These are the points and miles I’m earning more (and less) of in 2021
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As a points and miles fanatic, I’m always assessing my choice of loyalty programs.
Whether it be airlines, hotels or transferable points, I try and keep an eye on news surrounding each of the types of points I earn. This keeps me in the loop on devaluations, new transfer partners and other news.
Much for the same reason, I keep tabs on the programs I don’t actively earn too. Sure, this helps me write better content for TPG. But in the past, it’s helped me change my mind about earning certain types of points.
For example, I never thought highly of Citi ThankYou points until I read about transferring them to Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles for U.S. domestic awards and flights to Europe. Nowadays, I’m trying to earn as many ThankYou points as possible.
Further, the way I travel has changed throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The virus is still with us, and travel will likely be limited through the first half of 2021. This means I need to switch the type of points and miles I’m earning this year to subsidize my travel plans properly.
So, what points am I earning in 2021?
Here, I’ll discuss the points I’m earning this year, why I’m earning them and how I plan to earn. To give you a well-rounded look at my plans, I’ll also give you a look at the points I’m putting less emphasis on this year.
Let’s dive in!
The points and miles I’m earning in 2021
I’m putting more emphasis on six programs this year: two credit card currencies, one hotel and two airline programs.
I picked these based on how I see my travel plans evolving throughout the year. I’ve also taken opportunities for earning bonus points and elite status into account.
American Express Membership Rewards points
American Express Membership Rewards points have long been my favorite points and miles currency.
The program has a ton of excellent transfer partners, and American Express’s portfolio of cards makes them easy to earn with your everyday spend.
I put most of my everyday spending on American Express cards. Most notably, I charge dining and groceries to my American Express® Gold Card for 4x points per dollar spent at restaurants and on up to $25,000 in spend at U.S. supermarkets per calendar year; then 1x) and airfare (booked directly with the airline or AmexTravel) to my The Platinum Card® from American Express for 5x points per dollar spent (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year). Enrollment required for select benefits.
These earning categories are best-in-class and each card offers a slew of benefits. For example, the Amex Gold card includes a monthly dining credit (up to $10; for a total of up to $120 per calendar year; enrollment required).
American Express has also said it plans to add new cardmember benefits to the Platinum Card this year. I’m eagerly awaiting these additions, especially if they make it easier to earn bonus points.
These partners have helped me book hundreds of flights — including everything from domestic flights on American Airlines to Lufthansa first class to Europe.
I plan to continue earning Membership Rewards points through everyday credit card spend and Amex Offers this year.
I also plan on opening an American Express Platinum® Card for Schwab in the coming months for a 60,000 point welcome bonus (after meeting minimum spend requirements), which will be a nice boost to my points balance.
The information for the Amex Platinum Card for Schwab has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Citi ThankYou points
As mentioned in the introduction, Citi ThankYou points are a new addition to my points and miles arsenal.
I’ve earned and burned them in the past but generally stopped paying attention to the currency after the Citi Prestige® Card was devalued years ago.
After adding a Citi Premier® Card to my wallet in 2019 and further researching the points currency, I’ve started to focus more on earning Citi points again. Transfer partners like Avianca LifeMiles, Etihad Guest and Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles make the currency extremely valuable.
You can book a domestic flight on United Airlines for 7,500 Turkish miles each way. Further, business class flights from the U.S. to Europe cost just 45,000 points — an excellent deal.
Citi ThankYou is also partnered with Qatar Airways Privilege Club. While this loyalty program was lackluster for years, it recently dropped the cost of award tickets substantially.
This new award chart means you can book something like New York-JFK to Doha (DOH) for just 70,000 points and minimal taxes in Qsuites business class.
These types of little-known redemptions make Citi ThankYou points extremely valuable. I’m earning Citi ThankYou points with my Citi Premier and plan on opening another Citi Prestige card once I’m eligible for the bonus. At this point, I’ll likely move my dining spend to the Prestige as it earns 5x points at restaurants.
World of Hyatt points
It’s taken me a while to get on the World of Hyatt bandwagon. Despite its awesome elite status program, I’ve previously stayed away from Hyatt due to its limited footprint in Europe, the region I travel to most.
This is changing soon, though. The hotel group announced plans for a massive European expansion, which will add new hotels in European cities like Prague, Lisbon, Dusseldorf and others.
Also, the hotel group is has run a ton of ongoing promotions throughout the pandemic. The most intriguing to me is double elite nights through February. This plus 2021 elite qualification requirements being slashed in half means you can qualify for top-tier Globalist status with just 15 nights.
Hyatt Globalist status is often seen as the gold-standard of publicly available hotel elite status. Benefits include free breakfast, club lounge access, suite upgrades and even the ability to let friends and family members use your elite benefits.
I plan to meet this requirement before the end of February and move many of my paid hotels to Hyatt this year. In turn, this will help me earn World of Hyatt points, which I’ll use to cover more expensive stays when on vacation.
We’ve also seen many of Hyatt’s other promotions — including Bonus Journeys — extended several times throughout the coronavirus pandemic. This promotion awards 3x bonus points on qualifying stays.
Unfortunately, it’s too late to enroll in this promotion now. That said, I think we’ll see Hyatt continue to add similar promotions in 2021, and I plan on taking advantage of them when possible.
This is in stark contrast to Marriott who hasn’t added any notable ongoing promotions through the pandemic (excluding cobrand credit card bonuses).
JetBlue TrueBlue points
Since moving to New York City in 2018, I’ve started to fly JetBlue a lot out of its New York-JFK hub and Newark (EWR) focus city.
The airline’s ever-expanding domestic route network, future European expansion and top-notch Mint business class product are the main draws. So when the airline offered a 100,000 point bonus (after meeting minimum spend requirements) on the JetBlue Plus Card from Barclays, I was intrigued.
