Sad but true – I happen to know a great many people with credit cards that give them points, yet they never use them. One friend accumulated 580,000 AA Advantage travel points on his Citi card. Since he kept chasing the best deals on Jet Blue, he kept thinking he’d use them for a big trip upgrade. He accumulated them for years, then when invited to acquire a different card he liked more with a lower interest rate, he promptly forgot about his Platinum Citi AA Advantage. It sat in his office desk drawer holding a treasure. During a conversation about my latest, practically free trips (both hotel and flight), he remembered his abandoned card. He called Amex only to find he was 5 days too late to redeem his points. They expired and were worthless. Mind you, this is not an unusual thing. I have other friends who don’t even know they have points, nor what those points mean. It seems like a nuisance to keep track and they leave so much money on the table it boggles my mind.
I decided to educate those of you who believe they earned those points justly and deserve to use them. Some of you may not know which are the best travel and lodging cards. I have been flying all over the US, Canada and overseas, staying in great hotels and mostly paying with my Capital One Venture card, my Chase Sapphire card, Amex Platinum card, Amex Delta frequent flyer platinum and SPG card. All of those earned me a large welcome bonus, some up to 70,000 points. I also have Marriot, Sheraton and Hilton preferred membership cards. They accumulate points with each stay. SPG also covers a great many hotel chains in the world such as Sheraton, Marriot Courtyard, the W Hotels, Renaissance, Westin, The Luxury Collection and select boutique, one-of-a kind hotels. The only important thing to watch is that the card should be in use in, however miniscule amount – never let it lie unused if you have points accumulated. Redeem them first if they carry an annual fee. If they don’t carry a fee, keep them to grow your FICO score. The longer you have a card which you pay off religiously, the higher your credit rating will go. This is another story – with high credit you become eligible for the best deals, the lowest rates on loans and the world is your oyster.
So now, let’s assume you’re headed for a Kosherica cruise which takes off from Barcelona. Many of the above cards allow sharing with the family, one or two even give a free companion ticket should you need to pay for your ride. The hotel can be paid by points if you want to arrive a little early and do some sightseeing. You shaved thousands of dollars and your real fun hasn’t even begun.