A bundle of points with our bundle of joy: Nearly 200K points earned in the first month of life


Regular readers may have noticed my absence from the blog this past month (and my sudden onslaught of posts in the past 24 hours as I returned from paternity leave). As Greg noted a few weeks ago, I hadn’t disappeared forever but rather the newest member of the ‘miler family joined us and I’ve been enjoying my paternity leave immensely. Baby Rey The Second (no, that’s not really his name) has expanded our capacity to love by an order of magnitude. Thankfully (from a professional standpoint), he also expanded our points balances: in the first month of life, he’s made us a nice chunk between college savings, paying the hospital bill, and his first credit card. Here’s how.

College savings

Deciding on a college savings vehicle

There are a multitude of ways to save for college. The option on which we settled was a 529 plan. There are some drawbacks here (most importantly that if our son doesn’t decide to pursue higher education, we may end up on the hook for a penalty for non-qualified withdrawals). Still, we settled on a 529 plan (and specifically, the New York 529 plan) because (in descending order of importance):

  1. New York’s 529 plan uses the same Vanguard funds in which we would otherwise invest if we saved some other way. You can customize the investments in the New York 529 plan pretty nicely and get broad index funds with low expense ratios (like Vanguard’s Total Stock Market & Total International Market funds, Total Bond Market, etc). These are the same types of things I would invest in whether or not the money were in a 529 plan. Note that not all state plans are created equally: some states offer much narrower and/or more expensive options. You can choose to invest in any state’s plan. However, as noted below, there may be an advantage to choosing your home state’s plan.
  2. By using the 529, we won’t owe tax on growth or withdrawals as long as they are used for educational expenses. With 18 years to grow, hopefully that’s a nice win.
  3. Because we are New York State residents and we chose the New York State plan, we can additionally get a tax deduction on state taxes. By investing in the New York plan as New York residents, we can deduct up to $10K in contributions in a calendar year as a married couple filing jointly. This will likely save us about $649 in taxes this year.
  4. We can easily fund our 529 with a credit card and stack rewards.

Earning rewards with a 529 college savings plan

Greg has written extensively about Gift of College Gift Cards and how they can be used to fund college savings. See the post Miles for College for a full rundown. The short story is that you can buy Gift of College Gift Cards at select stores and use those gift cards to fund a 529 plan. The purpose of buying gift cards rather than funding the 529 directly is to earn credit card rewards. While the cards carry an activation fee, it is possible to earn rewards that beat the fee in some instances. Again, if this concept is new for you, I recommend reading Miles for College for more detail.

Cumberland Farms (a regional gas station found in New York, New England, and parts of Florida) sells Gift of College Gift Cards. A $500 card has a $5.95 purchase charge (though note that in Vermont I think they only sell lower-denomination cards). This means that even using a credit card that earns 2% cash back would yield rewards that come out ahead of the fee ($10 in rewards – $5.95 in fees = $4.05 in profit on every $500 saved). Credit cards with a gas station bonus category may come out better and we took advantage of a better-than-usual opportunity as outlined below.

I should note that my wife and I were together and preparing for the future for a long time before settling down to get married, so we’ve been saving and planning for years. We therefore had $10,000 set aside to be used for our new son’s college savings and we intended to invest it all this year to get the full benefit of the deduction (and maximize the time the money has to grow for his education).

Thus we bought a total of $10K in Gift of College Gift Cards at Cumberland Farms stores recently. While I can’t say with certainty that the same limits apply in all regions, we found the following with regard to purchasing at Cumberland Farms in the Capital Region of New York State:

  • The register has a hard limit of $2500 in gift cards in a single transaction (We attempted $3500 and though the transaction was approved by the credit card issuer, the terminal returned an error and failed to load two of the cards. This was initially concerning since the transaction had been approved and the pending charge showed the full $3500 plus activation fees, but when the final charge posted a few days later it was for $2500 in gift cards plus activation fees).
  • Once or twice when an employee wasn’t sure if we could buy the amount we brought to the register, a manager always approved and it particularly seemed that they were more comfortable when they realized we were paying with a credit card (perhaps they are finding counterfeit cash to be a bigger issue than credit card fraud?).

