Thursday, February 25, 2016

Even I Earn (and use) Points

If you have followed my site for a while you will notice that I lean heavily towards cashback earning with credit cards.  I love cold hard cash, big stacks of it!

I'm not a big traveler so my need for points is not huge and my credit card habits reflect that.  I also travel in economy and the value of points is more limited there.

That being said, I do earn plenty of points from reselling and it has been very helpful.  This blog is not in the business of showing you how to have cheap aspirational travel but yesterday was a day for me where having a large stash of points was great.

My family is planning a trip for a family event which we really wanted to participate in.  The problem was that due to time/work constraints our window for tickets was very tight.

There was only one night that we could fly out and one night/early morning we could fly back and for many reasons a stopover was not an option either.

It was also peak season so flights were very expensive.  It would have cost $8,000 for roundtrip tickets in economy for the whole family!  That's a tough pill to swallow even for a family event.

I tried asking various friends about ways to try and book with miles cheaply or to dump the tickets.  I got very creative answers but nothing worked for the time slots I needed.  It was going to be expensive.  The only way it could be done with miles was on a regular level award with United (not saver level) or with cash.

I needed to use 510,000 United points for the reward.  It isn't the greatest use of miles but it was a great use of miles for me and that's really all that matters.

Thankfully I had about 100k of united miles in my account and 357,540 Ultimate Rewards points as well.  That left me about 44k miles short.  44k miles is not hard to come by through spending on Chase Ink but time was of the essence for booking so I actually decided to buy the miles for $1,200.  Oh, the pain!

After sending the miles from UR to United, this it what my account looks like now - it's rough:

The truth is that after sending the 357k miles over, I was actually 7 miles short, but that's a post for another day!

I also had to use about 100k Thank You Points for one leg.  It could have been 50k but I sprang for Economy Plus for various reasons (that's as close to business as I've ever gotten).

There was also about $900 in taxes/fees on top of the miles.  Thankfully most of that will be covered by my Barclays Arrival Rewards.

Those Barclay's rewards were essentially earned during Quarter 4 when I just ran out of credit limit on my existing 2% cards so I'm now putting those to good work.

The bottom line for me is that I favor cashback.  My fidelity account which is entirely funded by credit card rewards shows that (nice uptick after Q4):

That being said, it is important for me to have a big balance of points for situations like this.  I am able to visit family without a huge out of pocket expense.  It would have been closer to $100 out of pocket had I had one more month to earn towards the trip.

My stash of miles is dangerously low right now so I plan on building that back up to a sufficient level and then refocus on earning cashback and opportunistically earning miles as before.