits, you may have a follow-up question: so what? Here, we highlight a member of our own fintech community, John Taylor Garner. John is using his start-up, Card Curator, to transform Americans’ ability to access the esoteric world of points, miles, and travel.

Where there’s a will

With more than 570 million blogs on the internet, any number of which belong to this generation’s next trendiest traveler, John’s travels could be unremarkable if they weren’t exceptionally cheap. John was a high earning, high spending, and disillusioned volatility trader in New York City, who was making a habit of finding ways the very banks he worked for could take him around the world.

His strategy? All things credit cards. John has earned over $75,000, accumulated more than 7 million miles, and traveled to over 80 countries through his cards. He’s made himself an expert in earning points and miles, cashing in rewards for maximum value, and churning credit cards (the practice of regularly opening and closing card accounts to earn lucrative sign-up bonuses).

The turning point came in 2017, when John planned a two week trip to Korea and Japan with three friends, valued at roughly $100,000. At his behest, each traveler opened 4–5 new cards, with the end result of all first class flights, and all but one 5-star hotels, paid for through card sign-up bonuses and aggregate points and miles.

The trip was unforgettable, and it was evidence of the tremendous upsides to strategic credit card use. It also shed light on just how complex it was to plan — months in the making — even for a points and miles veteran like John. Surely, there was a more efficient way for the average cardholder to cash in on their daily spending without keeping up with hundreds of intricate rules.

By 2018, John left his job to found Card Curator.

How to maximize rewards

“There’s a bunch of money left on the table by everyone who isn’t optimizing their credit cards. Money that the banks are willing to pay you if you play the game they’ve directly designed.” — John Taylor Garner, Founder & CEO of Card Curator

John began building an app that at its core is meant to “put money in people’s pockets.” Card Curator is principled on the idea that when people spend money using credit cards, they earn money, whether as points, miles, direct cashback, free hotel nights, or free flight upgrades.

Card Curator’s core algorithm first assesses the user’s linked cards and inputted goals. These goals can be as specific as a roundtrip, first class flight to Honolulu for two, or to maximize cashback. The algorithm layers user-based customizations with banking rules, such as Chase’s 5/24 credit card limit, as well as airline alliances, award program transfer ratios, internal points and miles valuations, and several other proprietary layers.

The Card Curator app then employs a double maximization standard to fulfill the goals. On the earnings side, the app gives recommendations that include the best card to use for each purchase using geolocation, and the order of cards to sign up for. On the redemption side, the app maximizes the value of the points earned based on recommendations for where and how to spend them.

Overall, users can expect to earn 5–10% or more on their spending.

An industry ripe for disruption

NerdWallet. Creditcards.com. The Points Guy. Heard of them? These may be the actors who come to mind when you think about credit cards or points and miles, and yet they aren’t Card Curator competitors. Here’s why.

There is a lack of innovation in credit card optimization, meaning Card Curator effectively has no direct competitors…for now. Card advisors, like NerdWallet, don’t have credit card maximization algorithms. Creditcards.com and The Points Guys are not considered financial technology, but rather points and miles blogs that educate cardholders on new credit card deals and trip reviews. Yet, as John explains, it can be wearisome for even the most experienced credit card churners to stay on top of the highly dynamic credit card space. This fatigue puts Card Curator’s automated process a step beyond what advisors and bloggers are able to offer.

Furthermore, card advisors and top points and miles bloggers receive kickbacks from card issuers for promoting their products. As an entirely independent entity, Card Curator’s recommendations are 100% free from conflicts of interest.

Banks will continue offering large signup bonuses for credit cards to attract new clients as long as they earn over 11% on credit card debt and almost 2% in interchange fees. Also, points and miles are here to stay in the travel industry, because they are so effective at binding consumer loyalty. Even when COVID-19 first tore through airlines and hotels, banks backstopped companies by investing billions in their loyalty program partnerships, ensuring stability in their own banking reward programs.

Card Curator works at the intersection of payments, personal finance, and consumer banking, making it a truly novel tool within the broader fintech category. In a post-pandemic world, John sees a strong demand for travel — and he isn’t alone. Card Curator has the potential to be pivotal in funding the next travel wave.

Written by Joanna Lin, Head of Marketing at Card Curator.

Card Curator has now launched and is available for download on the App Store!

John Taylor Garner

John is an entrepreneur and member of the Wharton Class of 2022. Formerly, John traded index volatility at Merrill Lynch for six years, where he managed the international macro cross-asset volatility book. At Wharton, John oversees alumni relations as a Board Member of the Wharton FinTech Club. John has lived in New Jersey, Houston, New York City, and Singapore, but spent the majority of childhood in London. John graduated Dartmouth College in 2013 with a B.A. in Economics and Psychology. When he’s not traveling the world or working on Card Curator, John loves to scuba dive, ski, rock climb, and run.

About Card Curator

Founded in 2018, Card Curator is the only fully automated app that maximizes returns based on users’ primary spending and preference for next-to-free travel, cashback, and charitable giving. Card Curator tackles the inefficient use of credit cards and exorbitant cost of travel to help its users get the most out of their spending. Card Curator is a wholly independent company. For more information, please visit www.CardCurator.com or follow Card Curator on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.

References

https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/2020-economic-well-being-of-us-households-in-2019-banking-and-credit.htm

https://www.newyorkfed.org/microeconomics/hhdc.html

https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/g19/HIST/cc_hist_tc_levels.html

https://nilsonreport.com/mention/1304/1link/

Written by Joanna Lin

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