About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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What’s your credit card and points strategy these days? (The 3 cards I want now)

credit card strategy

I’ve always said, “earn and burn.” Meaning earn your points and miles, then burn them in short order. I keep my points balances low – having 100,000 points is a good enough minimum cushion for me.

Because with that amount, I can get to most places in business class one-way (and to a few in business class round-trip). It’s also enough for me to begin planning a trip. And if I need more, I can start earning what I’ll need. Usually, the easiest way is to open a new credit card.

credit card strategy

I’m accumulating points but have no idea how to use them

These days I can earn, but there’s no way to burn. I have a few cards I want, but keep waiting to apply for them. It feels pointless to have a storehouse of points and miles when most places are closed to Americans and there’s uncertainty about when we can travel again.

But my wanderlust is kicking up big time and I know when I’m able, I’ll be off like a rocket. 🚀

I’m torn between earning lots of points while I’m still in lockdown and waiting to see what happens. Who knows what devaluations and program changes are coming down the pipeline, especially with basically every airline and hotel chain massively struggling right now? It’s keeping me in a holding pattern. Not only with this topic, but with pretty much everything.

My current credit card strategy

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Allbirds: The perfect travel shoes? (Updated 2020)

allbirds review

It’s weird to write about travel shoes in the middle of a pandemic. But I wanted to refresh this article since it’s been up for a while and I have more experience to reflect on.

My first encounter with Allbirds was an article with the kinda clickbait-y title, “The Most Comfortable Shoes in the World.” I rolled my eyes a bit but definitely clicked on it. Because I like to take one pair of shoes with me when I travel: the ones on my feet. So I was curious what had been singled out as “the one.”

Before Allbirds, my go-to was New Balance. They have that appearance of “casual athletic” – and of course the big reflective “N” logo – so I’m comfort-over-style.

For the last three years, I’ve been wearing Allbirds more often than not.

allbirds review

Hanging in my Allbirds

The idea of a comfortable and attractive shoe lured me in. They come in basic colors, they’re $95 a pop, and the founders are committed to design, sustainability, and ethical standards.

What began as a six-month test evolved into a brand preference. And I still get comments about them all the time.

Each pair lasts me ~9 months. I’m on my third or fourth pair by now. Safe to say I’m now a fan.

My Allbirds review, three years later

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Inventory: The 23 credit cards I currently have – and why

Dang, the last time I did a full credit card inventory was three years ago. Can you believe?

Back then, I had 29 cards. These days I have 23, and currently have my eye on three more (ironically, all cards I’ve had before: Chase Sapphire Preferred, Citi Premier, and US Bank Altitude Reserve).

Of the 29 I had, some I closed, some were discontinued, and others were canceled for me. And I still have a lot of them today. Let’s hop to it!

Recent mainstays

I set up each section with:

Name of card – annual fee amount – # of years I’ve had it – keep or cancel

Amex

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My first $100K: How to start investing

how to start investing

You know how bloggers say they started their site because their friends kept asking for pointers? This post on how to start investing is exactly that.

I posted on Insta and Facebook about my first $100K invested in the stock market for my retirement – separate from the cash I’m setting aside.

This milestone happened yesterday! For the first time in my life, seeing six digits when looking at my accounts – finally – was exciting.

It didn’t happen fast for me. But once I buckled down, momentum built and I nearly doubled what I had in just the past year.

This pandemic, horrible as it is, has been an advantage for saving. I’m not traveling any time soon after my weird vacation earlier this month, can’t go to happy hour because bars are closed, and have most meals at home. So my “fun slash going out” and travel budgets are going directly to savings.

If you’re in a similar spot, this is an excellent time to begin investing for your future.

how to start investing

Money Alley is a great place to be

So here’s my mini-guide. Written especially for my friends and those looking for direction. 🤑

How to start investing

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Reminder: Put a charge on all your credit cards every so often (Oops!)

use credit card

There are a lot of promotions out there right now. Due to coronavirus, many banks added bonus categories to their cards to encourage more use – which is great! The downside is it becomes easy to forget your other cards.

I often recommend downgrading cards with annual fees to their no-fee counterparts to preserve the credit line and history. Older accounts in particular can age your overall credit and lower your utilization rate, which can help your credit score.

