Back in 2018 I got serious about using points, miles and loyalty benefits to reduce our travel costs. In order to learn best practices, I read a lot of blogs and articles that have really helped me improve my game.
One of the first and most important things that I learned is that you need to have a plan! When I was earning and burning points without a plan, I wasn’t maximizing their potential. By looking at my upcoming travel needs, it’s easier to know which programs I actually need to earn points with and when the best time is to redeem those points.
That being said, I review my loyalty programs and rewards cards at the beginning of each year to develop a strategy. I keep track of where I start, where I am at and what I am trying to achieve (tier status, a bonus, free night certificates, a certain number of points). I actually write these goals down. It’s easy for something unexpected to come up during the year that changes your trajectory a bit. It could be a tempting new card sign up bonus, a limited time offer to earn a lot of points with a card you weren’t planning to use, or even a change in your travel plans. That’s why it is good to stop and review where you stand midway through the year while you still have time to either make adjustments to reach your original goals or make a plan to obtain any new ones.
I just completed my mid year review which showed that we have met or exceeded points earning goals that we set in January for several of our accounts. Woo Hoo! I also took advantage of a pop up offer and earned an bonus Hilton Free Weekend Night Certificate. We were also able to redeem points for a 5 night stay in Napa, a 4 night stay in Key West, and a 7 night stay in Hawaii (including 2 nights at the Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea in Maui). So far, so good!
During my review, I noted that I have a hotel free night certificate and $60 in airline fee credits that need to be used before the end of the year. We also have some airline Travel Funds that are only good until February. Now I will be keeping those items in mind as I make the rest of our travel arrangements for the year.
After completing my review, I have 2 goals for the remainder of this year. A goal I set at the beginning of the year to achieve our full Hyatt new card sign up bonus and a new goal that I just added to earn Hilton Diamond Status.
Hyatt Sign On Bonus – Part 2
I have wanted a World of Hyatt card for a few years. This year we finally made the move. Their bonus comes in 2 parts.
30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent.
We quickly hit the initial $3,000 spending required to earn 30,000 points for the first half of the new card sign up bonus. Goal 1 achieved! We have already used those 30,000 points toward booking a 5 night stay at the Hyatt Centric in Waikiki this fall. Booking with points in Hawaii saves you a ton of money on taxes and resort fees.
The second half of the sign up bonus can take a while to achieve. You can earn up to an additional 30,000 points if you reach $15,000 in spending over the first 6 months you have the card by earning 2x points on items that would normally earn just 1 point.
We are making steady progress on this goal by using this card to pay for expenses for our daughter’s wedding, summer travel costs, big ticket items and some of our monthly bills. So the goal is to continue doing that for the next few months in hopes of hitting the $15,000 spend requirement and replenishing our Hyatt points bank.
Diamonds ARE a girl’s best friend!
Diamond Status that is. We were very close, so I pushed at the end of 2021 to earn the points needed for my husband to move from Gold to Diamond status with Hilton. We have taken a few trips this year since he earned that status and I quite enjoy the elevated benefits. That is why I have decided to work toward Diamond status for my account during the 2nd half of this year. That way when I travel without him (which is frequently), I still get to enjoy those top tier benefits.
The timing seems perfect. We have already booked fall trips to Texas and Hawaii using Hilton points and Free Weekend Night Certificates. That means he won’t have any more immediate points needs for the rest of this year. Although it would be nice to earn enough points for another Free Weekend Night Certificate this year, his Diamond status will carry over to next year, which means he doesn’t NEED to meet any further points goals.
I will need to earn 60,000 points before the end of the year in order to earn Diamond status for my account, so I have outlined a simple plan of how I plan to achieve that.
- Switching a few monthly bills from his account to mine
- Using my Hilton card and account to book a couple of one night hotel stays that we are planning for later this year
- Moving our grocery spending and dining out to my Hilton card which will earn 6x points per dollar on both of those categories
- Using my Hilton card for all of our holiday spending which will earn at least the base rate of 3x points per dollar
With 6 months left in the year, I think I can do it!
It’s nice that most programs offer some tools that you can use to see where you stand. Half way down on the landing page of the Hilton website, is a status tracker. You can toggle between the Points needed or the Nights needed to reach the next status level. I don’t stay there enough to meet this goal via Nights so I use the Points option. It’s a good source for monitoring your progress.
With the World of Hyatt card, the best way I have found to track our progress toward the $15,000 spend requirment to complete our bonus, is by using the year-to-date spending activity graph found on the Chase credit card website. The spend total is available at the top of the graph and is a good indicator of how much you have spent (If all of your spending isn’t in the same year, you can set a specific date range). You will need to deduct the amount of your annual fee which is included in the total, but does not count toward earning your bonus.
If you don’t want to track you progress manually, you can sign up for a tracking program like Award Wallet. With programs like this you enter in all your data and they track everything from expirations on award stays to where you stand on reaching your bonus goals. Everyone is different and you just have to find a method you are comfortable with and that works the best for you.
Make a plan then work the plan!
Looking ahead at our travel plans and setting some goals has become a key step for us at the beginning of each year now. Reaching our travel goals is so much easier since learning to create a strategy to earn and better maximize our points, miles and perks. Doing a quick mid year goal review has been very important for keeping us on track and identifying where we need to focus for the remainder of the year. These are simple steps but they offer big results.
Dream, PLAN, Save, Adventure!