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Just as it’s the case with trying to line up trips way in advance, planning my miles and points strategy also gives me a warm feeling. I never said I’m a normal person! Of course, the latter is a bit harder to pin down. After all, special offers tend to pop up without notice, so I adjust accordingly.
I’ve mentioned many times that most of my miles and points come from credit card sign-up bonuses. I certainly keep an eye out on lucrative promotions and I’m not opposed to going to CVS now and again. But when it comes to reselling or crazy MS techniques, I’m out. Not that those aren’t lucrative. Quite the opposite, many are churning out millions of points per year by leveraging various loopholes and 5X earnings on certain cards . But I find many methods to be a) time-consuming, b) rather sketchy.
What currency to accumulate?
When trying to decide which offer I should chase after, the first question I ask myself is this: What currency will benefit my family the most in the next 12-18 months? Not what currency I’ll be able to utilize immediately. Otherwise, cash obviously comes to mind. We can never have too much cash. In fact, our savings account is rather modest and I recently found out that my daughter will need Stage 1 braces (to the tune of $4,500!)
That being said, we don’t plan on stopping travel any time soon. So, when choosing between offers, I will need to decide whether passing on cash back will be prudent. After all, dollars can be used to pay for travel too! Obviously, if I have specific plans for miles or hotel points, the choice will be much easier. If I decide to accumulate those points speculatively, it will be way more tricky. It doesn’t mean that going after mileage or hotel points’ bonuses is dumb unless you have specific plans, but it’s important to know your speculative purchase price and stick to it.
Of course, there is also a small matter of being able to qualify to receive the sign-up bonus in the first place. I’ve already gotten all the juiciest cards out there and many banks are smart enough to see me for who I am: an unprofitable customer.
Where I’m running low
I’m currently in a burning mode when it comes to hotel points (see my post where I shared our 2017 travel plans). If we do end up flying to Newark, I’ll be down to just 40,000 IHG points. Needless to say, that won’t go very far. Despite that reality, I decided to pass on current IHG Accelerate promo, and we have some lucrative offers in the accounts. Why? I did the math and don’t see how I would be able to accumulate the points for less than 0.35 cents apiece.
In the past, I would consider it a good deal. However, with upcoming IHG devaluation and lack of award availability, I had to adjust my speculative valuation to around 0.25 cents. Obviously, I’m not saying you should value IHG points the same way, and I’ll have another post on this topic in the next few weeks. I am mostly interested in beachfront IHG properties in Florida, and they have gotten more and more expensive in the last few years.
One of my miles and points resolutions is to focus more on quality rather than quantity. Yes, we can stay 5 nights in a Holiday Inn by the highway or we can spend 2 nights at a beachfront hotel. I would rather do the latter. Unfortunately, I have to book the most desirable IHG properties a year in advance because availability is tough. Not surprising, of course, given all the recent lucrative promos.
Don’t get me wrong, IHG program is still valuable to me, mostly due to its fantastic footprint. But aside from PointBreaks, it’s getting tougher to find outsized value. And that’s what I’m after: not getting an OK deal, but a great one. After all, I put my precious time and resources into accumulating IHG points. I want to be reasonably sure that my investment will pay off a year from now. Otherwise, I can just pay cash for hotels as I need them and not worry about any of it. Unfortunately, IHG is on a path of destruction and I doubt anything can stop it now.
I also burned the entire Marriott stash after dumping SPG points into my account. I have depleted my Wyndham currency and plan to burn Club Carlson points (from renewing credit card) in the next few months. I have 40K Ultimate Rewards, but they too will be used up on Hyatt resort stays. A gal needs to treat herself now and again! So, this is a long-winded way to say that I will be hotel points’ poor in 2017.
We are thinking about visiting some national parks out West in 2018, and hotel points would come in handy for overnight stays. Which is why I plan on possibly applying for Hilton co-branded cards in the second half of the year. Hilton has a fantastic footprint, and while many of their properties are very expensive on points, there are bargains to be had. Check out this Doubletree Suites Melbourne Beach Oceanfront Hotel In the summer you can get it for 30,000 Hilton points per night. It’s only 1 hour from Orlando airport, and all suites are oceanfront.
Why not go after these cards now? I just applied and got approved for Barclaycard Arrival Plus (read about it here). I know for a fact that we can use 50,000 points, good towards $500 credit against travel expenses. I’ve said before that out of all Barclay cards, this one is the easiest to recommend to a middle-class family. I plan to use my bonus on parking and dining expenses while staying at various resorts and hotels in 2017.
Last ditch CSR effort
If there is anything I love more than cash, it’s flexible points. And Chase Ultimate Rewards program is my favorite, hands down. That’s why I plan to stop by Chase branch before March 12th and see if my husband is pre-approved for Chase Sapphire Reserve.
We’ve mentioned this card many times on the blog and I got it myself as soon as it came out. I meant to go by Chase branch with my husband again, but alas, it just never worked out. Kids, work, various trips and the fact that the branch is one hour away from our house didn’t help the matter. But the clock is ticking, and we need to git-r-done.
I will probably wait till the end of February since I’m currently working on minimum spending on Arrival Plus. Stay tuned. Sometime in August I plan to swing by Chase branch and see if I’m pre-approved for Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Applying for Avianca Vuela offer
I don’t have a pressing need for airline miles because our plans for the next few years involve Southwest program where I have a decent supply of Rapid Rewards points. Obviously, if a great deal comes along, I will consider it. That being said, I went ahead and pulled the trigger on Avianca 60K miles offer. I’ve mentioned it in one of my round-ups and consider it a very good deal. Unfortunately, the annual fee of $149 is not waived, which is why I hesitated to apply. I also have absolutely no plans for Avianca miles in a near future. So, why apply then? To keep them as emergency miles.
I plan on burning my UR points on Hyatt (or another travel redemption) and then canceling CSR. That will leave me with no way to transfer to United, well, unless my husband gets approved for CSR. United miles are redeemable on Lufthansa flights with no fuel surcharges, and that is the best option to get to Belarus in case there is a family emergency. Another program that doesn’t pass along fuel surcharges? You guessed it, Avianca.
Obviously, that could change in a future, but I decided that getting 60K miles for $149, which is enough for a roundtrip ticket to Belarus, is a pretty good deal. If they end up adding surcharges, it will probably still be cheaper than buying a revenue ticket. Plus, we can always try to burn Avianca miles on United flights.
The website for Banco Popular that issues the card is downright archaic, but I was able to fill everything out just fine. I did get an email that they received my application and that it’s currently pending. I plan on waiting it out because I’ve seen reports that when you call that bank, they pull your credit AGAIN during reconsideration. No thanks. So stay tuned for that one too.
As I’ve mentioned before, my plans are flexible and will change if a hot offer pops up out of the blue. But if things go according to the plan, we’ll get CSR for my husband, then Chase Sapphire Preferred for me (if we are pre-approved in branch). And then, Hilton points, here I come…maybe.
Readers, please, share with me you own miles and points strategy for 2017. What are you mostly focusing on?
Leana is the 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.