When it comes to earning miles/points there are essentially 2 main ways to do so -- signing up for credit cards and/or through everyday spend. I've already covered extensively why leveraging your credit through the signing up of credit cards is so valuable (big amount of points in a short amount of time!), while I haven't touched much on how to maximize your earning potential with everyday spend.
One of the things that I do during my consultations, is really hammer home the idea of "conscious spending" -- What credit card am I using and why am I using it? -- to maximize miles/points earning potential. I still cringe every time I hear someone say that they use cash or debit for all of their purchases. My face doesn't show it, but inside I am yelling, "Don't you know how many miles/points you are missing out on?!?!" But obviously, not everyone shares the same affinity as I do when it comes to maximization and getting more for less!
While for the most part, how we earn through our spend stays the same, month-to-month, the nitty gritty may differ slightly depending on certain bonuses available or points needed for trip planning purposes, etc. So lets dive into our credit card portfolio a bit and let me break down how we spend to maximize our earn...
- Discover IT - Discover's 2nd quarter 5% bonus has been on restaurants and movies, and since this card is still in its first year, that 5% is essentially 10%. So for the months of April through June, we have been using Rachel's Discover IT.
- AMEX Fidelity 2% Cash Back - We used to both have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, so we would use it for 2x/$ as we were trying to build up our UR balances. However, we have since downgraded one of those to a regular Sapphire, changed the other to a Freedom Unlimited, and now have sizable UR accounts, so we prefer the cash back. However, if we were looking to build up our UR stash again, we would again look to our Sapphire card when spending in this category.
- Chase Freedom - Like Discover, the Freedom has quarterly rotating categories. For the 2nd quarter of this year, grocery stores were the 5% cash back category, with a maximum of $1,500 in spend. Having 2 of these cards, this netted us $150 or 15,000 total UR points. As always, we never take the cash back, but transfer these to our Chase Ink Plus cards because we are able to redeem those points for >$0.01/point. Like us, you may not spend $1,000/month in groceries. So to take full advantage, you can either buy gift cards to the actual grocery store where you shop, or even better, gift cards to other stores and restaurants such as Whole Foods, Amazon, Best Buys, Red Lobster, Nike, etc., which are often carried at grocery stores, to save for use at a later time! Chase has also made a special announcement that wholesale clubs (Sam's Club and Costco) are not only going to be eligible for the 5% bonus during the 3rd quarter, but the 4th quarter of this year as well! Since Costco now accepts Visa, we will be maximizing this by purchasing Costco Cash Cards (their gift cards) online for future Costco purchases!
- Chase Ink Plus - I often go to Staples to purchase Whole Foods gift cards for the 5x the points at office supply stores with this card.
- AMEX Hilton Honors - We are currently trying to top off some Hilton points for a part of our Hawaii trip next spring, so right now we are primarily using this card for the 5x/$ spent at grocery stores.
- Amex Fidelity 2% Cash Back - Again, when not trying to hit other bonus spend categories or save for a particular trip, we default back to this card. I'm excited that this card is changing over to a Visa next month, because then we'll be able to start double-dipping with ShopKick, which gives us 2 points/$ spent, and those points can be redeemed for gift cards! If you're interested in learning more and signing up, please use my referral!
- Chase Freedom - The 1st quarter 5% bonus was on gas, but again since we were not in need of UR points, we did not take advantage of this.
- Discover IT - Gas was also the 1st quarter 5% bonus for Discover, and since we still wanted to take advantage of the 2x cash back in the first year of holding the card, we primarily got gas using this card for a total of 10% back. Home improvement stores is the 5% category for the 3rd quarter, so another way to maximize the 3rd quarter is to buy gas gift cards from Lowe's or Home Depot!
- Barclay Arrival+ - There is no rhyme or reason why I do this, but I put all of our utility bills on this card - water, gas, electric. We haven't had to build up this travel credit stash in a while, so I only wanted consist small amounts to keep the card in use. We recently dwindled that travel credit stash, so the use of this card will be increasing.
- Chase Ink Plus - We put our internet and cell phone bills on this card to get 5x the points.
- AMEX Fidelity 2% Cash Back - Pretty much everything else such as tithing, the kid we sponsor through World Vision, our car insurance, etc. goes on this card.
Misc. Non-Bonused Spend
- AMEX Starwood Preferred - We haven't been using this much for non-bonused spend, since we have had a healthy stash of Starpoints. However, we will basically be depleting our balances with our Hawaii trip, so this card may start to seeing more regular use again, especially since it is so valuable both for hotel stays as well as it's many airline transfer partners.
- Chase Ink Plus - I basically make non-bonused spend into bonused spend by buying gift cards from Staples. Also, when there are free points earning opportunities, I take advantage, like here, here, and here.
- AMEX Fidelity 2% Cash Back - Cash is king, especially when we're not needing to accrue points for a trip, 'nuff said.
Obviously the whole point of this blog and what I do is so that we don't have to pay for any of our travel, but travel expenses do crop up. Other travelers or travel bloggers who actually pay for their travels will probably be using cards that give them 2-3x the miles/points, but that is not something we do or really want to do. :)
- Barclay Arrival+ - As I've written numerous times in my trip reports, this is the card that we use to take care of miscellaneous travel expenses in which the ability to apply travel credits towards is available.
Other things to be mindful of
- Cash Back Shopping Portals - You can further double-dip with online shopping portals! These can come in the form of either cash back OR airline specific portals for extra airline specific miles. Whenever I do any online shopping, I first check www.cashbackmonitor.com to see if I can get any more cash back or miles on top of what I may be already earning through a credit card.
- Special Promotions - I recently received a special mailer promotion for my AAdvantage Aviator card, where if I were to spend at least $500 in each of the following months - July, August, September - I would get a bonus of 15,000 AA miles. So be on the lookout for promos that come in the mail! Don't throw them out with all the other junk mail!
As we've officially passed the halfway mark of this year, writing this post has been a good time of reflection for me on how we've maximized our points earning potential up to this point. Obviously there are 2 more quarters of potential bonuses and other ways to maximize earning with the set of credit cards that you may carry, so hopefully this insight gets you thinking about how you can maximally build up your travel miles/points stash through the end of the year!
*What credit cards are in your daily/monthly rotation? How will you be maximizing your spend on those cards?