Episode 22: Pandemic Points and Miles


Thanks for joining me for episode 22 – Pandemic Points and Miles. I discuss possible changes for credit cards, points, and miles during a pandemic.

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Rough transcript:

You’re listening to the Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast. I’m your host, Justin Vacula, here to help you travel the world at next to no cost through credit card points, miles, benefits, and rewards. Make money, save money, and take advantage of great deals!

Visit my website at HurdyGurdyTravelPodcast.com where you can read episode transcripts, complete a free credit card questionnaire to receive tailored recommendations, follow me on social media, view helpful resources, listen to past episodes, and contact me.

Thanks for joining me for episode 22 – Pandemic Points and Miles. I discuss possible changes for credit cards, points, and miles during a pandemic.

First, some personal and podcast updates: I’m recording this intro on April 9th of 2020 now day twenty-four of shelter in place here in the Philadelphia area. As promised, I’m continuing to release more episodes than usual and am livestreaming daily from YouTube at 8PM Eastern Standard Time with supporter of the show Cakeologi. Join us for laughs, helpful tips, and your questions answered live! Visit his YouTube channel at Cakeologi – C-A-K-E-O-L-O-G-I. More information can be found in the show notes.

Onto today’s episode…

Should we alter strategies relating to credit card signups and points and miles earnings? At the moment, most have completely stopped travel plans and future months seem uncertain. Will I be traveling to Vegas as planned in May? It’s doubtful at the moment, but possible. I do, though, expect to travel at least in coming months once the smoke has cleared and it’s much safer to reengage with society. I’d especially like a break from my apartment!

Some, pointing to the current pandemic, have said that they will stop signing up for credit cards and/or shift to a completely cashback strategy with existing cards. Everyone’s financial situation is different, of course, but this seems to me to be quite an overreaction. One can sign up for good credit cards gaining points and miles, especially from welcome offers or signup bonuses, and have the miles and points ready for upcoming travel. Why not bank points and miles instead of just getting 2x, 2%, 1%, or 1x on existing cards? I aim to always work on signup bonuses so that I continue to gain points and miles placing me in a great position to book future trips.

In non-pandemic times, even if I had all of my travel covered for a year, two years, or even more, I’d continue to earn points rather than just sitting on the sidelines missing out on opportunity. I recall many occasions where special opportunities presented themselves – trips I didn’t think I would take, but was able to with relatively short notice…a recent points and miles meetup, a concert with a friend, opportunity in Las Vegas, and more. Those who won’t travel as much, perhaps due to work or home responsibilities, can prioritize cashback mixing in some travel points. Beaux Knows, a guest on podcast episode 19, spoke of how he’s cashed out Amex Membership Rewards and Wells Fargo points for instance.

During a time of shelter-in-place, spending is probably much lower for most especially frequent travelers. As always, before signing up for a new card, reflect on how much you expect to spend in coming months making sure you will reach the minimum spend requirement for a signup bonus. If you won’t be able to spend, for example, $2000 a month as usual, it can be prudent to get a card with a lower spending goal like the American Express Business Green charge card, one I was recently approved for, which requires only $3000 in spending in 90 days for 25,000 Membership Rewards points.

I really like the American Express Business Green card as it doesn’t count against the five credit cards you can have with American Express, has no first year annual fee, is a soft pull since I have other Amex cards, and doesn’t appear on my personal credit report allowing me to get more cards. Visit my website at hurdygurdytravelpodcast.com for a referral link if you sign up for this card.

Barclay’s Jet Blue Business card is also another great card to get at this time and others – only $1000 spend in 90 days for, at this time of recording, 60,000 Jet Blue miles and many other benefits including free checked bags, anniversary miles, in-flight food and drink discounts for a slim annual fee.

The American Express Blue Business Plus is another great card giving 10,000 Membership Rewards for only $3000 in spend if you use my referral link. This card gives 2x points on all spend up to $50,000 per calendar year, has no annual fee, and a 0% intro APR period.

You can find many other cards with a low spend requirement and a solid return from a signup bonus and ongoing spend – these are just a few I have which come to mind. If your spending would be really low and/or you already have these cards, it can be prudent to wait for new offers or new cards rather than settling for a card which would only give you a slim return. In episode 17, I discussed the upcoming US Bank Altitude Go and Connect cards, and this Connect card, coming in future weeks, can be a great addition to your wallet especially if you’re over Chase’s 5/24 rule with no looking back. I wouldn’t suggest just getting a card – pandemic or not — with a low spending requirement for a small signup bonus. Think big and use your inquiries and opened accounts well.

