Dipping my Toes into the Points Game

I don’t make a secret about how much I love to travel, what I have to admit is that I haven’t played the credit card rewards points game yet (at least not to its full advantage).  Today, that has changed.  I applied (and was approved) for a Citi HHonors Reserve card (not an affiliate link).  Why did I choose that card?  I really enjoy Hilton properties (mostly the Hilton Gardon Inn, Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites), and that’s my hotel chain of choice.  The reserve card automatically gives me Gold status (free wifi) as long as I hold the card.  I also get two free weekend night certificates (and one each year after) for Dad and I to enjoy a weekend away – or take Daughter Person – I plan on using these first ones to take her to Hershey Park this summer (free hotel!).

The most important items to me are: the EMV (Chip-and-PIN) and the no foreign transaction fees.  Those alone are worth the $95 annual fee.  EMV/Chip and PIN is a technology that is used all over Europe and protects your credit card from a very common type of fraud: Your card never leaves your sight – waiters cannot take it to the back room and swipe it making a copy of the magnetic strip (the strip is active however, and *can* be used – especially since merchants in the states don’t take EMV).   Many ticket machines and gas stations in Europe also take chip and pin only (usually those that are unattended at night).

I’d been getting by by having a Travelex chip and pin card pre-loaded with Euros, but I have to remember to reload it before a trip, and it’s a $4 fee/yr I keep it active.

We’re also thinking about when we want to take her to Disney World, and the spring she’s 5 is the likely target (18 months away) – so we’re going to follow Brad’s advice at RichmondSavers and get there almost free!

Other statuses I already have:

  • United Gold (from actually flying that much – and likely to hit it again this year. This one I actively try to keep for Star Alliance Gold status)
  • Marriott Gold (status match with United).
  • I randomly get to Hilton Gold some years, but most often Silver – I just don’t stay that many nights when I travel.

7 thoughts on “Dipping my Toes into the Points Game

  1. Mrs PoP @ planting our pennies

    If you haven’t already, you might want to drop Brad an email. He was really helpful and actually recommended the chase sapphire for our trip to Australia (at the airport waiting to go home now), due to the no foreign transaction fees as well as the chip and pin. No fee for the first year, and a solid sign up bonus. We’re not hard core churners like many out there, but it has been nice to take times that we know will be high spend and get a little more out of them.

    1. Mom Post author

      I haven’t dropped him an e-mail yet but plan to once our student loans are paid off 🙂 I want to focus on that before really getting into the game – the Hilton Gold status was too good to pass up on this one 🙂 Also: Dad gets really confused when I tell him to use different cards for different things, so all the juggling is going to be on me. Right now, it’s “use the AMEX, unless they don’t take it, then use the Visa”

        1. Mom Post author

          We’re planning on having the loans paid off in August/September, then we’ll be ready to start “playing” in earnest. And as a bonus, we’ve got a rather expensive trip to Europe planned for October (paid for air travel and hotels on miles) – but over a week in Switzerland will run up food bills very quickly!

  2. Well Heeled Blog

    Hi there, I just found your blog (I think through Budgetsaresexy.com), and I’ve spent the past hour reading through all the old posts. I love your writing and look forward to following your retirement-saving journey!

    I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred that Mrs. Pop mentioned. I love it because it allows me to transfer points to United – I don’t fly enough (yet) to get tons of points, but with the Chase Sapphire Ultimate Rewards I’ve been able to book a free flight to London for me and a free flight to Japan for my husband and me.

    1. Mom Post author

      Thank you for stopping by! I have a Chase United Explorer card, but I very rarely use it – I keep it around for credit score/history purposes and for the free checked bag (just have to flash it at the counter). I may have to look into the Sapphire card, but I don’t really want to be opening a lot of credit cards until the rest of the debt is paid off. One or two here and there. I’ve mostly focused on cash back cards until now (since the cash was more useful!).

  3. donebyforty

    We’re fairly new to the travel hacking game and it’s a fun one to play! As Mrs. Pop noted, if you’ve got some upcoming travel Brad is a great resource. Best of luck with the points!


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