Surprise! I Took a Break from Credit Card Rewards – Here’s What I Learned

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Credit Card Rewards

I Love Credit Card Rewards, But I Decided to Take a Break

The process of earning and redeeming credit card rewards is something I love just as much as the actual rewards themselves.  I’m confident some out there agree with me.  So, closing up shop (mostly) on that process for a few weeks was a significant change to my normal behavior.  Beyond writing some articles over the holidays, I largely took a break from the hobby.  In doing so, I reminded myself of several lessons, and I learned new ones, also.  Here are just a few.

The Hobby Is Intense

Many (myself included) have talked ad nauseam about how the pandemic has greatly changed how we travel.  Beyond our January 2020 Walt Disney World trip, we have not taken any trips beyond some short, regional trips in the past year.  My major 2020 focus was earning followed by timely, targeted redemptions.  Breaks from the hobby for various trips didn’t happen.  What did I do during those times I would have otherwise traveled?  I earned, thought about earning, earned more, thought about new ways of earning, earned some more, thought of methods to earn more efficiently, and earned a bit more.  Last year was definitely a lucrative year, but not my most best.  However, I spent the most mental bandwidth on the hobby last year since I began in the early 2000’s.  Is this all good or bad?  Probably both.

In the 1980’s, the prophet Ferris Bueller told me:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

I pride myself on living this credo most of the time.  Hell, it’s a big reason why I quit my job and never plan to work a 9 to 5 again.  However, I noticed that I was allowing the hobby to become all-consuming now and then during 2020.  During my break, I intermittently felt and withstood the urge to complete various hobby tasks (most of them I love, very few I don’t).  Indeed, our little ones were also on school break, and I couldn’t bring myself to do most hobby stuff during that time.  Periodically, it’s nice to remember I have the semblance of a heart.

Only after I removed myself from the hobby for a few weeks did I realize how intense it had been for the last year, how hard I had gripped onto it throughout.  Moving forward, I’ll be taking hobby breaks more often, albeit in shorter duration.  Also helping will be increased travel for us; it can’t decrease at our current rate!

Credit Card Rewards

I Never Grow Old of New Perspectives

With the time off also came time for reflection.  Am I managing my time in the hobby effectively?  I found that I do so, for the most part.  I also know that several hobby-related tasks I conduct may not be time-efficient, but I enjoy them, nonetheless.  For instance, I definitely drive a lot more than I would normally do otherwise.  But that drive time allows for my favorite music, podcasts, and yes, more thinking.

Catching up with extended family via holiday calls underscored some of our future travel priorities.  We chatted with friends near and far who caught us up on their past year, and we learned from their pandemic-era travel strategies.

The down time also allowed for one of my favorite annual rituals which is seemingly dying – Christmas cards.  I reminded myself of the comforts of completing even the most menial tasks, also owning up to the fact I need to do some more often.  And I’ll happily share that we got a killer deal on our Christmas cards at a certain warehouse store – no portals, coupons, or promotions required.

Doing More Isn’t Always the Right Decision

I generally consider this hobby a bird in the hand one.  I try to do as much as I can, because I’m not sure how long certain plays will be around.  On the flip side, I intermittently remind myself that I can always do more.  I don’t use this as a motivator – it’s moreso a reason for me to slow down.  New deals and methods always pop up in this hobby – that’s a good thing.  But with that growth comes the reminder that I will never be able to do everything.  Instead, I focus on the plays that are most enjoyable and lucrative.  Considering my other life priorities, everything else is unnecessary.  If I end up having time for any other hobby fun, that’s all gravy.

Credit Card Rewards

I Improved My Hobby Organization, Inadvertently

I mentioned menial tasks earlier – one I completed was sequencing a large collection of credit card paper statements.  Some of you probably read that in horror.  I still get paper statements – I like the physical reminder that I have a bill due, and I generally don’t like staring at screens unnecessarily.  Organization is one of the hobby’s least pleasurable aspects, but a necessary one.  Also, in preparation to pickup food during the break, I checked and labeled the balance on a restaurant gift card.  I did so on a few others, as well.  Another less fun hobby task, but one I felt happy to square away.

A Break from Credit Card Rewards – Conclusion

After the break, I felt refreshed to tackle 2021, including my resolutions.  I need to be ready for what the hobby brings.  Indeed, Amex came out swinging with their 2021 spending offers and benefits, and I’m still a bit punchdrunk from them!  And surely, more is to come.  With all of the good stuff, I shall remember to step back every now and then to remind myself who and what is important – hobby-related and otherwise.  I encourage you to do the same!

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence. An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their travel goals, Disney-related and otherwise.

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6 COMMENTS

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6 COMMENTS

  1. I still receive paper statements even though I pay online because I need my spouse (the P2 here) to know what is due and when, etc. if he should have to take over.

  2. Ecclesiastes 9 in the bible talks a lot about not chasing life away without stopping to smell the roses. I think taking a break is a good way to see the bigger picture and reorganize. Focus on priorities and drop the time waste in the hobby of points and miles can be a big help.

  3. Benjy,
    I appreciate this article and happy to know that I’m not the only person who feels this very same way. I’ve only been at this hobby for 7 years and it has been a BLAST! It’s allowed me to do things and go places I would have never consider to be honest.

    With that being said, and while it has been great, I too found myself during the last month of 2020 just feeling exhausted with this hobby. I’m sure a lot of it had to do with the weight of all of the things going on in the world, but for some reason I just wasn’t as enthusiastic about earning.

    A break was needed and a break I took. For the month of December I didn’t go out of my way to do anything. It was organic spend and nothing more. I found myself being a bit happier having something else to think about beside points, miles, and what we offer Amex was dishing out.

    There were tendencies to do some things but I didn’t. I realized that there were so many things that I enjoyed doing but had since tossed them aside because this hobby consumes a lot of my leisure time.

    It was nice to have a mental break from it all. And in doing so I was able to get back to other things that I enjoy. I have always enjoy checking out cars as I have an unhealthy need for speed. The break allowed for me to appreciate that again…and in the process I got rid of my 2018 Scat Pack Charger and treated myself (with a lot of pleading with my wife) a new 2020 Charger Hellcat which I’ve always wanted.

    December turned out to be one of happier months of the year and for the first time in a very long time, it and nothing to do with credit cards, points, or miles.

    While others were enjoying the lovely 3 for all with Amex and killing it in the game with the PayPal Key, and the 100k/10x vanilla Platinum offer I was tinting windows and customizing the exhaust on my car to make it as loud as my personality.

    Thanks again for sharing. This was definitely a good read and a reminder again to myself to walk away from this hobby every now and again to appreciate all the other things that I enjoy!

    • 2808 Heavy,

      Thanks for sharing your insights and kind words. A new car, and you are already improving it! My accomplishments last month were nothing compared to this. 🙂

      Hobby-related or otherwise, a healthy dose of perspective always seems to work, at least for me.

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