I was approved for the card last week and plan on obtaining the welcome bonus over the next couple of months. This will pad my JetBlue TrueBlue balance with a healthy stock of points, which I plan to use for domestic travel.
I foresee domestic travel being the bulk of my early- and mid-2021 travel due to continued coronavirus border closures. This glut of JetBlue points will help subsidize these trips on one of my favorite carriers.
The information for the JetBlue Plus 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.
As discussed last year, I’m still chasing Delta status during the coronavirus pandemic. This is largely due to Delta rolling over Medallion® Qualifying Miles (MQMs) earned in 2020 to 2021.
This let me start 2021 with roughly 50,000 MQMs in my account. I plan to earn the bulk of my 2021 MQM using my Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card throughout the year.
As a refresher, the card earns 15,000 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend on the card in a calendar year. This year, however, Delta increased this to 18,750 MQM (until 12/31/21). I plan on putting $30,000 worth of rent, car insurance and other non-bonused spending on my Delta Reserve card to hit this bonus tier.
Why do this? Well, my ultimate goal is to earn Delta Platinum Medallion status by the middle of the year. If international travel resumes by mid-year, I’d like to reach Diamond as well, but that might be wishful thinking.
In the process, I’ll bulk up on Delta SkyMiles. This is nowhere near my favorite mileage currency, but it’s useful for booking domestic tickets and some international partner tickets (even after a recent devaluation).
Similar to JetBlue, this will help me subsidize my domestic travel as I start to get back on the road. Plus, I’ll end up with Delta status at the same time — sounds like a win-win to me.
The points and miles I’m earning less in 2021
Before we start this section, I want to clarify: I’m not totally disregarding the rewards currencies discussed in this section.
Instead, I’m simply earning less of these types of points. I’ll run you through my reasoning below.
Here are the programs I’m earning fewer points with in 2021.
Marriott Bonvoy points
I recently wrote a complete article about why I’m earning more Marriott Bonvoy points during the pandemic. At the time, Marriott was running lucrative limited-time promotions and offering large welcome bonuses on credit cards.
I took advantage of these while I could, but they’ve all since expired. This means it makes little sense for me to continue to spend on my Marriott credit cards or stay at Marriott properties when there’s a Hyatt option nearby.
Additionally, Marriott hasn’t been as generous as Hyatt and other hotel groups when it comes to ongoing promotions this year. As discussed, there are no ongoing promotions, which is disappointing compared to what Hyatt has offered.
In the end, I’ll continue to earn Marriott Bonvoy points when it makes sense to do so. I just won’t go out of my way to earn them like I was last year. And that’s fine since I amassed a large stock of points with my Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card and Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card last year.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points
Truth be told, I’ve never been a huge fan of Chase Ultimate Rewards.
I find that the program’s list of transfer partners is lackluster, with the only standout being World of Hyatt.
Likewise, bonus categories on Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning credit cards aren’t as good as their American Express or Citi counterparts.
For example, the American Express® Green Card ($150 annual fee; see rates and fees) earns 3 points per dollar on dining and travel, while the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card ($95 annual fee) earns 3 points per dollar on dining and 2 points per dollar on travel. The Amex Green’s annual fee is only $55 more per year, and I think that’s easy to justify if you have high spending in those categories.
The information for the Amex Green 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.
Further, I usually redeem my transferable points for premium airfare — and frankly, Ultimate Rewards points aren’t great at this.
For example, say I want to book a one-way Lufthansa business class ticket from New York-JFK to Frankfurt (FRA).
I could transfer Chase points to United MileagePlus and book for 77,000 points and $5.60. Alternatively, I could transfer Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan and book the same ticket for 60,000 points and roughly $30 in taxes.
In the end, I expect my Chase carts to sit mostly dormant in 2021.
I’m currently sitting on a stash of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards right now, which I’ll spend down on Hyatt stays. I won’t try and actively replenish this balance in 2021, but I’ll continue to use my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to earn 5x points per dollar on Lyft rides.
Hertz Gold Rewards
I used to only rent cars through Hertz. I have President’s Circle status, so even cheap rentals would net me a reasonable number of points. In the past, I’ve redeemed my Hertz Gold Rewards points for luxury car rentals, which were a ton of fun and helped me save hundreds of dollars in the process.
That said, I’ll earn significantly fewer Hertz points this year. This is partly because I bought a car in 2020, so I don’t need to rent a vehicle to go on a road trip or an IKEA run. Instead, I can just take my own car.
Further, I used to rent with Hertz when I was under 25 because the company waived the young driver fee for AAA members like myself. I turned 25 at the end of 2020, so I no longer need to worry about this perk.
However, when I do rent, I will be moving away from Hertz unless there’s a really compelling price. Elite benefits have been minimal over the past year, and I’ve either been denied an upgrade or met with a sparse selection in the Ultimate Choice lot.
I plan on trying National the next time I rent a car. If all goes well, I may stick with its loyalty program for rental car points from here on out.
Here, I showed you the types of points and miles I’m earning more and less of in 2021. Use this as inspiration as you decide which types of points and miles you’ll earn this year.
For me, I plan on focusing on flexible points. This will give me the option to redeem for domestic travel through the end of the pandemic. Once things settle down a bit, I’ll still have a stash of points to burn on international travel.
One of the exceptions to this rule is JetBlue TrueBlue points. The airline’s route map is almost solely domestic, but having access to these points will give me a buffer before I need to spend my Amex or Citi points on domestic flights.
Consider making a points and miles plan of your own. This will help you set goals, so you plan out your credit card applications, flights and hotel stays and earn points you’ll actually use this year and beyond.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green card, click here.
Feature photo by kate_sept2004 / Getty Images
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