This is why we don't vacation much

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nutxo

Diamond Member
May 20, 2001
6,728
404
126
Yeh. Our last real vacation was crazy expensive and we didnt even go for anything special. It was all stress. Now we do a week each year at the beach in the offseason. Stuff like this is getting crazy though

"Excluded: 12 % TAX, US$ 28.00 Property service charge per night, US$ 151.00 Cleaning fee per stay"
 

dullard

Elite Member
May 21, 2001
24,715
3,015
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Sounds like you are blaming vacations for your choice to have expensive children.

While I do travel to expensive places (New Zealand*), a lot of the more memorable trips cost not much more than a couple tanks of gas and some dehydrated meals (Rocky Mountains or southern Utah). Or there are places where the flights might be expensive but hotels are $6 a night (Vietnam and Cambodia). Or you can splurge for a luxury hotel for $32 including full breakfast. Just a example from the first hotel I clicked on: https://www.hotels.com/ho624499/g-mekong-hotel-phnom-penh-cambodia/?chkin=2023-09-01&chkout=2023-09-03&x_pwa=1&rfrr=HSR&pwa_ts=1693229098267&referrerUrl=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuaG90ZWxzLmNvbS9Ib3RlbC1TZWFyY2g=&useRewards=false&rm1=a2&regionId=2837&destination=Phnom+Penh,+Cambodia&destType=MARKET&neighborhoodId=553248635976384950&latLong=11.556684,104.933081&sort=RECOMMENDED&top_dp=32&top_cur=USD&userIntent=&selectedRoomType=201666522&selectedRatePlan=386961863&expediaPropertyId=16073600&searchId=b8d2cd08-eaa6-46ce-8e58-a7f98c776a64 And meals are far cheaper than the hotels there.



* As a helpful way to defray some costs, a layover in Fiji will cut the flight price to New Zealand almost in half. No one in my group was unhappy to be forced into a couple days in Fiji.
 
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Muse

Lifer
Jul 11, 2001
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I have tried in the past and I am just not good at understanding all of it. I think there was 1 (Chase Sapphire?) I was seriously considering but it didn't seem to add up as well as you put it - not doubting you, but I just don't understand it completely. I feel like there needs to be a for-dummies YT video on this topic.
Yup, I know basically nothing about it. For me, based on Purbeast0 description it isn't as good because I'm a solo traveler. I have several CC's, don't know if they support Airline/etc. points. When I get letters to apply for that kind of CC I just chuck them in my recycling because I don't know jack about them. My angle on CC's is cash back. 2, 3, 5%. But if I can save extra using travel points, hey, sounds good. How to get into it is the question. So, yeah, videos, sites, explanations... there's probably a reddit thread or two, maybe here at ATOT also.
 

dullard

Elite Member
May 21, 2001
24,715
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My angle on CC's is cash back. 2, 3, 5%.
Cash back is far better for me. Get 5% back on almost everything I buy, then just buy cheap airline tickets. For me, that is a much better deal than CC rewards for flights. Partly because my destinations are never with the same airline (usually only one or two airlines flies where I want to go). But also partly because the local airlines keep changing (small city can't keep the airlines around long).

What good are free tickets on an airline that isn't in my local airport, do not go to my destination, and were for a couple of years in a pandemic? I'd much rather take the cash, buy airline tickets with it, and then use the rest of the free CC cash to pay for most of the rest of the vacation.

Now maybe if you live in a hub city and only fly to big destinations CC flight points might work out. But they certainly do not work for my needs.
 

repoman0

Diamond Member
Jun 17, 2010
4,285
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What good are free tickets on an airline that isn't in my local airport, do not go to my destination, and were for a couple of years in a pandemic? I'd much rather take the cash, buy airline tickets with it, and then use the rest of the free CC cash to pay for most of the rest of the vacation.
How much are you spending annually that 5% back covers any appreciable percentage of a vacation with flights?? 😛

My wife and I do the credit card intro deals occasionally when they’re offering 70-100k points .. most recently she got the Amex Delta card and has gotten a couple free flights so far out of it. We’d have to spend like $40k to get that out of our normal mix of 2, 3 and 5% cards. We do spend more than that annually but it’s a nice bonus to get the equivalent in points for putting $3k in 3 months on another card.
 
