Reply
New Contributor
Chrysostom
Posts: 58
Registered: ‎04-15-2012
0

What's Your Strategy? (Points Game)

[ Edited ]

I know this isn't Flyertalk, but... In a thread on Discover cards, which was sidetracked, the discussion became almost solely about the markets, and the points-game. So, I'd make a thread: what's your strategy, and what do you use points for? Free hotels? Free flights? Domestic or international? Coach or first-class? Giftcards? Plain cash back? Amazon shopping? A discount off of daily life, or a full-price life with so-called "aspirational redemptions"?

I fall in to the free hotels/free flights category and generally the "aspirational" category, but I've redeemed points for everything from international first-class companion tickets to domestic economy short-hops, and from hotels as nice as a junior suite (which was then upgraded) at the St Regis in Rome (with a private kitchen and a servant/concierge) to stays at Radissons in the United States. Please refrain from listing stuff like the US Mint trick that is egregiously underhanded and/or breaks the T&C, even if you do it, as it will get the thread closed.

Strategy:

0. Sign-up bonuses, such as the recent 50k RRs for getting the Southwest Visa Signature, 50k UR points for the CSP (sometimes), 100k for the British Airways (sometimes with large spend), 30k for the SPG, various 30-50k (generally with large spend) Amex charge card promotions, etc. 

1. 5% Cash Back cards - Discover and Freedom - for whatever the categories are, up to $1500 per quarter. 5% cash back blows 2.14 UR points or 1 SPG point or 1 RR or Avio out of the water. I can use the cash back to buy 2 SPG at normal prices, and between 3 and 7 airline miles, depending on the carrier, again at normal prices - more if they have a discount-miles promotion going on. When the Discover is used for 5% categories, each Cashback Bonus penny is worth two pence when redeemed for certain GCs, so $25 Cashback Bonus buys a $50 Amazon GC, giving an actual 10% rate of return.
        1.1 4.1% Cash Back card - the Citi Forward - for Amazon and some restaurants. I buy almost everything on Amazon, so 4.1% off of Amazon is the equivalent, again, of more than any of the above standard earn ratios.
        1.2 3% cash back card - the Blue Cash Everyday - for groceries. If it wasn't capped and was a BCP, this would make more sense, but, as of now, it's the least optimized part of my strategy, as 3% cash back is worth barely more, if at all, than 2.14 UR points or 1 SPG point.

3. Chase Sapphire Preferred for most travel expenses and almost all overseas expenses, which has been substituted for the SW RR card because I cancelled my CSP before the AF kicked in, and haven't seen a good sign-up bonus again. The Amex PRG is a good substitute for this if you spend over $30k in airfare per year.
                      EDIT: I now use the Amex Premier Rewards Gold for travel (and gas and groceries to meet the minimum spend), as 3 MR > 1 RR. When the AF comes due again, if I don't get a 17.5k retention offer (offsetting the AF), it's getting canceled again, and if Chase still doesn't want to give me a CSP, opened again in 90 days If.Chase will give me the CSP (I'm thinking they won't right now because I have 5 new accounts in the past two months or so, two of which were closed...LOL), I'll probably alternate each year between the CSP (after dividend) and the PRG (after bonus for $30k spend), avoiding the AFs and reaping maximum rewards.
         3.1 Chase Amazon Rewards for some Amazon, gas, and restaurants, for the 2-3 UR points/dollar, if I'm working up towards a redemption. I have never found a way to buy UR points, so, they actually have to be earned. Miles and points in every loyalty program can be purchased.

4. Amex SPG for everything else, as it gives an effective 2.5% rate of return on everything, as 1 SPG point = ~2.5c in value when used for good redemptions.

This keeps all of my earn spread across a minimum of programs: UR, SPG, and pure cash back, which can be used to buy points in any other program. Airline card sign-up bonuses give me the miles necessary, as, to a lesser extent, does the SPG top-off a given redemption, as, for daily spend, airline cards can not compare to the PRG (for massive spenders) or the CSP (for everyone else), either in relative or absolute return, or in flexibility.

Now, the best way I could optimize what I have left, is to get a Chase Ink Bold or Plus business card, and buy GCs at the office supply store or through the UR mall to get 5x or more UR points per dollar, but my business credit report from Equifax (the one that Chase pulls, not DnB, surprisingly), is messed up, with charge-off accounts from some random business showing up on my own credit report. Once that's rectified, that card will replace anything earning less than 6.25% (the actual rate of return) that's used on purchases that can otherwise be purchased with a GC and minimum hassle (i.e. not cabs, not airlines, not restaurants, unless one wants to eat only at places one has GCs for), such as groceries, rent, actual office supplies, utilities, and Amazon.


