Friday, November 6, 2015

High Spend Targets

As you know, we accumulate a lot of our frequent flyer miles, hotel points and bank reward points through credit cards.

Most of the benefit, however, comes from initially signing up and reaching the minimum spend (which ranges from $1,000-5,000 within 3 months most of the time).

Some also offer perks just for having the card (priority hotel elite status, priority boarding on airlines).

Then there's the spending bonuses for using your card at certain merchant types (2-5x at groceries, office supply stores, hotels).

The fourth type of benefit is for reaching high levels of spend in a given year. These targets have rewards that are very attractive to people like my father who enjoy gaming the system. There are several cards that have these high spend targets, but we'll only discuss the ones my parents have actively. You can research the rest on your own.

Chase Select Visa - $25,000
For example, for spending $25,000 a year on our Chase United Select Visa allows United MileagePlus members to avoid the Premier Qualifying Dollar (PQD) threshold for earning elite status. Normally to hit United Silver, you'd have to fly 25,000 miles AND spend at least $3,000 in base fares.

Given we take advantage of super cheap fares (such as the $815 fare to NYC from Tel Aviv or the $266 flights to Costa Rica), we hardly ever reached the PQD minimums for United Silver or Gold status.

Citi Hilton Reserve Visa - $10,000
Another example is the $10,000 spend on the Citi Hilton Reserve Visa. For doing so, we get a free Hilton Weekend Night Certificate good for just about ANY Hilton property in the world.

Last year, we used it for my grandmother's stay at the Conrad Hong Kong). Normally, the Conrad Hong Kong would cost 80,000 Hilton HHonors points, so this certificate was a great value for my family. And since we hit $10,000 this year as well, we'll get another free weekend night certificate to use in 2016.

And if we ever hit $40,000 in a year, we'd get upgraded to top tier Hilton Diamond status. That sounds pretty amazing, but we question if the incremental benefits of being Diamond (vs. a mid-tier Gold which already gets you free breakfasts) is worth it. After all, that's an extra $30k of spend we'd have to forego on our other cards.

Starwood SPG American Express - $30,000
Our Starwood SPG American Express also offers mid-tier SPG Gold status if you spend $30,000 in a year. For late checkout and a modest room upgrade to a better view, it's a nice mid-tier status to have.

But since my father has Platinum status, we don't go out of our way to hit this SPG Amex high spend goal -- though admittedly, some years we hit it without actively trying to do so.

Citi Thank You Prestige Mastercard - $15,000
This card doesn't really fall into the same category as the others. Rather than being a recurring high spend benefit, the Citi Thank You Prestige card offer we received when we signed up was as follows: 30,000 Thank You points after spending $3,000 in 3 months PLUS another 30,000 TY points for spending $15,000 in the first 12 months.

The "regular" offer is 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 with a $450 annual fee, but my father wanted the special $350 annual fee offer which happened to be the 60k points for $15k spend in the first year offer.

Having been fortunate enough to hit both the United Visa and Hilton Reserve Visa targets earlier this 2015 year, now we can focus our extra spend on the $15,000 target for the Citi Thank You Prestige Mastercard over the next 11 months, having already hit the $3,000 first target in Month 1.

But as soon as January 1, 2016 comes around, we're back to the races with the United and Hilton Reserve Visa cards. Thank goodness for being able to use our 5 Nationwide Buxx cards to load/unload $5,000 each month.

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