I may be less likely to sign up for cards with high spend requirements which give certain travel perks like lounge access, travel credits, and flight credits – those can wait for a few months, but other cards will surely be available in coming months and maybe even with better offers. However, one can still hit high spend requirements even when mostly spending time at home.

To boost spend, employ some creative methods. One of the easiest methods, and something I frequently do, is use Plastiq, P-L-A-S-T-I-Q, to make rent, student loan, and utility payments. Rather than mailing a paper check, you can have Plastiq send a check for you after you have them charge your credit card. Plastiq usually charges a 2.5% fee, but it’s well worth it when working on a signup bonus or getting more than 2.5% for the transaction. New members can use my Plastiq referral link to reduce the effective fee to 1.25% for the first $1000 in spending.

I discussed the website Swagbucks in episode 18 of this podcast – another easy way to generate credit card spend and even profit through certain deals. Use earned Swagbucks, their special virtual currency, to get discounted gift cards allowing you to save at common retailers like Amazon and Kohl’s. Buying discounted gift cards directly from retailers is also a smart move especially if you’re spending with them anyway, would shift your preferences to save money, or can resell to at least break even and get credit card rewards. I’ve seen many deals for Jiffy Lube, Uber, Uber Eats, Panera, Lowe’s, and Home Depot in recent days – all online purchases, too!

I hear people say they are unable to reach spending goals or don’t spend much. Personally, I find myself to be quite frugal, and don’t have a problem reaching spend goals ranging from $5000 to $10,000 dollars. With some extra effort and non-pandemic times, I can reach $20,000 or more of spending in three months using some creative methods. Effort, research, and a slight amount of risk will make you a winner especially if you can float some funds.

What about people just starting with credit or rebuilding credit? I detailed strategies for starting and rebuilding in episode 16 of this podcast. I see very little changes in this case since it’s mostly a waiting game following getting starter cards.

We can find further opportunity in this pandemic. Recent news from Doctor of Credit dot com suggests that, if you ask, Chase will allow three additional months to reach minimum spend requirements. American Express automatically has added an additional three months. Perhaps card issuers will be more willing to waive second year or later annual fees after you mention that you weren’t able to use benefits as you expected. CLEAR, a service I use to speed through airport security lines, is also offering membership extensions – I messaged their customer service and they put my membership on pause also adding additional months. Maybe your auto insurance provider will also offer refunds or lower rates, so you won’t have to spend more during this time, but of course don’t call your internet provider asking for a discount.

Shelter-in-place can also give us time to audit our current situation, prepare for coming months, catch up on organization, and even cancel older accounts or subscriptions which aren’t doing much for us at the moment. Think about whether it makes sense to pay upcoming annual fees, plan your upcoming applications, and utilize tools like AwardWallet and TravelFreely to help keep track of your points balances, loyalty programs, and cards. Engage in some easy wins from home like signing up for investment apps like WeBull to get two free stocks – see my referral link on my website. Cease procrastination as this is a great time to catch up on anything finance-related or not.

Thanks for listening and stay tuned for more content!

Visit my website at HurdyGurdyTravelPodcast.com where you can read episode transcripts, complete a free credit card questionnaire to receive tailored recommendations, view helpful resources, listen to past episodes, and contact me.

Support my work through Patreon, PayPal, the Cash App, and referral links by visiting the donate tab on my website. Subscribe on YouTube at Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast; like my Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast Facebook page; follow HGtravelpodcast on Twitter; and follow Justin Vacula on Instagram.

Schedule a free 15-minute consultation with full-time business coach and YouTuber Cakeologi who can help you formally establish your business, build business credit, and get premium business credit cards. When you select from various paid services after the free consultation, I will receive credit for referring you. Listen to Cakeologi on episode twelve of my podcast.

Visit my other podcast at stoicsolutionspodcast.com where you can find practical wisdom for everyday life inspired by the ancient philosophers of Greece and Rome.

Thanks to generous patrons and fans of this podcast who help support my work. Have a great day.

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