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ThePointsGuy.com Year in Review

by on December 30, 2011 · 26 comments

in Credit Cards, Delta, General TPG Business, Oneworld, star alliance, Starwood

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As 2011 draws to a close, I wanted to take a look back at what has been an amazing, challenging and rewarding year. So let’s take a quick peek at the points I’ve earned and burned, some of my favorite redemptions, and my major strategy shifts in terms of credit cards and travel.

CREDIT CARDS

I always say that, though I fly over 150,000 miles a year, by far the biggest source of miles and points for me are credit card bonuses, and 2011 was no exception. In bonuses alone (so, not including spend) I earned over 600,000 points. Back in August I wrote this post about my haul of 553,000 sign-up bonus points including:

Chase

British Airways Visa: 100,000 miles, $2,500 in spend within 90 days, $95 annual fee. (The deal has since expired, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it again in 2012).

Sapphire Preferred: 53,500 Ultimate Rewards points, $3000 in spend within 3 months, $95 annual fee waived for first year.

American Express

Platinum Card: 100,000 Membership Rewards points, $1,000 in spend within 3 months, $450 annual fee.

Premier Rewards Gold Card: 75,000 Membership Rewards points, $1,500 in spend within 3 months, $175 annual fee waived for first year.

Citi

AAdvantage Visa: 75,000 miles, $1,500 spend in 6 months, $75 annual fee waived for first year. (Deal is now expired- 50,000 is the current best offer)

AAdvantage Visa Business: 75,000 miles, $4,000 spend within 6 months, $75 annual fee waived for first year. (Deal is now expired- 50,000 is the current best offer)

AAdvantage American Express: 75,000 miles, $1,500 spend within 6 months, $75 annual fee waived for first year. (Deal is now expired- 50,000 is the current best offer)

And to that I recently added the Chase Ink Bold  for Business for 50,000 more Ultimate Rewards points with $5,000 spend in 3 months, and a $95 annual fee waived for the first year.

Total: 603,500 points/miles, $20,000 spend and $540 in annual fees.

Despite all those credit card applications, my credit score is still a strong 740, and I’d value these total points/miles at around $12,000. The actual price of the airline tickets alone that I book using these would actually cost over $40,000 in my estimation at face value—but since I’d never pay that, I’m going to value them a bit more conservatively.

STRATEGY SHIFT

The biggest shift in my credit card strategy has been to move about 60% of my credit card spending from American Express over to my new credit card obsession, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which I firmly believe is the best all-round credit card on the market these days.

That’s because I spend a lot on travel (airfare, hotels, taxis, subway, parking, etc.) and dining, so the 2x points on these transactions along with no foreign transaction fees make this card a no-brainer for me. Plus, Chase has really ramped up earning opportunities with the Ultimate Rewards Mall with some very lucrative bonuses. They’ve also done a great job at adding solid partners, and I like the flexibility of being able to transfer Ultimate Rewards points instantly to Continental/United, British Airways, Korean Air, Southwest (starting January 2012!), Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club and Amtrak. I would love to see them start offering transfer bonuses, though, like Amex frequently does.

PROMOTIONS

This was a blockbuster year for points promotions, and I know many of you got in on the most lucrative of them. Here were some of my favorites.

Miles Purchases and Transfers:

-I was able to buy 100,000 US Airways Dividend Miles for just $1,478.

-I bought 60,000 Delta SkyMiles during their recent 100% transfer promo.

-I transferred points to British Airways at a 50% bonus and used them to book a South America award to Santiago, Easter Island and Lima in business class (pre-Avios) for only 80,000 miles for a trip in 2012.

-I used just 150,000 miles to book a roundtrip first class ticket on Cathay Pacific from JFK-HKG-Bali, also in 2012.

-During the US Airways Grand Slam, I banked 100,000 Dividend Miles and can’t wait to redeem those on some premium Star Alliance awards!

