Another Year Gone

Now completing our third full year of credit card reward management, the hobby continues to be a lucrative one for us. As always, the tricks to success are as follows:

  1. Always pay your balance in full each month and never carry debt on your cards month to month
  2. Use cards that provide the highest rewards on spending you do already
  3. Take advantage of sign up bonuses and promotions throughout the year

7X Return on Investment

By budgeting $206/month for travel, and using it to pay for the annual fees on our credit cards in 2019, our monthly vacation budget became worth seven-times that: $1,459/month. From an annual standpoint, we redeemed rewards valued at over $17,511 in 2019!

AMEX Membership Rewards (above) are earned by the AMEX Platinum, Gold and Green cards combined. Alaska Air Visa includes mile redemptions earned from flights.

The Winners

My big surprise this year has been the Hilton Aspire card from American Express. Having just added this card a year ago, it topped my list in value accounting for 35% of our 2019 rewards! This doesn’t even consider the added benefits I’ve received from the Diamond Status I carry with this card.

I’m not surprised by the portion of the pie shown for AMEX Membership Rewards. The Platinum and Gold cards make a dynamic duo, and now with the addition of the Green card to that mix, I expect to see this portion of the pie grow since the three cards magnify my everyday spending.

The green slice made up from miles earned with Alaska Air will be noticeably different in 2020 after Alaska dumped me; though not absent. As I’ve explained, the value of the Alaska Air Visa card is the companion fare and we will continue to redeem those strategically.

The Losers

The Hyatt Visas continue to provide good value for us, with each providing a free hotel night each year in exchange for the $75 annual fee. Though they’re not big earners, they continue to keep a spot in our arsenal.

The Uber Visa card has been good for us, but recently announced a drastic change to its reward model that removed all value. Accordingly, that aqua slice of the pie will be absent this time next year.

Admittedly, we reserve our use of the Chase Sapphire Reserve for rental cars or when American Express isn’t accepted. So while it brings us value, it isn’t in the form of big rewards each year.

Finally, the Amazon Visa card simply provides 5% cash back on our Amazon spending. Since we don’t use it anywhere else, it doesn’t take a large slice of our overall reward redemptions.

Where will you go in 2020?

No matter how you plan it, you’re sure to come out ahead when you strategically manage your point and mile redemption. Use sign-up bonuses to skyrocket you to a top-level redemption, and ensure you’re using the correct cards on your daily spending so you never miss out on a point!

Happy New Year!