Author Topic: Rewards Travel "Savings"  (Read 24253 times)

StetsTerhune

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Rewards Travel "Savings"
« on: December 27, 2013, 07:42:39 AM »
http://saverocity.com/travel/burn-1-5m-pointsmiles-travel-2013/

Maybe others won't think this is quite as ridiculous as I do.

I've been looking into gaming credit card rewards this week (not much else to do at work...) and this link pretty much sums up the issues I have with a lot of it. Yes, there's some real gains and savings to be had, but then so much of the "savings" are on hotel/airline points that you otherwise wouldn't buy and don't actually get a lot of value out of.

And then the other problem I have with this is that I feel like it's in what I call the "Tim Ferriss/Lifestyle Design" mindset. He's living his life so that it sounds awesome when you write a 2 page summary. Not so that it is awesome when you live it.

JessieImproved

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2013, 08:01:53 AM »
Wow, that is a lot of travel.  But you know, we don't know his financial situation, so maybe it's well within his means?  That being said, I have a Travelocity Rewards AmEx.  We're planning our 10 year anniversary trip to San Francisco in the spring, and by then we'll be eligible for a $400 statement credit.  It doesn't change our spending OR travel habits, so I'd say it's more than worth it.

gecko10x

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2013, 08:26:56 AM »
Airline miles and hotel points may or may not be worth it, depending on your location and typical travel (available airlines/routes might not align). But that isn't the only way to use rewards- many cards offer cash rewards as well. And you probably won't get a ton of benefit if you don't have much chargeable spending.

Having said that, we have redeemed $1380 in the last two years ($1500 minus $60 annual fee x2) on our card, so it's certainly worth it for us.

StetsTerhune

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2013, 09:48:35 AM »
Oh don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of rewards cards in general. But the key is to find rewards that will save money on things you would have bought regardless. I'd have to look at the exact numbers, but I'm sure I got $1,000 back last year.

But when I started researching on how to maximize CC rewards, you find a lot of nonsense by people who got saved because they got "free $1,000 hotel rooms." I'm much happier using 1/4 of the effort to get $400 cash and use 1/20th of that on a campsite 30 feet from the Mediterranean.

Albert

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2013, 10:11:51 AM »
That's 38 days of travel. I'm afraid I don't have that much unrestricted vacation and even if I had I wouldn't want to spend all of it on the road. Nor am I all that much into fancy hotels.

Saverocity

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2013, 10:26:18 AM »
Hi Folks,

I saw the link to this forum from my site, and would be happy to help answer any questions about my situation.  The reason I included the cash amount was to highlight that this 'reward travel' is actually anything but free and required a fair amount of money to do. 

Travel is something that is important to me, I have visited many countries and lived in many too, and I use the reward travel to subsidize things. However, you are mistaken if you think that this is at the expense of other opportunities because I use more sophisticated approaches to generate the rewards.

Another project that I am working on in the site that may be of interest is the $5,000 brokerage account challenge where I build the account purely from Cash Back and some household reductions - not sure if I am allowed to go hyperlinking to my own posts but you can google it up.

Look forward to your thoughts guys.

Matt

StetsTerhune

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2013, 12:28:26 PM »
Hey Matt, welcome!

I don't mean to imply you're doing anything "wrong," by your values or anything. Just that by my values (which is generally what this forum is about), what you're doing is crazy! This forum and site, and my personal values, are about using money and resources (I'm including miles/points here) efficiently to maximize personal enjoyment. "Luxury Goods" that you're buying (with points or otherwise) are, in my opinion,  totally antithetical to our philosophy here. http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/08/29/luxury-is-just-another-weakness/

I actually spent quite a while on your site this morning and got quite a bit out of it.  Your airline strategies, in particular, are pretty excellent, thanks for sharing all that!

Saverocity

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2013, 01:18:10 PM »
Well, to say I'm not doing anything 'wrong' but the starting a thread in a sub forum titled like this seems a little oxymoronic.

I do not subscribe to the ultra frugal lifestyle but I do believe in making smarter decisions to achieve what we desire.  For the travel example I would not call that luxury.  I really wanted to swim with Whalesharks (I'm a diver) and that was a good place to do it, so I eliminate flight and hotel costs and pay cash (above what I would normally like) to dive.

We all have different tolerances for the amount of enjoyment we want from life and the sacrifices to get there, but my approach allows a lot more for your dollar, but at the same time does mean spending it on something that you want.

I also don't believe in using reward cards on things you would ordinarily get, I believe in spending many times more than you normally spend in order to capture a much higher multiple, it's how I generate thousands of dollars in cash back per year.

I do have a 'earn more' for free that then subsidizes 'enjoy things you'd otherwise have to cut out' approach.

Thanks for the welcome!

StetsTerhune

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2013, 01:35:44 PM »
Well, to say I'm not doing anything 'wrong' but the starting a thread in a sub forum titled like this seems a little oxymoronic.

Well keep in mind this is the anti-mustachian wall of shame, not the general life wall of shame.

We all have different tolerances for the amount of enjoyment we want from life and the sacrifices to get there, but my approach allows a lot more for your dollar, but at the same time does mean spending it on something that you want.

I think we just have different defintions of "enjoyment." I once traveled for 6 months for less than you spent on that 14 day trip to the Maldives (just the cash portion) and I can't think of a single day during that period that I would have replaced with a night at a 4 star resort.

And yes, there were whale sharks.

Jamesqf

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2013, 01:58:22 PM »
I think we just have different defintions of "enjoyment." I once traveled for 6 months for less than you spent on that 14 day trip to the Maldives (just the cash portion) and I can't think of a single day during that period that I would have replaced with a night at a 4 star resort.

