Showing posts with label 2015 Year in Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2015 Year in Review. Show all posts

January 2, 2016

How Much Did I Pay in Annual Fees in 2015?

The other day I posted a recap of the miles and points we earned in 2015.  The post turned out to be was popular so I'm going one step further today to explain the annual fees paid in 2015 and the rationale behind each fee.  You can read more about my credit card strategy as it relates to annual fees here.  For those of you bored by this topic, check out the trip report page.

In 2015, I paid approximately $1,300 in credit card annual fees.  I say approximately because there were some refunds against annual fees for cards cancelled that I didn't keep track of.  $1,300 isn't an insignificant amount of money.  But travel is our favorite thing to do together.  It enriches our lives in unimaginable ways and this is my hobby.  So given the value created, I think it is actually a pretty good deal.  Especially for Emily.

Now on to the recap.  Here's a list of all the credit card fees I paid last year.

1)  $300 for 2 Citi Prestige Cards

The annual fee for this card is actually $450 but given the $250 airline credit (pretty close to cash for me) I consider my out of pocket expense to be $200 each.  The credit is applied on a calendar year basis and I've already redeemed my credit for 2016.  I will likely cancel the card prior to my anniversary so that's like getting $500 in airline reimbursement for $450!  I also have a Citi Gold Checking Account which reduces the fee on my card by another $100.  We earned 100,000 Citi Thank You points for these two bonuses which helped us fly home in Singapore Airlines First Class.

Singapore Airlines 777-300ER First Class

2)  $95 for the Citi Thank You Premier Card

Emily applied for this card in 2013 when the bonus was 20K points at sign-up and 30K after $3K in spend after the first anniversary.  So we had to pay the $95 fee to get the 30K bonus.  I've since cancelled the card and received a pro-rated annual fee credit via check.

3)  $95 for the Chase Fairmont Card

$95 for two nights in a suite in an awesome Vancouver hotel?  I'll take it.  This was one of the best deals of the year.  Fairmont was recently purchased so this card will likely change at some point.  I would recommend taking advantage sooner rather than later if you're interested...especially for a quick weekend to Vancouver.

4)  $85 for the Chase Marriott Card

This bonus will net me over 90,000 Marriott points - good enough for 2 nights at an amazing amount of excellent properties around the world.  We'll use these points for a couple of nights at the New York EDITION in 2016.

New York EDITION views

5)  $95 for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

The perpetual keeper.  $95 is a steal for 2x points on travel and dining (the vast majority of my spend) with no foreign transaction fees.  Chase has earned my business with such an awesome card.

6)  $89 for the Barclays US Air Card

I picked up this card prior to the American/USAirways merger and have not been disjointed.  I earned 50,000 miles from the signup bonus and receive a 10,000 mile (annually) credit back American Airlines award redemptions.  I value the 10,000 miles around $200 so this is quite the deal.  As long as the 10,000 mile rebate exists and I'm still redeeming American miles, I'll keep this one along with the $89 fee.

7)  $275 for 4 Bank of America Alaska Personal/Business Cards

Emirates First Class.  Enough said.  These 4 cards earned more than enough points for a one-way first class ticket on Emirates.  It's amazing that BofA lets you "churn" these cards.  I'm hoping to pickup a few more in 2016!

8)  $250 for the American Express Business Platinum

The actual fee is $450 but with $200 in airline reimbursement (i.e. gift cards) the fee is only $250 out of pocket.  With a 100,000 point signup bonus, this was one of the best deals of 2015.

9)  $65 for the Starwood American Express Card

I've had this card in my wallet since 2004.  I'll likely keep the card just for the longevity on my credit report.  I'm also getting 2x points on SPG stays along with credits toward elite status.  It will be very interesting to see what happens after the Marriott/Starwood merger.  I would imagine this card goes away but we shall see.

I'm headed into 2016 with the majority of these cards still in my wallet/credit card box.  Some will stay, some will go, and I'll add 20-25 new ones across the year.  As long as travel remains a priority, I'll allocate a certain amount of money towards these fees. If/when it's no longer a priority, I'll definitely work on slimming this list down!

2015 Year in Review: Hotels

I recently posted about my 2015 year in flight.  You can also read about my hotel stays in 2014 (45 nights) and 2013 (55 nights) for comparison purposes.

In 2015, We stayed in really great hotels although didn't receive as many "upgrades" as in prior years.  I ended the year with 46 total nights.  Virtually identical to 2014.  Starwood (15 nights) and Hyatt (11 nights) brands made up the bulk of my stays.  Interesting to note that 15 of the 46 nights were related to business travel...vs. 0 in 2014.  5 of the nights were at independent properties where we were unable to earn/burn points.

None of the nights were business travel although 10 of the "nights" were credit from the Starwood American Express cards and two additional nights were "mistakes" credits.  So I actually stayed in hotels 45 nights during 2014.  I will be dropping from Starwood Platinum to Gold (lifetime) which I'm okay with.

Here's the full breakdown:

  • 15 Starwood nights across 8 properties and 5 brands
  • 11 Hyatt nights across 4 properties and 3 brands
  • 7 Marriott nights across 3 properties and 3 brands
  • 5 Hilton nights across 2 properties and 2 brands
  • 5 Independent nights across 3 properties and 3 brands
  • 2 Fairmont nights
  • 1 Shangri-La night
I think 2016 will look pretty similar - large concentration on both Starwood and Hyatt with Marriott/Hilton as backups.  I don't expect the Starwood/Marriott merger to impact my stay habits at this point but we'll see how the merger/loyalty program integration goes.  That said, both of us are becoming very fond of Hyatt - especially the Park Hyatt and Andaz brands.  For the most part, Park Hyatt blows St. Regis out of the water and Andaz beats W hotels in terms of substance so I think we'll continue to ramp Hyatt stays when possible.  

