The Simple Things – Points and Travel Stuff I’m Loving Right Now

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Points and Travel Items

Points and Travel Items

Every so often, I like to slow down and appreciate things.  Remember, Ferris Bueller told us, “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  And so that’s what I’m doing today.  I’m kicking back and focusing on a few of my favorite points and travel items right now.  Indeed, this is a snapshot in time. If I were to compile another list tomorrow, it may look significantly different.  But that’s what makes the process so satisfying – we have so many different things (and, gasp, people) to appreciate over time.  Join me, dear reader!

Points and Travel Items

Capital One’s BLT

A single Capital One Lounge currently exists, but I’ve made a point to visit this DFW location three times.  There’s so much to love about this lounge, particularly food- and drink-related.  The lounge offers a novel concept – a takeaway cooler full of interesting snacks.  My favorite item is the Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato sandwich.  This scrumptious staple comes freshly prepared, travels well, and offers just the right amount of spicy mayo.  That last part is the secret, in my view.  Coming in a close second in the lounge is the Texas Banana Pudding, also available for takeaway.

Points and Travel Items

Timbuk2 Never Check

I picked up the Timbuk2 Never Check backpack a couple years ago, and that name’s accurate in my experience so far.  I’ve never had to check this bag, nor any other, when I’ve traveled with it.  It’s big enough for several nights away, and I’m able to easily stow it under the forward seat on most any plane.  It’s dethroned my Travelpro underseat roll-on as my go-to luggage for short trips.

The retail price for this backpack is far from cheap – around $200 most places.  Luckily, Dell has carried it for years.  Hello, Amex Business Platinum Dell credit!  Use one of your biannual credits on this item, and pick up some portal rewards along the way.

Points and Travel Items

Loyalty Points

Our hobby is simply remarkable.  Previously, I thought I’d never include what some consider an airline gimmick on this list.  But American Airlines has encouraged many to reconsider airline elite status, including this writer, with the Loyalty Points program.  We can all agree that travel should be fun.  American has also made the pursuit of it fun again, in my opinion.  I reached Executive Platinum status a few months ago, and it’s already working out great for me, especially upgrades on award flights.  Pursuing American Airlines elite status is definitely not for everyone.  American is already making changes to the program, as well.  But bravo to AA for waking up the tired airline mile space.

Chase Pay Yourself Back – Grocery and Gas

Many in the points and travel hobby came down hard on the Chase Pay Yourself Back changes.  This predominantly had to do with losing 50% extra value for using points to cover certain purchases with the Reserve.  Meanwhile, I’m a huge fan of Chase making grocery and gas purchases Pay Yourself Back-eligible, even at a “lowly” 25% extra value.  While illogical to many hobbyists’ redemption strategies, I’ll keep on cashing out at 1.25 cents per point in these staple categories.  Of course, my decision here has been easy, given that I’d previously been cashing out Ultimate Rewards at 1 cent per point for years.  Individuals who prioritize zeroing out bills in these staple categories can more immediately realize their rewards, instead of booking some unlikely Hyatt stay one year from now at a location they may not want to visit, anyway.

Not Holding an Amex Gold

I previously described the reasons why the Amex Gold card is now a one and done card for me.  If anything, I underestimated how much I enjoy not holding the card.  Life has become much better: no concern about an end-of-month rush to “maximize” the card at GrubHub (or other places), earning superior rewards with other cards, and even more flexibility.  I recently joked with a buddy how freeing it was to delete the GrubHub app, probably the worst food delivery one out there, from my phone.  I guess there’s still a possibility I return to the Gold card, but the likelihood seems to dwindle even more with every passing day.

Conclusion

Those are the points and travel items I’m enjoying most right now.  I look forward to seeing what unseats these items in the future.  And, surely, your list differs from mine, and we can each be correct for our respective situations.  What’s your favorite hobby stuff these days?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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17 COMMENTS

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17 COMMENTS

  1. The longer I’m in this hobby the more cards I have. The more cards I have the less patience I have for the high maintenance ones. Amex Gold falls into that category.

  2. Benjy I agree with you on the Gold card. It can be great for some…I’m just not one of them. I have plenty of other ways to earn MR points so there’s no need to bother with the Gold card at the moment.

    For my situation, AA miles are the most useful currency at the moment and also one of the hardest for me to earn as they have no transfer partner other than Bilt Rewards. I know some cringe at the thought of stockpiling non transferrable points and miles but I don’t hang on to them long enough to worry about a devaluation hitting me hard.

