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Coronavirus: I’m not traveling right now, but I’m still maximizing travel rewards

Taking her own advice, Stephanie Zito racked up points and cash back using her travel rewards cards – all from her couch

Summary

Resident travel writer Stephanie Zito took her own advice and experimented with racking up travel rewards points while stuck at home. Gaining over $1,000 in perks and cash back, Zito certainly practiced what she preached.

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I have nine travel rewards credit cards in my wallet and zero plans to do any traveling in the near future – but I haven’t given up on my points-collecting credit cards and travel-hacking habits just yet.

Instead, I’ve decided to double down on my earning and organizing to see how many points and dollars I can actually put into my pocket from my credit card benefits. A personal experiment of sorts to answer the question we’ve all been asking these past few weeks: “Are our travel rewards cards really still worth it?”

For the last 10 days, I’ve been actively using all the advice I’ve given you about getting your accounts in order, taking advantage of new benefits and managing your flight cancellations.

Spoiler alert: I’ve put $760 back into my bank account, added 2,545 bonus points to my future travel fund, tallied up $300 American Airlines vouchers and even got a free television – all without leaving my house.

Here’s exactly how I took my own advice to get myself some cash and points – and a free TV – this week:

See related: Four ways to earn frequent flyer miles without flying

A $200 TV from American Express + $20 cashback + 400 AAdvantage miles

When American Express emailed me as a Business Platinum Card® from American Express cardholder to tell me they were doubling my Dell benefit (as a way to compensate for the travel benefits I wasn’t going to be using this year), I did a big eye roll – and then I figured out how to turn this opportunity into a $220 triple dip.

I’m a Mac user who hasn’t shopped at Dell since 2002, so I assumed a benefit from Dell had no value to me. Upon searching Dell.com, however, I quickly realized I could buy so many things – including a $200 smart TV. Now I’m saving up to use my next $200 Dell statement credit coming in June-December towards the new Garmin smart watch I’ve been eyeing.

Not only could I get free stuff I actually wanted, I realized I could also register my card for the American Express 10% cash back Dell offer, which means AmEx is actually paying me $20 to have a new TV. Plus, I activated the AAdvantage e-shopping portal for my checkout at Dell.com, so I’m also getting an additional 400 American bonus miles – win, win, win.

Free dinner and ice cream from Chase: $28.20

After six weeks of staying home, I decided Cinco de Mayo was the perfect day to let Door Dash bring me dinner courtesy of the $60 benefit on my Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

I ordered nachos and a margarita kit for $21.95 from a local Mexican restaurant and then discovered that Door Dash also delivers pints of Ben & Jerry’s from the 7-11 down my street (another $6.95). It cost to me $0.

The $28.20 I spent will be returned as a statement credit from Chase and I’ll likely use the remaining $30 of my benefit this year for more ice cream deliveries.

Grocery delivery: 1500 AAdvantage miles + 260 Chase Ultimate Rewards

In my quest to test out new grocery delivery options, I joined Thrive Market. Using the American e-shopping portal, my signup and first order qualified me for a bonus of 1,500 miles.

Not only are the plantain chips I had delivered amazing, but assuming Thrive Market codes as a grocery when they post to my Chase Sapphire Reserve statement, I’ll also be getting another 260 Ultimate Rewards points for my $52 purchase with the new, limited-time 5x supermarket bonus.

The almighty toilet paper: 294 Ultimate Rewards points

Other than food, household and office supplies are my only additional shopping essentials. When I ran out of printer paper, I jumped on a sale with free delivery from Staples.com – and found toilet paper and cleaning supplies in stock in my shopping process!

Using my Chase Ink Plus card to take advantage of the 5x office supply bonus, together with the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal for an extra 2x, I get 7x points per dollar on my $42 spend.

Shipping costs: $20 back from American Express

My little sister is having a quarantine birthday next week, so I took advantage of the new $20 monthly shipping credit on my Business Platinum Card® from American Express to get her gift in the mail.

With USPS, I was able to “click-and-ship” from home with free pickup. I’m not sure who I’m going to send something to with next month’s $20, but I think I’ll try FedEx so I can double dip on value by registering the ongoing AmEx Offers discount with FedEx.

Cell phone bills: $20 back from American Express

This week, I also switched my cell phone payment to my Amex Business Platinum Card to take advantage of the new $20 monthly benefit for U.S. wireless payments. Why not let them pay for part of my phone bill (since they’re no longer supplying me each week with cookies and tea at the DFW Centurion Lounge)?

Recovered mistake: $300 American Airlines vouchers + $672

Remember when I said to track your charges against a spreadsheet and watch your credit card bills carefully during these uncertain times? Well, good thing I follow my own advice.

When I was reviewing my Chase Sapphire Reserve bill for March, I noticed that in the chaos of border closures, American Airlines double charged me for a $672 paid plane ticket. It took an hour on the elite line to fix the problem, but now the “check is in the mail,” along with an additional $300 in vouchers for another ticket I cancelled in the process.

Is it still worth keeping your rewards credit cards and travel-hacking habits? You’ll have to do your own calculations, of course, but for me, the results of this week’s experiment definitely add up to yes.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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Credit Card Rate Report Updated: May 27th, 2020
Business
14.03%
Airline
15.50%
Cash Back
16.06%
Reward
15.82%
Student
16.05%

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