Author Archives: Gomanson

Semi-Monthly Update (May 15, 2018)

Another update, another busy month!  Along with my household points and miles updates, there’s a [non]travel update and some important credit card news, including an offer expiring in the next 24 hours.  To say it’s busy season a work for me is an understatement, so please excuse the delay in getting this update published.



Household Points and Miles Activity for March and April

Here is two months’ worth of points and miles activity for us. Starting with March:

  • earned 4,035 airline miles
  • earned 3,850 hotel points
  • earned 7,598 Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • earned 1,099 Citi Thank-You points

And April:

  • earned 246 airline miles
  • earned 879 hotel points
  • earned 3,200 Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • earned 1,897 Citi Thank-You points
  • earned 64 “other” points

Credit Card News

Just like my previous update last month, there is far too much going on with credit cards right now to fully detail here.  I’ll list a few highlights that you can research further if desired.

  • The American Express Delta cards (Gold and Platinum) are still available at elevated sign-up bonuses but only through a referral link.  The gold’s bonus is at 50k (not its highest ever) and the Platinum’s is 70k with a $100 statement credit (the highest I’ve seen this card).  The public offers are long gone and the referral offer ends tomorrow.  (Whether that means it is valid through tomorrow or that it expires tomorrow, I do not know.)
  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred now has a second option for the sign-up bonus.  The new option offers the regular 50,000 Ultimate Reward bonus after $4,000 in spending in the first 3 months, but also offers an additional 30,000 points after spending $20,000 in the first year.  This seems like a huge spend for the additional points, but might be feasible for some people, especially if it’s your only card.  This second option does not, however, offer the 5k UR bonus for adding an autorized user that the original option comes with.
  • On top of the 5/24 rule and other restrictions, Chase now appears to be stepping up their game when it comes to actively going after churners.  These reports come around from time to time and the reporting bias is very evident, but the comments on this Doctor of Credit post are worth looking into if you’re the burn-and-churn type.  Chase has some of the most valuable credit cards out there in terms of sign-up bonus and other benefits.  My advice is to stay under the radar and try to not bite the hand that feeds.

Delta PlatApply for the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you’re approved! http://refer.amex.us/NICOLMP5ix?xl=cp15  This is the 70k offer referred to in the first bullet point above.  The Delta Platinum comes with a 70,000 mile sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.  The card has a $175 annual fee due up-front, but it’s partially offset by a $100 statement credit after a Delta purchase of any amount (baggage fee, award booking taxes and fees, gift card purchase – all count).  The referral offer ends tomorrow and the bonus goes back down.

Travel News

black-hole-640

A total black hole.  That’s what Nicoleen’s and my vacation planning has become in the past couple months.  We can’t seem to get a coherent plan together.  We’re considering a family road trip; this fall or next spring might be time for another adults-only trip; and I’m not completely ruling out a summer Europe visit.  It’s all just ideas at this point, and that really bothers me!

Others, however, are not so inept:  ValueTactics guest stars Derek and Danie are leaving soon for a value packed week in Europe.  My parents have a few bucket list destinations in mind and I’ve been coaching them on which cards to get / points to go after to best serve their plans.

Free Travel Photo

In honor of Mother's Day on Sunday, I thought I'd post this photo of my mom and me in Europe in 1996, on my first trip out of the country. It isn't exactly an example of free travel (well, for 14 year old Ross it was!) but it definitely fueled my passion for travel. Thanks, Mom!

In honor of Mother’s Day on Sunday, I thought I’d post this photo of my mom and me in Europe in 1996, on my first trip out of the country. It isn’t exactly an example of free travel (well, for 14 year old Ross it was!) but it definitely fueled my passion for travel. Thanks, Mom!




Now you’re updated. Go employ some Value Tactics!

Catch-Up Update (April 11, 2018)

My, oh my!  It’s been a while since my last update post and there is a lot to report.  So much, in fact, that I won’t even get to it all here.  There is a ton of news on the credit card front.  Nicoleen and I had a great time in Costa Rica and are working on some future trip plans.  A ValueTactics reader pulled off an amazing feat of free travel planning. . .  Let’s get into the update!