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MrSquished

Lifer
Jan 14, 2013
19,863
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This is a perfect example of the crushing of the middle class by the myth of trickle down economics.
 

dullard

Elite Member
May 21, 2001
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How much are you spending annually that 5% back covers any appreciable percentage of a vacation with flights?? 😛

My wife and I do the credit card intro deals occasionally when they’re offering 70-100k points .. most recently she got the Amex Delta card and has gotten a couple free flights so far out of it. We’d have to spend like $40k to get that out of our normal mix of 2, 3 and 5% cards. We do spend more than that annually but it’s a nice bonus to get the equivalent in points for putting $3k in 3 months on another card.
If you have to rely on intro deals to make the math work for you, then you are losing in the long run. The intro deals are one time and the good offers will dry up at some point.

You can get cash intro deals too. For example, the Chase Ink card gets you $1000 pure cash if you spend enough in the first few months (enough for about 4 Southwest flights). And you can multiply your cash too, just like you can with airline miles if you want to play that game. Use the cash on gift cards that give you 20 to 25% more cash. Or convert the cash to airline miles and multiply it by transferring, etc.

But to answer your question, I mostly fly Southwest. That is about $250 per ticket. So, I spend $4167 and get a free ticket. $4167 * 5% = $208.35. Get a gift card with 20% bonus, and get $208.35 * 1.2 = $250.02 of gift cards. Lets me save enough on other purchases to buy that Southwest flight. And that doesn't count the frequent bonus cash on purchases on things that I buy anyways (like coffees often are 10% to 20% cash back). I have multiple 5% cash back cards with rotating categories. I can almost always be sure to get 5% on a purchase that way. But, for this discussion we can round the $4167 up to $5000 if you want to include some purchases at lower cash back.

Then you can go into the details that since I pay cash for flights, I get airline miles that do add up to free flights. As far as I know, you do not get miles for your purchases with miles.
 
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purbeast0

No Lifer
Sep 13, 2001
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If you have to rely on intro deals to make the math work for you, then you are losing in the long run. The intro deals are one time and the good offers will dry up at some point.

You can get cash intro deals too. For example, the Chase Ink card gets you $1000 pure cash if you spend enough in the first few months (enough for about 4 Southwest flights). And you can multiply your cash too, just like you can with airline miles if you want to play that game. Use the cash on gift cards that give you 20 to 25% more cash. Or convert the cash to airline miles and multiply it by transferring, etc.

But to answer your question, I mostly fly Southwest. That is about $250 per ticket. So, I spend $4167 and get a free ticket. $4167 * 5% = $208.35. Get a gift card with 20% bonus, and get $208.35 * 1.2 = $250.02 of gift cards. Lets me save enough on other purchases to buy that Southwest flight. And that doesn't count the frequent bonus cash on purchases on things that I buy anyways (like coffees often are 10% to 20% cash back). I have multiple 5% cash back cards with rotating categories. I can almost always be sure to get 5% on a purchase that way. But, for this discussion we can round the $4167 up to $5000 if you want to include some purchases at lower cash back.

Then you can go into the details that since I pay cash for flights, I get airline miles that do add up to free flights. As far as I know, you do not get miles for your purchases with miles.
Saying "SW flights are $250" is a stretch. It can vary big time and be much more than $250, even for just one way.
 

thestrangebrew1

Diamond Member
Dec 7, 2011
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We've taken 4 "vacations" (ie had to fly) in the last 10 years, once to Hawaii and once to Cabo, and a few times to Texas to visit family. But, we take a ton of weekend getaway trips with our kids throughout the year. We go to Disneyland 3-4x/year, go camping on the beach 2-3x/yr and go camping in the Sierras at least 5x/yr. All trips are within 4 hrs from us since we're in the Central Valley. I think the only real trip I want to do with the family is take them to Guam. I haven't been back there since I was born, but tix are like $1800/piece! That and I'd need at least 3 weeks to really enjoy myself and get over the lag, but can't since I started my new position. That and the wife is a teacher so the only good times to go are during the winter or summer breaks.
 

repoman0

Diamond Member
Jun 17, 2010
4,285
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If you have to rely on intro deals to make the math work for you, then you are losing in the long run. The intro deals are one time and the good offers will dry up at some point.

You can get cash intro deals too. For example, the Chase Ink card gets you $1000 pure cash if you spend enough in the first few months (enough for about 4 Southwest flights). And you can multiply your cash too, just like you can with airline miles if you want to play that game. Use the cash on gift cards that give you 20 to 25% more cash. Or convert the cash to airline miles and multiply it by transferring, etc.