Our purchases of $10K in Gift of College gift cards carried $119 in activation fees, so it cost us $119 to fund our 529 plan via credit card. There are no further fees to load the Gift of College cards and deposit the money in your chosen 529 plan. Since there are no load fees on the Vanguard funds that the New York State plan uses, this means that every $500 gift card shows up at full value in the investment account. It can take 10 to 14 days for the funds to show up in the destination 529 (and for that reason, I first loaded a single $500 card and waited to be sure that it posted in the 529 plan to make sure everything was connected properly before depositing the rest). In my case, it actually took less than a week for the first $500 card to show up in the 529 account. For more details on the mechanics of using Gift of College to fund your 529, see Miles for College.

Both Chase and Amex Marriott cards have recently carried a temporary bonus on gas station spend for those who opted in (See our COVID Credit Card Enhancements Ultimate Guide for full details). Chase offered 10x on up to $3500 in purchases per Marriott card through September 30th. Amex is offering 10x on up to $7500 in purchases per card through October 31st (for those who opted in to the Amex Offer). Since Amex has been clawback happy in recent months, I only wanted to use Chase cards to buy Gift of College cards. Luckily, my wife and I have 3 Chase Marriott cards between us, which means that we had $10.5K in bandwidth at 10x (and we therefore saved Amex Marriott cards for actual gas station and restaurant spend).

At 10x, spending $10,119 (with activation fees) yielded us a little over 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points total. Note that it wasn’t exactly 10x on the full $10,119 because we overshot the $3500 spending cap on each of the first two credit cards because of the gift card activation fees. Buying $3500 in Gift of College cards comes with $41.65 in activation fees and we didn’t attempt to split tender to thread the needle and avoid going over the $3500 10x cap — so we spent $3,541.65 on each of the first two credit cards and then $3,035.70 on the third card. That means we technically earned about 100,400 Marriott Bonvoy points in total. We’ll call it 100K for easy math.

Somewhat unfortunately, points are split between my wife’s account and mine, but Marriott allows the transfer of up to 100K to another person’s account per calendar year, so we can easily combine them. If at least one of us has Gold status or higher (and in this case we both do), it is free to transfer the points in either direction. See our Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide for more details.

Based on Frequent Miler Reasonable Redemption Values, 100K Marriott points are worth $720. I typically redeem points at 1cpp or better (approx value of $1,000), but since you can sometimes buy Marriott points for less than 1 cent per point, it doesn’t make sense to value them quite that much for our purposes. Suffice it to say that I’ll get significantly more than $119 in value from the rewards earned for buying the gift cards. Here’s how the math works out based on Reasonable Redemption Values:

  • $720 in Marriott points – $119 in activation fees = $601 in “winning” by funding with a credit card.

If we add that $601 with my expected $649 in tax savings this year, we’ll see a total $1250 win thanks to a combination of funding a 529 and doing it via credit card through Gift of College cards. That’s a nice start on coming out ahead thanks to saving early.

Paying the hospital bill to earn more points

If they’re going to charge me $2 per Ibuprofen pill, I’m going to take a bundle of points with this bundle of joy thankyouverymuch.

Having kids is expensive. I don’t mean that in the metaphorical sense: the delivery of a newborn is just downright expensive. This year, we were able to change to an obscenely expensive health insurance plan that, when including the cost of premiums and our responsibility toward the bill, managed to get us a net savings of a couple thousand dollars over what we paid for Baby Rey The First a few years ago. Still, we were on the hook for thousands of dollars.

Big spend like that is a good opportunity to earn a welcome bonus on many new cards, so we knew that we could open a new card to get a tidy sum of points.

However, we wouldn’t have necessarily needed to open a new card to earn a nice haul. As if on queue when the bill generated last week, Office Max / Office Depot came out with a Visa Gift Card deal. That was a nice sight to see because our hospital takes payments online via credit card. During the height of the pandemic in our state, we were stuck with a bunch of gift cards thanks to not leaving home to liquidate them and we had some medical bills to pay, which is when we learned that we could easily use Visa and Mastercard gift cards to pay the hospital online.

We could have ultimately earned 5x Ultimate Rewards points on our hospital bill by using a card that earns 5x on office supply store spend (we have the no-longer-available Ink Plus card, but the Chase Ink Cash card would achieve the same end) to buy Visa Gift Cards and then use those Visa Gift Cards to make partial bill payments with the hospital. It’s a bit of a tedious process in paying $200 at a time, but well worth it for the points. Given that Chase has extended the Pay Yourself Back feature, the points earned at an Office Supply store can be worth 7.5% in cash when you redeem the points for travel or for groceries or at home improvement stores. That’s a pretty big return over thousands of dollars.