We had some amazing stays across the year.  My favorite by far was the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa.  Close second (same trip) would be Al Maha outside of Dubai.  Third would be the Waldorf Astoria in Amsterdam.

It was another great year in travel - we're both excited for a new year exploring new places!

January 1, 2016

How Many Miles Did We Earn in 2015?

Happy New Year!  As I've done in the past, here's an overview of miles earned last year.

I keep a pretty organized spreadsheet containing a ton of information about my mileage earning.  It also helps me keep track of our credit card applications, minimum spend required, etc...this is very much a team effort as Emily earned a little over 36% of the total in 2015 (down from 44% in 2014).  We earned a little over 1.3 million points/miles last year and nearly 1.7 million in 2013.

In looking at our 2015 earnings, we took home nearly 1.1 million miles and points from credit card signup bonuses/retention bonuses.  We applied for (and were approved for all) 26 credit cards in 2015 with an average signup bonus of 44,100 points.  For comparison purposes, in 2014 we earned 987,000 points from 20 sign-up bonuses.

This doesn't include the miles we earned by flying/staying which amounted to another 100,000.  We also purchased a British Airways and Alaska miles (50,000) during a couple of promotions across the year and earned around an additional 250,000 or so miles and points for our "everyday" spend including category bonuses and shopping portal bonuses.

All in, that is over 1.5 million miles and points generated during 2015!  It still amazes me that such a large portion (70%) comes from credit card sign-up bonuses.  Flying/staying (even at high volumes) won't earn you anywhere near what you can earn from a handful of sign-up bonuses across the year.

So where do things stand in terms of point balances now?  According to Award Wallet, we have 1.25 million miles "in the bank."  This time last year, we had 1.6M points and miles so we're doing a pretty good job of earning and burning!

In terms of burning, here's what 2015 looked like:

That is 2.1 million points/miles burned (some trips were booked the year prior) in one year!!  We don't have anything booked in 2016 other than a trip to London and Abu Dhabi - I'm sure that will change as the year goes on.  Here's to a another great year of travel!!

December 5, 2015

2015 Year in Review: Flights

It's hard to believe it's almost 2016!  I'm done flying for the year so here's the year in review.  You can read about my 2013 and 2014 flying history if you'd like.

In 2015, I traveled a fair amount for work (8 trips) so racked up enough miles to keep my United Premier Silver status.  Nothing to jump up and down about but it's better than nothing.  I took 7 long haul flights (all award tickets) and flew over 88,000 miles after flying 65,000 in 2014 and 87,000 in 2013.

I booked almost a dozen award tickets across the year and flew on several new carriers (Emirates, Maldivian, and British Airways.  I don't have anything booked for 2016 so will have to get on that over the holidays!

Here are some of the highlights from 2015:
  • Visited 11 countries (4 new)
  • Visited 2 continents (Europe & Asia)
  • Flew on 12 airlines (United, Singapore, Thai, Asiana, Cathay Pacific, Air India, Maldivian, Emirates, British Airways, Delta, Frontier, and American) 
  • Flew 46 segments
  • Flew 88,415 miles
  • Visited 27 airports in 12 countries and 7 US States
  • Shortest flight was London to Amsterdam at 231 miles
  • Longest flight was Dallas to Dubai at 8,040 miles
  • Four flights over 7,000 miles
  • The best flight of the year was definitely Emirates First Class DFW to DXB

And maps...courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper:

2015 International Travel

2015 Domestic (and Canada) travel

February 1, 2015

2015 Travel Coming Together

The beginning of the year is always interesting as the "clock" resets to zero in so many ways.  I love looking at the calendar with virtually nothing booked and slowly filling it in with a trip here and there.  Weekend trips, long-haul trips, birthday trips, anniversaries, etc...

2015 is now shaping up to be the best travel year yet and I'm really excited about everything we have booked.  Here's a quick overview:

In April, Emily and I are headed to Vancouver for my birthday.  We haven't been in 7 years but our last visit was awesome so we're both excited to return.  The easiest way to get there would be to fly direct from Denver.  But that's not that fun.  So we're flying to New York to take Cathay Pacific's service across the first class.  We loved our recent Cathay first trip so much that we just had to get another flight in this year.

Cathay Pacific First Class

In May, we're headed to Europe.  This will be our first trip with a long-haul flight direct from Denver. As of now, we'll be visiting Amsterdam, Vienna, and Paris and returning in Singapore Suites!  We also have some great stays booked (all with points) at the Park Hyatt's in Paris and Vienna.

In June, I'm taking my brother on a whirlwind tour of Asia.  We'll start off by flying Cathay First from LAX to Hong Kong on our way to Bangkok where we'll spend a couple of days.  Then back to Hong Kong for a few days (in Thai Airways first class) before flying home on Asiana's A380 First Class Suite.  This will be he first time in Asia so it will be great to show him around.

We'll spend most of the summer in Denver celebrating a couple of key birthdays and anniversaries.  In October, we're headed to Hawaii for a few days at the newly opened Andaz Maui.

All in all, it's shaping up to be a great year.  All of these trips have been fully "paid for" with points and miles.  I hope you'll come along for the ride and maybe pick up a thing or two.