Household Points and Miles Activity for January and February

Here is two months’ worth of points and miles activity for us.  Starting with January:

  • earned 3,763 airline miles
  • earned 8,794 hotel points
  • earned 5,407 Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • earned 975 Citi Thank-You points
  • redeemed free annual IHG night for lodging worth $109.48
  • received $133.76 in travel expense reimbursement from Nicoleen’s Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • received $100 reimbursement (Global Entry application fee) from my Bank of America Premier Rewards card

And February:

  • earned 30,106 hotel points
  • earned 7,559 Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • earned 6,071 Citi Thank-You points
  • earned 105 “other” points

Credit Card News

There is a lot going on with travel credit cards at the moment.  It’s too much news to cram into an update post so I’ll simply list the highlights.  If any of these developments catches your eye, I’d encourage you to see what other bloggers and FlyerTalk posters have to say about it.

  • The American Express Delta cards (Gold and Platinum) are currently at 60k and 70k, respectively, for sign-up bonuses.  This is the highest I remember these bonuses ever going, so if you haven’t had one of these cards before, now might be a good time to apply.  The public offer expires tonight (read more here).  A ValueTactics reader currently has a referral link for the same offer on these cards, but it’s good until 5/16/18.  If you don’t apply today and are still interested in these offers, contact me and I will get the referral sent to you.
  • Chase’s IHG Rewards hotel card lost some of its potential value due to changes in the annual free night terms.  Check out my previous blog post for more info.
  • The same Chase IHG Rewards card is being replaced with a $29 annual fee version and an $89 annual fee version.
  • The Barclay Arrival+ went away.
  • Chase recently extended their “One Sapphire Policy” to their Southwest cards.  Getting both personal cards is no longer a possible way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.  One personal and one business card is now the easiest combination good for that tactic.

I’ve been having a lot of credit card discussions with my in-the-game friends and family lately.  Planning card applications is becoming a real science in recent months and years.  Through these discussions some of us have formulated and acted on plans; in the coming weeks I have a feeling I’ll have some card applications of my own to report!

Travel News

cr-relaxYes, we had a great time in Costa Rica last month!  Since we had already stayed at the Andaz Papagayo Peninsula the previous year, we already knew the drill and were able to get right into relaxation mode.  The motto of our trip was:  There’s tons of stuff to do in Costa Rica, and we plan on doing none of it!  🙂  The goal was rest and relaxation and we got our fill.

Derek’s Feat

While their home state refused to let go of winter, Derek and Danie enjoyed the Arizona heat!

While their home state refused to let go of winter, Derek and Danie enjoyed the Arizona heat!

Stalwart ValueTactics readers Derek and Danie just returned from a warm-weather weekend get-away in Arizona.  Being stalwart readers, naturally they paid for their flights and hotel with points.  But that’s not the noteworthy part of this amazing feat of travel planning.

The noteworthy part is that Derek, in a frenzy, called me Friday mid-morning looking for some flight booking advice.  He had hatched a plan to get out of town for the weekend just that morning.  I helped him steer clear of some tactical errors and he continued his searching.  By late afternoon, he and his wife were on a free flight to Phoenix!  That’s hands down the fastest turn-around from concept to execution of a free vacation I have ever heard of!

Great job, Derek.  I’m tagging this post with Extreme Tactics just for you.  🙂

Recent ValueTactics Blog Posts

Major Downgrade to IHG Anniversary Free Night is the latest “big news” devaluation in the points and miles world.  It also marks the end of an era for free hotel nights, as I explain in the article.

Free Travel Photo

free-travel-photo_08

I thought it would be fitting to represent the last free free hotel night we used as the free travel photo.  Nicoleen and I used my IHG anniversary free night at the Crowne Plaza Northstar in Minneapolis back in January.  It was a convenient use of the free night but had I known then about the recent IHG free night devaluation I might have looked for a more valuable/interesting redemption.




Now you’re updated. Go employ some Value Tactics!

