This post is a bit late, since we are already in the second week of February (wow—really? I had to stop and read that again! This year is already moving quickly!) But alas, sometimes cube life doesn’t coincide well with writing. Anyways, better late than never, right?
The Original Strategy
I started collecting points and miles at the end of 2013 and have been full speed ahead ever since. Only a few short months later, I had Julie convinced of the benefits of the new hobby. Before long, she was pointing out ways we could earn points too! Still, with teaching and photography, Julie’s days are pretty busy, and since this is my hobby after all, I’m in charge of our strategy 🙂
After getting a late start on the hobby in 2013, 2014 then became our first full year collecting points and miles. Our strategy was pretty simple: earn enough points to get to Europe by no later than 2015 and do it for as little out of pocket money as possible. As I mentioned before, Julie’s never been abroad, so my goal is to do everything in my power to make this first trip the best it can be! But with that being said, we booked our trip in less than a year and while not perfect, I think it’s a pretty good redemption of points.
The goal for 2015 is to be even better. Here’s how we plan to do it.
Take What You Learned and Apply It!
In 2014, we were really just getting started on the hobby and a lot was learned on the fly. I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred because it’s a great and versatile earning card. I still love this card and use it on pretty much a regular basis (unless we’re trying to meet a spending minimum on a different card). There’s so much value to the card because it allows you to transfer to different partners and gives you access to Ultimate Rewards. Coupled with the Ink Plus card, we were able to book our trip to Europe in about nine months!
Now that the sign-up bonuses have been earned for those cards, we need to be more creative to pad our mileage accounts and get ready for the next trip(s). This means taking what was learned and doing a better job of applying it.
More shopping portals: Last year we earned extra points using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal for some of our purchases. I think we did an OK job at this, but in 2015 I want to better. Too often, we would buy things in person that we could have just as easily bought online for the extra points. Not to mention that we didn’t always take advantage of better points offerings through other shopping portals. In fact, I recently wrote a post on this, so I definitely need to heed my own advice.
More gift cards: I never used to give much thought to gift cards before I started collecting points. Now though, I love them! One of my absolute favorites is earning 5x points on office supply store purchases with Julie’s Ink Plus card. Instead of earning double points on gas station purchases with the card, we buy gas gift cards at our local Staples or Office Depot and earn 5x points. We need to buy gas anyway, but this way we ensure we’re earning more points! Even better —- I used to buy gas from whatever gas station I came across. But since Shell is almost exclusively the only gas card sold at our local office supply stores PLUS Ralph’s gives you up to $0.20 off if you use their Rewards program, we actually FORCE ourselves to save money on gas by filling up at Shell! So don’t be surprised if you get a gift card from us this year 😉
Some Airline Loyalty: We don’t fly with any sort of regularity, so it doesn’t really make sense for us to be entirely loyal to a particular domestic airline. I have friends who bank a lot of miles to Southwest, because they value domestic travel. There are definitely locations that Julie and I want to visit domestically, but right now, we have been focusing more on international travel, particularly because the cost for these flights are much higher. Our flight to Europe this year was booked on United Airlines, but this year I want to focus more on American Airlines. Their recent merger with US Airways has made them a more attractive option in my eyes, and in certain situations, they have some pretty favorable redemption options for international travel.
Can’t Miss Deals: The really stellar deals come around periodically, and it’s important to take advantage of them when they do. Because of our work schedules, it’s tougher to jump on things like “mistake fares” that sometimes occur or incredible fare sales. But I’d like to try and take advantage of them more this year when it makes sense for us to do so. One such great deal, is the one being offered for signing up for the US Airways World MasterCard. 50,000 miles for the cost of just the annual fee ($89) and no spending minimum. I’ll gladly pay $89 to get about $861 worth of miles, which doesn’t take into account the benefits of the card itself. With the merger between US Airways and American, this card will eventually be gone, so pairing it with the American Airlines Platinum Select will net you 100,000 miles. If you fly economy like we do, that number of miles will get two people roundtrip flights to Europe. Maybe we’ll get lucky too, and Alaska Airlines will bump their signing bonus up to 50,000 again. One can always dream right? 🙂
How Else are We Earning This Year?
- Apply for: The American Airlines Platinum Select Card.
- Why? 50,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months. Bonus: The $95 annual fee is waived the first year.
- Apply for: The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa.
- Why? 50,000 Gold points after your first purchase, 35,000 more after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months. You also receive 40,000 points on your card anniversary each year PLUS Gold Status for as long as you hold the card (which includes upgrades, internet, discounts on food and beverage and more). Their hotel presence outside the US, particularly in terms of higher end hotels is pretty prevalent.
- Sign-up for DirecTV, when we move.
- Why? In 2014, we switched from Cox Cable to DirecTV. Not only do I enjoy the service more, but you can earn 25,000 American Advantage miles for doing so. Since I already got this bonus, Julie will apply this time around, since she’s a new customer 🙂 And besides, who doesn’t want to do this?
While certainly not everything, this overview of our plan provides a pretty good roadmap for 2015. At this point, I think we have a pretty solid strategy the year, for our specific goals. When it comes to earning and redeeming points, it all depends on your goals and what’s right for you. A great redemption to us, might not be the same for you. I have friends with little to no interest in Europe and they bank miles earned to domestic flights. Others who have more desire to see Asia or South America . The key, is to set a goal and develop a plan. We have a good one for 2015 and I’m excited to see how we end up doing when the year is complete!