Do credit card bonus categories matter? Also: IHG status, Ventana at present and more

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When Greg kicked off this week’s Frequent Miler on the Air by saying that we had a terrific show lined up, I was worried that he was setting the bar too high off the bat. However, we had a great chat this week that involved a bunch of geeking out on quirks of the game: from the new rare Capital One card in my wallet to free Spirit flights and the debate about whether or not category bonuses really matter, this week’s discussion was a lot of fun. Watch or listen and read on for more of this week at Frequent Miler.

FM on the Air Podcast

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This week at Frequent Miler:

In credit cards:

Top tier status via Chase’s IHG transfer bonus

This comment from Jim on Greg’s post sums up my feelings pretty well: “Funny — I have virtually ZERO interest in IHG or their “top-tier” status, and yet I read this entire article with interest. Excellent analysis, as always.“. That says it: even though I have no interest in IHG status, I really enjoyed reading this post. And it almost convinced me that transferring might not be a total waste for someone out there. Almost.

COVID Credit Card Enhancements Ultimate Guide

Is your head spinning in trying to keep up with which new temporary benefits are active, which ones recently expired, and which ones you didn’t even know existed? See the ultimate guide for the latest updates, including the new Amex Marriott bonuses and various targeted Chase bonuses.

Nick’s wallet: Completely revamped in 6 months

This is my OLD wallet. See the post for how I’ve replaced the credit cards in it.

While I’ll occasionally rotate in a card earning a retention or welcome bonus, most of the cards in my wallet day-to-day have been pretty static over the past few years. However, in the past six months, everything has changed. I don’t just mean that in the sense that I haven’t been on an airplane or eaten in a restaurant in nearly six months, but all of the credit cards in my wallet today are different than the ones I was carrying in February of this year. See this post for what has changed and why.

In award travel

Ventana Big Sur during the pandemic — a reader’s experience

Reader Emily shares her recent experience at Ventana Big Sur, one of Greg’s all-time favorite hotels. There’s no doubt in my mind that for some folks, now will feel like an ideal time to travel — fewer crowds, more upgrades, etc. This post will no doubt reassure some folks (Greg included) in their decisions for upcoming travel. On the flip side, the thought of disposable mask stations, social hours designed to not be social, and a world where I’m thinking about whether the golf cart was sanitized after the previous guest sat there just doesn’t yet seem enjoyable enough to draw me out. That is no doubt influenced by the fact that I live in a rural and mountainous area where I’ve been able to do plenty of hiking and outdoor activity within an easy drive, so I’m enjoying that for now. Still, it was encouraging to read that this property seems to be taking the necessary precautions, which should be a given considering the price point but is nonetheless a plus.

The Best Points-bookable Hotels in the World

The hotel in this list that calls my name the loudest is Tambo del Inka in Peru. My trip to Machu Picchu years ago was put together very last-minute (I was living in Quito and there was a crazy fare sale). I ended up needing to take a taxi from Cuzco to a town called Ollantaytambo to catch the train to Aguas Calientes. More than a decade has passed since that trip and I haven’t forgotten the name Ollantaytambo because the town intrigued me and the drive was beautiful – I’ve always hoped to go back and see it for more than the hour or two I spent there. This Tamo del Inka hotel is just up the road and it looks gorgeous (a far cry from the hostels I stayed at back then!). Which of these points-bookable gems is on your list?

Turkish Miles & Smiles Complete Guide

Right now is surely an unideal time to consider booking speculative travel and it is probably even less ideal through a program with quirks like Turkish Miles & Smiles. That said, in an effort to put together long-term resources, I wanted to put together everything we know about those quirks and variables in a single resource. According to reader comments, Turkish bookings (and cancellations!) have been less than smooth during the pandemic. Hopefully, those kinks get ironed out when travel becomes more normal again.

In the Deal of the Week

$200 with SoFi sign up & direct deposit [Better than referral offer]

If you haven’t yet signed up for a SoFi Money account, now is the time. You can get a fast and easy $125 bonus by depositing just a hundred bucks in the account and another $75 by getting a single direct deposit or stimulus deposit of $500 or more. That’s an easy $400 combined for a household playing in 2-player mode. This is not available via referral. Check out the post for full details.


That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Check back soon for this week’s Frequent Miler week in review around the web and this week’s last chance deals.

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Samuel

Guys –
Loved this week’s show, as usual. I do have a question about your response to the reader question (from Al). When you pivoted away from Citi to consider other currencies, I expected you to mention American, but you didn’t. Was that an oversight, or do you think the Hilton and Marriott currencies you mentioned are a better value right now? (Living near Charlotte, maybe I overvalue American miles.)
Thanks.
-Samuel

Samuel

Thanks – makes sense. (As usual.)
-Samuel

Kitz

You guys did address it my “category spend” question on your podcast, but…

First off, Nick: did you think I was serious about not wanting to maximize points in order to watch more TV? I was poking fun at a person I was responding to.

