Credit Card Chronicles: How a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom maximizes points and miles
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Welcome to Credit Card Chronicles, where points and miles-savvy TPG readers showcase a week’s worth of earnings on everyday credit-card spending. Want to submit a Credit Card Chronicle of your own? Fill out our Google Form. If your story is published, we’ll send you a $100 gift card to jump-start your next adventure.
To kick off our series we asked TPG contributor Jen Yellin to document her everyday credit-card spending and points-and-miles earnings for a week. Jen does not travel for business and does not have many business expenses. Instead, her weekly spending depicts life with two kids in the suburbs. Here's what a week's spending and earning looks like for Jen:
Occupation: Blogger, freelance writer and stay-at-home mom
Household members: Jen, her husband, two kids (ages 3 and 6)
Cards currently in wallet: Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express
Top 3 monthly spending categories: Groceries, Amazon and preschool
Dream award redemption: Bora Bora
Day 1 — Sunday
We took the family to an amusement park nearby. We paid $77 for our family (fortunately our son was free since he is only 3 years old). We brought our own lunch but did splurge on some snacks which ended up costing an extra $12 (how can you not get fried dough at an amusement park?).
For every purchase we made, we made sure to use our the World of Hyatt Credit Card. Although this card did not maximize the points earned, we need to use it as we are looking to earn World of Hyatt Globalist status via credit card spend combined with our Hyatt stays. We are actually only a few thousand dollars away from earning those final stays required, so every little dollar counts. Getting to the 50-stay mark as part of Hyatt's milestone benefits will then allow us to apply a suite upgrade to an upcoming stay we have in the Caribbean. Due to availability, we need to earn those stays ASAP.
Total earned: 89 World of Hyatt points
Day 2 — Monday
We were coming down to the wire for purchasing the Epic Ski Pass at the lowest price of the year. We are a ski family and purchasing the Epic Local version will actually save us money this winter. After much consideration, we ended up purchasing one for both myself and my husband for a whopping $1,398. Again, we ended up using our the World of Hyatt Credit Card.
With the Epic Pass now in our pocket, we went ahead and purchased airline tickets for my husband and me to ski in Park City, Utah. We booked through JetBlue using our JetBlue points, but we still had to pay the taxes/fees which cost $22 round-trip. We used our Chase Sapphire Reserve due to the 3x points on travel. It is also my favorite card to use to book airfare due to their top-notch trip delay insurance.
As the day was winding down, I realized we were low on food for the week. I ordered $38 worth of groceries from Whole Foods Market via Amazon Prime. I used Amazon gift cards that were in my account and paid the $5 delivery fee with my World of Hyatt Credit Card.
Total Earned: 1,403 World of Hyatt points; 66 Chase Ultimate Reward points.
Day 3 — Tuesday
This was not a big spending day, although I did end up making a purchase on Poshmark (an online resale site). I used my Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express since there was an Amex Offer where if you spend $30, you'll receive a $10 statement credit. My total purchase was $33, so I ultimately spent just $22. I also earned a 20% bonus on my purchase since I already met my 20+ transactions on my card for that particular billing cycle, boosting my earnings to 1.2x points.
The information for the Amex Everyday Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Total Earned: 26 American Express Membership Reward points; $10 statement credit
Day 4 — Wednesday
I filled up my car with gas. I was running on fumes, so I spent $41 at the gas station. Again, I used my Amex EveryDay card due to an Amex Offer. With this offer, if I spent $40+, I'd receive 400 Membership Reward points. Although this offer is for cumulative spend, I was able to hit the bonus in just one fill-up. This meant I earned a total of 449 Membership Reward points [with 1.2x points earned on purchases].
Related: Best credit card for gas purchases
I took my daughter to rent ski equipment for this upcoming winter season. Since she is only 6 years old, renting is a much better option than buying. We also bought her some ski socks. Our total bill was $167 which we put on our the World of Hyatt Credit Card. This charge coded as "Shopping" so we would have been better off using a card that gave us a bonus in that category, but we really need our World of Hyatt suite upgrade to post, so every little bit extra put on the card helps.
I also noticed that my husband's monthly gym membership posted this week. His $79/month charge is auto-billed to our World of Hyatt Credit Card due to the 2x points earned on fitness club and gym memberships.