But to answer your question, I mostly fly Southwest. That is about $250 per ticket. So, I spend $4167 and get a free ticket. $4167 * 5% = $208.35. Get a gift card with 20% bonus, and get $208.35 * 1.2 = $250.02 of gift cards. Lets me save enough on other purchases to buy that Southwest flight. And that doesn't count the frequent bonus cash on purchases on things that I buy anyways (like coffees often are 10% to 20% cash back). I have multiple 5% cash back cards with rotating categories. I can almost always be sure to get 5% on a purchase that way. But, for this discussion we can round the $4167 up to $5000 if you want to include some purchases at lower cash back.

Then you can go into the details that since I pay cash for flights, I get airline miles that do add up to free flights. As far as I know, you do not get miles for your purchases with miles.
I guess the next obvious question is where do you actually get 5% on everything you buy? I have the amazon / Whole Foods Chase 5% card, and the Chase rotating categories one that never seems to be worth remembering about. Other than that it’s 2-3% on my Fidelity card and BoA card.
 

dullard

Elite Member
May 21, 2001
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I guess the next obvious question is where do you actually get 5% on everything you buy? I have the amazon / Whole Foods Chase 5% card, and the Chase rotating categories one that never seems to be worth remembering about. Other than that it’s 2-3% on my Fidelity card and BoA card.

Pick and choose as you wish:
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited: 6.5% back on travel, 4.5% back on drugstores and dining
  • Discover: 5% back on rotating categories. Gas this quarter
  • Chase Freedom Flex: 5% back on rotating categories
  • US Bank Shopper Cash: 6% back on the two retailers you choose. 5.5% back on hotels and car rentals. Just choose two categories that the others don't cover.
  • Amazon Prime Visa: 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods
  • Capital One Walmart: 5% back on Walmart
  • City Custom Cash: 5% back on your top category. Just use it for one category that isn't in the others.
  • American Express Blue Cash: 6% on groceries and streaming
There are others like 5% at Target only, but they tend to be more user need dependent. If you can't make most of your CC purchases be 5% with the list above, then you really shop in an array of obscure categories/stores. Especially since you can get multiple categories of your choice.

Then to keep it straight, I only keep a couple cards with me at a time and I write in permanent marker what it gives me bacck.

I'm sadly missing the Barclays Uber card that basically covered all travel related items at 5% back.
 
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Exterous

Super Moderator
Jun 20, 2006
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It's nothing more than signing up to (mainly) Chase credit cards and getting the bonus points, then getting a new Chase card, getting the bonus points, etc.

It often gets to be a little more work than that and can vary depending on what airlines serve your local airport and what kind of booking flexibility you have

If you have to rely on intro deals to make the math work for you, then you are losing in the long run. The intro deals are one time and the good offers will dry up at some point.

You can get cash intro deals too. For example, the Chase Ink card gets you $1000 pure cash if you spend enough in the first few months (enough for about 4 Southwest flights). And you can multiply your cash too, just like you can with airline miles if you want to play that game. Use the cash on gift cards that give you 20 to 25% more cash. Or convert the cash to airline miles and multiply it by transferring, etc.
Why would you be losing out on the long run? Those intro deals a substantial and also almost never one time only. And while the offers might dry up at some point I've gotten 96 cards over the past 10 years (Just realized that according to my spreadsheet my 10 year anniversary of doing this was June of this year...) and I've yet to run out of good offers. I certainly do the cash bonuses as well but those are much more rare in terms of number of good deals compared to the travel cards. Of course you have to travel enough for the difference between miles\points and cash back to be worth it.
 

Muse

Lifer
Jul 11, 2001
36,940
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I guess the next obvious question is where do you actually get 5% on everything you buy? I have the amazon / Whole Foods Chase 5% card, and the Chase rotating categories one that never seems to be worth remembering about. Other than that it’s 2-3% on my Fidelity card and BoA card.
Amazon/Whole foods is only 5% if you have Prime, otherwise it's 3%.

I have Chase Freedom with the rotating 5% categories. Right now it's off on grocery stores.

I have Discover, which has 5% rotating categories too.

My Costco Citi Visa card has 3% off on restaurants and qualifying travel.

For what those cards won't cover I use my Double Cash 2% off card.
 