Next, I think you mentioned that you keep good spreadsheets of your spend. Well, it should have been a piece of cake for you to bring up *actual data* about your spend in groceries, gas and restaurants, to show us how many extra points you are gaining by juggling multiple cards in your wallet. You speculate that you could earn an incremental 10-20K points from spend on groceries in a year and that this is worth a RT ticket (over cash back). Hmmm. You have the (spreadsheet) data so…is it true?

And, finally, the contradictions. On one had, you both love maximizing your grocery spend points, but on the other hand you already “earn enough points to meet your needs from MS that you don’t really need any more from SUBs.” (Im paraphrasing). And yet card shuffling is worth it?

You also go on to say that lots of cards are worth it for your wallet but, for P2, 1 or 2 cards is plenty. What’s good for P1 is not worth doing for P2? <–This.
Yeah, I think a lot of what we do doesn’t make good use of time and we know it deep down, otherwise we would have P2 do all the (crazy) things we do. We tell ourselves that this is fun and we get a kick out of maximizing but it often isn’t worth the headaches.

Mostly enjoyed the discussion. Even the DJ story. (Joke, Nick)

Greg The Frequent Miler

Think of it like a game. I want to have a winning hand in my wallet. It doesn’t have to be rational to be worth doing.

Kitz

Thank you. I completely agree that “card shuffling” is done more for fun, as an advanced part of this little maximizing game that we play. It’s not really rational, as you say, Greg.

And THAT’s the point I was trying to make in my original post/rant/(and trying-to-be-helpful feedback): it really doesn’t matter much in this game.

But when Nick wrote about it and implies it somehow DOES matter, I just want to call you out on that. I believe you should be candid in all posts and explain–especially to the newbies–that some things we do matter more than others.

ffI

First
BofA card with premium rewards 2.625% vs Citi Double Cash or Fidelity fee free
95$ fee vs zero
9500c/0.625c = minimum 15k spend a year to break even
Most people – it means the first 1k a month is lost to the fee
Not everyone does MS on an industrial scale
Don’t forget the cost of the 100k sitting around (although with Greg’s help I just moved an IRA there)
Lastly
Citi has an offer to get 2.5c cash back for a year if you open a checking account (with 1500$ balance for no fee)

Second
The great “fee free” staples gift cards offer that is advertised everywhere
When I use my Chase Ink instead of BofA I lose $26.25 in cash back at the time I buy the gift cards = 5000 Chase points – usual value 1c each = 50$ – I am up 23.75$
Now I have 5 200$ gift cards – I have to use them up – Most places I have to use it also accept credit cards
A
I can use them for a 2-3$ fee at tax payments – but paying hundreds of tax payments of 200$ each is enough to get the IRS attention, I suspect
5x 3$ fee is 15$ lost – net value total 9$ ahead after a lot of work
B
I can use them to pay utilities bill – my utility charges 1.95 for each one 5x 1.95 = 9.75 lost = so real benefit is 23.75-9.75 = 14$ gain total
However, I could have used my credit card to pay the water bill – for 1000$ I would have 26.25c cash back
C
I can use the gift cards for gas and groceries – in which case I lose the 5-10x I am getting from the other credit cards

My point is that there is an opportunity cost to both getting the gift cards AND to using them later as you can not just put the cards in your bank account with no effort
So real acquisition cost of the gift cards is about 1c each – to get value you need a Reserve card – that has another fee on top of that to maximize value
Otherwise it is a lot of effort to get 10$ value for every 5 gift cards or just about 2$ a card

For most people without a Reserve who cash out Chase points – you only get 1c value after spending 1c – a total waste of time

Greg The Frequent Miler

Just addressing the first point: The BOA Premium Rewards card does have a $95 annual fee but it also reimburses $100 per year in airline fee credits. To me, that makes the card as good as free.

ffI

FM on the Air PodcastCan you put a transcript of the show online?
I like reading your guys but don’t always have an hour to sit around

Greg The Frequent Miler

We don’t have any plans to do so. Sorry!

Anthony

Speaking of cards that don’t really exist, I wanted to cancel my Delta Skymiles Gold Business card, but they had had an option to downgrade to the Delta Skymiles Business card, its blue, no mention of it online at all anywhere. Only a $59 annual fee, my hope is to get an upgrade offer to Platinum or Reserve oneday.

Greg The Frequent Miler

I did exactly the same a few months ago! I didn’t know about that card either until then.

Anthony

An unrelated question, I earned the free night on my Hilton Surpass after spending 15k and just upgraded to the Aspire, will I get another free night?. The call center reps say not until my renewal date which isn’t until May next year but according to a post from Mark from Miles to Memories, upgrading to the Aspire should still qualify for the free night. I tend to believe him more than what a call center rep says.