Major Downgrade to IHG Anniversary Free Night

Yesterday I got a letter from Chase that I was unexpected but that didn’t surprise me either.  It was to notify me that the annual free night benefit of my Chase IHG Rewards Club card will no longer be valid at any IHG property worldwide.  Beginning May 1st it will only be valid at hotels where the basic room cost is 40,000 points or less.  This is a huge blow to this card and the end of an era for hotel cards in general.

Our sweet suite at Miami Beach's Z Ocean Hotel can no longer be booked with Chase IHG anniversary nights. Its point cost is 50,000.

Our sweet suite at Miami Beach’s Z Ocean Hotel can no longer be booked with Chase IHG anniversary free nights. Its costs 50,000 points to book; 10,000 over the new limit.  The total cash value per night was $782.11.

What does this mean?

This means that some of IHG’s best properties are now off the table when planning to use the annual free night benefit.  Chase’s IHG Rewards Club credit card has a $49 annual fee and comes with an free night certificate every year on your card membership anniversary.  Until this change, the certificate could be used at any IHG hotel in the world.  As you can imagine, the opportunity for extreme value was incredible!




Award nights in a standard room cost between 10,000 and 70,000 points at IHG hotels.  Many of the top tier properties start at 50,000 points, eliminating them from the pool of available hotels for the free night benefit.  For example, last April for Nicoleen’s surprise birthday get-away, we stayed at the Z Ocean Hotel in Miami Beach for 2 nights; one paid with points and one by redeeming my IHG anniversary free night.

No more free rooftop balcony suites for this guy!

No more free rooftop balcony suites for this guy!

Who is affected?

Any IHG anniversary free night credited to your account before May 1st still has the old terms attached and can be used anywhere.  Starting May 1st, the 40,000 point limit will be applied to newly credited certificates.

To see if you currently have a free night on your account, log in to your IHG Rewards Club account and look on the “my account” page:
ihg-free-night

As you can see, I personally have an anniversary free night that was credited before the deadline.  I’ll have to use it wisely!  This isn’t the most popular hotel card around, but this change has personally affected me because it completely destroys one of the more ambitious vacation ideas on my bucket list.  I was working on a plan to spend 2+ free nights at the only resort in the world whose standard room is a $1000+ per night over-water bungalow.

This ridiculously blown out paradise resort on Bora Bora is no longer available for IHG anniversary free night bookings. If you want some inspiration, check out the images on this resort's website: InterContinental Resort Bora Bora - Thalasso Spa

This ridiculously blown out paradise resort on Bora Bora is no longer available for IHG anniversary free night bookings. If you want some inspiration, check out the photos on this resort’s website: InterContinental Resort Bora Bora – Thalasso Spa

The end of an era

The IHG Rewards Club Premium World Mastercard is a unique hotel card.  For years, several hotel cards from different issuers offered a sign-up bonus of free nights redeemable at any hotel in the portfolio of brands associated with the card.  I call these kind of free nights (without hotel level or point value limitations) “unlimited free nights.”

In the last year or so, free nights as a sign-up bonus have been largely replaced with straight up bonus points.  Several cards still offer a free night as an anniversary benefit after paying the annual fee.  However, these anniversary nights are all “limited.”  For example, on our Costa Rica trip last month we used a Marriott anniversary free night and 2 Hyatt anniversary free nights.  The Marriott certificate was limited to category 1-5 hotels and the Hyatt certificate was limited to category 1-4 hotels.

As far as I know (please correct me if I’m wrong!), with the IHG anniversary free night downgrade, there are no more “unlimited” free nights out there, either as a sign-up bonus or as an card member anniversary benefit.

Does the IHG card suck now?

No.  For the $49 annual fee, it’s still extremely easy to get your money’s worth on a free anniversary night redemption.  My last certificate was used on a $109.48 redemption in Minneapolis.  Not as impressive as our Z Ocean nights last April, but still well worth the annual fee.  As of this writing the card also comes with a 60,000 point sign-up bonus, but this routinely jumps up to 80k, so I would wait if you’re thinking about applying.