Yes.  Not to mention that I don't consider spending time in tourist-class airline seats, or going through security & customs, as being anything remotely spproaching enjoyment.

Reading the link, though, I was struck by a thought: suppose all those airline miles are just a scam, like the "50% off sales", and they're more than making the money back selling you hotel rooms &c?

Albert

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #10 on: December 27, 2013, 03:00:27 PM »

Yes.  Not to mention that I don't consider spending time in tourist-class airline seats, or going through security & customs, as being anything remotely approaching enjoyment.

You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who likes it, it's just a necessary evil for getting to far away destinations and actual fun part :)

Jamesqf

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #11 on: December 27, 2013, 04:11:35 PM »
...it's just a necessary evil for getting to far away destinations and actual fun part :)

Sure, the question is whether there's enough fun at the destination to outweigh the anti-fun of getting there.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2013, 10:23:24 PM by Jamesqf »

CWAL

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #12 on: December 27, 2013, 06:14:39 PM »
I never go on a flying vacation unless the ratio of time at location/time flying is greater than 14.

Because I travel for work, I have enough miles and hotel points that a two week vacation each year to most anywhere is nearly free, airfare, hotels, and rental car if needed.

I still screw around with the sign up bonuses for the rewards cards to sweeten the pot though.

RootofGood

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #13 on: December 27, 2013, 07:09:32 PM »
I never go on a flying vacation unless the ratio of time at location/time flying is greater than 14.

Because I travel for work, I have enough miles and hotel points that a two week vacation each year to most anywhere is nearly free, airfare, hotels, and rental car if needed.

I still screw around with the sign up bonuses for the rewards cards to sweeten the pot though.

Flight time to vacation time ratio.  I like it.  I kind of have the same unstated policy, since I won't do less than 4 days or so if the flight is 2 hours (which means at least 3 hours getting into and out of the airport).  Hawaii (from the East Coast) would have to be a 1.5-2 week vacation minimum or it isn't worth the 9 hours in flights. 

I do the sign up bonuses too and it makes travel almost free in many cases.  Argentina and Uruguay for 9 days for $250 on hotels (we got a deal), $20 in flights (that would have been $2600), and probably a few hundred $$ more for meals and ground transport.  For Mrs. RootofGood and me.  All in, we probably spent $600 or so.  Instead of over $3,000.  It's a place we wanted to visit, and we had a great time there.


Albert

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2013, 01:06:40 AM »
I hadn't thought of expressing it in flight time vs vacation time, but 2 weeks is a minimum for a transcontinental trip (US or East Asia). It will be at least 3 if we ever get to Australia/New Zealand. Although the reason is not so much flight time as jet lag and a ratio of flight costs vs overall costs.

Saverocity

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #15 on: December 28, 2013, 07:20:52 AM »
Well, to say I'm not doing anything 'wrong' but the starting a thread in a sub forum titled like this seems a little oxymoronic.

Well keep in mind this is the anti-mustachian wall of shame, not the general life wall of shame.

We all have different tolerances for the amount of enjoyment we want from life and the sacrifices to get there, but my approach allows a lot more for your dollar, but at the same time does mean spending it on something that you want.

I think we just have different defintions of "enjoyment." I once traveled for 6 months for less than you spent on that 14 day trip to the Maldives (just the cash portion) and I can't think of a single day during that period that I would have replaced with a night at a 4 star resort.

And yes, there were whale sharks.

I guess I don't understand the Mustachian mindset- are you saying that it is better to stay in lower standards of accommodation, and pay more for that than to stay in somewhere like the Conrad Tokyo for free?

I too have done a lot of lower spend vacations but sometimes I pay more- more is still a fraction of what that specific trip would have cost the average joe. Both in money spent and miles- even that has tricks of the trade built in so much so that most people couldn't book that itinerary for the miles/points price paid.

I think it's really odd that people attempt to compare time with experience.  Life is not about existing, it is about living, you can't compare a vacation that was completely different but longer and cost less, by using just a time and money calculation I think you are missing out on the really important part of life- living it!

mm1970

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #16 on: December 28, 2013, 08:31:06 AM »
Well, to say I'm not doing anything 'wrong' but the starting a thread in a sub forum titled like this seems a little oxymoronic.

Well keep in mind this is the anti-mustachian wall of shame, not the general life wall of shame.

We all have different tolerances for the amount of enjoyment we want from life and the sacrifices to get there, but my approach allows a lot more for your dollar, but at the same time does mean spending it on something that you want.

I think we just have different defintions of "enjoyment." I once traveled for 6 months for less than you spent on that 14 day trip to the Maldives (just the cash portion) and I can't think of a single day during that period that I would have replaced with a night at a 4 star resort.

And yes, there were whale sharks.

I guess I don't understand the Mustachian mindset- are you saying that it is better to stay in lower standards of accommodation, and pay more for that than to stay in somewhere like the Conrad Tokyo for free?

I too have done a lot of lower spend vacations but sometimes I pay more- more is still a fraction of what that specific trip would have cost the average joe. Both in money spent and miles- even that has tricks of the trade built in so much so that most people couldn't book that itinerary for the miles/points price paid.

I think it's really odd that people attempt to compare time with experience.  Life is not about existing, it is about living, you can't compare a vacation that was completely different but longer and cost less, by using just a time and money calculation I think you are missing out on the really important part of life- living it!

