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The Points Guy 2012 Year In Review

by on December 31, 2012 · 30 comments

in American, American Express, Chase, Citi, Credit Cards, Delta, Hilton, Hyatt, Starwood, Virgin America

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As 2012 comes to an end, I wanted to take stock of what turned out to be another exciting, challenging and ultimately rewarding year both on ThePointsGuy.com and personally. I visited over 20 countries, flew dozens of airlines, flew about 200,000 miles the good old-fashioned way and spent nearly 160 nights in hotels – and I loved every second of it (more or less).

Here’s a look back at my year in credit cards, airlines and hotels and a look at things to come in the world of miles and points.

CREDIT CARDS

Although I flew about 200,000 miles this past year (see my calculations below), the most lucrative source of points and miles for me is still those big credit card sign-up bonuses, easily allowing me to rack up hundreds of thousands of points and several free hotel nights – sometimes all in the same day. Here’s a synopsis of my credit card haul from the past year. I actually took a more cautious approach, because I purchased a home this year, but I didn’t let a pesky mortgage get in the way of racking up points- though I plan to take in a much bigger haul in 2013.

Chase Ink Bold: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $10,000 in 3 months, though the current offer is down to just $5,000 in 3 months.

Chase Ink Plus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $10,000 in 3 months, though the current offer is down to just $5,000 in 3 months. Although both cards are Ink products, like many other points collectors, I was able to get both.

Chase Freedom: 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points, plus I got in on the Exlcusives program, which gets me quarterly 5x spend categories, a 10% bonus and 10 extra points per purchase because I have a Chase Checking account. To my knowledge, this program has been discontinued and the current sign-up bonus is 10,000 points (marketed as $100 cashback, but if you have a Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold/Plus, you can transfer to those accounts.

Hyatt Visa: 2 free nights with no minimum spend. When I got in on the deal, there was actually a $1,000 in 3 months requirement, but I got them to waive it since I had applied just days before the new offer. My 2 free nights are also in a suite thanks to my Hyatt Diamond status.

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express Open: I got in on one of Amex’s one-day deals for 75,000 bonus points for spending $10,000 in 4 months. The current offer is 0 points, so if you’re thinking about this card, I’d wait till another of these offers comes around.

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (personal): I got in on the limited time offer of 30,000 SPG points after spending $5,000 in 6 months, 2 stays/5 nights credit toward elite status. (Current offer is 25,000 points)

Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express Open: I got in on the limited time offer of 30,000 SPG points after spending $5,000 in 6 months, 2 stays/5 nights credit toward elite status. (Current offer is 25,000 points)

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve: 2 free nights for spending $2,500 within 4 months, and Hilton Diamond Status for hitting $40,000 spending in a calendar year.

Points total: 265,000 points plus four free hotel nights.

Strategy

My strategy for 2013 will include monitoring the big 3 banks for better future deals, but in the meantime, I will also be looking at getting cards from some of the other issuers I haven’t leveraged yet who have been jumping into the points game in a more major way lately. US Bank has recently upped its offerings including the FlexPerks Travel Reward Visa and three new Club Carlson co-branded cards that can mean a landslide of both bonus points and long-term point-earning potential- however there are many reports that they are very stingy with approvals if you’ve recently gotten a lot of cards. I think I’ll go for the Club Carlson card first and see how many others I can get. I’ll also be looking at Barclay’s and possibly aiming to get in on the US Airways Mastercard (current bonus is 40,000 miles for first purchase) since that card has offered spending bonuses like double elite-qualifying miles on US Airways purchases within the last few months and you can get this card over and over again for the bonus, or maybe the Virgin America credit card from Barclay’s to take advantage of the extra points-earning potential during my Gold Status with the airline.

AIRLINES

Well, I’m not sure whether to be proud of the fact that I’m an elite-status addict, but as 2012 winds down, I now have elite status on American, Delta, United and Virgin America.