Until recently, we just hadn’t thought about paying hospital bills via gift cards. However, as noted above, we stumbled on that during the pandemic. Our hospital has a really confusing system in that bills come in the mail from a third-party billing company and can be paid via mail or over the phone with that biller or online via the hospital’s patient website. However, payments made via the hospital’s patient website don’t necessarily get automatically applied to the intended bill from the third party biller (and the third party biller doesn’t have a website to pay them directly online) – it’s a confusing system that I can only half explain after hours of trying to understand how it works. Coincidentally, my wife accidentally overpaid what we owed on one of our previous bills recently. The hospital asked whether we would like the overage to be applied to other bills (from other visits) or if we would prefer a refund check. Mrs. Reyes happily requested a refund check and said that we’d pay those other bills separately.

Thanks to the way hospitals bill things like the delivery of a newborn, we actually received several separate bills for various parts of our hospital experience. Hopefully we’ll keep better track this time around, but it’s nice to know that if we accidentally overpay the delivery bill by a few dollars, they’ll be happy to send us a refund check.

Knowing that we had a hefty chunk of spend there, we wanted to take advantage of a good credit card offer.

Since we’ve now got Bank of America Platinum Honors thanks to moving retirement savings to Merrill Edge (See: Retirement planning mistakes fixed by credit cards), we wanted to have a Bank of America Cash Rewards card in the long-term (for more on why, see: Bank of America Credit Cards: Awesome if you have $100K lying around). The problem with applying for that card is that the welcome bonus on the Cash Rewards card isn’t particularly lucrative at just $200.

However, Bank of America has in the past allowed product changes from the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card to the Cash Rewards card. It just so happened that until October 1st, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature was offering a 65K welcome bonus. Unfortunately, that offer is no longer available, but until the first of the month the offer was 40K miles after $2K in purchases in the first 3 months and 25K additional miles after $8K in total purchases in the first 6 months. It therefore made sense to apply for the Alaska Visa now with the goal to product change to a Cash Rewards card a year from now when the next annual fee comes due.

Between the cost of the hospital bills and the obscenely expensive insurance premiums for the rest of this year that we’re incurring specifically because of the delivery, we’d hit the $8K spending requirement even if we didn’t make any overpayment on the hospital bill. Between that $8K spend and the 65K welcome bonus, that will be a total of 73K Alaska miles when it all posts. The future value of Alaska miles is somewhat difficult to predict given that we don’t know how their newfound membership in oneworld will affect their award chart (and we know even less about the state of travel for the next year or two), so we don’t know exactly how much those miles will be worth. However, I looked at it this way: we used 50K Alaska miles per passenger last year to fly Cathay Pacific business class from Singapore to Hong Kong to New York — a flight that would ordinarily cost thousands per person. I was happy to replace the miles used for 1.5 passengers on that trip with a single welcome bonus & its associated spend.

Baby’s first credit card

At that point, our little guy wasn’t quite done pulling in points. As a miles-and-points guy, I couldn’t let my new son go without any plastic for long. I’d added my first son as an authorized user on one of my cards shortly after he was born (See: Baby Rey has arrived, but is preparing for departure) and planned the same for Baby Rey The Second.

And then Marriott decided to throw some points at us. My wife received an email last week advertising 10K Marriott points for adding an authorized user to her card.

That made the decision an easy one: Baby Rey’s first credit card is a Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card. While we haven’t yet seen the 10K bonus points, I imagine we will when the statement cuts later this month.

I don’t actually know whether being an AU on this account will do Baby Rey much good down the road (even if we keep the account open for the next 18 years, it’s hard to predict what effect an AU account will have that far in the future). However, I do know that I would have added him to a card for the novelty of it, so I was giddy to get 10K points (worth $72 based on our Reasonable Redemption Values) for doing so.

Adding it all up

Between 100K Marriott points for college savings, 73K miles for the Alaska bonus & spend earned via the medical and insurance bills, and 10K points for adding him as an authorized user on a Marriott account, that’s 183K points and miles earned thanks to Baby Rey in his first month of life. And that’s to say nothing of the 5x we earned buying diapers, wipes, another car seat, and various baby needs like that on Amazon as it was a Chase Freedom bonus category through September 30th. That ain’t a bad start, kid. Keep up the good work.

