Back to School, Back to the Points

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Right now my house is totally quiet. There is no background noise of the Baby Shark song humming on the iPad, Liv and Maddie talking on the Disney Channel, no sound of a million plastic toys getting dumped out of a basket, nobody chasing the dog around in circles, there isn’t anyone asking for snacks or drinks, or even the sound of a little sweet snoring toddler under my desk. Those days are gone, at least for now.

This level of stillness and quiet means only one thing, school is back in session.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

I like seasons and routine. I mean, I like the chaotic season of summer, but I don’t mourn its loss when it is gone because right around the corner are all of the treasures of structured days and fall. Not to mention let’s be honest that I need a hot minute to recover from the chaos of juggling two kids, life, and a job in the summer when every week is a mismatch of activities, trips, play dates, babysitters, camps, and more trying to piece together fun for them, memories for us, and enough time to do something that might pay the bills in the meantime. I know for a fact that many of you can relate to that high wire juggling act.

I’ll still be playing catch up for a bit picking up the pieces of summer and getting to some of the tasks that were temporarily abandoned in its wake, but once thing I want to straighten up straight away is where we stand with earning and using our miles and points. Here are some things to consider today if you want to do the same.

Do you have the right credit cards?

Okay first things first, do you have the right rewards cards for the type of points and perks your family values the most? I think we have a very good system right now, but there are a couple of cards that still need to be added. First, there is no denying that most of us would do well to have a no annual fee Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express in rotation since it earns 2x fully transferrable Membership Reward points on the first $50,000 charged annually. No other card can make that claim.

I also think that at some point The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN may be a better fit for our family than the personal version of the card that we have now. It has many of the perks that the personal Platinum cards have (though not the Uber credits), but it has a lower annual fee by $100, and it has some added perks we would value such as 10 Gogo inflight internet passes annually.

Have you canceled enough credit cards?

If you added a number of cards this summer as we did, I highly recommend doing some inventory to make sure that all the cards you still have and pay fees for actually deserve a spot in your collection. We have a couple cards we have kept one more year to satisfy the Citi rule of not opening or closing a card in that card family in the last 24 months in order to get a new card and sign-up bonus. However, once we do add another Citi AAdvantage card for me and Citi ThankYou card for Josh, we will be free to close others in that family of cards we no longer need. I also recently closed a Delta card when I got a new Delta card over the summer. Keeping both would have been redundant, so I cleaned up a bit and closed out that card.

If you have several cards in the Ultimate Rewards family, I would also take a hard look at that arrangement since many of us have the Sapphire Reserve’s annual fee coming due in the near future. If you are on the fence about canceling a card, try calling up the bank as they may offer you something to keep the card open another year.

Are you on track with your spending requirements?

We added more cards to our wallets this summer than we have in a while, and we will be hitting the 3 and 4 month spending deadlines in the near future for most of those cards. You do not want to miss out on triggering a sign-up bonus because of poor recording keeping, so get out the calculators and see how you are doing with those spending minimums. If you aren’t sure exactly when your account was opened or how much you have to spend to trigger the bonus points, then hop online and chat with or secure message your credit card issuer. Alternatively, call the number on the back of the credit card and ask a real live representative to share that info with you.

What is one more thing you could do to earn more points?

You can never have too many miles and points, so now that we are turning the chapter from the lazy days of summer to the discipline of the fall, I recommend thinking of one more thing you can do to earn extra points that you have been putting off. Is it using online shopping portals, joining or updating the credit cards in the airline dining programs, or using your social media accounts to rack up some Marriott points?

Is it getting a new credit card and spending bonus, or reading up on the best hotel bonuses out right now and book stays accordingly, or maybe even using the MileagePlus X app to earn extra miles both in stores and online. There are a ton of ways to earn miles, and it always pays to push yourself to try out just one more method.

What is one thing you can do to save more money?

Points are great, but money can be even better, and thankfully this miles and points hobby overlaps very well with easily saving money. Whether it is a tracking your Citi purchases with Price Rewind, registering for an Amex Offer to save on your cell phone bills or Walmart groceries, using a Boxed promo to re-stock your pantry, a Hyatt credit card promo to save at Whole Foods, a Visa Starbucks promo to add some bonus dollars to your Starbucks account, and more, it really is not hard to find ways to save at least $50 or so every month without trying hard at all with offers like those.