American: I have Executive Platinum status on American thanks to some diligent planning last October-January when I was able to complete an Executive Platinum status challenge thanks to participating in the Oneworld Megado where I only had to fly 20,000 miles and I would earn elite status until February 2013. Although I was a Delta loyalist before with a few years of Diamond Medallion status under my belt, my strategy shifted since I had moved to Miami and wanted to branch out to other airlines, and it turned out to be a great decision. Despite the airline’s woes this past year, I’ve had great experiences as an Executive Platinum on American, and ended up flying over 126,000 miles on American this past year (not including award flights I booked using miles) – ensuring I’ll have Executive Platinum status until February 2014 now. I love perks like the 100% mileage bonus, 8 systemwide upgrades and the valuable choices I have when redeeming AA miles. Total American miles flown: 126,921.

Platinum

Delta: Although I’d been a Delta Diamond for years, I decided as part of my diversification strategy to go instead for Platinum in 2011, so I closed out the year with about 83,000 miles and rolled over 33,000 of those to get a head start on my elite qualification for 2012, and I just aimed for Platinum Medallion again this year. Total miles flown: 48,548.

United: Since I’m not sure about Delta’s plans for the SkyMiles program, I decided that once my Platinum Medallion status for 2013 was secured, I would ask for a status match to United. After some confusion when it looked like I would actually have to status challenge, I was matched to Premier Platinum status until February 2014 without having to complete a challenge. Though my time with United has had a few bumps so far – including a canceled award ticket on Swiss this summer that still isn’t resolved, I still think United miles are the most valuable frequent flyer currency out there since I’ve gotten some amazing redemptions using them, including my business class flight on Singapore Airlines from Newark to Singapore for my birthday last year and a great experience flying Lufthansa’s new first class. I’ve booked most of those awards by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points into my United account, but as a Platinum member, I’m planning to really run the airline through its paces next year and rack up more miles actually flying it. Total miles flown: 17,243.

Virgin America: Although its route network is pretty limited for my needs, it does service some of the transcontinental routes I fly, so I decided to take advantage of Virgin’s recent offer to status match American and Delta flyers and got Gold Elevate status until April a few weeks ago. I’ve never flown Virgin America, but I’ve heard great things, and I’ve been wanting to try it out for myself, so I figured why not do it with elite status from the outset.

HOTELS

Like in 2010 and 2011, I decided to go after top-tier status with both Starwood and Hyatt, and going full-time as a blogger meant a lot more travel opportunities and nights in hotels for me this year.

I concentrated most of my efforts with Starwood this year because of their SPG program benefits enhancements like confirmed suite upgrades and lifetime status, so rather than just qualifying for Platinum again at 50 nights, I went whole hog and stayed over 100 nights for their uber-Platinum benefits including my very own Starwood Ambassador concierge. Total nights: 102, total stays: 56.

I waited somewhat until the last minute with Hyatt, necessitating some end-of-year mattress runs to complete the 25 nights required to requalify for Diamond status. It was worth it to me to maintain thanks to key perks like free breakfast and internet, club lounge access and four suite upgrades per year. Total nights: 30, total stays: 25.

The other big hotel news for me lately has been that I just qualified for Hilton Diamond status by meeting the spending requirement on my Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card, so I’m looking forward to testing out the perks next year and diversifying my hotel points portfolio with the Hilton family of resorts – which has more properties than Starwood and Hyatt combined including some gorgeous high-end hotels in the Waldorf Astoria and Conrad brands. I also just took advantage of a transfer bonus to convert 80,000 Amex points into 216,000 Hilton HHonors points, so I’m looking forward to putting those to good use in 2013.

BEST AIRLINE MILE REDEMPTION
Pre-Avios redemption of 75,000 British Airways miles for Phnomh Penh- Hong Kong (Business Class on Dragon Air) and then Hong Kong- NYC in Cathay Pacific First Class.

MOST MEMORABLE HOTEL STAY

The view from my corner XL Room.