But! Because these cards are free to keep, it’s easy to stick ’em in a drawer and forget about them. Like I just did with my US Bank Radisson Rewards Visa. 🤦🏻‍♂️

I got a letter in the mail saying my card was closed effective immediately and to destroy it because the account was inactive. Dang, US Bank – you know how to break up, don’t you? Give a guy a warning!

use credit cards

Goodbye, valiant soldier

So this is your reminder to use ALL your credit cards. Especially if you have a couple dozen floating around out there like me.

Use credit cards at least once a year

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My first vacation during coronavirus was really weird

I had to get out. My last trip was to Cabo San Lucas in early March. So for the July 4 “holiday weekend,” I met my mom and stepdad in Heber Springs, AR. It’s a cute mountain town ~45 minutes north of Little Rock.

We booked two nights at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Heber Springs. I had plenty of IHG points – and they’re the only pet-friendly place in town for a road trip with the pup.

After being home for 4 months and only leaving to get groceries, I was ready to be anywhere.

my first coronavirus vacation

What a unique name for a sandy beach

I started out by taking photos of the hotel room as if I was going to do a review and trip report like old times. Well that lasted about two seconds before I realized traveling during this pandemic is just a really weird experience.

From what I saw, about half were taking the virus seriously. And the other half were carrying on like nothing was happening. It was a really strange vibe to reconcile in my mind.

Now that I struck out and traveled, I don’t think I can enjoy trips the way I used to. It wasn’t the same. Maybe I’m not ready for the new normal?

Heber Springs, AR: The site of my first coronavirus vacation

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Condo sold, net worth return to form, & up $35K – July 2020 Freedom Update

july 2020 freedom update

Big news first: I closed on my condo on June 29! It hit the market April 22, and I got the offer on May 30. As y’all know, I’ve been on veritable pins and needles waiting for this. Now that it’s over, I’m almost embarrassed at the sheer amount of mental and psychic energy I put into it.

It drained me and consumed my thoughts. For the first time since I was little, I got down on my knees at night and prayed (for a smooth, quick sale).

This whole thing started in January when I got a small ceiling leak and morphed into this whole debilitating thing. But it’s done. And I finally feel like I’M BACK.

july 2020 freedom update

Now I live in an apartment in Dallas with the goodest boy

I’m always amazed (in a bad way) at how consumed I get with situations to the point where it zaps me so fully. That said, the last couple of weeks before closing were absolutely freaking crazy. In no way would I describe myself as being “calm.”

I didn’t post a June 2020 Freedom update because I knew the sale was pending and that it would shake up my financial situation. It did. And now I’m heading into the best financial shape of my life.

July 2020 Freedom Update

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Plastiq Payments Earn 5X Points (up to 7,500) With Citi Prestige Promotion

If you have a Citi Prestige card, there’s a promotion running through the end of August 2020. You can earn 5X points per $1 spent on “online purchases” – up to 7,500 Citi ThankYou points.

My friend Angie tipped me off that Plastiq payments are working to trigger the bonus points, so I took the opportunity to make a $1,500 auto loan payment. Plastiq is a bill payment service that allows you to pay most bills (and even individuals providing a service) with a credit card.

citi prestige plastiq 5x

Details of the Citi Prestige 5X promotion

Sure enough, I earned 7,500 Citi ThankYou points for the payment. So while that’s great, a word of caution. Plastiq is increasing the payment fee from 2.5% to 2.85% on July 1, 2020.

If you wanna get in on this easy win, you only have a few more days!

Citi Prestige Plastiq 5X points

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Hitting a major rough patch & down $35K – May 2020 Freedom Update

Selling my Dallas condo has consumed most of my energy this month. Every time I check the Zestimate on Zillow, it falls a little more (yeah, I know it’s not reliable, but seeing the number go down gets me in the worst way). The value was above $200K for a few years, and now it’s dipped below that.

I get the resale certificate tomorrow. At this point, I’m seriously considering offloading to a cash for homes place just to get rid of it so I can move on with my life.

Because of Covid-19, I was able to get a 90-day forbearance on the mortgage. So I’m hoping that whatever’s going to happen will work itself out in the next three months. Cuz it’s seriously stressing me out.