Sure, you can't stay at the Thalasso Spa on Bora Bora with free nights anymore, but the nearby island of Moorea has an IHG resort that costs 40k points and is thereby still eligible.

Sure, you can’t stay at the Thalasso Spa on Bora Bora with free nights anymore, but the nearby island of Moorea is home to this IHG resort that costs 40k points and is thereby still eligible.

If you’ve used these IHG anniversary free nights for killer redemptions in the past, count yourself lucky and wise.  If this is yet another devaluation/downgrade/nerf that you’re reading about without having taken advantage of the lost opportunity, chalk it up to another reason to GET OFF THE SIDELINES AND GET INTO THIS GAME ASAP!   Deals disappear and opportunities morph and change.  This is an incredible hobby.  Get in when the gettin’s good!



What Happened to the Free Gas Tactic?

A reader recently asked me why I don’t report my gas savings on my monthly updates anymore.  I still implement the free gas tactic, so why don’t I write about it anymore?  It’s an astute observation and I am happy to explain my reasons:



What happened, anyway?

The free gas tactic saved me well over $1700 in two years of commuting.  My tactical outline page on free gas is actually still one of my most visited pages (it needs a face lift too!).  If it’s such a popular topic on the website and it has saved me so much money over the years, why don’t I talk about it anymore?

I explained some of the reasons in an update post last April.  In a nutshell;

  • Super America stopped double coupon Tuesdays, effectively cutting the value of the tactic in half.
  • I use way less fuel.  My commute is a fraction of what it was before 2 years ago.  I also drive a more fuel efficient car now.  Gas prices have been lower in the past 2 years than the previous 2 years as well.
  • And, as I’ll explain below, I’ve outgrown the need for tracking my savings.

I’ve proven my point

Aside from satisfying my need to add everything I do into a spreadsheet, there really isn’t a good reason for me to track or report on my gas savings anymore.  For some context on this reasoning, read one of my first posts laying the foundation for this website:

Tracking is the Key (and why you shouldn’t do it)

I know how much the free gas tactic is worth to me.  Before the end of Double Coupon Tuesday, MySA Rewards points were worth about $2.86 per thousand points (or 0.286 cents per point “cpp”).  The $0.50 per gallon fuel discount is still the best option for using these points, but it’s now only worth half.

free gas tactic Super America

That $12.50 discount used to be $25.00 when Double Coupon Tuesday was in effect.

The coupon is good up to 25 gallons, so on Tuesdays it used to be worth $25; now it’s worth $12.50.  My SA Rewards points are now worth $1.43 per thousand, or 0.143 cpp.  In contrast, using the points to buy gift cards only yields 0.1 cpp, which is terrible – the majority of credit card-earned points are worth 1.0 cpp when redeeming them for gift cards.

The $0.50 coupon comprised 80% my total gas savings. Now the coupon is worth exactly half what it was before. Whereas I used to get approximately 20% of my gas for free, I (and you) can now expect to get a 12% total savings.

The $0.50 coupon comprised 80% my total gas savings. Now the coupon is worth exactly half what it was before. Whereas I used to get approximately 20% of my gas for free, I (and you) can now expect to get a 12% total savings.

Broadening the analysis, I know that when all the discounts and coupons are combined, I can consistently save about 12% of total fuel cost at Super America.  This is really the final output of all my analyses.  It shows me (and more importantly: you!) that the slight inconvenience of using the My SA Rewards card, running all your fuel and store purchases through gift cards, and using coupons is worth 12% of your total fuel expenditure.  If that’s worth it to you, then use the free gas tactic!

What now?

As you can see, the usefulness of tracking all my savings with this tactic has run its course.  Its value is now a known value (sweet pun, bro).  You and I can make the decision on whether or not to utilize this tactic based on how much we value that 12% savings and how much we are averse to the inconvenience of the slight work involved.




For me personally, I still see the value in collecting My SA Rewards points but ever since the loss of Double Coupon Tuesday, whether it’s worth it to me is borderline.  I sometimes buy fuel at other gas stations if it’s more convenient.  Sometimes I don’t use coupons, and sometimes I pay directly with my credit card if my gift cards are low.

