Monday, May 15, 2017

Points and Miles

Last year, I began following The Points Guy, a combination travel blog/financial advice/life hack website. It has given me significant insights in how to leverage my own use of credit cards and loyalty programs to, as The Points Guy himself might say, turn everyday activity into exciting rewards. What follows are musings on my own use of credit card and loyalty program rewards.

Credit Cards

I currently carry three Chase credit cards. (I began banking with Chase in college and they have always taken good care of me and made me feel like a valued customer -- even as a comparatively low net worth young adult -- so I am happy to give them the opportunity to service all my banking needs.)

Chase Freedom, since 2015
Chase Freedom Unlimited, since 2016
Chase Sapphire Preferred, since 2017

Chase Freedom has rotating bonus categories; each quarter purchases in a category or two of merchants earns 5% cash back, over the usual 1%. They are usually everyday-purchase categories, like gas (as was the case in the first quarter of 2017) and groceries (as is the case in this current second quarter).

I picked up the Chase Freedom Unlimited to use for my non-bonus category spending, as this card has a universal 1.5% cash back on purchases.

Chase Sapphire Preferred is my first higher-level card. I use it for its bonus categories, restaurants and travel (and the travel category is broad, it even includes local public transit fares), where it earns 2 points per dollar.

Having the Chase Sapphire Preferred means that not only can I get cash back on my Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited purchases, I can combine the Chase Ultimate Rewards points from all cards and transfer to travel partners. I transferred 40,000 of the 50,000 points sign up bonus on the CSP to Southwest Rapid Rewards to redeem for my wife's and my flights to Vermont this summer. Which brings me to...

Airline Loyalty Programs

Living in Chicago, I am fortunate to be in the hub/focus city of three major U.S. airlines: American, Southwest, and United. I've chosen to primarily split my air travel needs between Southwest and United. I like Southwest because of the ability to easily and freely change flights as needed, plus of course the free checked bags, and United because of the diversity of its product, the potential for great mileage redemptions, and its international network access, as my wife and I desire to travel internationally during our lives -- and, of course, as a Chicagoan, I like to give my business to Chicago-based companies.

Since becoming a United MileagePlus member a couple years ago, I've earned close to 25,000 points (some through flying, and some through MileagePlus Shopping portal and the MileagePlus X app), and earlier this year redeemed for my first award flight, and found Saver Award availability to get me to Charleston for my grandma's 80th birthday party this month.

And, as I mentioned above, I moved 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which I could do once I obtained the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, to Southwest Rapid Rewards for a pair of round-trip flights to Vermont.

What credit cards and loyalty programs do you use?

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