I have four more weeks before I can relax and not work for a whole friggin’ week. After the sleep issues and other various stress, I really need this vacation.
Cost-wise, it’s looking pretty good.
We got the Chase Sapphire card last year, and it’s really paid off.
We got 50,000 points when we spent our first $3,000, and another 2,500 when I added Tim as an authorized user. Then, of course, there was that little matter of $26,000 for the dental implants.
Between that and charging everything, we ended up with about 12,500 points, which is about $1,5,60 in travel credit. (Woot!)
Here’s how we’re spending them.
I already mentioned the good deal I got on the plane tickets. I actually could’ve gotten the pair for about $30 less if I’d chosen Delta instead of Alaska. But I have far more memories of being comfortable/leaving-on-time with the latter than I do with the former. So I decided to splurge.
The only downside is that I could only find non-refundable tickets. Just that word makes me antsy. I start picturing all the things that can go wrong, then feel certain something will happen and make us waste all the points/money.
But there’s a first time for everything.
I guess we’ll just have to be extra careful, keeping an eye on symptoms and not overexerting ourselves the week before we go.
I splurged a little bit.
I’m generally fine with a compact/economy car. Tim has made do with them in the past, but he finds even a mid-size car to be a little cramped. I don’t get it. Maybe because my mom always drove smaller cars.
But we all have quirks. God knows, he puts up with enough of mine. So I got a full-size car.
The difference was only $40. And it’s our anniversary. And, as I I just realized, our first real vacation since our honeymoon nine years ago. The closest we’ve gotten since then are the two times we drove out to Vegas for three days.
Anyway, even with the upgrade the rental was $285 for the week. That includes taxes but not fees.
Given that uncertainty makes me, you guessed it, antsy, I went over to the Enterprise site to see if I could get an idea of the fees.
As best I can tell, we’ll pay about $85 out of pocket. Or maybe not. I have a plan, which I’ll explain later in the post.
We’re covering the four days in Seattle with the other card (more on that later). That will wipe out our rewards there, so we’ll have to use Chase rewards for the three days spent down near Tacoma.
The thing is, any stays we book will be non-refundable. (There’s that word again!) And I don’t want to risk losing all those points if something does go wrong.
Meanwhile, the town we’ll be staying in (Puyallup) is relatively small. Its main claim to fame is hosting the state fair, which is months away. In short, I don’t foresee a huge rate hike for hotels between now and then.
So we’ve decided not to book that hotel until we’re getting ready to leave Seattle.
We opened the Barclay card back in December.
We got a 50,000-point bonus, plus an extra 2,500 when we added Tim as an authorized user. Which needed to happen anyway, since he tends to run the majority of the errands.
We currently have a bit over $700 worth of travel credit. But unlike Chase rewards, you don’t book through the redemption center. Instead, you just use your rewards to apply a credit to any $100+ travel charge on your card statement.
This is cool because it means I can book the Seattle hotel through Mr. Rebates. I’ll book through IHG for 10% cash back, then apply the $700 credit to the card balance.
Another nice perk: There’s a 5% redemption bonus, so I’ll get 3,500 points ($35) back. Which brings me to my sneaky rental car idea.
As I mentioned, there will be about $85 in fees for the rental car. That, as you may have noticed, is less than this card’s $100 minimum travel credit redemption.
But if I add a service — I’m thinking GPS* — I can push the charge up over $100, thereby allowing me to pay for the rental almost exclusively with rewards.
Well… I’ll be able to pay by the time the statement is due.
Currently, we don’t have enough for a $700 hotel and a $150 (with GPS) rental car. We actually have 71,100 ($711) in points. But we won’t pay the fees until May, which means we won’t have to pay the charge until mid-June.
By then, the 3,500-point redemption bonus will have come through. Plus, we’ll have added eight weeks’ of spending. We earn about 4,000 points a month, and we have a few bigger irregular expenses coming up. At least $1,500 worth.
So yeah, it’s safe to say we’ll have plenty of points by the time we need to apply the credit. And even if we didn’t, another nice perk of the card is that you can wait up to 120 days to apply credit to a travel charge.
That said, I’m not going to pretend I love everything about the cards.
My main gripe about the Barclay card is the $100 minimum for travel expenses. I like the idea of being able to pay for checked luggage. Or any hotel taxes/fees that the Chase rewards don’t include in the booking.
And an $89 annual fee is just silly. Maybe it makes sense for people who travel more. But not for us. I know the company has to make back the money it gives out in bonuses, but… No.
As for the Chase Sapphire, I dislike that the hotel and plane ticket options seem to be all non-refundable. I’m always willing to pay a little more to keep my mental “What if?” at bay.
And its $95 annual fee is also way too high. Especially since Sapphire only pays two points per dollar on dining and travel. Everything else gains just one point.
So yeah, there are some drawbacks to each. That said, the rewards (and yes, the sign-up bonus) definitely make the cards worthwhile.
What’s your favorite rewards-coup story?
*Normally, a waste. But we don’t have a smartphone, and I haven’t lived there for seven years