Newbie with limited resources

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by MaryDarling, Jul 12, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. MaryDarling

    MaryDarling Silver Member

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    I'm very glad to have found all of you! I am very new to this whole process, but am excited to learn all I can. I have a couple of questions, but let me provide some context:

    My partner and I are trying to keep our household spend to about $3K a month (not including mortgage), or about $36K a year. We live near San Francisco, so this is not a lavish budget. This means we can likely reach a $30K spend threshold on one credit card, but it will mean not having much to put on any other credit cards.

    In terms of travel, in the next 12 months my my work will require about 6 RT to the East Coast, at an average cost of $2K per trip. Otherwise our travel will be quite limited -- possibly one or two west coast trips (OAK-LAX or the like).

    Our goal is to take a dream trip 18-24 months from now, possibly for as long as two months, since we can likely work remotely during that time. Destination is flexible, and partly depends on what we can afford. We're just hoping for a champagne trip on a cheap beer budget! I'm willing to do some mileage runs or cheap hotel stays, but don't have endless reserves for doing so.

    Currently we have:
    300K BA miles (we both have the Visa card, and I cashed in my AMEX points for the 50% bonus)
    76K Alaska miles (my partner has the Visa, I do not)
    60K Marriott points
    43K Virgin America miles
    22K EVA miles
    13K UA miles
    10K Hilton points, plus Gold status

    I also have a AMEX Premier Rewards Gold card, and a AMEX Gold OPEN card, with an invitation to take it Platinum.

    Looking for advice or opinions on the following:
    1) Which credit card would be best to use for our household expenses? If we hit $30K in spend on BA we get a free companion ticket, but I'm wondering if we should apply for and use the Starwood Amex to build hotel points.
    2) I have been flying Virgin to the East Coast, because the travel budget can afford Virgin's 1st class prices. Should I keep building points with them -- in hopes that Virgin America points will work with other Virgin airlines a year or two from now -- or switch to United, even though it might mean coach?
    3) Where she would concentrate our spend -- on hotels, status or miles?

    Thanks for any and all direction. I've bought and am reading Nicholas Kralev's book, and am reading all the blogs I can, but there's a lot to learn!
     
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  2. goheerow

    goheerow Silver Member

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    IMO I would build the hotel points so that when your dream trip does come up, you can have a very nice suite on a beachfront location somewhere. Makes more sense since you and your partner want to get away for a few months. Don't you have enough BA miles to get biz class tickets anyways?
     
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  3. JohnDeere19
    Original Member

    JohnDeere19 Gold Member

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    Have you considered doing coins to build up more points too?
     
  4. druiddation
    Original Member

    druiddation Gold Member

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    I'm not too familiar with the BA companion ticket. Do you still have to pay the fuel surcharges on it? I have BA miles as well but the fuel surcharges are so high I've decided to use the miles with one of their partners. For example, you could fly from SFO to the far east on Cathay Pacific for much less.

    It sounds like your destination is still up in the air so I'll throw out one possibility. Use the BA miles for business class on LAN from SFO to IPC (Easter Island) for 80k miles and less than $80 in taxes per person. Make sure all the connections are on LAN to keep the mileage redemption down. LAN flies direct from San Fran to Lima, Peru. You could find a nice apartment for a month in Lima and use that as a base on one of your stopovers (maybe use some more air miles for a Cusco/Machu Picchu side trip). On another stopover you could use some hotel points for a nice room in Santiago, Chile.
     
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  5. MSPeconomist
    Original Member

    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    Yeah, it looks like you're in good shape for BA/oneworld tickets, but you have few hotel nights. So I like the idea of a SPG card and ideally SPG status.

    Europe and especially anything involving LHR seems expensive, although this can change in two years. Your money will go farther in Latin American (excluding Brazil) and South/Southeast Asia, in general. It might be time to start think and learning about destinations, which will be fun. However, if you must telecommute, this limits where you can go as you will need reliable and secure internet access. Here's where elite hotel status can make a big difference, in that various programs guarantee free internet as a hotel guest.
     
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  6. MaryDarling

    MaryDarling Silver Member

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    Rats. I'd forgotten the BA fuel surcharge fees, and the companion ticket does need to be on a BA flight either departing from, or returning to, the US. No companion ticket for us!

    In terms of destinations, either Asia/Australia or the back roads of Europe (Slovenia, Hungary, Turkey, etc.) are things we've talked about. I've spent time in South and Central America, so I think the focus is to go as far as we can to somewhere new. If we have to sacrifice length of trip (cutting it from two months to one) we'll do it, but particularly with Asia, the most expensive part of the trip is getting there, and we've now got that covered. In Asia, I might even find use for the EVA miles I've still got from a trip to Bali a few years back!

    To get airline status, and given the trips I've got to take for work, I may try to do the AA Elite Challenge. Since my client allows for full fare flights, a few trips back and forth should get me to Platinum.

    And I think a hotel card is probably the right way to go. I've currently got 60K points and Silver status with Marriott, so I'm tempted to just pile on the points and see how far they'll take me, but I'm not sure how available their hotels are worldwide. I've got Gold status with Hilton but only 10K points, and with Starwood I'd be starting with nothing.

    If I play this out right, it ought to get me a career in arbitrage, and if all of you formed a trading company, you'd rule the markets!
     
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  7. Million Mile Secrets

    Million Mile Secrets Silver Member

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    The SPG card seems to make the most sense, in my opinion, since you are short of hotel points!

    There are rumors that Starwood may have a new credit card with a higher sign-on bonus in the next 10 to 12 days, so you may want to wait for a few days before applying for the SPG card!

    Another option for hotel points may be the Chase Priority Club 80,000 point targeted offer with a free hotel night certificate after the first year. I got an invitation for this card after signing up for Priority Club email. And if you're lucky, you could get Pointsbreak nights for only 5,000 Priority Club points in the places you want to visit.
     

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