Trip Report: An Amazing Repeat Stay at the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta

This time last week, I was at the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta – almost 1 year to the day after my February 2018 stay. I originally wanted to try a different Ziva, like Los Cabos, or perhaps return to the Zilara in Cancun – and found tons of award flights from Dallas to all three.

But flights from Chicago to fly down an old friend were scarce. So for whatever reason, the availability lined up and sent us to the Ziva Puerto Vallarta again.

I was open to it, returning to the known. Also curious to see if it had changed – and I knew it would be a sure bet for max relax. We even thought about trying the Hilton all-inclusive there.  But in the end, we settled on a right proper fly n’ flop.

It’s a huge, gorgeous property with:

  • 5 restaurants
  • 5 bars
  • Coffee shop/self-serve deli
  • 4 pools
  • Kids club
  • Tennis club, spa, gym, hot tubs, and swim-up rooms
Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta Review

When your hotel room looks like a magazine

Here are my 1-year-later impressions.

Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta Review – 2019 version

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Citi ThankYou Points Are My Earn & Burn Currency of the Year! 60,000 UR = 100,000 TYP (Prestige Vs Sapphire Reserve Pt. 2)

I recently emptied my Citi ThankYou points account. Yup, I burned every single last point to stay at the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta. For my 4-night stay, I could’ve spent:

  • 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (because it’s 20,000 Hyatt points per night)
  • ~131,000 Citi ThankYou points (with the 4th night free thanks to Citi Prestige)

I asked a friend which would be the better option. “Whichever is easier for you to replenish,” was her advice.

Within my Chase Ultimate Rewards portfolio, I spend most on my Sapphire Reserve for 3X, and sometimes my Freedom for 5X. Within my Citi ThankYou portfolio, I spend most on my Prestige for 5X, and sometimes my AT&T Access More for 3X. And the Prestige 5X category gets the bulk of my attention.

If I spend $10,000 on flights and dining:

  • On Sapphire Reserve at 3X, I get 30,000 points
  • On Prestige at 5X, I get 50,000 points

For my same spending, I get way more rewards. For the hotel stay above, the earn rate was actually equal (80/3 = 131/5). But for transfers to airline miles, that’s the difference between getting 1 award ticket instead of 2 for the same spend.

Match your spending to a 5X category and see what happens.

citi thankyou points

For views like this, just burn Citi ThankYou points if your 5X categories are similar to mine

If you buy a lot of airfare, and eat out often, you’d do well to earn 1.67 more points per $1 – they add up fast!

Citi Prestige Vs Chase Sapphire Reserve (again)

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Citi Prestige Vs Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which Ultra-Premium Card Is Better? (Bonus Categories, Perks, Insurance)

Dang, this is hard. I’ll go ahead and say, “It depends.”

But I am going through it, y’all.

Both the newly refreshed Citi Prestige and ever popular Chase Sapphire Reserve have their place in this world. And I know which one I’m using a LOT more (Citi Prestige). But I can’t bring myself to downgrade my Chase Sapphire Reserve because I don’t want to lose specific perks.

As I look at them, side-by-side, I gotta say – it’s a total wash. Do I keep ’em both?

And while I’ll stick with Citi Prestige short-term, I think they’re both keepers. Let’s compare.

Citi Prestige vs Chase Sapphire Reserve – 2 excellent ultra-premium cards

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American Airlines Cards Officially Useless – I’m Closing Mine in May 2019

American Airlines has a case of “too big for their britches,” as we say down south. They think they’re Delta – they’re not. They think their co-branded credits cards are too beneficial – so they’re cutting the best benefit.

As of May 1st, 2019, NONE of the American Airlines credit cards (from Barclays or Citi) will have a 10% rebate on redeemed miles, which was good for up to 100,000 redeemed miles per year (so you could get back 10,000 miles).

I maxed this out every year – and rarely use other benefits of the cards. I don’t check bags. Priority boarding is great, but whatever. I don’t buy airplane food.

And I get better earning rates with ultra-premium cards for all the bonus categories.

In a couple of months, I’m closing my American Airlines cards. Unless Citi wants to give me a big retention offer to keep one a while longer.

american airlines cards

*eyeroll emoji* These are not meaningful to me

Even worse – Citi isn’t adding anything to make up for this loss (Barclays is at least trying). Sorry, but spending $20,000 to get a stupid $125 discount isn’t a tradeoff.

Bye bye, AA cards

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I’m Gonna Be a Dad! My Journey Toward Becoming a (Gay) Known Donor

Here’s a post I never thought I’d write. It’s something I’ve been thinking about the past few months, and the time feels right to say: I’m gonna be a dad!

I still can’t believe it – it happened so fast. The little bean is currently ~13 weeks along, so we’ve made it to the second trimester. It’ll be born in late August/early September.

Our arrangement is unorthodox, as in – not the norm. I’ll be known as the father, and its moms (yes, plural) will be the primary caregivers.

I’m learning there isn’t a script for this. So we have to communicate, communicate, communicate.

I know in my heart the child will be surrounded by love in a supportive, capable household.

I really thought this would never happen for me. But now it is. I say that with much amazement.

gay known donor

The photo that stopped my heart and changed everything

Here’s how it came to be.

Becoming a known donor

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Investing Vs Pay Down Student Loans: Why I’m Gonna Aggressively Save for Retirement and Just Pay the Minimum

I’ve been taking stock of my complete financial life: mortgage, credit cards, savings, and other debt.

At one point, I became obsessed with getting rid of my student loans. They’re an ugly stain, a black cloud always marring my ideal financial vision. Last year, I made a $7,000 payment just to start chipping away at the principal. I see now it was an emotional, not logical, decision.

