There are clearly not enough adjectives to describe how strange 2020 has been. I have cashed out hundreds of thousands of Ultimate Rewards points for cash because, well, I could at top value (to me) of 1.5 cents each.
Not just that, but I have done the same thing by sending hundreds of thousands of Membership Rewards points to my Schwab account via my Amex Platinum card tie-in at 1.25 cents each. On top of that the only real spending I have done all year has been on my trusty old USAA unlimited cash back card that yields 2.5% on all purchases (no longer available to new cardmembers, FYI) .
Not only the above but the bulk of my shopping portal choices (mostly Rakuten and TopCashBack) have been driven with a laser focus on what ways I could, not just earn a bunch, but be able to max out my cashback when it came time to redeem whatever offer or points.
Bottom line: 2020 has been the year that cash has been KING!
But that is nearing an end — or at least I should say I can see the end in sight where I will flip the switch to once again look to ways to max out (whatever) points for travel again. But what points?
I had tiny little hopes that during COVID the Delta SkyMiles team would make some – heck any – positive changes to the program. Instead, as we saw over the past month, they again trashed the partner award chart in business class (was 75k to Europe – now 95k or more one way).
Looking at a trip to Sweden next summer in Delta One business class makes me want to simply cry. Just look at those numbers! They are beyond insanity. How far are they out in comparison to other airlines? Look at one example from American:
Now to be fair the AA award I am tossing up as a comparison is 4 legs vs. the 3 legs from Delta but gee-whiz, what a difference in points cost.
Delta is clearly trying hard to make me hate Skymiles. They have already driven me to downgrade my Delta Reserve card to a basic card and I never ever put a dollar of spend on it unless there is an Amex offer that net results in cashback for me. I have not pushed to participate in anything that will gain me MQMs or bonus SkyMiles because – what is the point when you look at redemption numbers like you see above?!
So where will I focus my points earning? Am I going for lots of AA point-earning cards from Citibank and others? I would love to say “this and this and this so go get these cards NOW so you are ready for the same switch from cash to points as me!” But frankly, my spending will be targeted.
When I decide to apply for new cards, I’ll look to choices that are less RAT sensitive when it comes to spending to be able to not only meet the minimum spend but also to bulk up the points from those cards.
I will be looking at, as I always do, bulking back up my Ultimate Rewards (UR) balance and Membership Rewards totals as well as topping off a number of hotel point totals as I will have need of free hotel stays as well as considering a longish all-inclusive vacation maybe winter of next year (if it is safe to travel by then – clearly). I love that I can transfer UR points to Hyatt when I need those nights but am looking at all hotel partner cards as options.
The real question, when it comes time to changing my behavior, is how bad Delta is going to be during 2021. Will I, at long last, just give up on Delta status because SkyMiles have become so nearly worthless? Will upgrades continue, as they were before, to be sold for as little as $2.00 making the value of chasing and keeping my rolled-over Diamond Medallion status pointless? I am not holding my breath sad to say.
But I am stoked about turning my focus back to points again soon!
How about you? – René
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