Goal: 760 by End of Year
Current Score: 714 TU (2-3/12); 681 EQ (2-3/12); 714 EX (AmEx Pull: 2-7/12); 777 VantageScore (2-3/12)
AmEx BCE ($4k) - AmEx SPG ($7.5k) - Amex PRG (NPSL) - Citi Forward ($7.6k) - Discover IT ($3k) - BankAmericard Cash Rewards ($5k)
Chase Freedom ($1k) - Chase Amazon ($3k) - PayPal Extras ($6k) - Cap One Cash ($0.5k) - Amazon Store ($2.5k)

Application-Free Since the 14th of the Second May of 2012.
New Contributor
Chrysostom
Posts: 58
Registered: ‎04-15-2012
0

Re: What's Your Strategy? (Points Game)

After reading my own sub-par strategy, I decided to get the PRG again (it's been well over 90 days), even though they're only offering 50k points (public offer: 25k). Instant approval (it is an Amex charge card, after all, which are easy to get). Much better to put airfare on than anything else since I don't have a CSP any more (2.14 UR more or less equals 3 MR in terms of value, and in terms of flexibility is superior). I re-applied for the CSP (it's been almost 150 days since I cancelled) under the impression that the 40k UR offer isn't going to go up anytime soon, and may drop back down to the standard 20k, but I got the dreaded "pending approval" message.


Goal: 760 by End of Year
Current Score: 714 TU (2-3/12); 681 EQ (2-3/12); 714 EX (AmEx Pull: 2-7/12); 777 VantageScore (2-3/12)
AmEx BCE ($4k) - AmEx SPG ($7.5k) - Amex PRG (NPSL) - Citi Forward ($7.6k) - Discover IT ($3k) - BankAmericard Cash Rewards ($5k)
Chase Freedom ($1k) - Chase Amazon ($3k) - PayPal Extras ($6k) - Cap One Cash ($0.5k) - Amazon Store ($2.5k)

Application-Free Since the 14th of the Second May of 2012.
Frequent Contributor
scientifics
Posts: 411
Registered: ‎05-01-2010
0

Re: What's Your Strategy? (Points Game)


Chrysostom wrote:

1. 5% Cash Back cards - Discover and Freedom - for whatever the categories are, up to $1500 per quarter. 5% cash back blows 2.14 UR points or 1 SPG point or 1 RR or Avio out of the water. I can use the cash back to buy 2 SPG at normal prices, and between 3 and 7 airline miles, depending on the carrier, again at normal prices - more if they have a discount-miles promotion going on. When the Discover is used for 5% categories, each Cashback Bonus penny is worth two pence when redeemed for certain GCs, so $25 Cashback Bonus buys a $50 Amazon GC, giving an actual 10% rate of return.


Where are you located that you have Amazon gift cards available to you from Discover CashBack? I have never seen them in my account.

New Contributor
Chrysostom
Posts: 58
Registered: ‎04-15-2012
0

Re: What's Your Strategy? (Points Game)

Ohio? Discover.com?

Still available as of this post.


Goal: 760 by End of Year
Current Score: 714 TU (2-3/12); 681 EQ (2-3/12); 714 EX (AmEx Pull: 2-7/12); 777 VantageScore (2-3/12)
AmEx BCE ($4k) - AmEx SPG ($7.5k) - Amex PRG (NPSL) - Citi Forward ($7.6k) - Discover IT ($3k) - BankAmericard Cash Rewards ($5k)
Chase Freedom ($1k) - Chase Amazon ($3k) - PayPal Extras ($6k) - Cap One Cash ($0.5k) - Amazon Store ($2.5k)

Application-Free Since the 14th of the Second May of 2012.
Frequent Contributor
jdirilo
Posts: 331
Registered: ‎08-27-2012
0

Re: What's Your Strategy? (Points Game)

Whoa, I feel really dumb after reading that post. ll repeat that I am still new to this credit game, and I don't know the difference between credit cards other than interest rates. I know some have rewards, but I don't know how you can decide which is best because there are so many. Once I qualify for prime cards, I won't know where to start. I don't travel, so that's not something ill look for. I hardly shop online, and never on amazon. Maybe something that gives rewards for eating out...I do that a lot... :smileyhappy:
Frequent Contributor
scientifics
Posts: 411
Registered: ‎05-01-2010
0

Re: What's Your Strategy? (Points Game)


Chrysostom wrote:

Ohio? Discover.com?