Other gas station chains might have different and valuable opportunities to save money on fuel.  I want to hear about these!  Please contribute in the comments below if you know of any.

There are so many costs that papercut you every day.  Many small expenses create a continuous trickle of money away from you.  Spending an extra 10 seconds to swipe a membership card every time you put gas in your car to save a few cents doesn’t seem like it’s worth much.  But it’s refreshing to know that in some things, you can reverse the flow and trickle some value back into your bank account!



Semi-Monthly Update (January 23, 2018)

You’ll notice the title of this blog post is actually a day behind, and there’s a good reason for that: I fell asleep before I finished writing last night.  :p  I’m falling way behind in my trip reports, hotel reviews, and flight/lounge reviews.  I will try to get some of these completed soon because they are some of my most popular topics.  But I can’t make any promises due to my über-hectic life.


Credit Card News

General News

If you keep track of other points and miles blogs you may have noticed there’s a distinct lack of credit card news lately.  There just aren’t many good offers out there right now.  I think it’s somewhat due to the post-holiday slump.  The most noteworthy card news in recent weeks is the Citi/Amex/Hilton mess.  It’s hard to even summarize this situation, so I won’t try.  If you want to read about it, check out my post on the topic or read MileValue’s recent comments.

Personal News

I recently scored a decent retention bonus on my Citi ThankYou Premier.  Nicoleen and I plan on applying for one or two more cards in the coming week.  I will report as events unfold!

We have a large expense coming up soon so we wanted a new card to put the spend on.  Last week Nicoleen was instantly approved for the Amex Starwood Preferred Guest card.  Generally the advice on American Express cards is to only get them when they are at their highest known sign-up bonus since there’s a once-per-lifetime bonus rule.  We broke that rule in this case.  The current bonus is 25k SPG points after a $3k spend in the first 3 months, with the $95 annual fee waived the first year.  The bonus on this card has been as high as 35k, but there’s some good evidence that the card will become extinct within the next year.  I currently have the card and I have a link good for a 7.5k referral bonus. Including my referral bonus we’ll net 32.5k points, only 2.5k points less than the highest known bonus. In my case, missing out on 2.5k points is worth the added assurance that Nicoleen was able to get the card before it goes bye-bye.

Travel News

Nicoleen and I are really looking forward to our kid-free getaway in early March.  Sitting by the pool in Costa Rica is just what the doctor ordered for our über-hectic life!  I’m sure many of you lie awake at night, wondering what we have planned for our 15th anniversary in 2 1/2 years. . . rest assured, something big is in the works!

Recent ValueTactics Blog Posts

Year in Review – 2017 breaks down the total value (and expenses) Nicoleen and I captured in 2017, primarily by using the credit card and point/miles tactics.  It’s a great report to read if you want a realistic idea of the risk vs. reward in employing Value Tactics!
New Life Breathed into my Citi ThankYou Premier explains how my Citi ThankYou Premier card went from the dumpster to the front of my wallet.  It was a perfect storm of little bonus deals and a retention offer that all added up to a worthwhile reason to keep and use the card.

Free Travel Photo

ValueTactics readers Jared and Derek sent me this photo from their weekend skiing trip to Utah. They're enjoying a free beer and a meal with the airport lounge access that comes as a benefit on Jared's Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Derek had to remind Jared about the free access or they would have walked right on by! Remember your travel perks, people!

ValueTactics readers Jared and Derek sent me this photo from their weekend ski trip to Utah.  They’re enjoying a free beer and a meal with the airport lounge access they had as a benefit on Jared’s Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Derek had to remind Jared about the free access or they would have walked right on by!  Remember your travel perks, people!  CORRECTION:  Derek reminded Jared of this AFTER they had eaten the paid meal pictured here.  Tsk tsk!




Now you’re updated. Go employ some Value Tactics!

New Life Breathed into my Citi ThankYou Premier

Credit cards on the chopping block.

A few weeks ago I was ready to cancel my Citi ThankYou Premier card.  The $95 annual fee was coming due and I didn’t feel like calling to fish for a retention offer.  Fast forward to today and it’s my daily spender!  How did this happen?  Read on to find out. . . (And find some tips that might make you rethink your own keep/cancel decisions.)



