Travel Rewards: Covid Holding Pattern

I started writing this post pre-Covid when we had travels to Florida booked for spring training and had our eye on a family ski vacation in Europe over Christmas. These aren’t happening … and we’re sitting on a pile of miles. Yes, this is a sign that we spend too much, but quarantining has certainly helped to curb that.

For what it’s worth, I still like to review how we’ve used our miles, because it’s fun. Since we started using cards for miles in 2018, we have booked the following with (mostly) miles:

  • Family vacation to the Bahamas (4 SW Air tickets)
  • Guys weekend to Dallas (1 SW Air ticket)
  • Christmas family ski vacation to Denver (4 SW Air tickets)
  • And 3 out of 4 SW Air tickets to Tampa to catch some Phillies spring training games – this trip was scheduled for 3/17, just when Covid-19 shut downs were starting, so SW Air refunded our miles and money (unlike our VRBO)
  • And, more recently, 1-way American Airlines flight from Philly to Wilmington, NC for my husband to join the kids and I on vacation; his work held him back while we drove down and I had a few miles worth, well, about a 1-way ticket

We started with two Southwest air cards, but now my husband uses a Southwest Air card and I use a British Air card – both through Chase. With the British Air card, I’ve now racked up enough points to have earned a free companion ticket and enough miles for our family to travel pretty much anywhere. We were aiming for an international trip over Christmas 2020, but with no end in sight for the pandemic, I’m not really sure what we’ll do with all these miles. This Washington Post article about redeeming miles for non-travel items prompted me to look into this a bit.

With British Airways Avios points, you can’t redeem for any products or gift cards, it’s 100% travel-only. I’ve read that I can call and transfer them to American Airlines and perhaps that would open up non-travel options, but my free companion ticket doesn’t expire until May 2022 and I don’t see an expiration for the Avios points, so I’ll just hold tight and stay put for now.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards don’t expire, so we’re holding on to them as well. As a card holder, we can redeem their rewards for products and gift cards, but we don’t have a ton of miles (<100k) and there’s nothing I need or want. A gift card would be perfect right now.

So, that’s it. I don’t see the value in the non-travel options available. I will hold on to these miles and will continue to earn them until we can all safely roam free again.

2018 FIRE Goals

Building on the strong foundation we set in 2017, here are our goals for 2018:

#1: Debt reduction. We made some great strides in 2017 by simply organizing our finances and recognizing that we need to be more aggressive and focused on debt reduction. This will, of course, continue …

Hawaii, 2015

#2: Travel. We haven’t traveled much lately and we NEED to! This is a no brainer: open a Chase rewards card. Actually, I already got mine and my husband will get his soon. We went with the Chase Sapphire. I’m not sure yet if we’ll get as aggressive as the chase gauntlet just yet. We’re thinking a family vacation to the Bahamas … perhaps that’s because it’s freezing cold right now.

​#3: Max out all pre-tax contributions (401k, HSA, FSA).

#4: Increase college savings. Keep 529s at $100 per month and contribute an additional $100 per month into another, separate investment account or Roth IRA for each child.

#5: Save (more) on wireless phone bills. Change DH from Verizon to a Monthly Shared plan with Total Wireless for $60 per month, saving $67 per month. That’s over $800 per year. Cha-ching!

The debt reduction is the biggest nut: credit cards, HELOC, two car loans and three mortgages. It’s daunting, but it’s there and we’re going to make it disappear. POOF!