Bottom line

While I have enjoyed a fantastic month at home with my family, it’s also great to be back at the blog. A new addition to our family has made for an exciting time in our lives and though it means some sleepless nights right now, we know the joy it will bring long-term will only compound. While we’re practicing an abundance of caution at the moment and have no travel plans in our immediate future, we know that we will travel with our kids when we feel right doing so and I’ve written about why. When we do, we’ll certainly put these points to good use. I think I can speak for his mother when I say that after carrying his weight for nine months, it’s good to see him pulling his own weight already so early on! Thanks to leveraging the use of credit cards, we’ve earned a nice haul on the expenses and savings incurred from the beginning — and goodness knows, this is just the start of twnetysomething expensive years to go. Here’s to more joy and more Joy of Free to go with it.

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Raghu Narayanan

Based on yesterday ‘s Ask us Anything. What about buying gift of college gift card with Amex Biz Blue Card (2X everywhere). Since that is regular spend, is there any chance of clawback? and if not how much can we push it (15K per year?)

Greg The Frequent Miler

I think that would be OK, but you just never know.


My wife and I are trying to have our first baby right now, and this is EXACTLY what I needed to read! Congratulations on your sweet new baby! Epic haul on the 100k Marriott points and I love the 529 angle. My parents were unfortunately not very well financially educated beyond paying bills and buying used cars, so things like IRA’s, 529’s, etc. are just out of their scope so I’ve had to learn as I became an adult. What a great idea to save for a child’s 529 and let that money grow! I learned earlier today that you can open a child Roth IRA as well and can contribute the same limits as adults as long as they “make money”. Only takes about a $2k starting investment for 60 years at 10% compounding interest to retire. Pretty cool to think we could set our kids up for retirement like that and then they can set THEIR kids up w/529’s & Kid Roth IRA’s instead of frantically saving for their own retirement. Love it.

[…] there is no doubt that my household as a whole has been getting itchy feet to some extent (just going to Cumberland Farms to get Gift of College Gift Cards was a big outing for us). With the holidays approaching, we’re considering how to safely […]


The best rewards program USA can get is Universal Health Care so hardworking folks are not forced to buy obscenely expensive health insurance and still spend lot of money for having kids. Parents should be paid some allowance to raise kids ( maybe for the first 2 kids)


Congrats Nick! Enjoy these wonderful moments!

[…] A bundle of points with our bundle of joy: Nearly 200K points earned in the first month of life […]


Congrats Nick! He is adorable!


A big hello to Waldorf Astoria Reyes



I like seeing all the various methods add up for a big haul of points and miles. And it was all very coherent considering you’re probably sleep deprived.

Is Baby Rey II’s name Intercontinental? =)


Congratulations and best wishes.


Do kids have to be a certain age to be an AU. My amex gold gave me an error stating my AU needed to be 13


Congratulations! How NYS hospitals apply payments to me seems unethical. I filed a complaint with the NYS AG and would love it if you would as well. No other industry permits payments to go toward a pot versus a specific bill.

The situation will only change when people file complaints.



Mine is like that a Pool or a Fund too and uses BCBS for billing which the fund pays .I usually pay only for 11 months for 12 the last 9 years ..


you have a ssi or ein for your new kid already?…you should just get him to put that bonvoy card back in his diaper where it belongs…get him a few business cards as a poop manufacturer and don’t take him traveling for the first couple of years (please)….all kidding aside, Congratulations to you and your family!!


Does Chase not have a minimum age for AU? Or do they just not validate birthdate? I know with Amex they ask for birthday when adding AU’s and terms specifically state 13 years of age.


Congrats on the healthy baby! And thank you for making a teaching moment out of it haha. It’s really helpful to see how you leveraged a situation like this to accumulate more points and miles.


Great post. I especially enjoyed the photos and captions. Congrats and good to have you back!


Congratulations and great article!

Worth noting that Chase informally requires a year of independent credit history before it will approve you for a credit card, possibly except if you already have a banking relationship there.


Nick, congratulations on the wonderful addition to the family. I want to share a DP on buying GoC cards at Cumberland Farms. I usually buy cards $500 at a time, but I procrastinated with CSR gas station promo and went on Sept 30th to get $1000 in GCs. The person working at the register was a bit hesitant, asked someone for assistance. The person who came to help wasn’t sure either, had to make a couple of phone calls, reference a chart by the register (and asking me if those were 3rd party gift cards), and at the end settled on $1k being the max allowed limit. That was fine by me, but would not have worked for someone looking to buy $2.5k worth of GoC cards. YMMV.


