Aug 29 2017

Current cards and current points balances

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Oh, this points hobby is just too much fun! Traveling more often and in better accommodations? Yes, please!

I thought I’d record our points balances as of now, tentative plans for using them, which cards we have and plans for future sign-ups. I like it when I can get a sense of the possibilities from others, so I hope this is somewhat helpful.

I’ve combined my Chase Ultimate Rewards points all onto one card, our respective Chase Sapphire Reserve cards. This way, I can transfer points to travel partners, or use the points in their portal for an extra 1.5x value. I could also transfer all points to one card since we’re married in the same household, but Note that Chase recently made a change to the Sapphire lineup — a cardholder may only have one Sapphire card for new sign-ups. For more, Doctor of Credit has the scoop.

Current balances

  • My Chase Ultimate Rewards, earned from my Sapphire Reserve, Freedom, and Freedom Unlimited: 147,256 
  • Husband’s Chase Ultimate Rewards, earned from his Sapphire Reserve, Freedom Unlimited, and referring me to Unlimited: 161,506
  • Disney Visa (no annual fee version) balance: $81
  • Combined Marriott and Starwood points, earned from stays and my Amex SPG card: 115,000 Marriott points or 38,338 SPG. Nearly enough for 5 nights.
  • Southwest: 80,000ish
  • Hyatt: in progress
  • IHG: in progress

If I wanted, I could cash out the Ultimate Rewards at one point = $0.01 for $3,087. (!??!!!) That alone is a tremendous value, but I can do even better with other redemption options. In the Chase portal, those points would be worth an additional 1.5x in purchasing value, so it becomes $4,631 in combined value if I went that route.

In June, I booked one night in a hotel using the portal when I didn’t really have other options for that particular stay. Spending 10k odd points for an overnight vs. paying $180 or so was a good value (I forget the exact amounts for that redemption, but it was roughly that).

I can also get value by transferring 1:1 to partners. I think I’d be most likely to transfer to Hyatt or Southwest to get the most value, but it will just depend on trip specifics for what we’ll need. Often, transferring to these partners would yield an even greater value than booking in the portal. Just do the quick math on it.

Upcoming trips for 2018:

I get really sick of winter by the end of February, so this year we’re going to head south to Florida and spend some time at Universal Studios. I booked our flights on Southwest on points that we’ve had hanging around and when they were running a good sale. I’ll check back periodically and rebook if the fares drop, and we’ll get a refund on those points.

I haven’t yet booked our room, but I’m considering using Marriott points or potentially Hyatt.

Then in the fall, I’m planning a trip to southern California. Disneyland! We’ll potentially use Southwest points for that as well, but I’m open to other possibilities. There are some good points values across the street from Disneyland at Marriott properties, and I’ll either go for that or use some Chase points to go for a Disneyland hotel. Splurge, but might be fun.

Current credit cards:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve x2 (and I plan on keeping these, as we are getting great value even with the high annual fee). This is for all travel purchases and dining, except for when dining is a x5 category for Freedom like it is right now. I could consider downgrading one to a Sapphire Preferred, or becoming an authorized user on the CSR for $75/year. For now, keeping both.
  • Chase Freedom (mine). This card is for bonus category spend for 5x points. This quarter is dining and movie theaters.
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited (we each have this, husband referred me). For non-bonused category spending.
  • Chase Disney Visa. There was a targeted promotion for 5x bonus on utility payments, so we shifted our electric, gas, internet, and cell phone bills over to this card during the promotional period. Once that’s up, those categories will go on the Starwood or Unlimited
  • American Express Starwood Preferred Guest (mine) I’m using this card for non-bonused spending categories to work toward a 5-night stay at a Marriott or Starwood property. Unfortunately, some retailers do not accept American Express, so if I can’t use that card, I use my Freedom Unlimited Visa.
  • PNC 1.75% cash back Visa. My oldest active card. Keeping it active for my credit history.

New cards:

I recently applied for two more Chase cards on the same day. I was hoping this strategy would combine into one hard pull instead of two on my credit report, and it looks like it did. Both went as “pending” because my credit limits on my other Chase cards are quite high, and they don’t want to raise my credit line. So, we’re shifting some credit line from some cards over to the new cards. They are:

Chase Hyatt: Earn 40,000 points when you spend $2,000 in 3 months. The card comes with Discoverist status, which is pretty basic but has a few perks we might use, such as late check-out. The card includes a free night on a category 1-4 hotel on the card’s anniversary. Ok, and when I say “free,” I mean $75, as that is the card’s annual fee. Still, good luck finding a Hyatt for cheaper than that! I can potentially get 5 nights for those 40,000 points, or transfer my Chase points to top off what I would need.

Chase IHG Mastercard: Earn 80,000 points when you spend $1,000 in 3 months. The card comes with Platinum status across its brand (Intercontinental Hotel Group, includes Holiday Inn, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood, Intercontental, etc.). The card also includes a free night at any of their properties on the card anniversary and no annual fee in the first year. After that, it is $49. I’m never all that excited to stay at a Holiday Inn, but sometimes on a road trip it just is the best option and gets the job done. We stayed at a Staybridge Suites in Toronto for a night, and it was really nice.

I am working on the minimum spend for these cards, and putting grocery store, gas, and restaurant on the IHG card as that earns 2x per dollar. The Hyatt card has a higher minimum spend requirement, so I’m just putting everything else on that card for now until I finish off the IHG minimum spend.

Impact on credit score:

According to Credit Karma, my TransUnion score is 791 (down 10 points) and Equifax is 807 (down 5). All of my hard pulls for my Chase cards showed up on TransUnion. Things that are hurting me are my average age of credit history. While I have a mortgage on there that is nearly 5 years old and one credit card that is 4+ years, my newer cards are bringing down my average age to 1 year 11 months. Eep.

I have had a credit card of some form for more than 10 years, but my oldest cards were kind of lame and I just stopped using them, not realizing that the bank would eventually shut the accounts due to inactivity. Whoops. In retrospect, I should have tried a product change or kept a small recurring bill on the oldest card.

That’s it

That’s it for now — unless we have some crazy good targeted offers, I’m going to leave everything as-is for awhile. My husband as player 2 in this game prefers to keep it simple on his end, and he can manage what he has in his wallet no problem. I don’t want to make things more complicated for him. Perhaps we will try and keep him under Chase’s 5/24 to maybe go for the Southwest cards again on down the road, or just leave his options open to see what pops up.

I’m also still waiting to see what will become of the AmEx SPG.

 


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Aug 10 2017

Why we went for Marriott Gold status

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I am nuts.

A few months ago, my husband’s Marriott account was targeted for their “Taste of Gold” challenge. If he completed 6 stays in a little more than 3 months, he’d have Marriott Gold status through early 2019. We decided to go for it.

Lately, we’ve been sticking to Marriott/Starwood hotels for our family’s vacation and my husband’s work trips. We’ve been able to rack up points through stays, my American Express SPG card (these points transfer to Marriott at 1 SPG : 3 Marriott), and if I needed to top of points for a redemption, I could transfer some of our Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Despite all of our stays, the best we’ve been able to get up until now has been Marriott Silver status (15-49 nights in a year, though some nights can carry over to the next year. Oh, and somehow my Amex SPG card gave me Marriott Silver on my own account). Without the Marriott Visa giving us a 15-stay status boost, there just wasn’t much help in the way of leveling up faster. So I thought.

Benefits of Marriott Gold status

  • 4 p.m. check-out (we used this once already during our D.C. trip. Very convenient!)
  • 25% points bonus on top of base earnings (this is up from 20% bonus from silver)
  • Discounted rates at Courtyard and Springhill Suites on weekends
  • Room upgrade (this might not even be noticible though, maybe just a more convenient location)
  • Enhanced internet access (you can have free internet access when you book directly through their various channels, but the speed is slower. To upgrade to a faster speed, you’d have to pay extra. In D.C., that would have been $15/day. It was free for Gold members)
  • Lounge access and free breakfast at some properties
  • A few other minor perks. For more, visit the Marriott Gold page

 

On the surface, it didn’t seem like that great of a benefit for our purposes, but with the Marriott/Starwood merger, for now status is reciprocal. Marriott Gold = Starwood Gold. Starwood Gold comes with similar perks, including late checkout, more points earned per dollar spent, room upgrades, a welcome amenity, etc.

And, having Starwood Gold = Delta Crossover Miles, which means for every dollar spent on a Delta flight, he will earn 1 bonus Starpoint. As this is on top of the points he’d earn with Delta, and the x3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points he’d get from the airfare purchase on his Sapphire Reserve, it looks like there’s potential for accruing many more points with this setup. More points = more/better travel accommodations.

We went for it.

How we accumulated 6 stays

Somehow (and I’m pretty sure incorrectly), our Washington, D.C. points-redemption stay counted as the first stay.

With time running out on the status challenge, I made a case for why my husband should have 1-night stays during a recent business trip. He bounced back and forth between a Fairfield Inn and a Courtyard near his client’s headquarters. I’m sure it was inconvenient for him, but he was a sport about it. It had the added bonus of more points thanks to the Megabonus Marriott is running right now. (Each stay, starting with the 2nd stay during the promo period, earns an extra 2,000 points on top of base+bonus, and an additional 2,000 points for new brands starting with the 2nd brand).

As a benefit to the client, it worked out that the overall cost was reduced by his back-and-forth hopping.

Our final stay was one night in Champaign, Ill., a true “mattress run.” We had been wanting to do a day trip or overnight to Illinois this summer just for kicks, and the room rate at the Courtyard there was fairly inexpensive. This was the only stay that we paid for out of pocket (the others were points redemptions or reimbursed work travel).

What will our final value be?

I’m going to keep track of the extra points earned for having Gold status. I can’t predict the final value or perks realized yet, but hopefully it will be worthwhile. I think mainly, if we can score upgraded rooms, fast internet (mainly useful for work travel), and late check-out, that will be a nice benefit.

With uncertainty coming to what the new Marriott/SPG loyalty program in 2018-2019 and beyond, I think locking in an upgraded status now will potentially be worth it.


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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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