Mmmm...I think the "Mustachian" point of view here is that it's still an awful lot of money on travel, and you could do it cheaper.  But you know, it really depends on whether you can afford it.  Some people cannot imagine spending that much on travel, ever (myself included, but I have two small children - I can't imagine flying that far with them -  ugh).  However, if you aren't in debt and can afford it, then you can do what you want (believe me, we are still arguing about whether it's okay to spend money on a housecleaner).

I have only ever traded my miles for a short flight to Albuquerque and a one night's stay at LAX.  Now that I have two kids, I simply don't travel much.  However, I have friends and coworkers who travel a lot and use their miles on vacations.  My husband travels just enough to get "status". which is great for getting free bags.

So in the end, if I had miles like many of my friends: if I could take a family trip to Hawaii for the same price as a week in San Diego or Palm Springs, would I?  Absolutely yes.  And I think that's where having the airline miles and rewards are useful.  But in order to be in that category, you have to travel a lot in the first place.

I think most Mustachians, if they don't travel for work, prefer to not spend the money traveling in the first place - generally because they are trying to save money to retire early.  This necessitates traveling more cheaply.

I am not sure if I am making any sense at all.

StetsTerhune

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #17 on: December 28, 2013, 08:36:29 AM »
I guess I don't understand the Mustachian mindset- are you saying that it is better to stay in lower standards of accommodation, and pay more for that than to stay in somewhere like the Conrad Tokyo for free?

No, that's not at all what I'm saying. And Tokyo is expensive, so it's one of the places that using points is probably a very efficient use of points and effort. What I'm really saying is that a "higher standard of accommodation" isn't necessarily better. Ultimately it's mostly just a bed you're sleeping on and a shower you're rinsing yourself in.  I also reject the notion that this stay in the Conrad Tokyo is "free." Whatever you did to acquire these points, there was almost certainly an opportunity cost in time/effort/credit/whatever. And there was likely an opportunity cost  in using those points as well. Not familiar with this specific hotel, but it's likely you could have spent 4 nights in some other hotel that may have been just as good an "experience" per night.



I think it's really odd that people attempt to compare time with experience.  Life is not about existing, it is about living, you can't compare a vacation that was completely different but longer and cost less, by using just a time and money calculation I think you are missing out on the really important part of life- living it!

And you make a good point, time <> experience. But I think it's a lot more true than luxury=experience or bragging rights=experience. Time = "opportunity to have experiences"

Your trip to the Maldives sounds pretty fun to me and honestly, unlike some of the other posters, I don't mind the "traveling" part of travel at all. I've never met someone who enjoys chilling in an airport half as much as I do.  But I'll bet I "enjoyed" and "experienced as much" as the average 14 days of any trip I've ever taken just as much as you enjoyed that. Maybe more, maybe less, I don't know you. 

One of the most common posts on this board is people talking about the negative misconceptions people (spouses, friends, etc.) have of our lifestyles. and the most common of those misconceptions is the one I think you're making, essentially "You guys don't do any of the awesome shit I do, your lives must SUCK!!!"

We don't do the shit you do, but don't think we aren't "living life". We just find shit that is (for our personal tastes) just as awesome and a more efficient use of our money and time. That's what we're about.  Wanna dive with whale sharks? Stay in an $8 a night bungalow in thailand and take a $20 dive. Wanna go to Italy? Stay in a campsite for 12 euros that's 15 feet from the Mediterranean and a beautiful 5 minute walk from a fantastic town with fantastic hiking and fantastic food.

I think you and we are trying to optimize on the same dimensions: maximize the experience and minimize the effort to get there. We take very different tacks and think of experience differently.



Albert

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #18 on: December 28, 2013, 08:36:50 AM »

I think most Mustachians, if they don't travel for work, prefer to not spend the money traveling in the first place - generally because they are trying to save money to retire early.  This necessitates traveling more cheaply.


Are you sure? There was a thread about that some time go and travel spending was the most popular "non-mustachian" activity among the board members. Few if any admitted spending as much as Saverocity, but couple thousand per year was very common.

Saverocity

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #19 on: December 28, 2013, 10:32:07 AM »
Hey guys,

Ironically i'm on vacation at a luxury resort as i write this on my phone so apologies for lack of multi quoting etc.

I get the feeling that the OP created this thread because he saw the amount of cash I spend on travel and realized if he spent the same it would put him off his mustachian budget for retirement.

Here's a couple of factors to consider:

I'm as retired as MMM is by his definition, so I'm further ahead of the game.
I created ways to make more money and points through some rather intricate systems that result in net gains on the transaction.  So I earn more which therefore reduces the cost of items that are considered luxuries.
I do not believe that a happy retirement is one that involves sacrifices that make you resentful or disappointed.

I've lived in Asia, I've traveled through Egypt for a month and paid real money to stay in places that the OP describes- I've paid $5 a dive in Dahab, $10 in Thailand and $250 (3tank with boat and lunch
) in the Maldives.

The thing is, they are all different, and I want to do them all.

There comes a point when you have to ask why bother retiring if you cannot do the things you love.


Saverocity

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #20 on: December 28, 2013, 11:19:29 AM »
Well, to say I'm not doing anything 'wrong' but the starting a thread in a sub forum titled like this seems a little oxymoronic.

Well keep in mind this is the anti-mustachian wall of shame, not the general life wall of shame.

We all have different tolerances for the amount of enjoyment we want from life and the sacrifices to get there, but my approach allows a lot more for your dollar, but at the same time does mean spending it on something that you want.

I think we just have different defintions of "enjoyment." I once traveled for 6 months for less than you spent on that 14 day trip to the Maldives (just the cash portion) and I can't think of a single day during that period that I would have replaced with a night at a 4 star resort.

And yes, there were whale sharks.