Since then, I don’t feel like made much progress. And deep down, I want to save more in my IRA account. I was paying so aggressively that I wasn’t saving as much.

After running the numbers, I’ve decided to say screw the student loans. I’m gonna pay the bare minimum and invest everything else.

Past Harlan went to school. Future Harlan is gonna save his pennies. (Third person tense activatedddd!)

invest student loans

I just wanna be carefree. For me, that means giving up the ghost of paying off my student loans – I’m gonna invest the rest

I’m tired of missing out on opportunities.

Why I’m forgetting about paying off my student loans

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Up to $10 Back for Uber & Lyft Rides + Earn Points Every Time With Freebird

I recently discovered Freebird – an app that aims to reduce drinking and driving, and partners with local bars, restaurants, and liquor companies to reward consumers for taking Uber or Lyft rides to their businesses (and back home). Rewards come in the form of points per ride, and cashback when you visit a participating business.

And right now, you can get up to $10 back when you connect your Uber and/or Lyft accounts and start riding.

Even better, it pulls prices directly from Uber and Lyft – but booking through Freebird gets you the benefit of earning rewards on every ride.

I’ve been using it for a week or so and I gotta say, it’s pretty cool.

freebird

Freebird is an app that connects to Uber and Lyft and rewards you for riding

Here’s how to get the cashback.

What’s Freebird?

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FoundersCard Review 2019: Benefits, Updates, Cost – And Is It Worth It?

I’ve been a FoundersCard member for 5 years. Each year, they add more (and more useful) benefits, keep the best ones, and refine their partnerships based on member demand and use.

The upshot is making the most of even ONE perk can outweigh the $395 membership – and the rest is gravy. And when you sign-up with my link, your rate will never go up.

I’ve used the 15% AT&T discount, Hilton Gold elite status, and Caesars Total Rewards Diamond elite status (which is back this year through January 2020!) to cover and exceed the membership cost.

And there are new benefits for 2019!

founderscard review

Wow, has it really been 5 years? Just renewed my FoundersCard membership again

Here’s everything to know before you apply for membership.

FoundersCard Review 2019: Overview

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8,500 Miles for Spending $1,000 With a Quick Phone Call (Always Do This With Citi Cards!)

I love when an annual fee posts on a Citi card.  Because that means it’s time to pick up the phone and ask for Citi retention offers.  While Amex is sometimes generous, I’ve found Citi is the best at giving incentives to keep their cards – especially those with annual fees.

I currently have 6 Citi cards (3 AA cards, Prestige, AT&T Access More, and Rewards+). And called because the fee on my Citi Prestige just posted.

While I’m excited about keeping that card this year, I figured I’d ask if they could scoot bonus points my way, especially since I depleted them to go to Puerto Vallarta again.

There was nothing available for that card, but then I asked the helpful agent to check the others.

I call about once every 6 months – every single time, I’ve gotten at least 1, and usually more, worthwhile deals. This time was no exception.

citi retention offers

If you have Citi credit cards, it’s always worth calling for a retention offer

Here’s my latest!

Citi retention offers: Spend $1,000, get 8,500 AA miles – done!

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Awesome Targeted Deal: Up to 50% Off at Amazon With 1 Amex Membership Rewards Point

Talk about an amazing deal – you can get $30 off a $60+ Amazon purchase when you use 1 Amex Membership Rewards point and put the rest on a qualifying Amex card.

This deal is targeted. You can check your account at this link to see if you’re eligible.

It was in my account, so I immediately got a $60 Whole Foods gift card for only $29.99. That’s 50% off!

The deal works on items sold and shipped by Amazon, and excludes digital content. I love easy wins like this.

Amazon Amex 30 off

I can get everything I need for my heavy metal detox smoothie for 50% off with this latest Amazon Amex promotion

Here are more deets!

Amazon Amex $30 Off $60+

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The Easiest Path to the US Bank Altitude Reserve (The Best Card for Costco Shopping & Mobile Payments)

Since Costco rolled out Apple Pay to all their stores, I’ve used my US Bank Altitude Reserve card to earn 3X points every time I shop there. That’s because this card earns triple points on mobile payments and travel purchases.

Each point is worth 1.5 cents toward travel (which you can redeem in real-time after they post!), so that’s like getting a 4.5% return on every shopping trip (3 X 1.5). With prices already low, this is an easy way to save even more.

Plus, you can stack coupons through Ibotta for cashback when you buy certain items.

The card has a $400 annual fee, which easily pays for itself. The bigger issue is getting it in the first place – you need to have a “relationship” to even apply.

But there’s an easy and free workaround if you want to open this card.

us bank altitude reserve approval

Getting a 4.5% return on every shopping trip and mobile payment is awesome!

Here’s how to do it!

The easy way to get US Bank Altitude Reserve card approval

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How Many $400+ Annual Fee Cards Is Too Much (or Just Enough)?

Right now, I have 3 ultra premium credit cards with annual fees of $400 and up:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – $450
  • Citi Prestige – $495 (though mine renewed at $450 for one more year)
  • US Bank Altitude Reserve – $400

That’s $1,345 in annual fees! 😵

Still, I find myself wanting the Amex Platinum biz card ($595, but $450 through January 2019) and Amex Hilton Aspire ($450), both for vastly different reasons.

But I can’t justify getting another ultra premium card with a big annual fee. Am I capping out at 3?

I’m really considering downgrading my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Getting a 4th – or 5th – would be overkill, wouldn’t it?

ultra premium credit cards

No way I’m dumping the best card for Costco shopping! All my high AF cards have a special utility

Here’s a rundown of the major cards with annual fees – and how I get value from them.

Ultra Premium Credit Cards – How Many Does One Need?

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