    It is for that reason that I gave up my Amex Gold as the card I used for grocery and switched to the AA Mile Up. I know it only earns 2x/$ but that works for me and my ability to rack a lot of AA miles very fast.

    I won’t say I will never hold a Amex Gold again but for right now, it’s just not a card I find very useful.

  3. Thanks Benjy for the heads-up about Dell carrying a small selection of backpacks. I use a 35L pack as a carry-on when I want more mobility than a wheeled bag, so the Never Check seems a bit small, even with the expansion zipper. But I’ll probably liquidate some Dell credits to buy it, to try it out in the role of a large daypack/daily bag.

    • EricF,
      Just curious, what 35L backpack do you use? I’m starting to experiment with a Thule Construct, another Dell buy on the smaller end. But I’m also interested in others’ experiences with bigger bags.

      • I use a Minaal carry-on 3.0 and have been pleased with the utility, appearance, and build quality. It is expensive at $349. I could have met my needs with something cheaper but decided to make it a spend-for-quality item. Opportunities eventually arise to buy it at lower than retail on their email list, and they’ve sold $125 gift cards for $100 via the email list.
        Did you go with the 24L or the 28L Construct? I saw those today and considered them for family members as a way to use more Dell credits.

  4. FrequentMiler had an article a few days ago about replacing Amex Gold with Cap 1 Savor

    Benjy, what do you use for restaurant spend and groceries with Amex Gold gone?

    • Robert,
      I first wrote about my plan to go Goldless last October, and I got rid of my last one over a month ago (upgrade offer to Platinum). For supermarket and restaurant spend, I primarily opt for Banana Republic Visa (5x-10x via continuous spend offers) or Amex Platinum (5x via upgrade offer). I also hold the Cardless Manchester United and Boston Celtics cards at the grandfathered rates (5% back on match days and 4% back always, respectively) for dining purchases, if needed.

      Beyond this, I and many others can do much better pursuing Amex no lifetime language welcome offers, most recently Business Platinums, than spending on a Gold. I much prefer earning 165k Membership Rewards points (minimum) on $15k spend anywhere with a Business Platinum than 100k on a Gold, which would require $25k supermarket (and/or dining) spend. I get into that even more in the above linked article.

  5. @SC – I agree re Gold Card. IMHO (a view shred by people like Lucky at OMAAT) it is the best overall card. I use the Uber and Grubhub/Shakeshack credit w no problem (I do pick up instead of delivery) and basically value that at $20 a month combined so almost covers the AF. Then you get 4x on groceries and restaurants (I don’t max the grocery payout like these leeches that go for max spend) and add in Amex offers. Frankly I use the Gold card more than any other (and I have CSR, Amex Platinum and around a dozen others).

    Not sure why Benjy feels this way but he is in the minority of bloggers. Anyway works for me – just one of many things Benjy and I don’t agree on.

    • “Anyway works for me – just one of many things Benjy and I don’t agree on.” – I completely agree with you there, ACinCLT! 😉

  6. Is using the Amex Gold credit that big of a chore? I either go to Shake Shack or have it delivered from their own app once per month (never use grubhub), and one uber ride per month is basically automatic at some point during a 30 day period for me. I could see if you had absolutely no need for an uber ride (although you could order groceries or liquor or food obviously) and didn’t have a shake shack in your area I suppose it might be different, but life altering though…. not sure about that 🙂

    • SC,
      The “chore” aspect is only part of the reason I gave up on the Gold. I covered other reasons above and also in the linked article there. Regardless, we’re all in different situations, and I’m glad the Gold is working out for you!

  7. Chicken salad swich, nuts-to-go, & FREE drinks for us at C1 Lounge (pass right on by AA & AMEX lounges)!

    Right on with the AMEX Gold. I was upgraded to it from the Green with a nice bonus, then only had to hold it for 4 excruciating months before AMEX upgraded me again to Plat for 100k MR for actually usable credits.

    Bilt is filling the void for me that AA LP is doing for you – a little bit of fun & excitement with good payoffs. From the day I applied/was approved for their MC, it was exactly 5-6 days to receive and earn 50,000 AA miles (transferrable). From that standpoint, at least, Bilt has their act together & really wants to engage (rather than annoy) their customer.

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