Nick, I am in MA. The area where that CF is located is most certainly not affluent, so I imagine they don’t see a whole lot of people spending $1k+ at a gas station (not that it happens at an affluent areas). The people working at CF mentioned that they had no problems with the transaction, but didn’t want to get themselves into trouble, which I understand. I couldn’t get a good view of the chart they were looking at, so don’t really know if the limit was accurate or they looked at a wrong line. My only point is that one shouldn’t assume that they can show up at CF on the last day of the promo and grab a couple thousand worth of gift cards. The 2.5k limit you had experienced is not posted anywhere (Unlike, say, $2k S&S GC limit), so it’ll be up to the person at the register / manager to decide how large of a transaction they’re comfortable with.

Last edited 2 years ago by Dima

Congrats Nick!


Congrats and welcome back!

Does anyone have recent DP on making a product change with the Alaska Visa?


Kudos on Rey Bae II. Will you be opening hotel and airline accounts in the kids names soon? It seems like there have been some good welcome gifts with certain hospitality companies in the past.


Congrats on Baby Rey II. And THANK YOU for this post! I had no idea that the $500 GOC’s were right over the border (I’m in NNJ). Perfect opportunity to meet min spend on a new Sapphire. My kids are already in college but I’m thinking this would be a good way to pay tuition. Schools charge 2.9% cc fee but using a Citi Double Cash to buy GOCs, transfer to 529 then pay bill I’d actually make out slightly ahead.


Starting before day 1, kids are a “great opportunity” to rack up organic spend :-S and corresponding rewards (although not all medical providers accepted CCs back when my kids arrived). Glad to see you got some points for adding an AU. Other than getting additional Amex offers for AUs (starting at age 13), are there any other ways additional AUs can help rack up rewards before they can get their own accounts at 18? All 6 of us have a BofA card to use the free museums perk, but that is about it.

I continue wondering if I should make a cheap trip to NY or FL (or maybe TX?) just to buy some GoC cards. Here in WI we only get tax deductions up to ~$3300/beneficiary/year, but with my wife also in school I could max out at >$15K. I did a few of them at a Barnes & Noble in Cedar Rapids, IA, a couple years ago, but a) I do not make it thru Cedar Rapids very often; and b) they maxed out at the $200 value. I think locally I can only get $100 cards at Target which is not worth it with the fee.


Thanks for the B&N info. That CR B&N is ~30 miles/40 minutes out of the way on a ~4-hour trip that I make at least quarterly (in non-COVID-19 times) – definitely not lucrative with the ~3% fee on $200 cards unless there was a significantly better-than-usual way to pay for them.

We have a few different airline accounts for the kids, but I had not thought thru the shopping portal accounts. Might be worth doing.


Congratulations and welcome back! Enjoyed this post where you maxed out every expense.


Congratulations!!! I was hoping we’d get to see pictures of the baby. Glad you’re back.

Good work, Baby Rey the Second



Everyone’s quick to buy money orders with prepaid cards, but they have helped me many times with unforeseen expenses like medical bills or utilities that normally would be base points anyway. The only downside is that checking their remaining balance is impossible, with their oft broken websites (I’m looking at you giftcardmall), so you do have the possible issue of overextending unless you keep a detailed list of purchases.

And buying on prepaid cards for something that you may return, or tickets to an event that could get canceled is a bad idea, as I found out thanks to Cov-19. I wish my parents had the foresight to start my savings or credit early like you ‍♂️

Last edited 2 years ago by Matthew

My Grandma of limited means as in 20 grand kids did Saving Bonds @ birth as in Half the down payment (20%)@ 21 on my house . Simple to do none taxable to giver and in the Vault.
Teach them young .


Congratulations Nick! Great to see you maximizing your spend even for baby Rey! He’s going to be a points and miles monster when he grows up with the greatest frequent miler dad!

Sending a big ALOHA to you and your growing family!


congratulations on your baby looking so healthy and so happy. I can’t help but be a little sad though. This concentration on one dollar here and one dollar there is indeed arbitrage but at a scale that is just not bringing you to the heights you need to be attempting.. There’s no way I can make you see that since you’ve built your business and identity around it. Maybe some years down the road you’ll see a glimpse and realize what I’m talking about. Good luck to you.