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As a control freak with a touch of OCD, I always plan way ahead. I’ve never been very good at spontaneity as my husband likes to remind me on a regular basis.
That’s both good and bad. When things don’t work out, my strategy invariably leads to disappointment. And boy, 2020 sure had plenty of that! But when things do line up, it’s a beautiful thing. So, I figured I would put together a post with my thoughts on what 2021 may look like for my family, at least where this hobby is concerned. I’ll also cover what I’ve been up to lately.
So, get a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and let’s dive in, shall we?
This part is very unpredictable, for obvious reasons. I’m pretty sure we won’t be going to Japan at the end of May. In fact, I will be shocked if we do go. Unfortunately, canceling the trip will incur some financial loss, though nothing terrible. I knew when I booked the trip that there is a decent chance it will be a bust, but hoped for the best. I’m an optimist, sometimes to the point of being delusional.
If/when I cancel, I will simply rebook the trip for the following year. I’m now determined to make it to Japan no matter what. Canceling two times in a row only makes me want it more.
Beyond that, we have a bunch of hotel certificates that will need to be used up in 2021. In some way, it will make local travel decisions relatively easy. Since I hate waste, I will absolutely find a way to utilize the certificates we’ve already paid for. This is the way (hat tip The Mandalorian show).
Fortunately, since we live in the center of Florida, we have a ton of fun options for families nearby. Of course, I’m assuming that Covid-19 pandemic will be under control in the next eight months or so. I would love to fly somewhere with kids next summer, but it will depend on the vaccine rollout. Unfortunately, it’s my understanding that children may not be vaccinated until fall of 2021.
Fortunately, the timeline is much more aggressive for adults. So, if me and my husband get the vaccine, I absolutely plan to go on a couple’s trip, possibly somewhere like Quebec city. Where would we stay? Hilton Quebec, naturally. It’s not that it’s my first choice, but gotta use those expiring certs, right? As far as airline tickets, that one is easy too. Adios, Lifemiles.
I have an exciting plan for next fall, and really hope we can pull it off. I’m actually in the process of booking award tickets to Argentina. Fingers crossed, that one will work out.
I’ve had to speculatively burn my Expedia points, since on February 1st they will no longer be worth double towards VIP properties. Hat tip to Lazytraveler for mentioning this change, as I totally ignored the email from Expedia thinking it’s their usual spam.
I was able to book a few local Florida getaways for Labor Day and later. Why this timing? A bunch of my credit card certificates expire August 31st, and those have to be used up first. There is no chance all of my 2021 speculative bookings will materialize as planned, but I’m shooting for “60% of the time, it works every time.” (hat tip Anchorman)
Signing up for new credit cards
Not much of a change from my previous strategy. I try to keep it simple. When I see a good offer (worth $350 or more), I sign up. I don’t always get approved, in fact, I get rejected more often than not. But it doesn’t prevent me from trying again.
This year for us has been actually pretty decent. My husband was approved for US Bank Altitude Reserve, I got BoA Premium card and a few other offers I can’t recall at the moment. Just last month, we both signed up for Jet Blue Plus card. Non-affiliate link If all goes well, we’ll each get 100k points, nothing to sneeze at.
I absolutely expected rejection from Barclays, but nope. A miracle indeed. I was so excited when the cards were approved, I literally screamed for joy, which scared my children. But seeing my happy face, they both broke out into a rendition of Trololo, a freaky abomination song from Soviet times. Can you tell we don’t leave the house often? I honestly don’t remember the last time I was so excited about a credit card offer.
I’m hoping to sign up for Citi Premier X 2 as soon we both become eligible (May, I think). If I don’t see any other worthwhile offers, we may even be able to get Chase Sapphire Preferred at the end of 2021. Though, to be honest, I’ve pretty much given up on it. This 5/24 rule has kicked my butt. Well done, Chase. Well done.
Since I’ve essentially committed $12k in spending on our Jet Blue Plus cards, my options will be somewhat limited due to relatively low spending. Thankfully, Jet Plus is a MasterCard, so I can use it on Plastiq to cover my husband’s car payments (for now). I’m a big fan of Plastiq, and if you don’t do MS, I totally recommend it for meeting minimum spending requirements. My referral link
Maximizing everyday spending
This is something I didn’t really focus on in the past, but decided that I need to put more effort into. As a result, I’ve taken advantage of 5 points per dollar bonus on Chase Freedom by using PayPal to pay estimated taxes etc. I’ve also made sure I sign up for limited promotions that give me extra points on spending, as many credit card issuers entice customers this time of year. US Bank sent me an offer to get an extra 2% cash back. Sure, why not? I already earn 5% on my power bill anyway via my Cash+ card.