MISTAKE FARES

These are a mixed bag since airlines don’t always honor purchased mistake fares (see my debacle with American and Cathay Pacific), but I actually got lucky with a ton of them this year as well.

-Delta fares from JFK-Stockholm and Copenhagen: $149

-American Airlines fare from JFK-Madrid, which I was also able to upgrade to business class with miles: $249

-Alitalia/Air Europa from JFK-Rome-Istanbul-Amsterdam: $570 (Not really a mistake fare, but a good one nonetheless)

MILES REDEMPTION

By far, the most epic mile redemption of my year was for my massive summer trip from New York to Mauritius with a stopover in Spain on the way home. I only used 120,000 Delta SkyMiles plus $250 in taxes total to fly on a combination of Air Europa, Air France, Air Mauritius in business class on all legs. Best of all, as I pointed out, though the trip sounds far-flung and exotic, with just a little bit of savvy and patience, anyone could book something equivalent!

HOTELS

Like in 2010, I split my energies and money this year between my two main brands: Hyatt and Starwood. I maintained my Hyatt Diamond status by participating in the Star Alliance Megado, and I earned Platinum status with Starwood Preferred Guest the old-fashioned way: by sleeping around! The new feather in my cap was actually being nominated for Intercontinental Royal Ambassador status with Priority Club by TPG reader Julianne (thanks again!). So that’s three top-tier statuses to maintain in 2012—we’ll see what happens.

BLOG AND LIFE HIGHLIGHTS

My Star Alliance Megado seatmate, TPG reader Kathy, started her own blog this year, so congratulations to you!

I’ve had the opportunity to meet with press, journalists and news anchors all over the country and contribute quotes and expertise to pieces in some of my favorite publications and telecasts including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Conde Nast Traveler and CNN.

In addition to The Points Guy, I launched a second site, Travel Credit Cards, which is still a work in progress, but is going strong after a great start. It’s a great resource to search for the best points-earning cards on the market and find the right ones for your individual needs and goals.

Finally, this was also the year that I left my Wall Street job and became a full-time travel blogger thanks to all of your support, interest, and enthusiasm. I always say that my readers are my boss, and I want to let you all know how grateful I am to have you as my community, and how much your readership, comments, and tips have contributed both to the development of the site and to my own personal growth. I would never have had this success or opportunity without you, and I am looking forward to continuing traveling all over the world with you in 2012!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Mp1007

    Congratulations on all your achievements and thanks for all the work you put into it to help us all travel cheap and in style!

    I day dream reading the trip reports and the tips since they are hardly a possibility here in Brazil.

    Hope you and your family have a GREAT 2012 with lots of safe and free travels.

    And if you ever need a correspondent down in Brazil, let me know ;-).

    Best regards!

  • Cody Mitchell

    When will you be taking your S.A. trip? My wife and I will be going in October.

  • Anonymous

    Always exciting to see a Pitt Alum find success in an exciting new venture ! Thank you for all of the tips and advice this year, Brian. Looking forward to putting what I’ve learned to more use in 2012 – safe travels and Happy New Year !

  • Jason Jeon

    Congrats and thanks. Looking forward to ThePointsGuy 2012!

  • Diamond Vargas

    Are the deals still active for 100k points with the Amex Platinum and 75k with the Amex Premier Rewards Gold?

  • PJ

    740 is excellent credit by Experian phew lucky you!! My wife got rejected by Chase on Southwest at 739 due to a disputed$120 billing and wrote off by Verizon . The credit guy at Chase Reconsideration was quick to correct the decision.

    Anybody knows why at the same time American Express turned down the SPG application showing a poor rating score at 636 same as credit karma ?

  • DBAUM

    Thanks TPG your blog is the first one I read every morning at work while eating my oatmeal, to more success in 2012, love your blog!

  • Michael

    Great year for you Brian and very well deserved. Thanks again for your informative blogs!