Card Basics

Citi has 3 primary versions of its ThankYou series cards.  The ThankYou Preferred card is the no-annual-fee version, which I won’t discuss because it is below us.  The ThankYou Premier is the premium version, discussed in this post.  And at the super-premium level is the ThankYou Prestige.  Here are the basic stats of the Premier:

  • Earns 1x ThankYou point on all purchases, 2x on dining and entertainment, and 3x on travel (very generously defined) and gas.
  • No foreign transaction fee.
  • $95 annual fee
  • The sign-up bonus has varied.  It has been:
    • 50,000 in 2 chunks, 30k and 20k (the second one after paying the second year’s AF)
    • 50,000 after $3k spend and 1st year AF waived
    • 50,000 after $4k spend and 1st year AF waived
    • 60,000 after $3.5k and 1st AF waived

The Premier’s “super-premium” big brother, the Citi ThankYou Prestige, was in demand last summer and fall because of an elevated 75k TY point bonus.  The Prestige comes with a suite of benefits that make the $450 annual fee palatable, especially in light of the whopping 75k bonus.  For a full list of benefits of the Prestige, check out MileValue’s report on the card and offer.  The Prestige comes into play with my decisions on the Premier, as you’ll soon see. . .

Brief history of my Citi ThankYou Premier

Reborn: my Citi ThankYou Prestige, with it's cool 3d matted logo.

Reborn: my Citi ThankYou Premier, with it’s cool 3d matted logo.

I got my Citi ThankYou Premier in the fall of 2015 when the bonus was 50k points for a $3k spend.  The annual fee was waived the first year and I successfully called for a redemption offer when the 2nd year’s fee was due.  Although the 3x points on gas was a really nice benefit, I wasn’t really using the card anymore and I had used up all my orphan ThankYou points.  I figured it was time to cancel and start the timer for the next time I could get the bonus on this card.

The plan was fine until Citi implemented their new 24 month rule for sign-up bonuses.  Read all about all of the major banks’ restrictions for getting sign-up bonuses in my post here.  In short, opening OR closing any Citi ThankYou card resets a 24 month timer for getting a sign-up bonus on any ThankYou card.  If I cancelled my Premier, I would be ineligible for the bonus on the Prestige for 24 months.  And the bonus on the Prestige had just bumped up to 75k!




When banks put in new restrictions on bonuses they are retroactive, meaning my original opening of my Premier was the start of my 24 month clock.  I wanted to apply for the Prestige but I had to wait until mid-November 2017.  Once I was approved for the Prestige, I could cancel the Premier before the annual fee posted.  Wouldn’t you know it:  2 weeks before I became eligible, the 75k bonus on the Prestige disappeared.  🙁  In fact, any sign-up bonus on both cards disappeared and as of today, they are both still bonus-less.

The cancellation phone call

In case the Prestige regained its bonus sometime in the next year I wanted to be eligible for it, so I figured I’d give it a shot: If I got a good retention offer I’d keep the Premier open another year.  If not, I’d cancel it and start the 24 month timer over.  (Remember the 24 month timer extends to any card of the same point type.)

As I first announced on the ValueTactics Facebook page (please like it!), they gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse:  A $95 credit that would cover the annual fee, and 1000 bonus TY points if I spent at least $1k on the card in each of the next 3 months. 

In itself this offer isn’t that good.  1000 bonus points is worth maybe $20-25.  I consider the $95 credit to cover the annual fee to be the bare minimum to keep the card open.  However, the 3x $1,000 spends aren’t anything to sneeze at.  In my case though, I had no other bonus spends to work on, so I figured I could make this my daily spender for 3 months without much trouble or opportunity cost.  A hidden value in keeping the card open another 12 months is the outside chance that the Prestige gets another big bonus offer, in which case I’d still be eligible.

