A Return to Travel

Another year in the books! Thanks to vaccines and enhanced safety protocols by airlines and hotels, we resumed traveling in 2021 and put our points to good use!

As always, our use of credit cards for rewards follow these guiding principles:

  1. Always pay each card’s balance in full each month and never carry debt on any cards month to month
  2. Use cards that provide the highest rewards on spending we already budget for
  3. Take advantage of sign-up bonuses and promotions throughout the year

6X Return on Investment

By budgeting $230/month for travel and lifestyle expenses, and using it to pay for the annual fees on our credit cards in 2021, our monthly budget became worth nearly six-times that: $1300/month. From an annual standpoint, we redeemed rewards valued at over $15,608 in 2021!

The Winners

As has been true in recent years, the AMEX Trio (Gold, Green and Platinum cards) provided the greatest value to us this year; accounting for nearly half of our total rewards in 2021. This is because the trio delivered between 6-10% back on categorical purchases that range from dining and supermarkets to hotels and airfare. By using them strategically on budgeted expenses, it can be easy to rack up AMEX Membership Rewards that can then be transferred to travel partners for flights and hotels.

In addition to the AMEX Trio, the other winners in 2021 were the Hyatt and Marriott hotel cards. Thanks to some incredible deals on point redemptions, we were able to redeem thousands of dollars worth of rewards in free rooms throughout the year! Not only that, but both hotel cards offer “free night” certificates with each annual review allowing us to easily recoup the cost of the membership fee.

As I’ve explained, the value of the Alaska Air Visa card is the companion fare which we continue to redeem strategically. By carrying multiple Alaska Cards (which Bank of America permits), you can earn your desired amount of companion fares in exchange for the $75 fee and therefore significantly reduce the cost of flying with a partner.

The Loser

The Amazon Visa card continues to do its job by providing 5% cash back on our Amazon spending without an annual fee. Since we don’t use it anywhere else, it doesn’t take a large slice of our overall reward redemptions.

Looking Ahead

However you redeem rewards in 2022, I hope that you find new adventures and build lasting memories while doing it! Happy New Year!