Ep.12 - Read This Blog If You Want to Fly and Stay in Hotels for Free

Quick disclosure. I am NOT sponsored by the website I am about to discuss. As a matter of fact, the owner is not yet aware of my writing on it. 


The Points Guy is a personal finance blog by Brian Kelly. The main point of this website is to maximize travel perks (points, freebies, etc.) via credit cards. In other words, if you want to fly or stay at hotels for free, you should definitely bookmark this blog.

Personally, I found the website most informative on the following two types of credit cards: hotel-branded and airline-branded credit cards, because you get the most out of it.

In 2010, Brian's website started out as a personal blog, primarily focusing on reviewing hotel and airline credit card perks. Over time, he branched out and started reviewing actual hotels and flights. I don't spend much time reading that part, because I already follow a few vloggers on YouTube. However, I do come back to this website all the time to learn about the best credit card perks on the market.



the points guy

Practical Reviews:  Unlike the podcast, "Money For the Rest of US" from episode 11, which provides a general framework for money management, the content from "The Points Guy" is more specific and more practical, because you can act upon what you learn from the site. For example, once you've weighed the benefits of a Chase credit card, you can immediately apply and enjoy the perks!

Points Conversion: The value of points can vary drastically on different credit cards. As consumers, we don't always know how much 50,000 points are worth on each card. The Points Guy has done the research for us and provides a monthly update on the point conversion here.

Up-to-date: What started out as a personal blog is now a professional business, with a team of writers working on this site. The benefit of that is, their content on credit cards is always refreshed and up-to-date. You can always find the latest credit cards and their perks in the current market.



In the past 5 years, I have tried three hotel-branded credit cards and one airline-branded credit card. Here are some of my learnings based on a combination of what I learned from the site and my actual experience. 

1) Sign-up Bonus is King. The main reason I follow this website is to learn the amount of sign-up bonus points on credit cards. Over the last 5 years, I have learned that most cards don't offer a strong enough incentive for you to renew the credit card. As a result, I pretty much come to earn the sign-up bonus and then cancel the card. 

2) Timing is Everything. A couple of times a year, hotels and airlines offer more points than their standard amount on their branded credit cards. This is where this website becomes very helpful. It takes the work out of it for you. Because it is consistently up-to-date, you can just come here to see if the Marriott card is offering the standard 50k points, the rare 80k points, or the extremely rare 100k points. The difference between 50k and 100k is a couple of free nights!!!

3) Not All Points are Created Equal: The points valuation page of this website does a great job explaining how much each point is worth in dollar amount. For example, a standard Marriott card offers 50k points, with each point worth 0.9 cent. On the other hand, a standard Starwood card offers 25k points, with each point worth 2.7 cents. If you only look at points at their face value, the Marriott offer seems to be a better deal, with twice the points. But once you convert it to a dollar amount, the Starwood bonus is worth $675 vs. