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I earned over a million credit card points and miles during the pandemichere's how I'm spending them

Published by Business Insider on Thu, 10 Jun 2021

<p><img src="https://static3.businessinsider.com/image/5e187d01e0e1443e3d45d89f-1200/shutterstock92510755.jpg" border="0" alt="Cape Town, South Africa" data-mce-source="michaeljung/Shutterstock" data-link="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/overall-aerial-view-cape-town-south-92510755"></p><p></p><bi-shortcode id="disclaimer" class="mceNonEditable" data-type="pfi">&nbsp;</bi-shortcode><bi-shortcode id="summary-shortcode" data-type="summary-shortcode" class="mceNonEditable" contenteditable="false">Summary List Placement</bi-shortcode><ul class="summary-list"><li>During the pandemic, my wife and I opened and spent on <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/best-current-credit-card-signup-bonuses" target="_blank" rel="noopener">new credit cards</a> to earn points and miles.</li><li>We earned over a million airline miles, hotel points, and credit card rewards to use for travel.</li><li>We're now catching up on trips, including using points to book a family vacation to South Africa.</li><li id="recirc"><a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/best-rewards-credit-cards" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read Insider's guide to the best rewards credit cards</a>.</li></ul><p>It's been a long, hard time since the pandemic hit the US in March of 2020. Everyone had their own way of making it through the lockdowns including exercising, cooking, and spending time on Zoom. I did all of those things too, but I also doubled down on my favorite hobbycollecting <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/getting-started-points-and-miles-beginners-guide" target="_blank" rel="noopener">travel rewards points and miles</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>Doing so was my way of reminding myself that the pandemic will eventually pass, while looking forward to the time when normal life would resume and travel would be safe again.&nbsp;</p><p><em><strong>Read more: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/signs-you-should-still-earn-travel-rewards-pandemic-2020-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener">7 signs you should still be earning travel rewards, even while most travel is on hold</a></strong></em></p><p>And after an unprecedented drop in demand for travel, <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/new-credit-card-benefits-rewards-covid-pandemic" target="_blank" rel="noopener">credit card issuers created some fantastic incentives</a> to acquire and use their <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/best-travel-rewards-credit-cards" target="_blank" rel="noopener">travel rewards credit cards</a>. From March of 2020 until now, I was able to earn at least a million points and miles. Here's how I did it.</p><aside class="quick-tip headline-regular"><bi-shortcode id="disclaimer" class="mceNonEditable" data-type="pfifinancialresponsibility">&nbsp;</bi-shortcode></aside><h2>New credit card welcome bonuses</h2><bi-shortcode id="commerce-link" class="mceNonEditable" data-cardtype="credit-card" data-pid="5e78df992d654f251532f27d" data-type="undefined">The Platinum Card from American Express</bi-shortcode><p><a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/how-to-apply-for-a-credit-card" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Applying for new credit cards</a> is a great way to boost your balances of points and miles. Even though we weren't traveling during the pandemic, my wife and I applied for several great deals that were just too good to pass up.&nbsp;</p><p><em><strong>Read more: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/credit-card-offers-travel-after-pandemic-2020-12" target="_blank" rel="noopener">5 credit card offers to take advantage of right now if you want to take a big trip when the pandemic ends</a></strong></em></p><p>Here are the new credit cards that either my wife or I applied for since the pandemic began. In some cases, the welcome bonuses were higher than they are now.</p><table style="border-collapse: collapse; width: 100%;" border="1"><tbody><tr><td style="width: 33.3333%;">Credit card</td><td style="width: 33.3333%;">Welcome bonus</td><td style="width: 33.3333%;">Review</td></tr><tr><td style="width: 33.3333%;"><p><bi-inline-shortcode id="commerce-link" contenteditable="false" data-fields="name" data-customtext="" data-shouldlink="true" data-pid="5e78df992d654f251532f27d">The Platinum Card from American Express</bi-inline-shortcode></p></td><td style="width: 33.3333%;"><p><bi-inline-shortcode id="commerce-link" contenteditable="false" data-fields="intro_bonus_display" data-customtext="" data-shouldlink="false" data-pid="5e78df992d654f251532f27d">The Platinum Card from American Express</bi-inline-shortcode></p><p><bi-inline-shortcode id="commerce-link" contenteditable="false" data-fields="annual_fee_display" data-customtext="" data-shouldlink="false" data-pid="5fa03efcbe509c166a3dc50d">(Note: New Platinum Card