  • PJ

    i have been away from home for almost 3 weeks; i recall I received a target offer early Dec for 100K on Platinum AMEX sent to my residence with correct Last name but wrong given name. A repeat of invitation sent to my house this past august . I did step into the invitation and got the 100K on it same last name different first name to apply no pasa nada !!
    Good luck

  • Anonymous

    Congrats on the good year and thanks for the blog. I started following you, Gary, Ben, et al along with MP and FT just a month or two ago. You’ve been one of my daily stops, and it’s been really educational and fun. I hope you have an excellent 2012!

  • PJ

    I am in Mexcico and did appreciate how much better Chase Sapphire Preferred is over Amex Platinum;
    scores so far AMEX Platinum= 0 Sapphire Preferred well over 50 in terms of # of charges
    I did try to max out the 5 % dining rebates on my CHase freedom Visa and Master cards .. after all, after 3 % foreign exchange fees I am still gettting Sapphire points at less than 1 penny one points.

    Speaking of Southwest, will Chase allow Southwest points pooling into Sapphire Preferred as Freedom cards ?
    Would love to hear the details ASAP :)

    3 of my family members did pull off 50K each from Southwest.. many thanks for the TPG tips here :)

  • SilverEliteCAM

    Thanks to TPG I have amassed over 180,000 DELTA Skymiles in less than 10 months!
    I have flown less than 23,000 actual DELTA Miles but I have SILVER ELITE Status good through February 2013, again, thanks to this Amazing Blog!

    And even more… I now have enough HYATT points for a free Regency Club room at PARK HYATT TOKYO after only 8 stays and less than 10 months as GOLD PASSPORT Member.

    Not to mention the free room at any CLUB CARLSON property in the world including PARIS and TOKYO.

    All this made possible by TPG– I thank you for an outstanding 2011!!

  • Carberrie

    Wishing you an even better 2012… Cheers & L’Chaim!!!

  • Anonymous

    congrats points guy!

  • Anonymous

    Congrats Brian on a great start to your blog. I work around the corner from your old GS office and have been a fan of your blog since you left. I look forward to reading it every day.

    Thanks to you, I’ve amassed 150K AAdvantage Miles, and 53,500 Chase Sapphire Preferred points and have thoroughly taken advantage of the Chase Freedom point transfer to Ultimate Rewards idea.

    Hope you and all the readers have a wonderful new year.

  • Gavinmac

    Great blogging this year. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/LoyaltyTraveler Ric Garrido

    I get jet lag just reading your travel reports. Congratulations Brian to a great year for The Points Guy.

  • mlh10022

    Congratulations on your career change. We’re all happy you’re a full-time points strategist now.

  • Fewtreezy

    Congrats on a great year!

    The Amex links (PRG and Platinum) are confusing. The PRG is dead and the Platinum isn’t for the opportunity that you mention in your post. Maybe link to your post on those offers since they are dead?

  • Ole

    D**n, I would like these deals to fly in Europe, too. Settling for earning points the old-fashioned by way of flying way is less fun when you read about these opportunities for amassing points…

    Safe travels!

  • http://www.destination360.com Destination360 Travel Guides

    Thanks for the great tips in 2011. I used the Citi offer and got two 75k’s. I got a United offer and another 50k. Yesterday I booked AA 20k miles to Venice, and 60k return anytime flight. I plan to be in Europe for one or two months photographing for our travel guides. Happy New Year!

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  • Brad Flynn
  • Smantique

    Thanks for the information. I just booked a Houston to Lima flight using regional upgrades on United. No mile no money I was very happy.

  • harmony

    I’m past counting to ten, Bank of America Spirit airlines mastercard, have it trying to no avail, book point miles, everytime I speak with anyone @ 800#, I’m told to call back not available.

    Once the miles are gone, I’m gone this airline is 1 hugh not big nightmare.

    This has been, well I am sure you already know, do so enjoy your post.

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