Total Earned: 449 American Express Membership Reward points; 325 World of Hyatt points
Day 5 — Thursday
My husband and I were kid-free in the evening, so we decided to go into Boston for a Boston Harbor sailing trip with friends. We ended up taking the commuter rail into the city so we didn't have to deal with parking. Our round-trip commuter train cost was $28. We used our Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay for our tickets, since many public transportation options code as "Travel" with Chase.
Related: Best credit card for commuters
At the end of the evening, we took a Lyft back to the train. Again, we used our Chase Sapphire Reserve card due to the 3x points. With the recent Lyft and Hilton Honors partnership, it also meant that I earned 3x Hilton Honors points as well. So for my $8.50 Lyft ride, I earned 25 Chase Ultimate Reward points and 25 Hilton Honors points. (Note that this was prior to the launch of Chase's partnership with Lyft, which is why I didn't earn 10x points for the ride.)
Total Earned: 109 Chase Ultimate Reward points; 25 Hilton Honors points
Day 6 — Friday
On our way up to New Hampshire for the weekend, we made a pit stop at Dunkin' Donuts. I used my Dunkin' Donuts app to pay. Since I have gift cards preloaded onto the app, it pulled from the gift card. By purchasing gift cards in advance at Staples, the $7 purchase earned me 35 Chase Ultimate Reward points by using my Ink Business Cash Credit Card.
Later in the day, I received a text notification that my Verizon phone bill was paid as it is on auto-bill. I personally use the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card to pay my cellphone bill due to the awesome cellphone protection benefit. My monthly $295 bill (my parents and siblings are all on my family plan — I pay the bill, they pay me back, but I earn the points) earns me 885 Chase Ultimate Reward points. Over the course of 12 months this is over 10,000 points.
Total Earned: 920 Chase Ultimate Reward points
Day 7 — Saturday
Saturday ended up being an online shopping day. The first day of school was just three days away, and I realized both my kids were due for some new clothes. I purchased clothes from Kohl's for my son. I first went through the Ibotta cash back app to make the purchase. While I only received 0.5% cash back (other shopping portals were offering slightly more), the app was having a promotion where if I spent $50 or more, I'd receive a $10 bonus. For my $76 purchase I used my Chase Freedom Unlimited which earns me 1.5% cash back (1.5x points) on every purchase. My total purchase ended up earning me $10 cash back from Ibotta, $15 in "Kohl's Cash" to use on a future purchase and 114 Chase Ultimate Reward points.
Related: Best credit card for clothes
For my daughter, I ordered clothes from Target. I made sure to go through an online shopping portal first to maximize the points earned. At the time, Southwest was offering 1 point per dollar spent, and I am actively trying to earn qualifying points to earn the Southwest Companion Pass for another year, so this was the perfect opportunity to increase my balance, even if it was only an extra 47 Southwest Rapid Reward points earned. For my actual purchase of $50, I used my Target REDcard which gives me an automatic 5% discount off my purchase. In this case, I saved an extra $2.50, for a total purchase of $47.50.
The information for the Target REDcard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
To top off the week, my family went for dinner and put the $57 charge on our American Express® Gold Card to earn 4x points. This dinner netted us 228 Membership Reward points. (Pro tip: If you eat at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations this card will earn you an extra $10 back in a statement credit monthly.) Enrollment required.
Total Earned: 114 Chase Ultimate Reward points; 228 Membership Reward points; 47 Southwest Rapid Reward points; $10.38 cash back; $2.50 in savings
Jen ended up with the following over the course of the week:
- 1,817 World of Hyatt points
- 1,209 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
- 703 American Express Membership Reward points
- 25 Hilton Honors points
- 47 Southwest Rapid Reward points
- $20 in statement credits
In the course of the week, Jen made some credit card decisions that did not fully maximize her purchases in the short run, but instead maximized the card benefits, such as travel protection, purchase protection and earning status. There are times where the longer-term benefits earned outweigh the immediate points earned.
By using rewards credit cards, bonus opportunities and online shopping portals for purchases over the course of the week, Jen ultimately earned almost 4,000 points for future travel as well as money back. Assume this is her weekly average points earned and dollars saved, that results in value of over $5,000 a year based on TPG's monthly valuations.
Next stop for Jen: Bora Bora!
Want to be featured on our Credit Card Chronicles series? Fill out our Google Form. If your story is published, we’ll send you a $100 gift card to jump-start your next adventure.