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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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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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Balance transfer cards 2020: A godsend when you need more time (but don’t fail the test)

Hi lil lovies. The holidays were wild, eh? I’m writing this in a medicated haze with flu-like symptoms. But I wanted to write. And I’ve been meaning to talk about is how I’m using balance transfer cards to:

  • Meet my current financial goals (which I need to update)
  • Smooth out large, unexpected expenses (like when my AC quit in July and I had to get a new HVAC system)
  • Give myself a jump-start to purchase big items when I want them (I bought myself a rowing machine because I really really wanted one and I’ve been using it regularly)

This is because I didn’t have enough in a savings account, which will change this year. So hopefully I won’t have to rely on them in the future.

But for now, they’ve helped me consolidate a lot of balances spread over several cards with big interest rates. I paid a one-time balance transfer fee, and have a 0% APR rate through April 2020. So I haven’t paid a dime of interest since. And honestly? It’s been the one thing that’s given me time to get caught up.

balance transfer cards

Balance transfer cards aren’t a perfect solution. But they’ve bought me time and helped me avoid a ton of interest while I got my plans together

The test, of course, is paying them back before the 0% promotional rate expires. If you don’t, you’re right back to where you started. 🌀

The good thing is these rates are a year or more (usually more). A lot can happen in a year.

While I’m glad balance transfer cards have been available to me as a financial tool (which is absolutely how I think of them), moving forward I want to depend on savings rather than having to buy myself time.

Balance transfer cards 2020 – should you, could you, would you?

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Yes! Just Got the Chase Ink Business Preferred 80,000-Point Offer!

chase ink business preferred

The Chase Ink Business Preferred offer in this post is NO LONGER AVAILABLE. Click here to see the latest travel card deals!

On September 1, I applied for the Chase Ink Business Preferred 80,000 points offer. And lord, it was a long time coming. I’m now under 5/24 for the time in eons, and haven’t opened a new Chase card in literally years.

I was nervous to apply after so long. But the chance to snag 80,000 valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points was too much to pass up. And applying for new credit cards is seriously better than any drug for me. So I was getting that sweet adrenaline fix after submitting my application and watching this screen:

Chase Ink Business Preferred 80,000 points offer

Serotonin and dopamine ACTIVATED

Then was disheartened at this message:

YOU’RE WELCOME FOR MY REQUEST

Dang it. I knew this screen was common and the best bet was to sit tight and wait it out. I figured I’d give it a couple of weeks, and check back.

NOT. (Did you really give me credit for being that chill? 😹)

You know I logged into my Chase online account 4,000 times a day hoping the card would appear. After a week, I started to get down on my luck. After all, I already had seven other Chase cards. Would they really give me an eighth?

But then!

A white unmarked envelope from Westerville, Ohio, appeared in my mailbox. The joy and horror when I saw it!

Was it a thin rejection letter or a fat welcome packet? My fingers reached at warp speed. It was a fatty! There was a card inside! Perhaps it was a cruel marketing scam? Could it be?

I ripped through the paper and just starting laughing right there at the mailbox. I couldn’t believe it.

Just like that, I was back in the game. I had a new Chase Ink Business Preferred in my hot little hand.

Chase Ink Business Preferred 80,000 points offer

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Using Points for Emergency Travel: Why Having a Stash Is a Huge Relief for Same-Day Flights

What a week. Just got back from Memphis. Last Friday, I got one of those phone calls. One of those drop everything and fly home right this minute phone calls.

My dad was in the ICU with a brain lesion near his optical nerve – and no one knew why. Doctors thought it could be anything from a simple infection all the up to brain cancer. He had to have biopsy surgery to find out.

Tickets home were $659 round-trip, or $329 each way. I didn’t want to spend the cash, so I went to my usual tricks: using miles and points to fly cheap or free.

I threw clothes in a bag and headed to the airport. This was the first time I’d ever had to fly back so quickly. It was a bizarre experience I don’t want to repeat any time soon.

And it showed me why having a stash of points ready to use at all times is so important for these situations.

points for emergency travel

I hate hospitals. Using points got me home the same day my dad went to the ICU

Here’s the series of quick steps I used to fly home right away.

When you have to fly immediately, having points for emergency travel can help so much

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The Top Card for Beginners? Yeah, the Chase Sapphire Preferred

I’m sure it’s happened to you at some point. A friend asks, “How do you do it?” Take all these trips to places like Hawaii, Tokyo and Osaka, Dublin, Barcelona, and more. How do you get free hotel rooms that cost hundreds of dollars a night?

“I want to travel like you do,” they say. “Where do I start?”

And you have that moment where you’re thinking, “Well for starters, using that debit card for everything you buy isn’t helping anything.” *cough*

You ask about their spending habits. “Do you shop online?” Definitely use a shopping portalget free miles for clicking a link.

You can stay at the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta for FREE with Chase Ultimate Rewards points

And sign up for dining rewards while you’re at it because you never know when you’ll get some extra miles in your account – especially if you live in a mid-sized to large city.

But as far as cards go… where to begin?

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I’m Finally Gonna Fall Below Chase 5/24: My Credit Card Plan

I have a below 5/24 plan. How’d that happen?

I can’t get most Amex cards because I’ve already earned the welcome offer, or Citi cards because of their 24-month “family of brands” rule. Plus, I got busy baby-making.

So when I checked Credit Karma, I had to blink again. For the first time in years, I’ll be below 5/24 as of July 19, 2019 – only 4 months away!

I mean yeah, there are non-Chase cards I’d looove to get (I’m drooling for the Amex Hilton Aspire). But heck, if I’m this close, I may as well keep trending. And you bet I’m running right for the Chase Ink Business Preferred – I hope that sweet 80,000-point bonus is still around!

below 5/24 plan

When I think of UR points, alls I see is Hyatt hotel stays. First stop: Ink Business Preferred

More broadly, this might be the beginning of a long-needed credit card overhaul.

My Below 5/24 Plan

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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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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 – $550
  • 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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Booking Puerto Vallarta 2.0: $3,000+ Vacation for 131,000 Citi ThankYou Points, Prestige 4th Night Free, & AA Business Extra

Last February, I spent 3 glorious nights at the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta. And next month, I’ll spend another 4 nights there! For $0 out of pocket, I used:

  • 131,088 Citi ThankYou points + 4th night free to save $1,721 on the hotel stay
  • 4,000 American Airlines Business Extra points for $1,423 flights
  • Citi Prestige annual travel credits to cover ~$187 in taxes and fees

The total cost would’ve been $3,331. And I used ALL my Citi ThankYou points.

But after slipping the Citi Prestige card back into my wallet this week, I can build up my balance with new 5X earning on airfare and dining. Plus, they’d been hanging around for a while.

Learn more about the best travel rewards cards here.

puerto vallarta points 2019

This time, I saved over $3,000 to go back to Puerto Vallarta for 4 nights 🍹

Here’s how I put it together!

A $3,000+ vacation to Puerto Vallarta for $0

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