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Dec 10, 2005
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If you pay rent, another good way to get some free points to convert to travel or other is to open a Bilt card from Wells Fargo. They offer a way to pay rent without the CC fees typically associated with the process. Only catch is you need 5 transactions a month to get the points. (Happy to provide a referral link to via DM if anyone is interested). Saved a few hundred on a flight recently because of this - points literally earned from paying my rent.
 

dullard

Elite Member
May 21, 2001
24,715
3,015
126
Why would you be losing out on the long run?
I explained it above (the biggest part of your math that you are missing is no miles for using miles on most airlines and much less ability to shop around for better deals/switch airlines to one that you have no miles for). But keep going on your miles; I'm glad they work for you. They simply cannot work for me since I do not have a reliable airline to use them on. A bunch of miles with nothing to use them on is no good. That is how I started this discussion.
 

Exterous

Super Moderator
Jun 20, 2006
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I explained it above (the biggest part of your math that you are missing is no miles for using miles on most airlines and much less ability to shop around for better deals/switch airlines to one that you have no miles for). But keep going on your miles; I'm glad they work for you. They simply cannot work for me since I do not have a reliable airline to use them on. A bunch of miles with nothing to use them on is no good. That is how I started this discussion.
I’m not challenging whether they work for you or not. I'm challenging your statement to others as it's based on inaccurate information and I don’t think you redid your math based on the clarification. But for fun we can go through the math together.

First - one time bonuses aren’t really a thing. Maybe there are a few very unique offers out there but 90+% of offers can be gotten more than once. The closest we come on a normal basis is Amex’s once every 5-7 years unless they’re running one of their frequent (typically multiple times a year) promos where they waive that language. Heck - there are a number of cards from banks you can get multiple times a year. I mean if you only stick with one airline card forever then its probably not going to work out in your favor but we don’t tell people to not invest just because a bad way to do it using AUM advisors exists. We tell them to do it the smart way using index funds instead.

But onto the math. For simplicity lets take Southwest. Yes not the best carrier for every situation but their points are fixed value so we don’t have to worry about decoupled mile value compared to revenue tickets, debate business class value over economy, consider lounge access value, debate award availability etc etc. In most situations a SW point is worth $0.0128. Southwest credit card signup bonuses range from 50,000-120,000. Let’s pick a middle-ish 80,000 points. Usually you get that after $3,000 in spend so tack on another 3,000 points for the lowest point generation category. 83,000 points = $1,062 towards Southwest flights

Let’s compare that to 5% cash back even though most cash back cards are 2% for travel. So you would get $150 in cash back from that $3,000 in spending compared to $1,062 towards flights. You claimed my math didn’t take into account that you don’t get airline miles when buying a ticket. Buying $1,062 worth of Southwest tickets gets you 6,372 miles or $83. So the cash back card is now up to $233 in value compared to the Southwest card and bonus. Of course we need to add in the card annual fee. So lets assume a middle of the road $100. So we ended with the Southwest card at $962 vs $233 taking the best case cash back card against a middle-ish Southwest bonus. And by Chase’s rules you can do this specific example every 2 years with plenty of ways to do it much more often.

For an actual data point I’ll share my math from 2022:
2 Southwest credit cards netting 136,500 points and a companion pass after $10,000 in spending combined. With a BOGO airline ticket thats a value of $3,200 after subtracting card annual fees. I’ll completely ignore the ancillary benefits like free earlybird and business class upgrade credits. A 5% cash back card would have gotten me $500. I have basically done the above every 2 years for the past 10 years.

Let’s move on to this statement of yours:
much less ability to shop around for better deals/switch airlines to one that you have no miles for
I mean having a miles or points card doesn’t prevent you from paying another way so you can still shop around for better deals. And, if flexibility is a concern, it is an artificial and ill advised limitation to select and stay with a specific airlines miles card. There are a number of major travel ‘currencies’ out there. These let you transfer points to a broad array of carriers unconstrained by airline alliance boundaries. For example Chase lets you use points with all the major domestic partners: United, American (Via BA or Aer Lingus), Southwest, and Delta (via Virgin or AF\KLM). Capital One is similar albeit missing Southwest. Most transfers are instant so you can find a flight on a carrier and then transfer the points to book the ticket within ~2min.

Now there are plenty of valid reasons for not doing this. You carry a credit card balance, you don’t travel much or at all, you don’t want the added complexity, your local airport really sucks or is a fortress hub (and you don't want to take a positioning flight) etc etc. Sounds like the last one is your situation so you've picked what works for you. But the travel value is absolutely there long term over a cash back card for those who can and want to use it.