I’ve been doing this miles and points hobby for a very long time, before it was cool. In fact, I stumbled on it accidentally in 2001, after I needed to top off my Northwest account for a trip to Hawaii. No blogs to show me the “way”, just good ol’ research and occasional scanning of Flyertalk website.
Boom, just like that I was hooked. To begin with, I felt like I hit a jackpot and wanted to share my knowledge with relatives and friends. A few expressed interest, but most didn’t really care. Over the years, I’ve pretty much stopped talking about credit cards IRL and saved my energy for blog posts instead. At least that way I knew that a decent percentage of my listeners would feign interest in what I had to say.
But I did make an exception when it came to my sister-in-law. She has owned an accounting business for the last 15 years, and has a decent amount of organic spending each year. It would be a shame not to leverage it for miles and points.
But even there I had limited success. She absolutely hates the idea of getting a card and then canceling it in a year. Not even a 100k points offer on Chase Sapphire Preferred in 2020 could persuade her. Speaking of, I’m seeing reports on various blogs that a 90k offer on this product will be available in Chase branches on March 19th.
I did convince her to at least apply for Chase Ink Business Preferred due to ability to generate 3X per dollar on certain categories. She is currently sitting on around 300k points and planning to finally use them for a trip to the South Pacific with her new husband. And she does have an IHG card with a $49 fee. Again, only because I told her she wouldn’t have to cancel it.
But it pains me to think how many huge sign-up offers she chose to forego over the years. Just wasn’t interested. Well, the other day, I got a phone call from her. She was super excited about a credit card offer she got in the mail and wanted to know what I think about it. It was, drum roll, Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex card. And it wasn’t the 70k miles bonus that excited her. Nope. It was the promise of free checked bags on Delta flights.
Detroit area is Delta’s kingdom
She is getting married soon and will be moving to Michigan. While several airline carriers serve Detroit airport, nothing comes remotely close to Delta. There are several nonstop flights per day to Orlando, Tampa and even Fort Myers. Since she hates connections and plans to fly to see us every two months, this will likely be her airline of choice.
My SIL is also a pack rat, and absolutely has to check luggage whenever we fly somewhere. And she really hates paying for it. So naturally, I said that this particular credit card is a good choice for her. Even if she swallows $95 fee each year, it will pay for itself after only a few trips to Florida. And of course, initially getting 70k miles doesn’t hurt either.
The new 15% discount on Delta award tickets is a pretty neat benefit, and could save one a substantial amount of miles. I’m actually going to try to convert one of my Amex cards to Delta Gold product because I plan to redeem around 100k SkyMiles in May. Saving 15k miles and getting a free checked bag for my MIL justifies a one-time $95 annual fee IMO. So, if you have a sizable stash of Delta SkyPesos, it’s an option worth investigating. Of course, I’m assuming that like me, you can’t get approved for Amex Delta product for whatever reason.
Unfortunately, I think this perk will also be a huge incentive for my SIL to put all of her everyday spending on that card. I mean, who doesn’t want to get 15% off on “free” Delta flights? It’s pretty clever marketing, no doubt.
So, is it a good idea? Nope. At least not for those who are not chasing Delta status. I personally would never collect Delta miles unless I could get at least 3X per dollar on everything. And even then it would be after I met the minimum spending requirements on new sign-up bonuses. Among all hobby currencies, I’m personally biased towards Ultimate Rewards with all things being equal. YMMV
But most normal people just don’t want to do deep analysis on maximizing points. They are too busy…living their lives. My sister-in-law is an accountant, so it’s not for lack of basic math skills.
Maybe I am the crazy one?
If it looks like I’m making fun of my SIL, that’s not the case at all. If she chooses to collect Delta miles on everyday spending, that’s her business. Many people use debit cards that earn no rewards, so something is better than nothing. I’m here to provide advice if she wants it, but ultimately, it’s not that important in the grand scheme of things.
The other day we found out that my husband’s relative (51) will be needing a heart surgery. He is in great shape and this news came out of nowhere. Just a weird heart defect that if not corrected would cause him to drop dead within a few years. It was discovered totally by accident, so he is very fortunate.
Anyway, about five years ago he got into miles and points hobby and became a bit obsessed. In fact, his wife, who happens to be my friend, started to get annoyed with the whole thing.
