Well, the title is self-explanatory, right? My fellow hobbyists, I have committed an unforgivable sin. If there was a Miles and Points inquisition, I would be burned on the proverbial stake right now.
Let’s have a moment of silence. Yes, instead of saving my points for travel redemption or miles transfer, I did the most unsexy thing possible, well, other than becoming a stay-at-home mom. But you know what? I redeemed my points for food, and I liked it! I’m getting something tangible for all the effort I’ve put into The Hobby over the last few years.
But what about “free” travel? Oh, we are still gonna do that! What convinced me to take this unpopular route was my interaction with Cheapblackdad in this post. Read the comments, he actually makes some good points.
I sat down and looked at the stash of miles and points I already have, and realized I have the next three years covered. That includes going to Europe, bringing my parents here etc. We are infrequent travelers and frankly, my husband is getting sick of all these trips. He is becoming such a homebody, and if he ever retires, he will sleep non-stop. It’s disgusting! Why would you want to live like that? I’m kidding , he is a good counterbalance to my madness.
But the truth is, we can use extra money right now and to me, Walmart gift cards are almost as good as cash. You can only save about 2-3% on them by going through Giftcardgranny, and many times, they send those printout certificates that confuse the heck out of cashiers. Frankly, I stopped getting them for that reason. Of course, you can buy Walmart gift cards with gift cards online, but honestly, it’s a lot of trouble to save just 2%.
Actually, even after redeeming that amount, we still have 143K Thank You Points between our accounts. That should be enough for my upcoming plans. We have a huge bill for our cruise to Alaska coming up in a few months, and really need to save every penny we can. That $400 gift card will be enough for almost a month worth of groceries.
Also, I don’t plan to stop signing up for new cards unless the banks stop me. I think some of us hobbyists are like actors. You know what they say: Every actor thinks that their current job is their last one. Well, I feel that way about sign-up bonuses. On the other hand, I absolutely detest hoarding.
So, my focus is shifting to cash from now on as long as decent offer is available. And I started implementing my strategy right away. Few weeks ago, I wrote about increased offer on Amex Blue Cash and Amex Everyday. Unfortunately, both are down to their normal levels now.
I actually wasn’t planning to get either one because they didn’t meet my criteria of $350 value per sign-up. But I changed my mind and applied for Amex Blue Cash in both mine and my husband’s names. There are two reasons:
- Small Business Saturday is coming up. We don’t yet know all the details, but there will be some sort of incentive. So, the bonus is worth more by that logic. How much more? Only Amex knows.
- I should be able to convert this card to Amex Blue Cash Preferred if the whole churning gravy train comes to an end. The latter is my top long-term credit card pick for family.
So we applied, and both got the dreaded 7-10 day message. I’m still waiting to hear back and keep checking this link for an updated status. My policy with pending applications is to just wait it out. I’m extremely impatient, but logic dictates that it’s best not to draw attention to my multiple applications within the last two years. As far as my husband’s apps go, there is no possibility of reconsideration because he refuses to call, even when I offer to handle most of the conversation. You pick your battles, and I choose not to fight this one.
I also decided to shift my strategy to bonuses that can pay for food or other necessary items. Obviously, I prefer cash, but a decent gift card will do. That’s why I’m planning to apply for Capital One Venture Rewards as soon as I’m done with minimum spending for our current cards. Even though the bonus is marketed as credit for travel purchases, you can redeem points for gift cards, among them Amazon.
We don’t spend as much money on Amazon as we used to (so long, diapers!), but I still buy coffee, tea and some food through that website. Unless things have changed, 40K points should give me $400 in gift cards. Of course, this offer comes with three credit pulls (gasp), and my husband might not get approved. I’m not even going to try in my name. Capital One hates me (read this post).
If we get Capital One offer as planned, I’m going to try for Barclaycard Arrival Plus next in mine and my husband’s names. The reason? We can use sign-up bonus for tips on our cruise and taxes on award tickets to Europe. The goal will be to reduce our upcoming cash expenses and burn the miles and points in the process. Side note: You can read about both cards in my page “Best credit card deals for family”
I want to reduce my stash as much as possible before I start accumulating more. The other day, I was able to talk one of my readers out of buying Avianca miles. Turns out, that person has 1 million AAdvantage miles! Don’t buy if you are in the same spot.
The smile on the stock photo is meant to convey that I’m not being hostile or obnoxious with my advice. But please, pretty please, use the miles you already have. Also, I strongly advise you focus on cash back and hotel points’ bonuses for the time being.
Of course, I do want to have some “emergency” miles on hand at all times because my family lives in Europe and I would hate to have to buy a last-minute ticket. But realistically, I don’t need more than 100K miles for that. So, that’s the goal: Reduce my permanent mileage balance to 100K miles and keep it that way. Honestly, even that sounds too high. I do still plan to get mileage sign-up bonuses when it makes sense, but preference will be given to cash and gift cards, and I will settle for as little as $250.
Readers, what is your strategy? Why?
P.S. Tomorrow, the transfer ratio from Amex Membership Rewards to Avios (British Airways currency) will be cut by 20%. I wouldn’t make a speculative transfer, but if you’ve been thinking about it, now is the time.
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Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.