I guess I don't understand the Mustachian mindset- are you saying that it is better to stay in lower standards of accommodation, and pay more for that than to stay in somewhere like the Conrad Tokyo for free?

I too have done a lot of lower spend vacations but sometimes I pay more- more is still a fraction of what that specific trip would have cost the average joe. Both in money spent and miles- even that has tricks of the trade built in so much so that most people couldn't book that itinerary for the miles/points price paid.

I think it's really odd that people attempt to compare time with experience.  Life is not about existing, it is about living, you can't compare a vacation that was completely different but longer and cost less, by using just a time and money calculation I think you are missing out on the really important part of life- living it!

Mmmm...I think the "Mustachian" point of view here is that it's still an awful lot of money on travel, and you could do it cheaper.  But you know, it really depends on whether you can afford it.  Some people cannot imagine spending that much on travel, ever (myself included, but I have two small children - I can't imagine flying that far with them -  ugh).  However, if you aren't in debt and can afford it, then you can do what you want (believe me, we are still arguing about whether it's okay to spend money on a housecleaner).

I have only ever traded my miles for a short flight to Albuquerque and a one night's stay at LAX.  Now that I have two kids, I simply don't travel much.  However, I have friends and coworkers who travel a lot and use their miles on vacations.  My husband travels just enough to get "status". which is great for getting free bags.

So in the end, if I had miles like many of my friends: if I could take a family trip to Hawaii for the same price as a week in San Diego or Palm Springs, would I?  Absolutely yes.  And I think that's where having the airline miles and rewards are useful.  But in order to be in that category, you have to travel a lot in the first place.

I think most Mustachians, if they don't travel for work, prefer to not spend the money traveling in the first place - generally because they are trying to save money to retire early.  This necessitates traveling more cheaply.

I am not sure if I am making any sense at all.

Thanks, a couple of things:

I don't earn miles or points by revenue rebates- I haven't paid for a flight anywhere in years.
You can't do what I did cheaper without sacrificing something- the spend costs related to discretion all spending- such as eating truffles in Italy- sure I could have opted to eat just bread (and it is delicious) but I decided to eat truffles.

I saved on areas I could - such as staying in the Waldorf Astoria in Rome for free with free breakfast and applied the money I would have otherwise needed to camp out near the Trevi fountain for some indulgences.

Albert

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #21 on: December 28, 2013, 11:21:26 AM »

I'm as retired as MMM is by his definition, so I'm further ahead of the game.
I created ways to make more money and points through some rather intricate systems that result in net gains on the transaction.  So I earn more which therefore reduces the cost of items that are considered luxuries.
I do not believe that a happy retirement is one that involves sacrifices that make you resentful or disappointed.

Sure that changes the equation. You are just better off than almost all of us here.

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #22 on: December 28, 2013, 11:29:53 AM »
Id argue that If I'm better off than those people it is because I work more on the income generation side of things than others here.  Despite having some expensive tastes I'm also frugal where I see the opportunity.

It's a simple case of earning more than you spend.

Albert

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #23 on: December 28, 2013, 11:36:01 AM »
Id argue that If I'm better off than those people it is because I work more on the income generation side of things than others here.  Despite having some expensive tastes I'm also frugal where I see the opportunity.

I wouldn't be so quick to judge. Folks here are generally significantly above average in terms of income. Of course there is always someone who has done it even better. Good for you if you are one of them.

Jamesqf

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #24 on: December 28, 2013, 11:49:05 AM »
I guess I don't understand the Mustachian mindset- are you saying that it is better to stay in lower standards of accommodation, and pay more for that than to stay in somewhere like the Conrad Tokyo for free?

I don't think this is even really a mustachian thing: it's a matter of what a person finds enjoyable.  Personally, I just don't like staying in hotels, or in cities, so spending money/points and my time to get to Tokyo would be non-productive.  I'd much rather be in a tent somewhere in the wild.

Quote
I think it's really odd that people attempt to compare time with experience.  Life is not about existing, it is about living, you can't compare a vacation that was completely different but longer and cost less, by using just a time and money calculation I think you are missing out on the really important part of life- living it!

Sure, but the point here is that you can do as much, if not more, of the 'living it' for much less money, and with less overhead in the form of hours spent in air travel, or sitting in a hotel room.

It's a simple case of earning more than you spend.

Or spending less than you earn :-)

Saverocity

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #25 on: December 28, 2013, 12:44:08 PM »
Id argue that If I'm better off than those people it is because I work more on the income generation side of things than others here.  Despite having some expensive tastes I'm also frugal where I see the opportunity.

I wouldn't be so quick to judge. Folks here are generally significantly above average in terms of income. Of course there is always someone who has done it even better. Good for you if you are one of them.

I was referring to the folks that were described to me as not in as a good position, rather than blanket statements of my prolific wealth :)

RootofGood

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #26 on: December 28, 2013, 12:46:23 PM »
There comes a point when you have to ask why bother retiring if you cannot do the things you love.

Yep.  It really comes down to a personal choice on what you value and how you like to spend your money (or points/miles in lieu of money).  A large part of my discretionary spending (and really a big part of my overall retirement  budget) is devoted to travel.  I tend to focus on the cheaper end of the travel experiences, but seeing other places and how other people live is a great pastime in my opinion.  I wouldn't want to forego travel in retirement - I'd just work a bit longer or find some supplemental income. 

To each their own of course. 

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #27 on: December 28, 2013, 12:50:09 PM »
Just chiming in to say that I am impressed by all the travel that Saverocity has been able to do.  The little bit of traveling I have done has been work-related.  I have never been outside of the US/Canada--I look forward to using some of Saverocity's ideas to fund trips for myself to far flung places.