I went to Shanghai for the first time this year and had a great stay at the newly opened Andaz Shanghai. My XL room was huge and futurusitic- with fishbowl-like windows and nice amenities like heated bathroom floors. I thought the location was great and hotel amenities (especially for Hyatt Diamond members) were great.

FAVORITE NEW DESTINATION
I fell in love with Kauai this year, especially when I stayed at the St. Regis Princeville for 21,500 Starpoints a night and got upgraded to a nice suite thanks to being SPG Platinum.

BLOG AND LIFE HIGHLIGHTS

This past year was a big one for ThePointsGuy.com. It was my first calendar year as a full-time blogger, and I kept pretty busy, if I do say so myself! In addition to visiting dozens of countries and meeting tons of great people, the points and miles world continued to change and evolve in fascinating ways, and I was able to share that with all my readers while spanning the globe discovering new destinations.

I was invited to speak at both frequent flyer events like the Chicago Seminars and FTU, as well as at larger trade events including the New York Times Travel Show, where I’ll be appearing again in January. I’ll also be speaking at the LA Times Travel Show in February, and I’m looking forward to more events like that.

It’s also been a great year for press for me with the chance to participate in dozens of articles in magazines, newspapers and on television, including my recent appearance on CNBC. You can check out my other clips and articles on my Press Page.

THE YEAR AHEAD

Much of my travel in 2012 included getting to know several different regions in Asia during my three trips there, as well as discovering some new destinations in Europe and the US. For 2013, my goal is to explore more of the Southern Hemisphere. I’ve been to Argentina and Brazil a few times, but I am really aiming to get to Australia, some new parts of South America, and Africa – starting with my trip to South Africa later this week!

I can already tell it’s going to be another eye-opening and energizing year, and I cannot wait to share all the amazing new deals out there with you as well as telling you about all the fantastic places they are going to allow me to visit in the coming year. As always, I could not do this with all of your support and feedback, and I wish you all the very best as we continue into 2013 together!

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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  • Colin

    TPG – Thank you for your blog. I am a daily follower. I used your blog to secure over 1M points in 2012. I posted my own 2012 recap, http://www.bellwm.com/2012/12/2012-credit-card-rewards-recap/

  • Tmorga1

    I am a daily folllower and you”ve allowed my husband and I to travel the world for free and create many lasting memories!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

  • http://www.passthedressing.com/ Heather @ pass the dressing

    Congrats on a great year and thank you for being an awesome resource!

  • Panyi123

    Colin:

    I saw you obtained Chase Sapphire Preferred twice in one year. Did you cancel it first then applied for it again? Thanks for your advices.

  • Mcarthurc

    Although I am a Canadian and cannot benefit from the vast majority of the deals, I still translate as many tips to the equivalents up here and have benefited greatly. Keep up the great work, and don’t forget your friendly neighbours to the North.

  • Colin

    Yes, I cancelled the first CSP in May or June, I think.

  • PointsHappyCAM

    Thanks to this wonderful blog I have taken my boyfriend and old roommate to Tokyo and Dublin, respectively. First time out of country for both.

    All flights were on Delta and most of the Hotel stays were paid with points at Radisson Blu properties.

    After I return from Istanbul in January 2013 I will have enough Delta miles to take my entire family to Hawaii.

    And I just got my Chase HYATT card so I have 2 nights to look forward to at any Hyatt property worldwide, along with 2 Suite upgrades.

    Thank you TPG!!

  • CP

    Thanks for a great year. Based on your recommendation we signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred this year and really enjoyed the points. The points came in very handy when planning our trip to Hawaii in which we hit up one of your favorite places, Kauai. We’re hooked on that place, too.

    Keep up the great work.

  • PJ

    would love to see if can pull off Virgin America; they avoided me like me having a epidemic disease.

    Would love to see more non bunisess owner share application experience on INK cards

  • PJ

    you can have have 2 free hyatt nights ( 2@2=4) as bonus . I think Hyatt has a property in Kauai as well

  • PJ

    if you are getting more thn 20% rebate that is a champion.
    I love to repeat this again and again: I had $10,000 hospital bills to pay . I got 2 SPG cards ( our4th and 5th SPG card) to get sign on bonus plus i used bigcrumbs to get up to 2.25 % rebate on top of 2 sign on bonus 30K and 25K Plus 5 K on refereal bonus and 10K on SPend =70K +~50 from big crumbs.