Sweetening the deal

As I said, putting $3k on this card over the next three months isn’t a big inconvenience.  I will definitely use it for all gas purchases, earning me 3x points per dollar.  At a minimum, I’ll end up with 4,000 ThankYou points (3k for the $3k spend, 1k bonus) and another year of credit history on this account.  However, it doesn’t end there. . .

I got a few mailers and e-mails with bonus point promotions that I otherwise would have ignored.  One of them is a 5x category bonus:
Citi TY category offer
I probably won’t end up with many bonus points from this one.  I’m certainly not going to make any purchases I wouldn’t have otherwise made.  But as my Citi ThankYou Premier will be my daily spender through March, if I happen to spend in any of these categories, lucky me!

Here’s the other offer I got as a mailer:
citi-ty-auth-user-offer
$3k spend in 3 months?  Well, that’s easy!  I’m already doing that!  Not to run afoul the Chase 5/24 rule, the authorized user was my daughter.  We should get the card any day now.

Here is why this card has new life for me:

  • $3,000 retention offer spend + 1000 bonus points = 4k pts
  • 2,500 bonus pts for authorized user after $3k spend = 2.5k pts
  • Bonus 5x on select categories, coupled with the card’s usual 3x on gas = potentially worth 2-5k extra

Lessons learned

  1. Always call for a retention offer on a card you’re about to cancel.  You never know what they might offer you!
  2. Some cards tend to produce many bonus offers that can add up to sizeable points accumulation.  (See this post on the last time this happened to me.)
  3. The best laid plans often go awry.  Nothing you can do about this one other than to keep making those plans!  Most of them will stick.

Click Here for FlyerTalk’s thread on the card to check the current bonus (if any), or you can try to decipher DoC’s spreadsheet here.



Year in Review – 2017

One of the goals of Valuetactics.com is to prove that these tactics are worthwhile.  To that end, I provide monthly reports of our household points and miles activity.  I also try to provide semi-monthly updates of our other related activity.  This might include travel planning, canceling or applying for credit cards, additional point/mile earning opportunities, and various other value tactics we hear about or use ourselves.  The whole purpose is not to show off, but to inspire you to take advantage of these tactics yourself!
updates

My wife and I don’t do manufactured spending. We don’t do extreme couponing. We don’t apply for new credit cards as often as humanly possible. We simply put all our spending on credit cards, strategically apply for good card offers, and make use of other miscellaneous savings tactics. I think my monthly totals updates are a good representation of what a normal couple could expect, if they take advantage of the tactics on this site.



2017 Totals

Without further ado, here’s how we ended up for 2017.  I track redemptions based on the year in which the booking was made; not the year in which the travel actually takes place.

Earning

  • earned 128,259 airline miles
  • earned 45,381 hotel points
  • earned 191,126 Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • earned 5,565 Citi Thank-You points
  • earned 55,707 “other” points
  • Total earned: 494,038

Transferring

  • transferred 68,000 Ultimate Rewards to airline and hotel programs

Redeeming

  • redeemed 66,467 airline miles (+ 62,000 transferred from Chase UR)
  • redeemed 109,000 hotel points (+ 6,000 transferred from Chase UR)
  • redeemed 17,092 Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • redeemed 15,990 Citi Thank-You points
  • redeemed 51,114 “other” points
  • Total redeemed: 327,663

Total gross value from points/miles redemptions booked in 2017: $6,110.79
Total gross value from other card benefits booked in 2017: $2,834.32
Total combined gross value: $8,945.11
Associated costs and fees for points/miles redemptions: $476.46
Total credit card interest and annual fees paid in 2016: $938.84
Net value for all our efforts: $7,529.81 !!

Analysis

In last year’s annual report, you will see our total value for the year was almost twice as high.  The main explanation for this is that in late 2016 I planned my 2017 Europe trip (on which I woefully underreported!).  Since I report the redemptions based on when I book the trip – not when the trip actually happens – that whole value was added to the 2016 total.  I am considering another summer trip to Europe again in 2018, but I haven’t booked anything as of yet.

Me hiking in the Alps on my Euro2017 trip.  The net value of points and miles bookings for this trip was almost $6,100!

Hiking in the Alps on my Euro2017 trip. The net value of points and miles bookings for this trip was almost $6,100!