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #28 on: December 28, 2013, 12:56:06 PM »
@Matt/Saverocity - can you give the 1 minute lowdown on how you generate points without spending (I think that's what you alluded to) - presumably it's mostly US-focussed.

Travel is very much a luxury, IMHO. It absolutely is. Shelter, warmth, food - not luxury. In the truest sense. A cell phone, a laptop - they are all luxuries, though less so than travel. It's a sliding scale I guess. And that's just the definition of the word (I like dictionary definitions).


AlexK

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #30 on: December 28, 2013, 01:10:04 PM »
Saverocity, I just want to say you are a perfect fit for this forum and I hope you stay and participate in other threads as well.

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #31 on: December 28, 2013, 01:11:10 PM »
@Matt/Saverocity - can you give the 1 minute lowdown on how you generate points without spending (I think that's what you alluded to) - presumably it's mostly US-focussed.

Travel is very much a luxury, IMHO. It absolutely is. Shelter, warmth, food - not luxury. In the truest sense. A cell phone, a laptop - they are all luxuries, though less so than travel. It's a sliding scale I guess. And that's just the definition of the word (I like dictionary definitions).

For travel rewards I use credit card sign up bonuses.  The hotel in Rome or Tokyo or Maldives for 145k hilton points came from signing up for hilton cobranded cards. The flights the same way.

I have a number of strategies that are all low effort easy profit and I use cash back for these unless I need to squeek out a few more miles towards a big booking.

Eg send $1000 via amazon payments to my wife, netting 2% cash back. 
Another one is focused on a specific card and program and earns more.  All told I 'manufacture' about $15-$20k per month pretty much at zero cash cost earning 2% cash.

There will be times when I swap from 2% cash to a travel related card if the multiplier boosts such as using a 5x card at certain stores.

My manufactured spend goal was $5k in a year (boosted by $75 per month payments from canceling cable) but I'm a bit behind track on that from being lazy.

Saverocity

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #32 on: December 28, 2013, 01:12:09 PM »
Saverocity, I just want to say you are a perfect fit for this forum and I hope you stay and participate in other threads as well.

The wall of shame forum?! Why you.... :)

Albert

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #33 on: December 28, 2013, 01:21:02 PM »
At the first glance the story looked to be a good fit for this section, but after learning more it seems not to be the case. :)


daverobev

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #34 on: December 28, 2013, 05:07:55 PM »
@Matt/Saverocity - can you give the 1 minute lowdown on how you generate points without spending (I think that's what you alluded to) - presumably it's mostly US-focussed.

Travel is very much a luxury, IMHO. It absolutely is. Shelter, warmth, food - not luxury. In the truest sense. A cell phone, a laptop - they are all luxuries, though less so than travel. It's a sliding scale I guess. And that's just the definition of the word (I like dictionary definitions).

For travel rewards I use credit card sign up bonuses.  The hotel in Rome or Tokyo or Maldives for 145k hilton points came from signing up for hilton cobranded cards. The flights the same way.

I have a number of strategies that are all low effort easy profit and I use cash back for these unless I need to squeek out a few more miles towards a big booking.

Eg send $1000 via amazon payments to my wife, netting 2% cash back. 
Another one is focused on a specific card and program and earns more.  All told I 'manufacture' about $15-$20k per month pretty much at zero cash cost earning 2% cash.

There will be times when I swap from 2% cash to a travel related card if the multiplier boosts such as using a 5x card at certain stores.

My manufactured spend goal was $5k in a year (boosted by $75 per month payments from canceling cable) but I'm a bit behind track on that from being lazy.

Ah, yeah.. not available in Canada. The whole Amazon payments thing is... I won't say 'unethical' as it's a loophole, an exploit.. Very odd that they haven't closed it up. It's not 'stealing' exactly but... yeah.

Thanks, though. It's certainly interesting. I have no love for the large companies, so I appreciate 'getting one over' on them. I do kinda feel like it's.. no not stealing, perhaps cheating. Funny how borrowing at 0% for x months and putting it into a savings account at 3% doesn't make me feel like that (well.. it does a bit, heh.. but still!).

RootofGood

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #35 on: December 28, 2013, 06:09:18 PM »
Ah, yeah.. not available in Canada. The whole Amazon payments thing is... I won't say 'unethical' as it's a loophole, an exploit.. Very odd that they haven't closed it up. It's not 'stealing' exactly but... yeah.

Thanks, though. It's certainly interesting. I have no love for the large companies, so I appreciate 'getting one over' on them. I do kinda feel like it's.. no not stealing, perhaps cheating. Funny how borrowing at 0% for x months and putting it into a savings account at 3% doesn't make me feel like that (well.. it does a bit, heh.. but still!).

My partner in crime told me that he can't get points from Chase any more for Amazon payments spending. He said it still counts for minimum spending requirements though.  So YMMV.  It seems to work on my Starwood Amex (working on a pair of $5,000 spending requirements for me and Mrs. RootofGood). 

LazyTravelers

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #36 on: December 29, 2013, 12:39:30 PM »
Have been lurking around for a very long time, but never posted. Hi.

One of the misconceptions about our "hobby" is that we are all "fancy-pants" who can only think about 1st class travel and 5-star hotels. Of course, there are folks like that, but it's over-generalization. If you're a Motel 5 kind of guy, this works for you even better because you can stretch your free travel pretty much indefinitely. Back at FinCon, I was amazed that more PF-oriented people don't use these strategies because it's kinda right down your alley. I mean, you have financial discipline, you pay your CC bills in time, you don't carry a balance. Why not take advantage? Wouldn't it be as "bad-assed" as it gets?

