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I burned 322,121 points and I’m not leaving home — here’s why

Nov. 17, 2020
5 min read
I burned 322,121 points and I’m not leaving home — here’s why
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Points and miles give savvy travelers unmatched flexibility.

Yes, you need to find award space, but making cancellations and changes to trips is much easier when you've booked your flight with miles. And if this year has taught us anything, it's that there's a premium on flexibility.

I've always believed in having a diverse mix of points. As I noted at the start of the year, I've got 19 credit cards so that -- in part -- I'm not locked into one loyalty program. My family likes to fly nonstop and that sometimes means picking different airlines. And not every hotel chain is in every city.

So I've spent the last decade earning and burning points in various programs. I've always kept a healthy balance -- enough to book any last-second trip -- but tried not to hoard too many points in case there is a devaluation.

Until recently.

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During the pandemic, Chase introduced a “Pay Yourself Back” program that lets you use your Ultimate Rewards points to offset certain purchases at a pretty favorable rate.

TPG Editor-at-Large Zach Honig does a really good job explaining the feature and how to maximize it in this story.

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Normally, I would pass up such statement credits, trying to maximize my points by transferring them to partners for either luxury hotel stays or international flights in premium cabins. But because of COVID-19 and related travel restrictions, I have already canceled trips to Portugal (business class on TAP), Aruba and numerous smaller domestic trips.

My family has more than $2,200 in flight credits from canceled trips, 220,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles from the canceled Portugal flights and more than 200,000 Hyatt points stockpiled, again thanks to cancelations.

So I decided to cash in 322,121 Ultimate Rewards points for $4,831.82 in statement credits to cover meals out and groceries. Our only big travel expenses over the summer were home rentals.

Now, before you worry about my point balances: Stop. I still have 208,683 Ultimate Rewards points, 359,776 American Express Membership Rewards, 234,986 American Airlines AAdvantage miles, 195,298 Delta SkyMiles, 103,789 JetBlue TrueBlue points, 916,071 Hilton Honors points, 909,142 Marriott Bonvoy points and ... well, I could go on and on but you get the point.

I also have some trips booked for 2021 that my family may or may not take. All were booked after the start of COVID-19 and I used points and miles for them for the ease of refundability.

I'm not so worried about the points being devalued. Hotel and airline occupancy is going to be pretty low through 2021 so I don't expect any major changes to loyalty programs. The airlines and hotel chains will want us to burn through our points and will encourage us with bonuses to travel. That might change in 2022 or 2023, which is why I plan to use my points as I accrue more.

The golden era of points earning

Besides promotions, this is also a new golden era of points earnings through credit card spend.

With travel and card spending down, card companies are doing everything to entice us to spend. I have a giant list on my desk helping me keep track of all the offers. For instance, I have an offer on my Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card to earn 8x at Target, Amazon and Walmart -- plus a 10,000 point bonus if I spend $1,000. My The World of Hyatt Credit Card is offering me 5x at Amazon. Barclay's is offering me 60,000 bonus points on my JetBlue Plus Card for spending $3,000 by the end of January. I've also got an offer from American Express to earn extra Delta Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) toward status.

Screenshot courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant

In fact, there are so many offers out there that we wrote an entire story about how TPG's staff has changed its credit card strategies due to the pandemic.

So while I burned through a ton of points, I'm pretty confident that I will earn them back quickly.

Finally, there are some great credit card offers out there. Most recently, American Express announced a 100,000 point bonus after spending $6,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening with the Platinum Card® from American Express But there are others too. Plus, Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. Check out our list of the best elevated signup bonus offers here.

My wife and I need to figure out which bonuses are right for us, but it's time to start accruing some new points and miles for that next trip, whenever it will be.

Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways

Featured image by The AmaWaterways ships AmaVida sailing on the Douro River in Portugal. (Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.