He used to ask me for points advice all the time, but then stopped. He is pretty smart, so I figured he got it all figured out. Turns out, he sort of lost interest in juggling credit cards. He got a few “keepers” like IHG and Hyatt cards, etc.
He has invested heavily in Chase Ultimate Rewards ecosystem and renews Sapphire Reserve each year. He also really likes Southwest and Companion Pass in particular. Since he owns a side business, his organic spending gives him enough points to earn Southwest Companion Pass each year without cycling cards.
He also tries to maximize Chase Freedom 5X categories etc. Him and his wife like to do short weekend trips and go somewhere at least once a month, all on points. Southwest network is robust enough that they are not hurting for choices. Caribbean, Central America, Hawaii, you name it. A few years ago, he also used Southwest points for a positioning flight to Iceland on now defunct WOW Air.
But it was funny to hear him almost apologize to me saying that he was a bad student. Dude, you are doing it right! Instead of obsessing over earning more miles than he can possibly spend, he is using what he got. And it’s enough, believe it or not.
Rather than constantly reading blogs and learning about new devaluations, chasing after new credit card offers or manufactured spending, he is actually traveling and enjoying points with his family.
Of course, everyone has different circumstances. Personally, I would not be able to accumulate what my family needs via just our normal spending. But my point is, this hobby is not “one size fits all.”
Nancy had a good post recently on a similar topic. There is no “best” credit card, because everyone has different needs. You can give generic advice (collect flexible points and so on), but for some people a free checked bag on Delta flights trumps all. And that’s ok.
How does my family travel so much? We use miles and points from credit card bonuses. See my Travel Hacking 101 post as well as current credit card offers here.
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.
I am one of those that do not like opening and closing credit cards either! My husband is always conscientious of his credit score so I had a feeling he wouldn’t want that. But from reading your blogs, I opened a Chase Preferred to try this out a during the pandemic and then got the courage to open CapOne Venture when it was giving a hefty bonus during the pandemic as well.
We’re also not into paying annual fees but here we are with four including Southwest and Delta. Does it make sense to continue keeping my Chase Sapphire and CapOne? I mainly use CapOne for our month to month expenses and have racked up some miles already for future travel. Was I a suppose to close them and reopen? The CapOne annual fee is hefty but I’m able to offset some with the annual hotel credit. Tempted to open the Chase Preferred if the 90k comes to fruition.
As for Delta, after reading your blog, you’re right. It doesn’t make sense to collect Delta miles since I live in Dallas. I found Delta to always be more expensive most of the time. But I’m keeping my Amex card for another year to get the perks when we use Delta this summer to Belgium/Amsterdam. I hated collecting AA miles coz I found it hard to use during the times we travel, which is always peak season.
Should I cancel my current Chase Preferred and open a new one under my husband’s name? Can we combine miles we’ve accumulated? I’m loving my CapOne Venture especially the nice metal card it comes with.
I’m not a mile collector hobbyist like you but I so appreciate your thoughts and advice. My family travels once or twice yearly.
@Liz First, thanks for following the blog! Nancy and I truly appreciate it. Btw, if you ever have any questions, don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
I hate annual fees myself, but the truth is, most lucrative offers have them. I view it as an investment of sorts. If someone offered me $750 in a few months if I paid $100 upfront, I would absolutely take it. And unlike stocks, this investment is extremely safe as long as you fulfill all the requirements. But I get that many just don’t want to deal with it, and respect that.
It’s a different story when we are talking about renewing cards. This is where it gets tricky. I wrote a post where I addressed this topic towards the end, not sure if you saw it: https://milesforfamily.com/2023/01/10/leanas-miles-and-points-earning-strategy-for-2023/
I’m hanging on to my Capital One Venture X card for now, mainly because of generous Priority Pass benefit. That’s my only premium card at the moment. Unless you are absolutely in love with transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards, I recommend downgrading CSP to Chase Freedom Flex. You can always upgrade in the future if you need to transfer to partners. And yes, I do recommend your husband applies for CSP in his name if the offer is increased to 90k points. You can always combine points, including those stored via your Freedom card. Controlling your renewal annual fees is essential to getting ahead in this hobby. Many literally pay thousands, and spend many hours trying to take advantage of all the “coupon book” discounts. If it works for them, great. But it’s not for me.