Still available as of this post.


Weird! I don't see an Amazon GC in my Cashback...and I never have. Is it under the partner gift cards for you?

Established Contributor
Cdnewmanpac
Posts: 766
Registered: ‎01-16-2012
0

Re: What's Your Strategy? (Points Game)

My strategy is a mixture of points and convenience. I could change it around to maximize point/dollar value, but some of the convenience features are subjectively more valuable to me than cash:

1. I put all uncategorized spend, hotels other than hilton, flights other than united, all restaurants and all misc. travel expenses (taxi, bridge toll) on CSP. We primarily use UR points for flights from Denver to the West Coast on Southwest. Timed right, I get between 2-3cpp. I did use a few of them to top off my mileageplus account for some RT tix to Hawaii. Hard to put a value on those points, since transferring 2500 of them was the difference between a saver award and 37500 points doing nothing.

 

2. I put all United flights and ALL rental cars on the Chase United card. Yes, I could get more points using CSP (2.14 vs 2 for flights or 1 for cars), but the free checked bag (all upcoming trips are with infant, so checked bags are a must) and the priority boarding are worth it to me. Having once been in an accident with a rental car and experienced the huge hassle of trying to get my insurance, deductable and credit card coverage all on the same page, I value the primary rental insurance that comes with the united card way more than the 1.14 additional points I could be getting. 

 

3. All Hilton stays, non-costco gas and groceries goes on Hilton Surpass. I may rethink this strategy in the future based on recent devaluation, but I've earned over 150k in hhonors points since July and that, plus the bonus and my previous points got me two upcoming AXON stays. I still value hhonors at about 0.8cpp, so getting 6pts for gas/groceries is still a decent return. And the points I earn on actual stays are phenomenal. I recently got over 40k in points for one $1200 stay. 

 

4. Costco card is used for costco and especially costco gas. I know I could get more value using an SPG for general costco spend, but since I don't stay at Starwood properties, I can't justify that card on costco use alone. 

 

5. Whenever possible, I make online purchases through UR Mall partners. With a baby at home, drugstore.com's 7points/dollar has been a big source of points.

 

6. I probably underutilize the discover. I maxed it out shopping on Amazon for Xmas, but have used it very little since. Even though the 5% back on restaurants is better per transaction than CSP, UR points are threshold points that only have value in certain quantities. So diluting my restaurant spend limits the utility of the points I do earn. I've chosen to stick with UR points as I believe that, in total, these will allow for redemptions on trips I could not afford otherwise. 

 

7. I will add a Freedom or Bold next year. Maybe both. I'm starting to do enough consulting work to justify a separate business card and getting 5 UR points/dollar on expanded/rotating categories would help. But I've added a ton of credit in the past year and need to chill out for a bit, especially since I've added 2 chase cards in the last 3 months. 

 

Again, I know I could be more efficient/focused, but this is what I do and it earns more than 1% while giving me some convenience features and not requiring a spreadsheet to execute a candy purchase.

In wallet: Ink Plus 10k, AMEX TE 25k. In bag: CSP 16k, USAA WMC 15k, Hyatt 13k, United MPE 12k, AMEX HHonors 3k. In SD: Cap 1 QS 5k, Discover IT 7k. FICO 08 says my EQ is now 844, was 510 in 2010.
New Contributor
Omri
Posts: 86
Registered: ‎10-29-2012
0

Re: What's Your Strategy? (Points Game)

[ Edited ]

Lately I've been spending to meet signup bonuses (for hotel cards for a trip to Europe with my wife in September), but with a mortgage not so far off in the future, this is my last round of new cards. Once my signup bonuses are met, here's the strategy:


1. 5X UR points from Freedom trump all. If I can get UR points, I do. This includes buying gas gift cards at gas station since we don't spend $1500/quarter on gas. This way, we max out the category bonus and can live off of GCs for gas during Q2.


