Last week I wrote what I thought was a commonsense corrective to the din of blogger voices encouraging readers to sign up for the IHG Rewards credit card before it was replaced with a couple of somewhat-more-expensive co-branded credit cards.
The post attracted a fair amount of disagreement (mostly polite disagreement, because my readers are phenomenal) by folks who had the card and enjoyed the annual free night benefit.
But, of course, people who already hold the card could not possibly have been the audience for a post titled "No, you shouldn't rush to sign up for IHG's crappy credit card." You can't sign up for a (Chase) card you already have. The post was explicitly addressed at people who had not yet signed up for the credit card, to discourage them from making a rash decision based purely on the fact that the card was going away.
Money is a sensitive subject, but travel hacking is about money
I understand perfectly well why folks who already carry the $49-annual-fee IHG Rewards credit card were upset by my criticism of it. How people earn, spend, and save their money is an area of almost-religious devotion among Americans, so if I say you're overpaying for a bad credit card, you don't hear that I think you're overpaying for a bad credit card, you hear that as criticism of your judgment or intelligence.
Unfortunately, that's just not going to work if you want my unbiased advice about travel hacking. You're going to have made mistakes in the past, you're making them right now, and you're going to make them in the future. If, every time you disagree with me, you treat it as a personal attack on you, you're inevitably going to experience this blog as a series of personal attacks.
I'm not here to tell you what you want to hear. I'm here to help you spend as little money as possible on the trips you want to take.
And, to be perfectly clear, I'm just as critical of my own decisions as I am of your decisions. The Delta Platinum American Express card is a tough card to justify keeping (impossible to justify if manufactured spend no longer counts towards MQD waivers), but I still have it. I'm just as much of a sucker for the overstated, overwrought, underperforming Platinum companion ticket as you are for your free IHG night.
Using someone else's travel hacking strategy is an expensive mistake
I can and do write about my travel hacking strategy:
- Grocery store manufactured spend on my US Bank and American Express cards;
- Office supply store manufactured spend on my Chase Ink Plus card;
- Unbonused manufactured spend on my Chase Freedom Unlimited and 2% cash back cards.
But it makes no sense for me to recommend that strategy to an anonymous reader:
- The Chase Ink Plus is no longer available to new applicants;
- Not all grocery stores allow PIN-enabled prepaid debit cards to be purchased with credit cards;
- Not every community has access to convenient liquidation strategies;
- Some people have enough money with Bank of America to qualify for Platinum Honors rewards and earn 2.625% cash back with the Bankamericard Travel Rewards card.
I don't know you, I don't know your travel habits, I don't know your credit score, I don't know your net worth, how can I possibly give you advice about the right travel hacking strategy?
I can say under what circumstances a card is useful. A lot of readers seem to have glossed over my endorsement of the IHG Rewards credit card: "If you've got a favorite IHG property you stay at every time you visit your family, don't let me stop you from knocking off a couple bucks by using a credit card free night certificate."
I can say under what circumstances a card is worthless, like a US Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards credit card in a city without grocery store or gas station manufactured spend.
But I'm never going to try to tell you the best credit card, travel hacking, or manufactured spend strategy for you without a long, expensive conversation about your travel needs and opportunities.
Footnote: it doesn't matter if I was "right"
Today it came out that even existing cardholders will have their free nights limited to properties costing 40,000 points or fewer per night, and you might have seen Nick Reyes scrambling to cancel his son's now-worthless application, but I'm not gloating that I "called it" or that this somehow proves me "right." As a travel hacker and friend of travel hackers, I wish existing cardholders got their uncapped free night certificates grandfathered from here until the end of days.
But if I was "right," I was only right because you shouldn't apply for cards you're not interested in just because there's a sudden blogger pressure campaign, whether it's based on a card's upcoming retirement or the periodic higher affiliate payouts that send them into paroxysms of prose.
And all it took to be "right" was applying the same logic over and over again: pay as little as possible for the trips you want to take.