Let me give you just one example and I'm done.

After this year devaluation, the Hilton HHonors program has grown to 10 categories. Now, a night at a hotel in the highest category would cost you 70-95,000 points a night, which is insane. However, they lowered rates for the 1-st category down to 5,000 points a night, and their first category hotels are nothing to sneeze at. If you love road trips, this is a great alternative to camping, especially when it's free.

Now, just one sign up bonus for Amex or Citi Hilton card lands you 50,000 points. That's 10 free hotel stays or even 20 if you go for both cards. Presuming that a regular night at even the cheapest domestic Hilton is around $80-100 a night, you do the math.

Now, double that benefit with the fact that it's extremely easy to get gold status with Hilton (free breakfast, free wifi, free upgrades) and it becomes a very budget-friendly option, doesn't it?

And Hilton is just one hotel chain. There are at least 5 others I can think of off the top of my head where you can get free stays with CC bonuses.  And you don't have to go crazy with these programs either, but if you don't use them to your advantage, I think, you guys are seriously missing out.

Just my $.02 

mm1970

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #37 on: December 29, 2013, 05:54:59 PM »

I think most Mustachians, if they don't travel for work, prefer to not spend the money traveling in the first place - generally because they are trying to save money to retire early.  This necessitates traveling more cheaply.


Are you sure? There was a thread about that some time go and travel spending was the most popular "non-mustachian" activity among the board members. Few if any admitted spending as much as Saverocity, but couple thousand per year was very common.
Well, I seem to read a lot of threads here and there where people want tips on how to travel more cheaply.  So it's not that they don't want to travel, it's that they prefer to do it for less.

Saverocity

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #38 on: December 29, 2013, 07:03:27 PM »
I travel for less. I just chose my destination/trip and pay pennies on the dollar.  My next one takes me to Big Sur, my friends recently booked a comparable trip for about $5000 and my cost is $10, 25k miles (business class one way) and the hotel $739 per night is free. Flying back is also in business class and takes me from SFO-JFK for 50k miles each with a free one way to London (also in Biz) in the fall.

Since my out of pocket is $10 for this, I'm more open to then go on to drop $100 on something appallingly luxurious since I could do so and still be way ahead of the game.

Albert

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #39 on: December 30, 2013, 05:39:33 AM »
You seem to be unusually skilled with all those points, rewards cards etc and live in the right place for it...

My next trip is to Oman (10 days), but I'm afraid my meagre collection of airline points couldn't cover a flight that far so we'll need to be a bit careful in a conventional way. Not that I'm complaining, travel of this sort is a luxury anyway. :)

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #40 on: January 01, 2014, 12:10:57 PM »
I came here thru Saverocity's post but I do find this particular discussion very interesting.  Since I am in Saverocity's camp on spending and earning for travel I see his perspective much clearer.  I think there are ways to keep expenses to a minimum and still travel cheaply.  I want to experience it all (cheap, expensive, ritzy, basic) and I employ techniques that will let me accomplish it.  But I am enjoying reading this conversation.

adam

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #41 on: January 02, 2014, 10:09:35 AM »
I currently use a Marriott Rewards card for all my 'rewards' spending, and it has worked out very well for me with the free nights and whatnot.  After our last airline trip though, I'm seriously considering switching to a 'miles' type card instead.  I just haven't done any research yet.  Living in SC, the two closest hubs are Atlanta and Charlotte, so I get the feeling I need to make a choice between Delta and US Airways.   Any of you travel gurus have a suggestion?

Saverocity

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #42 on: January 02, 2014, 02:57:32 PM »
I'm hardly a guru but here's my advice:

Drop that Marriott card like its a hot potato.
Stay away from Delta, awards are a waste of time.
US is merged with American, soon will be oneworld partner.  Your focus therefore could be American, or if your travel habits are for domestic travel you should aim for Avios from British Airways and use them to fly on American metal (which the US soon will become).

Tell me more of your habits or goals and Id be happy to get into more details.

RootofGood

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #43 on: January 02, 2014, 04:17:53 PM »
Starwood preferred guest Amex is a decent card for American Airlines.  I think you still get a 25% bonus for transferring starwood points to AA.  They have a $65 annual fee, but if you're spending a decent amount of money, it can be worth it.  They have a 25,000 point sign up bonus right now as well if you can find the links (I can PM if you can't find one).  The starwood points used for hotels are very valuable as well.  We recently stayed in a trendy $150/nt Aloft by Westin in Chicago for 3,000 points per night for example (=8 free nights with the CC bonus signup). 

Citi offers a few different American Airlines Aadvantage miles cards (visas, mastercards, and amex's) for personal and business users.  I just signed up for a business card that gives 30,000 miles AA miles after spending $3000 (for example).  Most of these cards have annual fees after the first year, so I probably won't keep it after that unless I have a specific need for AA miles. 

I've personally found American to be the easiest (or British Air Avios pts on American Airlines planes) to get good flights on.  Out of Raleigh NC anyway.  I flew the family round trip to Chicago for 9000 pts each using Avios points.  Nonstop, only $5 in fees per ticket.  British Air has a chase credit card that offers 50,000 points right now (I think). 

If you're open to signing up for a few credit cards per year, it can be an easy way to get thousands of dollars worth of travel at near zero cost. 

Paul der Krake

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #44 on: January 02, 2014, 04:55:04 PM »
To the few experienced travel hackers in the thread,

What would be the best course of action for a very occasional traveller (on average maybe one hotel stay per year) who cares very little about fine dining and dope linens, but wants to be able to pick any US city and be a somewhat central location?

