How I Maximized My Points and Miles for Teacher Travel on a Budget | Tech US News

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There are a few different approaches when it comes to traveling with points and miles.

A lot of people around TPG, for example, live for killer redemption. They look for the cards with the biggest bonuses, spend hours researching their redemption options, and use their points and miles to reserve seats and suites at luxury hotels.

However, that’s not how I learned to use points and miles. An English teacher in my previous life, my travel goals and budget were modest and my mental bandwidth was limited. He didn’t have his eye on status or first class; I just wanted to be able to go to the beach and visit my friends who lived far away.

So my approach was a little different than some of the professionals you see around here. Below, we break it down so you can see if it works for you too.

The challenges

Being a teacher entails a rigid schedule and a difficult work-life balance, making it difficult to travel compared to other occupations. These are some of the challenges I faced when planning a trip.

A tight budget

When I started using points and miles, I was a new teacher and my budget was tight. I wasn’t lured by points and miles by the promise of luxury travel; I was attracted to the idea that travel was an option for me.

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I could barely afford my car insurance at that point in my life, so paying for flights, lodging, and other travel expenses out of pocket was out of my reach.

A limited schedule

A major advantage of being a teacher was the time off school that allowed for travel. However, my days off were predetermined for me. I didn’t have the flexibility to, say, decide to go to Hawaii in the off-season. The school calendar is designed for off-season only, so getting off-peak pricing was almost never an option for me.

Limited mental energy

Teachers juggle many things. When I got home at the end of the day, I was exhausted and still had stacks of papers to grade. As much as I wanted to be able to travel, I didn’t have the time or energy to devote to learning and implementing elaborate point redemption strategies. The best I could do was remember to use one card at the gas station and one at restaurants, and even that was pushing him.

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The approach

I had three main components to my strategy to stay healthy and help me work within my budget.

My points and miles balances

Instead of picking a goal trip and using that to determine which cards I got, I focused on building and maintaining a good balance of some points and miles that I knew I’d be able to use when a travel opportunity arose. For flights, I kept both Southwest points and American Airlines miles available, as both airlines have a significant presence at my home airport and offer many good deals.

For hotels, I kept IHG, Hilton, and Hyatt points balances, knowing that I was likely to find availability and a good deal with a hotel from one of these groups wherever I wanted to go.

I also used cash back rewards cards to keep a separate travel fund that I used to cover things like food and theme park tickets when I traveled.

Related: Set future travel goals

Budget reimbursements

It was very important to stretch the points and miles I had as much as possible, so I aimed to redeem as few as possible for each trip by booking 5am flights and always keeping an eye out for Category 1 Hyatts. In doing so, a card sign-up bonus it could take me on multiple trips instead of being consumed by a larger redemption.

EMILY GOLITZIN/GETTY IMAGES

Low annual fees

It’s no secret that the top premium cards are great value, but the ones with the highest annual fees just weren’t worth it for my limited budget. I decided early on that I wouldn’t get any cards with annual fees over $100.

I knew I wouldn’t get lounge access or significant status with my lower rate cards, but that sacrifice was worth the savings to me. Fortunately, there are also some great value card options that come with no annual fees or lower annual fees. I focused on cards like the Hilton Honors American Express Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Cardwhich gave me great sign up bonuses and cardholder value with little annual fee investment.

Related: Why the Chase Sapphire Preferred Annual Fee is Worth Paying

the journey

My strategy has worked like a dream for me during my nine years as a teacher. My points and miles allowed me to book trips without hesitation when a friend moved to Peru and invited me to visit, when I found great deals on flights to visit my friends in California, and when I decided to see if I could afford my dream trip. hawaii

LUCIA ROMERO HERRANZ/EYEEM/GETTY IMAGES

I was able to travel almost every school holiday, and that was only possible through points and miles.

Related: How 3 Credit Card Bonuses Got Me a Week in London

Your strategy

If you find yourself working on an exceptionally tight budget or with limited mental energy, you can still make points and miles work for you.

Determine your travel budget

Be realistic about what you can and are willing to spend on travel. Decide what annual fees, if any, you have to pay and set a rule about how you’ll know when to transfer one. We, for example, make a very convincing argument that The Platinum® Card from American Express it’s worth its annual fee, but the $695 out-of-pocket expense (see rates and fees) isn’t right for everyone. If you’re not in a place where it makes sense right now, you have plenty of other great options.

Set some travel goals

If you have a specific trip you really want to take, use it to help you determine which card(s) to get next. But even if you don’t, think about what types of trips you want to do in general terms. I, for one, wanted to travel mostly domestically, so a Southwest card was a great choice for me.

CAIAIMAGE/AGNIESZKA OLEK/GETTY IMAGES

If, on the other hand, you have relatives living abroad and want to be able to visit them more regularly, you’ll want to choose a card with an airline that offers good deals on getting there.

Make your plan

If you’re just starting out, start small. If your travel goal has helped you narrow down a specific trip, or if you still have a general idea of ​​the points and miles you want to earn, pick a card or two that will help you get there.

And if you’re on a tight budget, check out your cash back rewards card options to help cover costs that points and miles typically don’t.

Great cards for a tight budget

Hilton Honors American Express Card

WYATT SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

Bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus Hilton Honors points after spending $1,000 on card purchases in the first three months of card membership.

Annual fee: $0 (see rates and fees).

Why it’s great: This card earns 7 points per dollar on Hilton purchases; 5 points per dollar on dining, grocery and gas; and 3 points per dollar on all other purchases. What really makes this card a bargain, however, is that it comes with free Hilton Honors Silver status, which lets you take advantage of Hilton’s fifth night free benefit and boost your points even more.


Apply here: Hilton Honors American Express Card


Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Bonus: Earn 75,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Offer ends December 5, 2022.

Annual fee: 69 USD.

Why it’s great: The welcome bonus on this card is worth $1,125 according to TPG ratings. In addition to the great value of the bonus, these points count toward the Southwest Companion Pass, which doubles the value of your Southwest points.


Apply here: Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card


Citi® Double Cash Card

JOHN GRIBEN/THE POINTS GUY

Bonus: For a limited time, earn $200 cash back after spending $1,500 on purchases in the first six months of account opening.

Annual fee: $0.

Why it’s great: This card allows you to earn 2% cash back on all your purchases (1% when you shop and 1% when you pay). Aside from the bonus it offers, this card is a reliable card to keep in your wallet when you buy something that doesn’t earn you extra points with another card.


Apply here: Citi Double Cash Card


bottom line

The best points and miles redemption strategy is the one that works for your budget, lifestyle and goals. By setting your travel budget and deciding which points and miles will work best for you, you can find a strategy that will get you where you want to go.

For the Amex Platinum card rates and fees link, click here

For Hilton Honors American Express Card rates and fees, click here

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