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This year my family had the misfortune of facing several giant (unexpected) bills. First, I ended up needing some expensive medical tests. Fortunately, all was well, a huge relief. Then I had to have an unrelated surgery in the middle of a Covid crisis.
Though minor, there was nothing small about the bills that started piling up afterwards. We also needed to replace our old A/C unit, another $5k bill. And the cherry on top: my daughter’s braces, to the tune of $4k.
In each case, I had an option to make payments for several years, which would lessen the pain. But I declined, and here is why. First, on two out of three bills, I got a discount when paying it off in full. But more importantly, I was able to easily meet the minimum spending requirements on several juicy credit card bonuses.
We are extremely fortunate to have a decent emergency fund for situations like these, something I recommend for all families to focus on. Plus, due to Covid pandemic, we got a sizable stimulus payment from the government, which came in really handy.
Here is what we have collected so far in 2021:
1) Jet Blue Plus credit card x 2.
I signed up in both mine and my husband’s names at the end of 2020, when the card offered a 100k points bonus if you spent $6,000 in 12 months. I was able to split my medical bills between two cards, and used Plastiq for car payments since it’s a MasterCard.
Total: 200k Jet Blue points
2) Chase Sapphire Preferred x 2.
My husband applied when the bonus was 80k points, but I was able to get 100k points, plus 20k for referring him. I used his card for A/C unit and mine for braces. In my opinion, if you only choose to apply for one card this year, Chase Sapphire Preferred (my personal referral link) with current 100k points bonus should be it. Reportedly, this offer will expire on 10/6/2021.
Total: 200k UR points
3) BoA Alaska Airline Mileage Plan Visa
I applied in my husband’s name because… why not? We may end up using Alaska miles for a flight to Hawaii or Europe. The minimum spending of $2k in 3 months was met organically via everyday purchases.
Total: 50k Alaska miles, plus a $100 companion certificate which we may or may not use.
4) Citi American Airlines Platinum card
I applied in my husband’s name and we met $2,500 minimum spending via Plastiq by making car payments.
Total: 50k AAdvantage miles.
5) Barclay’s Aviator AAdvantage card x 2.
We had to spend $1 in order to collect 60k miles each. Unfortunately, we applied for the offer without the waived annual fee. Still, can’t complain.
Total: 120k AA miles.
6) Upgrade offer on Amex Everyday (to Preferred version) with no credit pull.
I had to spend $2k in order to collect 25k MR points. Done! The spending was 100% organic in nature.
Total: 25k MR points.
7) Cardless Manchester United credit card (no annual fee)
This was a rather oddball card, and the offer was only available for a few days. Basically, I got 50k points (worth $500) after spending $3k. Once again, I was able to utilize Plastiq for prepaying the car payments.
Total: $500, plus some free/lame Manchester United merch.
Grand total: 695k highly valuable points and miles.
I speculatively value this haul at around $7,500, but expect to get much more out of it. That said, I would be remiss not to mention annual fees, which in my case add up to around $550. Also, I did pay Plastiq fees.
Of course, I also earned miles and points on minimum spending, so it’s probably a wash. I didn’t buy junk I didn’t need, and no manufactured spending was involved. It certainly took a bit of time and effort to track all the spending, but nothing terrible.
Plans for the rest of the year
Right now I’m working on meeting minimum spending requirements on Amex Delta Gold card. I actually had this product in the past. But I got a targeted offer in the mail that didn’t contain “lifetime” language, so decided to roll the dice.
My husband and I have actually been in Amex “ pop-up jail” for the last few years, so I was shocked when the application was approved. We’ll see if I actually get the bonus, so stay tuned.
I’m hoping to apply for Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex card in my husband’s name before November 3rd deadline. The current offer is certainly very appealing, but once again, I don’t want to get my hopes up since I’m pretty sure he will get the pop-up saying he doesn’t qualify. But you never know until you try, right?
If my husband gets approved, this will probably be the last card for the year unless something amazing pops up out of nowhere. The minimum spend on Bonvoy card is quite large at $5k in three months, so we would need to prepay some things ahead, like charity contributions etc.
I am extremely grateful to have access to Plastiq service, without which I would not be able to meet the spending threshold on some of my cards. Yes, you have to pay the 2.75% fee, but the payoff is usually worth it if you only use it for sign-up bonuses. Sadly, Amex is no-go for car payments via Plastiq.
Overall, I’m quite happy with our haul so far. It certainly takes the sting out of ugly year, bills-wise. Btw, I’m saving almost $100 per month on my power bills due to new A/C. Making lemons out of lemonade, indeed.
Now I just need to start spending these points!
Right now I’m utilizing our remaining hotel certificates, though did recently transfer some UR points to Hyatt for next year’s vacation.
We don’t plan to fly until summer due to ongoing Covid pandemic, and the flights are booked with the miles we had previously. To me, right now the risk of a breakthrough infection and potential quarantine just isn’t worth it. Though I realize many feel differently, and that’s OK. We are also waiting for my 10-year old son to finally get vaccinated, which will definitely make some of my travel decisions easier.
So for now, the miles are sitting there, waiting to be used. And I will use them. I doubt the next year will be as good when it comes to sign-up offers, and that’s ok. Now is the golden age of miles and points hobby, so I’m taking advantage of it. Carpe diem, comrades.
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.