I’m happy to say the credit card interest we paid in 2017 was in the single digits.  The $938.84 in interest in fees is largely comprised of annual fees.  The most noteworthy is the $450 fee on Nicoleen’s Chase Sapphire Reserve.  The benefits of this card have paid for the fee many times over.  One benefit I haven’t quantified were the several airport lounge visits we were able to make because of the Priority Pass Select membership that is a benefit of the Reserve.

You can do it!

I show these results not to brag, but to motivate you to capture some value of your own!  Here are some of my favorite articles to guide you:

The following are good examples of planning a trip and how the points and mileage usage breaks down.  If you’re already in the game and need to hone your skills at points and miles redemption, check these out for some ideas:

If you contact me privately, I can walk you through some ideas for which credit cards to get to meet your goals.

And of course you should like the ValueTactics facebook page and join the discussions there!

Here’s to a valuable 2018!
sea-sunset-beach-couple




Semi-Monthly Update (December 31, 2017)

Here we are – the last update of 2017.  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!  We’re in the post-holiday lull as far as credit card offers are concerned; not much noteworthy to report on that front.  Personally we have a few important “keep or cancel” decisions to make soon, including Nicoleen’s $450 annual fee Chase Sapphire Reserve.



In this update:  I’ll report our extensive December points and miles activity and give an update on Nicoleen’s and my upcoming travel plans.  We’ll cap it off with a holiday message.

Household Points and Miles Activity for December

It was a busy month for points transfers and redemptions! Here’s the breakdown:

  • earned 53,468 airline miles
  • earned 108 hotel points
  • earned 2,527 Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • earned 125 “other” points
  • transferred 6,000 Ultimate Rewards to World of Hyatt points
  • redeemed 51,000 “other” points for  $510.00
  • redeemed 15,000 World of Hyatt points for a one-night stay at Andaz Papagayo (valued at $1,003.73)
  • booked a two-night stay at the Andaz Papagayo with annual free night certificates from our Chase Hyatt cards – lodging worth $1,857.44 (after accounting for $75 annual fee x2)
  • booked a one-night stay at the Dallas Airport Marriott with annual free night certificate from my [now cancelled] Chase Marriott Rewards card – lodging worth $164.44
  • redeemed 60,000 American Airlines miles for airfare worth $1,582.76
  • received $166.24 in travel expense reimbursement from Nicoleen’s Chase Sapphire Reserve

That hefty airline miles number is thanks my Cathay Pacific Visa card; the 50,000 mile bonus finally hit.  The cash redemption was from my Bank of America Premier card.  All those travel related points redemptions are for our upcoming winter get-away!

Travel News

Nicoleen and I are so excited to go back to Costa Rica!  Yes, yes. . . I know it’s kind of lame to go to such an interesting and varied country and then sit around at the pool and beach the whole time.  But hey – we need that kind of a break!  Even though it’s basically repeat of our get-away last winter, this trip is unique in one major way.   Between airfare, luxury accommodations, and ground transportation, the total out of pocket cost for this trip is $0.00!  That’s a first for this value tactician!

Recent ValueTactics Blog Posts

Winter Vacation Plans Revealed is the answer to the teasers I put on Facebook for a few days about the location of our next trip.

Free Travel Photo

The swimming pool terrace at the Andaz Papagayo.  Having just finished planning our return trip to this awesome resort, this scene has been on my mind lately.  It's especially fun to think about as I look over at the exterior thermometer on this New Year's Eve.  It reads -2.7 degrees.

The swimming pool terrace at the Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica. Having just finished planning our return trip to this awesome resort, this scene has been on my mind lately. It’s especially fun to think about as I look over at the exterior thermometer on this New Year’s Eve. It reads -3.1 degrees.

Happy New Year!

sea-sunset-beach-coupleHave a fun and safe night and may all your hopes for the new year come to pass!  If any of those hopes involve free or virtually free travel, free money, cost savings, or any other value tactical related goals, I hope I can help you fulfill them!




Now you’re updated. Go employ some Value Tactics!