cardmembers can earn 10x points on eligible purchases at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during the first 6 months of card membership)</bi-inline-shortcode></p></td><td style="width: 33.3333%;"><a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/american-express-platinum-credit-card-review" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Amex Platinum card review</a></td></tr><tr><td style="width: 33.3333%;"><p><bi-inline-shortcode id="commerce-link" contenteditable="false" data-fields="name" data-customtext="" data-shouldlink="true" data-pid="5e78e372671de020577f79f5">The Business Platinum Card from American Express</bi-inline-shortcode></p></td><td style="width: 33.3333%;"><bi-inline-shortcode id="commerce-link" contenteditable="false" data-fields="intro_bonus_display" data-customtext="" data-shouldlink="false" data-pid="5e78e372671de020577f79f5">The Business Platinum Card from American Express</bi-inline-shortcode></td><td style="width: 33.3333%;"><a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/amex-business-platinum-card-review" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Amex Business Platinum card review</a></td></tr><tr><td style="width: 33.3333%;"><p><bi-inline-shortcode id="commerce-link" contenteditable="false" data-fields="name" data-customtext="" data-shouldlink="true" data-pid="5e78ea42671de024d00cf6b6">American Express Gold Card</bi-inline-shortcode></p></td><td style="width: 33.3333%;"><bi-inline-shortcode id="commerce-link" contenteditable="false" data-fields="intro_bonus_display" data-customtext="" data-shouldlink="false" data-pid="5e78ea42671de024d00cf6b6">American Express Gold Card</bi-inline-shortcode></td><td style="width: 33.3333%;"><a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/amex-gold-card-review" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Amex Gold card review</a></td></tr><tr><td style="width: 33.3333%;"><p><bi-inline-shortcode id="commerce-link" contenteditable="false" data-fields="name" data-customtext="" data-shouldlink="true" data-pid="606f1048c3c9840018e7e956">New United Quest Card</bi-inline-shortcode> (one each for my wife and me)</p></td><td style="width: 33.3333%;"><bi-inline-shortcode id="commerce-link" contenteditable="false" data-fields="intro_bonus_display" data-customtext="" data-shouldlink="false" data-pid="606f1048c3c9840018e7e956">New United Quest Card</bi-inline-shortcode></td><td style="width: 33.3333%;"><a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/united-quest-card-review" target="_blank" rel="noopener">United Quest card review</a></td></tr></tbody></table><h2>Credit card bonus spending offers</h2><p>Another way I earned points and miles was through <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/current-credit-card-spending-category-bonuses" target="_blank" rel="noopener">limited-time bonus spending offers</a> on new and existing cards. These offers required registration and some were targeted:</p><ul><li><bi-inline-shortcode id="commerce-link" contenteditable="false" data-fields="name" data-customtext="" data-shouldlink="true" data-pid="5e7429dac48540796658fde2">The World Of Hyatt Credit Card</bi-inline-shortcode>: Earned bonus points for spending in certain categories up to a limit</li><li><bi-inline-shortcode id="commerce-link" contenteditable="false" data-fields="name" data-customtext="" data-shouldlink="true" data-pid="5e78e372671de020577f79f5">The Business Platinum Card from American Express</bi-inline-shortcode>: Targeted <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/what-are-amex-offers-available-now" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Amex Offers</a> to earn bonus points**</li><li><bi-inline-shortcode id="commerce-link" contenteditable="false" data-fields="name" data-customtext="" data-shouldlink="true" data-pid="5e72234fc48540106c2d63b3">Chase Sapphire Reserve</bi-inline-shortcode>: Earned bonus points from a <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/bonus-rewards-groceries-chase-credit-cards-2020-5" target="_blank" rel="noopener">promotion</a> (no longer available)</li><li><a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/southwest-credit-card-comparison-which-to-get" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Southwest Rapid Rewards cards</a>: Earned 5x bonus points on Southwest purchases (no longer available)</li><li><bi-inline-shortcode id="commerce-link" contenteditable="false" data-fields="name" data-customtext="" data-shouldlink="true" data-pid="5e78ea42671de024d00cf6b6">American Express Gold Card</bi-inline-shortcode>: Two <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/earn-more-miles-points-credit-card-referral-bonuses" target="_blank" rel="noopener">referral bonuses</a></li></ul><p><em><strong>Read more: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/current-credit-card-spending-category-bonuses" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The latest limited-time credit card spending bonuses to boost earnings in categories like groceries, travel, and gas stations</a></strong></em></p><h2>Adding up the rewards</h2><p>In total, my wife and I received over 345,000 <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/amex-membership-rewards-points-ways-to-use" target="_blank" rel="noopener">American Express Membership Rewards points</a> from welcome, referral, and spending bonuses. We also received over 220,000 <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/how-to-earn-use-united-mileageplus-miles" target="_blank" rel="noopener">United MileagePlus miles</a> along with plenty of <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/guide-earning-using-chase-ultimate-rewards-points" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Chase Ultimate Rewards</a>, <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/southwest-credit-card-comparison-which-to-get" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Southwest Rapid Rewards</a>, and <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/how-to-earn-redeem-hyatt-points" target="_blank" rel="noopener">World of Hyatt points</a> from spending bonuses.</p><p><em><strong>Read more: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/best-travel-rewards-credit-cards" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The best travel rewards credit cards of 2021</a></strong></em></p><p>On top of that, we were able to cancel all of our award travel from March of 2020 until this year when we started traveling again. When we added up all of these points and miles, we had over a million.</p><aside class="quick-tip headline-regular"><p>Read <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/what-are-points-miles-worth-value" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Insider's latest points and miles valuations</a> to find out how much the airline miles, hotel points, and credit card rewards you've earned over the pandemic are worth.</p></aside><h2>Spending the points</h2><p>Now that I'm vaccinated, and the worst of the pandemic is over in the US, here's how we're spending all the points and miles we've earned.&nbsp;</p><h3>Continuing our trip to South Africa</h3><p>When the pandemic struck the US last March, my family and I were in the middle of a trip to South Africa. As soon as the global health emergency was declared, we were forced to cancel the remainder of our trip and purchased return tickets home on the next flight out.</p><p>But we vowed to return and continue our trip as soon as it was safe. So in January, I transferred approximately 500,000 American Express Membership Rewards points to Air Canada Aeroplan miles to book five business class tickets from our home in Denver to Johannesburg, South Africa in December, just as our kid's school break begins.</p><p><em><strong>Read more: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/amex-membership-rewards-points-ways-to-use" target="_blank" rel="noopener">How to earn, redeem, and maximize Amex Membership Rewards points</a></strong></em></p><p>We'll be flying Air Canada to Toronto, and then Egyptair the remainder of the way. As an added benefit, we'll have a day in Cairo to quickly explore the pyramids and the new Grand Egypt Museum opening later this year.&nbsp;</p><p>In South Africa, we'll pick up where we left off in 2020, at Safari in Kruger National Park, before continuing to explore the Western Cape region and the city of Cape Town. To return home, we redeemed another 500,000 United MileagePlus miles that were returned to us when our original flights home were canceled last year.</p><p>Because we were unable to find five <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/tips-for-flying-business-class-using-rewards-points" target="_blank" rel="noopener">business class award seats</a> on a single flight, one of my daughters and I will be flying on United business class from Cape Town to Newark before continuing on to Denver. My wife, our son, and our other daughter will return to the US in business class on Egyptair.&nbsp;</p><p><em><strong>Read more: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/credit-card-points-book-business-class-fare-sale-europe-2021-5" target="_blank" rel="noopener">How I used a credit card rewards sweet spot to turn a business class fare sale to Europe into free flights</a></strong></em></p><h3>Mommy and daddy getaway to Maine</h3><p>After over a year of remote learning, and hardly any babysitters available, my wife and I are desperate for some alone time while our kids are in summer camp. We had booked a Caribbean vacation, but changed our mind when we considered all of the testing and other restrictions in place, and decided to visit the coast of Maine instead.</p><p><em><strong>Read more: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/free-hotel-stays-credit-card-rewards-points" target="_blank" rel="noopener">I haven't paid for a hotel room in 10 yearshere's how I stay for free</a></strong></em></p><p>While we redeemed Hyatt points for our hotel in Portland, we <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/chase-ultimate-rewards-travel-portal" target="_blank" rel="noopener">used Chase Ultimate Rewards points for the remaining hotels</a> and even our rental car.