2. 6% BCP on groceries. I generally dislike annual fees, but we spend at least $350/month on groceries with just the two of us (we cook a lot and don't eat out much - cheaper and healthier). Let's say $350/mo on groceries, so $4,200 spent a year. That's $252. Minus the $75 annual fee means we ended up with $177. If you divide that by $4,200, it means our actual rate of return was 4.2% back on groceries after taking the annual fee into account. Especially with no grocery quarters on Freedom or Discover, and with the Hilton devaluation, that's the best value there is on groceries.


The closer you get to $6,000 spent, the less that $75 AF cuts into your overall % return, so we can buy restaurant GCs (for the few times we do eat out) and other GCs at Kroger, get 4x fuel points, and get closer to the $6,000 threshhold that way. Assuming I fill up my 15 gallon gas tank at 3/4 empty, that's about 12 gallons. 100 fuel points discounts the price of fuel $0.10/gal for a single fill-up. Since it limits your gas station choices, it might not actually save you $0.10, since you might need to go to a slightly more expensive place (Shell or Kroger) to be able to use your fuel points, but I'd say it saves 8 cents/gal very conservatively. So 100 fuel points save sme 12 gal * $0.08/gal = about a dollar a gallon. Therefore a fuel point is worth about a penny. 4x fuel points means 4% back on top of the 6% back I'm getting for using my BCP on it. That's a deal.


3. 5% Discover CB. I am just now looking at dabbling into buying discounted GCs with Discover, thanks to this thread (didn't know you could until now!). I check out the ShopDiscover portal whenever I do any online shopping (It's almost always way better than UR, but if it fits, I would obviously use UR over Discover because UR points > Cash Back). I got something like 20% off a washing machine I bought just because I went through ShopDiscover to Home Depot to buy it around Christmas and used my Discover card.


4. Obviously Hotel cards for staying at hotels if I'm not staying for free, CSP for other travel


5. If no restaurant bonuses this quarter or I don't have a gift card for it, CSP.


6. Usually after this, I default to Freedom. 1.1X UR Points since I have Chase Checking, and until they get rid of it, I also get 10 pts/transaction. Since UR points are king, I prefer this to, say, the 1.5% back I would get with Cap1 Cash Rewards, and I don't have a 2% back card.


Note: I don't have an Ink Bold or Ink Plus because I don't quite feel comfortable getting a business card and putting personal spend on it. I feel like it would be dishonest and might lead to trouble down the road.


Edit: Apparently the forums hate me and don't put spacing in my posts like I typed it, so had to do it in HTML.


Recent FICO scores: TU - 755 (mortgage lender pull)
Senior Contributor
Open123
Posts: 4,194
Registered: ‎02-23-2011
0

Re: What's Your Strategy? (Points Game)

Some very well thought out plans here!

New Contributor
Chrysostom
Posts: 58
Registered: ‎04-15-2012
0

Re: What's Your Strategy? (Points Game)


jdirilo wrote:
Whoa, I feel really dumb after reading that post. ll repeat that I am still new to this credit game, and I don't know the difference between credit cards other than interest rates. I know some have rewards, but I don't know how you can decide which is best because there are so many. Once I qualify for prime cards, I won't know where to start. I don't travel, so that's not something ill look for. I hardly shop online, and never on amazon. Maybe something that gives rewards for eating out...I do that a lot... :smileyhappy:

Don't feel bad. I'm an obsessive-compulsive (currently) and a day trader (in the past).


Goal: 760 by End of Year
Current Score: 714 TU (2-3/12); 681 EQ (2-3/12); 714 EX (AmEx Pull: 2-7/12); 777 VantageScore (2-3/12)
AmEx BCE ($4k) - AmEx SPG ($7.5k) - Amex PRG (NPSL) - Citi Forward ($7.6k) - Discover IT ($3k) - BankAmericard Cash Rewards ($5k)
Chase Freedom ($1k) - Chase Amazon ($3k) - PayPal Extras ($6k) - Cap One Cash ($0.5k) - Amazon Store ($2.5k)

Application-Free Since the 14th of the Second May of 2012.

myFICO is the consumer division of FICO. Since its introduction 20 years ago, the FICO® Score has become a global standard for measuring credit risk in the banking, mortgage, credit card, auto and retail industries. 90 of the top 100 largest U.S. financial institutions use the FICO Score to make consumer credit decisions.

>> About myFICO
FICO Score - The Score that matters
Click to Verify - This site chose VeriSign SSL for secure e-commerce and confidential communications.
Fair Isaac Corporation is a BBB Accredited Financial Service in San Rafael, CA
FOLLOW US Social Media Facebook Twitter Pinterest Google+
}