As we mention in our beginner’s guide, it’s always a good idea to evaluate your points and miles goals for travel and credit card spending.
Each year, I take a look at my goals, as well as layout my spending for the upcoming year. Because we’re focusing on the everyday person who doesn’t own high-spending businesses or travel a lot for work (i.e. me), the majority of points and miles come from spending on my credit cards.
I’m going to first layout all the cards I have in my wallet.
Transferable Points/Cash Back
- Chase Sapphire Reserve, $450 annual fee — I get a lot of value out of this card through perks like Priority Pass lounge access and rental car insurance, travel credit and it allows me to earn Ultimate Rewards. With the travel credit, the annual fee is effectively just $150.
- Chase Freedom Unlimited, $0 annual fee — Earning Ultimate Rewards is the foundation of my points and miles strategy. This no-annual fee card is a no-brainer to keep in my wallet since its part of the Chase Trifecta.
- Chase Freedom, $0 annual fee — Again, this no-annual fee card gives me a 5x return of on the quarterly bonuses. Keeping around cards that do not carry an annual fee is also a good way to improve my credit score.
- Chase Ink Business Cash, $0 annual fee — I got my first business card a year ago to keep my expenses separate for a couple of my side gigs. It has no annual fee and gives me a 5x bonus at office supply stores, phone and internet, as well as 2x at gas stations and restaurants.
- American Express Gold Card, $250 annual fee — This is the newest card in my wallet. It returns 4x on US Supermarkets and US Restaurants, so I’ll get good use out of this. The annual fee is “lower” if you consider the monthly restaurant credit ($10/month) and annual airline credit ($100). I’m really focusing on collecting Membership Rewards this year, so this will be an important card.
- American Express Everyday, $0 annual fee — The card used to be my go-to card for groceries (2x up to $6,000 per year), but the gold card has since replaced it. Since we’re trying to earn more Membership Rewards, the fact that this card earns a 20% bonus once we reach 20 transactions per billing period makes it useful for big ticket items. I used to have the Amex Everyday Preferred card, but downgraded due to the annual fee.
- Discover Cash Back, $0 annual fee — I rarely use this card. In fact, I use it for a few purchases every year just to keep it active. It’s the first credit card I got, so it helps improve my credit score by keeping it open.
- Hyatt Credit Card, $75 annual fee — This card is actually no longer available. It was replaced with the World of Hyatt card which carries a $95 annual fee. But, I haven’t upgraded because I don’t want to pay the increased annual fee. I rarely spend on this card unless I’m staying at a Hyatt. While it earns 2x Hyatt points on restaurants and airlines, I would rather earn that on a transferable points card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and then transfer into Hyatt. The reason I keep this card is because it comes with an annual free night certificate at a category 1-4 hotel. I always get more value from the annual night than the annual fee costs me.
- IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card, $49 annual fee — This is another card that is no longer available. It’s also been replaced by the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card which has a higher annual fee. Similar to my Hyatt card, I almost never put spend on this. But, I keep it around for the free annual night that comes with this card.
- American Express Hilton Honors Card, $0 annual fee — I got this card three years ago when it was still a Citi card. I got a 70,000 sign-up bonus, but since it has no annual fee, I keep it open.
- Alaska Air Visa Signature Card, $75 annual fee — This might be the most valuable card in my wallet. I fly Alaska Air whenever I fly thanks to being located in its hub of Seattle. The annual companion fare that I get from this card makes it a no-brainer to keep.
- Gold Delta Skymiles Card, $95 annual fee — This is probably the only card that I’m going to close. I’ve had this card for two years and definitely don’t get the value from the annual fee. I rarely fly Delta, so the free checked bag benefit doesn’t do me much good. I’m going to downgrade this to the Blue Delta Skymiles card which carries no annual fee.
My Points and Miles Balances
A lot of points and miles bloggers have hundreds of thousands of miles. I don’t, and I’m not embarrassed about it. I created this website in order to be a resource for the every day person trying to collect points and miles.
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: 23,548
- American Express Membership Rewards: 108,372
- World of Hyatt Points: 145
- Hilton Honors Points: 17,334
- Marriott Bonvoy: 10,870
- IHG Rewards Club: 69,428
- Alaska Air Miles: 159,168
- Delta Skymiles: 2,670
- Southwest Rapid Rewards: 1,301
Now that you see the cards I have in my wallet and my current account balances, let’s talk about my goals for the next year.
As I mentioned in my article about my (almost) free honeymoon, I’m getting married this summer which has been a damper on the amount of vacation time available to me and my fiance. While we are going on a short honeymoon, the rest of our trips will most likely be more spur of the moment weekend trips.
We eventually want to take advantage of the ANA Around the World Ticket. It’s going to require the two of us to have around 250,000 Membership Rewards. The best way to get ANA miles is by transferring from American Express, so our main goal this upcoming year is going to be maximizing our spend on American Express cards.
My spending strategy in 2019 is to really increase my American Express Membership Rewards balance, but not completely selling out. When it makes sense, I’ll still want to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards. Ultimate Rewards are my favorite point currency, but with a specific redemption in mind, I can go away from it.
- Groceries – 4x on Amex Gold
- Restaurants – 4x on Amex Gold
- Airlines – 3x on Amex Gold
- Travel (outside of rental cars and airlines) – 3x on Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Quarterly bonuses (Gas in Q1) – 5x on Chase Freedom
- All other spend – 1.20x on Amex Everyday (thanks to 20% bonus after 20 transactions).
It’s always a good idea to audit your credit cards and spending habits at least once per year. Inevitably, your points and miles goals change over time. Likewise, you might not be getting value out of all of your credit card annual fees.
Credit card bonus categories will also change from time-to-time, so this provides you another chance to make sure you’re not missing out on bonus categories on certain credit cards.