&nbsp;</p><h3>Lots of domestic trips</h3><p>When the pandemic struck, my wife and I both held a <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/how-to-earn-the-southwest-companion-pass" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Southwest Airlines Companion Pass</a>. And although mine was supposed to expire at the end of last year, Southwest graciously extended everyone's 2020 passes until the end of 2021.</p><p><em><strong>Read more: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/im-earning-chase-ultimate-rewards-points-again-for-travel-after-covid-2021-4" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The pandemic isn't over, but here's why I'm hoarding Chase Ultimate Rewards points again</a></strong></em></p><p>Domestic trips we've booked for this year or have already taken include visiting family in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, a trip to visit friends in Minneapolis, a family vacation to Seattle, visiting friends in Atlanta, attending the Airventure airshow in Oshkosh Wisconsin, the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, and canoe camping trips to Georgia's Okefenokee swamp and the Florida Everglades.&nbsp;</p><p>All of these domestic trips were booked on Southwest, often with points and credits returned to us because of flights canceled during the pandemic. We purchased other flights using Membership Rewards points redeemed from my <bi-inline-shortcode id="commerce-link" contenteditable="false" data-fields="product_editorial_name" data-customtext="" data-shouldlink="true" data-pid="5e78e372671de020577f79f5">The Business Platinum Card from American Express</bi-inline-shortcode>. It offers a <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com.au/american-express-business-platinum-elite-status-southwest-free-flights-2019-5">35% points rebate on points redeemed</a> when I have <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/choose-airline-amex-airline-fee-credit" target="_blank" rel="noopener">selected Southwest as my chosen airline</a> for its <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/how-to-use-amex-airline-incidental-fee-credit" target="_blank" rel="noopener">up to $200 annual airline fee credit**</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em>Read more: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/business-platinum-card-from-american-express-worth-annual-fee" target="_blank" rel="noopener">If you use these 9 benefits of the Amex Business Platinum card, you could get up to $7,000 in value</a></em></strong></p><p>And for nearly all of these trips, we're staying in Hyatt hotels with points earned from <bi-inline-shortcode id="commerce-link" contenteditable="false" data-fields="name" data-customtext="" data-shouldlink="true" data-pid="5e7429dac48540796658fde2">The World Of Hyatt Credit Card</bi-inline-shortcode> or <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/chase-ultimate-rewards-points-transfer-partners" target="_blank" rel="noopener">transferred from my Chase Ultimate Rewards account</a>. One exception is the Oshkosh Wisconsin trip, which doesn't have a Hyatt nearby. Instead, I <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/american-express-membership-rewards-points-transfer-partners" target="_blank" rel="noopener">transferred American Express Membership Rewards points</a> to <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/how-to-earn-redeem-hilton-honors-points" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Hilton Honors</a>, with the current 40% transfer bonus, to stay in a nearby Hampton Inn.&nbsp;</p><h2>Bottom line</h2><p>It might have seemed like folly to collect travel rewards when almost nobody was traveling, but I always had faith that we'd get through this and travel would return. Now that pandemic restrictions are falling, I'm glad I did.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Jason Steele has covered credit cards, award travel, and other areas of personal finance since 2008. He also produces&nbsp;<a href="https://cardconexpo.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url'q=https://cardconexpo.com/&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1556309082330000&amp;usg=AFQjCNEX-ncuaYDWsqMxBZBF3PwYXw0eNw" data-analytics-module="body_link" data-analytics-post-depth="100" data-uri="1bc0e7edce23d473f2a0622ddf5ee6fc">CardCon</a>, The Conference for Credit and Credit Card Media.</em></p><bi-shortcode id="related-content-module" class="mceNonEditable" data-type="more-credit-card-coverage" data-sheetname="More Credit Card Coverage">Related Content Module: More Credit Card Coverage</bi-shortcode><bi-shortcode id="related-product-module" class="mceNonEditable" data-type="related-products-credit-cards" data-sheetname="Related Product Credit Cards">Related Product Module: Related Product Credit Cards</bi-shortcode><p><a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/earned-over-million-credit-card-points-pandemic-2021-6#comments">Join the conversation about this story &#187;</a></p> <p>NOW WATCH: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/racist-origins-marijuana-prohibition-legalization-2018-2">How racism contributed to marijuana prohibition in the US</a></p>
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