May 2020 Freedom Update

What good has come from this situation? I’m meditating again and preparing for life’s next chapter

In the background, I’ve taken time to reconnect to my meditation practice (remember when I did that 10-day meditation retreat when I first got to Dallas?). And I’m seriously considering going full digital nomad when I no longer have a mortgage pinning me down. I want to travel again – this time, for a long time.

I’m also cutting my losses. Mourning in advance, if you will. So while my numbers are down this month, it means I’m going to have to work that much harder (or smarter) to keep my goals on track. Either way, I feel I am winding down my time in Dallas.

May 2020 Freedom Update

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Up $11K, condo for sale, moved, and uncertain – April 2020 Freedom Update

What a month for my April 2020 Freedom update. My condo is on the market now (!). COVID-19. I moved into an apartment around the corner. And I’m still employed – for now.

I’m concerned my property value is going to drop like a stone.

I always thought I was doing the right thing by investing in property. I had no idea how much control an HOA would have and how much they can affect your asset. I just want to offload this thing as quickly as possible – and I’m willing to give somebody the deal of a lifetime if it means I can get out.

April 2020 Freedom Update

Would anyone like to buy a perfectly good condo in Dallas?

This experience has soured me on condos (specifically HOAs), and to some extent, Dallas. I’m just ready move on with my life.

I will never buy property with an HOA ever again. And this whole thing really makes me wonder if I really want to deal with owning property at all. I love my new apartment – everything works and I’m not responsible for anything. I can cancel my lease and be out of here with a 60-day notice. It’s so… unattached. So freeing.

Although with COVID-19 happening, I definitely see the value of living in a paid-off house, especially with money being uncertain.

So a lot has happened in these last four weeks. And I really hope even more happens in the next four.

For starters, my investments have started to recover. But the idea of “normality” still seems very far away.

April 2020 Freedom update

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Ways to support Out and Out during the COVID-19 pandemic

What a strange time to be a travel blogger. And what an especially strange time to be a travel blogger who’s also interested in personal finance topics. I can’t travel, and the economy is going through one of the rockiest, decline-iest, bear market-yist times in a generation – or a lifetime. #iquit #not

There’s no question page views and blog revenues are declining right now. There’s simply lack of interest and people are more preoccupied with daily existence rather than aspirational trips and points balances. I’m still here and ready to get back those types of reports. Trust me, I’m ready to book an epic trip the second things return to normal (in my cabin fever haze).

But what really rattled me was when my company slashed everyone’s salary and started cutting expenses left and right. So now I’m low-key worried about my future and thought – well, there’s no harm in asking for support. Plus, many readers might not know there are so many ways to support the blogs they enjoy. Including mine.

It’s always been hard for me to ask for support. But I figure nothing ventured, nothing gained. And oh, how I’d like to venture right now!

Ways to support Out and Out

Cheers to the many years this blog has been around

Many of the ways you can support are super simple – by clicking a link at no cost to you. Affiliate links are free for you and directly support the blogger of your choice – including me.

And most links have a benefit to you in the form of promotions for services we’re mutually interested in.

I encourage everyone to support the blogs, little guys, small businesses, and local joints they love – we need you more than ever during this pandemic. So please please please use our links!

I will also go ahead and say thank you for the first of many times throughout this post. Thank you for your support!

Ways to support Out and Out

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Review of My $100 Stay at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos

Writing this now is so weird because my last trip was exactly a month go today. In early March, I headed to Cabo San Lucas to enjoy a 4-night stay at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos. Read about how I booked it for $100 per person – including flights – for what would’ve been a $2,600 trip.

And now I’m reminiscing because I don’t know when my next trip will be, which would’ve seemed unthinkable just a few weeks ago. I have FinCon set up in Long Beach in early October. Sure hope I can still get to that. But no jet-setting or hopping around the globe for a while. I’m craving a nice long trip to Europe. ✈️🇪🇺

Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos review

Cabo was my last trip in a pre-virus world. Here I am a month ago at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos

So I’ll take my time writing this one. While we were in Cabo, word was already starting to circulate about this mysterious new virus. But it wasn’t in full effect yet.

Because of the constant news cycles and information, I feel like this trip was years ago instead of four weeks. 😝

Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos review

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