My no-fee Wells Fargo card had a promotion that gave 10% back on my first grocery purchase, so I made sure to take advantage of it by buying a Visa gift card. Et cetera, et cetera. One promotion I’ve decided to pass on was a free category 1-4 Hyatt certificate after spending $4k on my Chase Hyatt legacy card. Keep in mind, I was already planning to spend $1,500 on Amazon, since it gave me 5 Hyatt points per dollar. But I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to utilize the certificates I already have. During normal times, I would most likely jump on the deal. But these ain’t normal time.
Probably the most lucrative offer I got was 60k Wyndham points after spending $3K on my existing Wyndham card. Even though I’m not a huge fan of Wyndham, this deal was just too good to pass up.
Recently I’ve decided to convert my Chase Freedom to Freedom Flex, a total no-brainer. This has been an exciting benefit enhancement, for sure. Chase Freedom Flex is a card everyone in this hobby should have, at least in my opinion. You will get 5 points in rotating categories, plus 3 points on dining and drugstores.
I’m debating on what to do with my Amex Everyday Preferred when it comes up for renewal in a few months. On the one hand, I think it’s a terrific card, mainly due to ability to earn 4.5 MR points on grocery store purchases. On the other hand, the requirement to make 30 purchases per month is more of a nuisance than I expected it to be. Since I switch cards on a regular basis, I have to make sure that I hit this threshold. It’s not really complicated as all I need to do is make a bunch of 50 cents reloads on Amazon.com Still, it’s annoying.
Also, I’ve recently accepted the upgrade offer on Amex Blue Cash, so am able to now earn 6% cash back on groceries. Essentially, Everyday Preferred would cannibalize Amex Blue Cash Preferred if I chose to forego the latter. Honestly, I would rather have 4.5 MR points than 6 cents, but throwing in an extra $95 fee make the decision a bit more complicated. Perhaps I will downgrade my Amex Everyday Preferred for the time being, as I can always upgrade again in the future.
Heads up! If you are a family who prefers cash back to flexible points, Amex Blue Cash Preferred is a must have IMO. You will get 6% on grocery stores (on up to $6,000 per year) and select streaming services, plus 3% on gas. Right now, the referral sign-up offer on this card will give you $300 after spending $1,000 in 3 months, which is $50 higher than affiliate offer. Thanks if you use my referral link
Overall, I plan to focus more on cash opportunities. You see, I’ve promised my husband we will buy new Ford Mustang Mach-E in two years, and they don’t accept flexible points as a down payment. When the car came out, I think I saw my husband drool. An electric car that is a Mustang? It’s going to be our next family vehicle whether I like it or not.
Counting my blessings
Last year has been tough, and I’m not just talking about the pandemic. We’ve lost my father-in-law in January, and the pain has been with us ever since. Half of my family in Belarus had Covid, though all thankfully recovered. My sister has gone through a messy divorce, and had some scary health issues. Life doesn’t always work out the way you plan it.
It’s also been difficult to read about horrific human rights abuses in Belarus, which has recently drifted towards neo-Fascism. It’s been a steady movement, and now the ugly metamorphosis is complete. Welcome to North Korea of Europe. The fact that I can’t go there for the foreseeable future has nothing to do with Covid-19 pandemic.
By comparison, me having to do virtual school with kids and canceling a few trips seems like a walk in the park. I’ve been honestly puzzled by so many in this country hollering how their rights are violated because they are asked to wear a simple mask. I just don’t get it.
Despite frustrations, there have been many blessings as well. My sister and I were able to reconnect last year. I’ve left home and moved to another continent when she was young, and as a result, we unfortunately drifted apart. It took us 22 years, but better late than never. As a famous Russian saying goes, «Нет худа без добра», roughly translated as “there is no bad without some good”.
If you and a family member drifted apart, it’s not too late to reconnect. Don’t be like me and waste 22 years. We don’t always have the luxury of time. Maybe dust off your miles accounts and plan a trip to see them for when this mess is over. And it will be over. We will all travel again.
Speaking of, even though it was a light year trip-wise, my family has managed to do a few things. We’ve done several beach getaways, which is always a treat despite living in Florida. We didn’t go further than Georgia, but I can’t complain about this view.
A few days ago, like many of you, we watched a rare Jupiter and Saturn conjunction on a clear sky, right in our own backyard. My husband took a photo of the kids, so we would have a memory of this “once in 400 years” event. For a moment, there was no pandemic or any other problems to worry about. There was only our family, right here right now.
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.