Also, do you have general recommendations for navigating the different hotel classes and how much they spend?

Saverocity

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #45 on: January 02, 2014, 06:43:33 PM »
Depends on stay duration, but from what you've given me I would suggest exploring two cards:

Club Carlson visa- massive hotel value, the give the last night free (even on a two night booking).  Two cards means you can swap rooms midstay and get 2 nights for the price of 4.  Awesome value.

Barclaycard arrival- 2.2% cashback when used on travel- use this for paid hotel stays, and stack it by shopping through an online shopping portal to hotels.com you can check the best current rebate on hotels.com via a site like evreward.com and make sure you sign up for hotels.com 'welcome rewards' loyalty program.  The three step savings will end up around 20% or so better value than just booking on a regular site like Travelocity- but that too an be found on evreward as a partner and can also offer coupons for discount via a site like retailmenot.


adam

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #46 on: January 03, 2014, 08:16:56 AM »
I'm hardly a guru but here's my advice:

Drop that Marriott card like its a hot potato.
Stay away from Delta, awards are a waste of time.
US is merged with American, soon will be oneworld partner.  Your focus therefore could be American, or if your travel habits are for domestic travel you should aim for Avios from British Airways and use them to fly on American metal (which the US soon will become).

Tell me more of your habits or goals and Id be happy to get into more details.

It would be for domestic travel, most often to Boston or Portland (ME).  We generally earn ~2500pts a month on the Marriott card.  Like I said, it has worked out great because for the $65 yearly fee we automatically get 1 night at a cat 1-5 hotel, and it gives me a 10night boost to my status (just dropped from Platinum to Gold).  We used points to stay in downtown Atlanta for two nights earlier this year for the Falcons/Patriots game.

Generally we use the Marriott points or free night stay for something within driving distance for a weekend type trip.  Right now I'm looking at Savannah for Valentine's day for example.  The flights to Boston/Portland would have us staying with family so we wouldn't need to combine flight/hotel.

So its not that I don't use my Marriott points or don't like the card, its just that I figured I should look into these airline miles type rewards and see if that might be even better.   We fly out of Charleston, which has fairly shitty options (and prices) since we're a destination, not a hop.  If I could get two tickets a year for free ($600-$1000), I think it would be worth changing my spending from a hotel points card to an airline points card.

edit: just checked my rewards activity, we stayed 3 nights on points this year (which was 65k pts).  I still have a certificate for a cat1-5 stay available that expires in March.  I'd say 2-3 nights per year for personal fun use is probably average.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2014, 08:24:37 AM by adam »

RootofGood

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #47 on: January 03, 2014, 08:47:51 AM »
To the few experienced travel hackers in the thread,

What would be the best course of action for a very occasional traveller (on average maybe one hotel stay per year) who cares very little about fine dining and dope linens, but wants to be able to pick any US city and be a somewhat central location?

Also, do you have general recommendations for navigating the different hotel classes and how much they spend?

So far I have only used Hilton points and Starwood (Sheraton) points.  In my experience, the points categories for the different hotels are roughly correlated with the hotel's normal room rates.  That means the centrally located hotels in downtown or near a big tourist destination tend to be more expensive in $$ and accordingly are in a higher points category. 

For example, where we stayed in Chicago this summer was out by the airport.  There was a direct train straight to downtown not far from the hotel, but the travel time was long enough that we "commuted" to downtown for the day, did all the sightseeing and dining, then headed back to the hotel around 7-8 pm each day.  There wasn't anything to do near the hotel other than visit one of two different malls (and screw that, by the way).  So we played pool and swam in the pool at the hotel in the evenings.  Our cost was 4000 starwood points/nt (12,000 total) for a room that usually runs $150/nt.  We could have stayed in downtown Chicago for 10,000 starwood pts/nt (30,000 pts total) at a similar hotel (not sure if they had a pool).  I doubt we would have gone to/from the hotel a lot during the days, since we were only in downtown 1.5 days out of the 4 days we were in Chicago.  We chose to conserve the points and stay further out.  That way we can stretch the points as far as possible (we used less than 1/2 the points compared to downtown options).  We had to have a room to accommodate 4 (we brought the kids), but I recall there was a category 3 hotel near downtown that was 7,000 pts/nt.  Although they couldn't give us the room with 2 beds to sleep 4 people using our points. 

Here's the rewards chart for Starwood for example:
https://www.starwoodhotels.com/preferredguest/account/starpoints/redeem/point_comparison.html

You can get 25,000 points fairly easy with the Starwood credit card sign up (double that if you want a business card too).  So that works out to 6 free nights in a Cat 2 hotel, 3 free nights in a Cat 3 hotel.  They have other redemption options that can stretch the points farther, like redeem for 4 nights, get 5th night free.

I don't know much about the Carlson Club rewards program, but it looks promising.  85,000 points for signing up for the card and rooms start at 9,000 pts/nt for a Category 1 hotel.  That means 9 free nights.  And if you can really check in/check out every 2 days for a free night each "stay" then you can get 18 free nights. 

Here's the Cat 1 hotels for Carlson Club for reference:
http://www.clubcarlson.com/category1

Only 9 options in N. America.   There was a decent looking Cat 1 hotel in Cancun, MX.  It's normally $72/nt and if you can get 18 free nights with 1 card sign up bonus, that's a value of $1300!  But checking out the hotel shows why it's "cheap" in points terms.  It's a downtown hotel, not oceanfront.  It might be in a cool neighborhood or serve as a good homebase if you're exploring the Yucatan peninsula a bit more, but you might also have to take a taxi to get to non-touristy areas and local restaurants (no clue, just an unknown). 