The year is closing in on 2/3 of the way finished, so how are you with elite status progress?

If you care about elite status with hotels or airlines, now is a good time to take a peek at your year to date progress. The year is almost 2/3 of the way finished, so if you aren’t close to 2/3 of the way to your elite status goals, then I’d first re-evaluate if your goals are realistic and worth it, and then figure out how you are going to make up for lost time to get all the way to the finish line.

I’m a lowly United Silver and I am currently just over-half way towards re-qualification. I’m booked to about 80% of the way in the coming months, but I will still need about 5,000 additional flown elite qualifying miles beyond what I currently have booked by the end of the year to re-qualify. I honestly find a bunch of value in United Silver status, largely in the form of E+ seats at check-in, so I would like to re-qualify, and it seems within reasonable reach based on my travel patterns.

United E+ Seats

My husband is on track for United Gold status by the end of the year, so we are keeping a close eye on that as well. At the rate he is traveling he should hit it without problem, but if that changes significantly then we will have to adjust accordingly. Had he been traveling at this rate since the beginning of the year, he would quite possibly be on track for United 1K status, so we will see what next year brings.

Are your fall and winter trips booked or penciled in?

It’s easy to think that fall break, the winter holidays, and spring break are a long ways off when you are in the summer throws of snow cones and swim parties, but now that the kids and backpacks are busy during the day, the reality is that none of that is very far off…especially if you like to use miles and points to pay for your holidays.

If you haven’t yet identified where you want to go or started booking those trips, it is time to get busy. You rarely do better on peak travel dates when multiple people are involved waiting until the last minute if you are working with airline miles and hotel points, so pick a spot and get to researching and booking. It will not take long for the newness of school to wear off and have everyone counting down the days to a fall break getaway.

For the record, ours will be a fun multi-generation trip to the Bahamas….on Delta miles, Hyatt points, and Choice points.

Grand Hyatt Baha Mar Pool

What about your summer 2018 trips?

Okay, don’t hate me if you aren’t an OCD advance planner, but I promise you will be best served by working on your summer 2018 trips now as well. I just helped my in-laws book their business class award tickets to Europe for next summer and we have a couple trips outlined and starting to be booked.

I think for next summer we are targeting Banff and a return to the Andaz Papagayo Costa Rica as our big family trips, and we are just playing with dates at this point. Airline awards to Calgary to visit Banff are plentiful, but decent flights to Liberia, Costa Rica, are still not quite there, so we are watching and waiting until the chips fall in the right places.

Andaz Papagayo Pool

If that doesn’t work out for whatever reason then we have some back-up ideas on the burner, too. Though I have to admit it is summer 2019 I am beyond excited about as a multi-week trip to Hawaii is the goal. 

There truly is no time like the present to make sure your miles, points, and money saving strategies are up to date and in order. I know some parts of the country haven’t headed back to school quite yet, but as soon as order returns to your household, I’d love to hear what you are doing to tidy up your miles and points strategies.

Back to school, back to points

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Comments

  1. This was a really timely post. I have cancelled some cards in the last two weeks. I’ve been rotating some cards in and out of our wallets. We are not meeting any minimum spends right now. Ofcourse, we always use our freedom cards to max out our quarterly bonus spend. We have a lot of everyday business expenses and this sometimes comes out to several thousands per month. We pay the balance at the end of the month. When we aren’t meeting minimum spend, I wrestle with which card to put it on. I cancelled my Business Platinum this week because I just couldn’t justify the annual fee. We put a lot on our Chase ultimate reward cards because the points are so flexible. I do have the Blue Business plus card but not all of our vendors will accept Amex (most will). Would it be terrible to put some of the charges on my Double Cash card when I am not meeting minimum spends and I am not getting spending bonuses?

    • Not at all terrible, but I don’t think 2% cash back is as valuable as 2x MR points or even the 1.5x offered by Freedom Unlimited. It is not bad though!

  2. Do you and your husband both have the reserve? As our AF is coming due I keep going back and forth between keeping them both or canceling one

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