    I see you are misssing Chase Fairmont.a good card to get in 1000K for 2 nights and 4 free breakfast that is yummy

  • Matt

    How were you able to roll over 33,000 DL MQM if you only had 83,000 MQM for 2012? Wouldn’t that be only 8,000 MQM, as you’d hit Platinum at 75,000? Were the other 25,000 from AMEX Reserve/Platinum card spend? I’m confused, and would have LOVED to roll 50,000 MQM over this year if I could just avoid making Diamond even though I passed the threshold.

  • AnnieLovesParis

    The Chase Hyatt site is still saying 1k min spend. Am I missing something?
    Thx for all the great info!!

  • AnnieLovesParis

    Ok, figured it out. That was an old post. Wish I’d gotten in on that deal!

  • PJ

    sorry spend on Fairmont card is 1K NOT 1000K

  • http://twitter.com/VocalArtStudios Vocal Art Studios

    Look forward t

  • http://twitter.com/VocalArtStudios Vocal Art Studios

    Look forward to hopefully welcoming you to Australia and seeing what this country has to offer! (providing award space opens up!) Thanks for another year of wonderful tips and hints

  • Andrew

    LEARN TO READ

  • Susiewright927

    Can you apply for the Business accounts even if you do not have a business?

  • pgalvin2

    PG, I currently have 400,000 AMEX points. I will be shutting down my card in the next 2 weeks. Which airline or hotel plan would you recommend with transferring of my points?

    Paul

  • Dan Nainan

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  • Fuge

    Nice accumulation! But what was your total spend to get all these miles/points (cards/hotel nights/flights)??

  • Ian

    This is the last article that google reader pulled in for me. Did something change with your RSS feed? Anyone else having problems with Reader?

  • Firehouselane

    all purchases

  • Ken

    Any idea how having kids along impacts Hilton’s hotel reward redemption? I want to book the Hilton Paris La Defense and can get a standard redemption with 2 adults for 40k miles per night. However, if I say we also have 2 kids it boosts it to a ridiculous level (pushing us into a suite). Our kids are little, we only need 2 queens in a standard room. Do you think we’ll have trouble if we book 2 adults and show up with 2 kids also?

    Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/jamucsb Jamison

    great blog TPG!! Keep it coming.. you’ve inspired me to create my own blog!

    http://www.pointssummary.com

    Have a happy new year!!

  • Ulical

    From my experience with this exact type of issue in France, I predict you will have trouble. They will probably give you one of two choices, either upgrade to a suite or book another room. For some reason they’re sticklers about this sort of thing there and I’ve dealt with it both in Paris as well as the Cote D’azur. Your other option is to not tell them anything, that is, show up with the whole family in tow at the check-in desk and take your regular room. However, I really wouldn’t recommend that because they’re bound to find out and then you’re left again with the earlier choices…

  • thepointsguy

    Maximize Your Travel Points.. That sounds mighty familiar

  • Pingback: Hotel Review: Hilton Cape Town | The Points Guy()

  • James

    Hi Points Guy,

    For SPG and Marriott, I believe it is not mandatory for them to give platinum members upgrades when available, rather it is up to their discretion, especially at higher end properties, like W Hotels.

    If that is in fact true, what is your suggestion to maximize the opportunity for that upgrade? Plain old fashion manners? Or do you have a different strategy?

    The reason I ask – I was in the lobby after checking in with no upgrade given, and a person came in asking for a room (they had no reservation) – asked for a “suite” and they continued to book a “suite”.

    **Disclaimer: I may be assuming that upgrades mean “suite”, when in fact, it may only mean an upgraded room, which could be a bigger room, but not a suite.

    Thoughts?? Thanks!

    James

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