I'll have to check out the Carlson card and program a bit more, since it looks like a decent value for the free nights potential (if you can find a place you want to visit with low category hotels). 

Saverocity

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #48 on: January 03, 2014, 09:45:50 AM »
I'm hardly a guru but here's my advice:

Drop that Marriott card like its a hot potato.
Stay away from Delta, awards are a waste of time.
US is merged with American, soon will be oneworld partner.  Your focus therefore could be American, or if your travel habits are for domestic travel you should aim for Avios from British Airways and use them to fly on American metal (which the US soon will become).

Tell me more of your habits or goals and Id be happy to get into more details.

It would be for domestic travel, most often to Boston or Portland (ME).  We generally earn ~2500pts a month on the Marriott card.  Like I said, it has worked out great because for the $65 yearly fee we automatically get 1 night at a cat 1-5 hotel, and it gives me a 10night boost to my status (just dropped from Platinum to Gold).  We used points to stay in downtown Atlanta for two nights earlier this year for the Falcons/Patriots game.

Generally we use the Marriott points or free night stay for something within driving distance for a weekend type trip.  Right now I'm looking at Savannah for Valentine's day for example.  The flights to Boston/Portland would have us staying with family so we wouldn't need to combine flight/hotel.

So its not that I don't use my Marriott points or don't like the card, its just that I figured I should look into these airline miles type rewards and see if that might be even better.   We fly out of Charleston, which has fairly shitty options (and prices) since we're a destination, not a hop.  If I could get two tickets a year for free ($600-$1000), I think it would be worth changing my spending from a hotel points card to an airline points card.

edit: just checked my rewards activity, we stayed 3 nights on points this year (which was 65k pts).  I still have a certificate for a cat1-5 stay available that expires in March.  I'd say 2-3 nights per year for personal fun use is probably average.

There are two things you need to consider when it comes to any new card, they are: are you seeking signup bonus cards, or are you seeking everyday spend cards.

Frankly anyone on here who is in half decent financial shape should be applying for several cards every 91 days or so, capturing lucrative signup bonuses and using that to cover their travel.  There is an inherent risk in new credit cards in the wrong hands, but if you are able to show the discipline that got you here today then you are likely to be able to control the risk.  The phrase App-O-Rama is given to the multiple card applications, it is done in batches like this as it means that they fall off your credit report in the same batches that you apply, so it allows you more cards. 

The risk is that you think of credit cards as actually credit, rather than use them for perk abuse.

For the everyday spender card, the truth is that there is no 'one perfect card' this is because cards offer category spend bonuses, some, like the DiscoverIT and Chase Freedom offer rotating 5% cashback categories (changing each quarter) whereas others, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred offer 2x for Dining and Travel expenses.


Regarding your specific case here is the analysis you need to consider:

Marriot points (like all programs) have earning rates, and burning rates - by manipulating either side of the equation you can control value.  In order to create a apples-to-apples comparison of the value of this card to you, and the opportunity cost of it you need to consider the following:

Earning Multipliers (not good value)
5x at a Marriott (you should be spending zero at a Marriott unless it is a reimbursable business expense) so this has no real value to me.
2x on Airfare - this is an average earning multiplier
1x everywhere else - this is bad.

The problem with the program is that thinking of it as your everyday spend card, you need to spend $50K per year to earn 50,000 points, which in turn are worth a night in a hotel.  The value of the hotel to you sounds like it should be less than $100 per night? 

Therefore you are swapping $50K for $100 in rebate.

If you instead put that onto a card like the Barclaycard Arrival you would get $1100 in travel costs to spend it on, or 11 or more nights at a similar hotel.

If you look at this post, I compare spending $20K per year using better cards and a better mix, it might be useful:

Here is a post I wrote on the best card for low spenders (in my world not yours!) which shows value on 'everyday spenders' if you are interested: http://saverocity.com/travel/best-credit-cards-low-spenders/

Regarding the switch to an airline card - you should but not to earn everyday points, it should be to capture signup bonuses.



adam

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Re: Rewards Travel "Savings"
« Reply #49 on: January 03, 2014, 10:49:04 AM »
Oh I am interested in the signup bonus as well.  I don't know how eager I am to do the 'churning' game where I'm signing up for cards every quarter though.

I am on the low end of the 'excellent' rating for overall credit, a whole bunch of opening and closing of accounts will probably be enough to drop me to 'good'.

edit: Cards I have now are:
Marriott Platinum Visa - 13.24%, rewards you pretty much know, has an annual fee of like $65.

Barclay BlueGreen Mastercard - 16.24%
Earn 2 Encore Dividends for every $1 you spend at Bluegreen
Earn 1 Encore Dividend for every $1 you spend everywhere else
Use your Encore Dividends to pay your maintenance fees
Use your Encore Dividends to pay for bonus time accommodations

This card sucks, I don't use it.  I should probably just cancel it?  Maintenance fee this year was $600, but lets not get into that mistake. (at least its paid off)

Navy Federal Credit Union Platinum Visa - 8.99%, It has some kind of member mall thing I was told I could get cash back on, but I don't use it.

Bank of America Rewards World Mastercard - 5.49%, this was just recently changed over to a 'rewards' card. It is the only one with a balance on it due to the low APR.  I have never earned any points on this card, it just ended up being a balance transfer point years ago and I'm still working on paying it off.  It appears I earn 1 point per dollar.  Lame.  No annual fee though.  I doubt I'd ever get rid of this one due to the APR and its my longest held card (banks changed hands like 6 times though, lol).
« Last Edit: January 03, 2014, 11:28:11 AM by adam »