2016 Year in Review: Miles Earned, Miles Burned & More

First and foremost – A Happy New Year to all my readers!

Things have been quiet here for a while now but I’m looking to change that going forward and what better way to start with a post about my 2016 travels and miles/points activity. Some would argue 2016 has been quite a rough year with all the notable deaths (and even the deaths of several competing blogs) but it will always be most memorable to me for one little reason.

krista

She has certainly changed the way I think about travel and my miles goals/balance. In fact, she is largely responsible for some of the reduced numbers below even if she doesn’t know it (its ok kiddo). Gone are my days of flying off to Thailand for two weeks with just my wife and instead will be soon replaced with trips to Disney and other family friendly resorts closer to home.

The point of this is to not brag about my activity or balances as many people have far exceeded what I’ve done below. As a reader of many other similar blogs, I always find these types of posts interesting and historically my readers have as well as it offers a more detailed, personal analysis into how your favorite blogger (I am your favorite blogger right? :P) handles his own miles situation.

2016 Miles Earned: 1,003,413

Not only do I use AwardWallet to track my miles balances in dozens of programs (p.s. signup soon & pay $10 to be grandfathered for the premium version before it increases to $30) but I also keep a detailed spreadsheet with my miles balances over time as well a detailed credit card application tracker. This is how I’m able to compare data year over year and get very accurate figures.

In 2016 my wife & I applied for only 13 credit cards with total signup bonuses of 479,600 miles/points which is a stark difference from years past as I’ve attempted to make things “simpler” this year instead of chasing every deal or miles currency out there. The remaining miles came from everyday spending, reselling (see below), referrals (e.g. Starwood Amex), manufactured spending, various spending promotions (e.g. Barclays AA 15k miles for spending $500/month for 3 months), mileage shopping portals (including their lucrative bonuses from time to time) and a few paid stays at hotels (mostly using the Citi Prestige 4th night free benefit).

2016 Miles Burned: 570,195

I was first surprised at this low number (last year was over 1.2 million miles + several free night certificates) but considering I took only a handful of trips this year, I guess it’s not that surprising. It’s no shock why we traveled less with a pregnant wife in the first half of the year and raising a newborn in the latter half of the year. Here is a break down by currency:

  • 300,000 Hilton HHonors Points for 6 nights total (2 rooms for 3 nights each) at the Hilton Hawaiian Village
  • 120,000 Marriott Rewards Points for 2 nights at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel
  • 20,000 American AAdvantage miles for 4 intra-Hawaii flights on Hawaiian Airlines
  • 30,000 Hyatt Points for 3 nights points & cash at the Hyatt Clearwater Beach Resort (combined with DSU)
  • 6,875 Hertz points for full-size SUV rental in Oahu (3 days) and full-size SUV rental in Kauai (one week)
  • 2,475 Hertz points for convertible rental in LA for weekend trip to Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel
  • 25,633 Southwest Rapid Rewards points for 2 roundtrip Islip to Tampa flights
  • 65,212 Citibank ThankYou Points for 2 roundtrip, non-stop flights JFK to St Lucia (2017 trip)

You might be questioning why you don’t see any miles listed for say the flights to Hawaii or the hotel in Kauai but those were booked in 2015 so they technically didn’t count as miles burned in 2016. This low number also underscores a problem I have where I am not burning enough points compared to what I’m earning. I plan to address more of this in a future post.

Reselling Endeavors:

This was my new gig for 2016 and is another reason why I’ve spent less timing blogging in 2016. I got into reselling in late 2015 and started small with some simple gift card reselling as well as easy electronics to flip including iPads and Apple Watches. In 2016, I’ve taken the next step and expanded my reselling to still include gift cards due to the easy, “do it in your pajamas” factor but other products. Some have worked out well – others not so much (Hess trucks for one). I’ve also joined several groups to learn more about reselling which has been quite interesting to see how some people make this their full time job.

When I start reselling (and especially with gift cards last year), I was happy to break even as long as my “profit” was the credit card rewards. Think buying $1,000 of gift cards on a credit card that earned 5x and reselling them for $1,000 – my cash pnl is $0 but I netted 5,000 points in the process. I think the biggest take away from this year was to stop focusing on just earning points and learning to focus on deals that actually made money as well. In fact that should be the number one focus with the points being an extra perk on top. This is something I hope to expand in 2017.

Summary:

2016 was definitely a year of transition for me in how I approach miles/points. In years past, I’ve easily burned millions of miles a year to go on some amazing trips, flying first class and staying at 5 star hotels around the world. This year I struggled to redeem miles as my travel was more focused on domestic travel early in the year and then stopped completely after my daughter was born this summer.

I definitely plan to travel with my daughter before she is a year old but there will be no crazy trips to Asia, South Africa etc. that will require a huge burn of miles. Instead, it will be focused again mostly on domestic trip with maybe a Caribbean/Mexico trip mixed in. I’m going to expand on this in a future post but my miles needs have shifted drastically and I think I’ve actually failed to account for that change until recently with my miles strategy. This is definitely something I’m working on for 2017 and I think my numbers above will look a lot different come next year.

Good luck and best wishes to all on your success in the miles/points game in 2017!

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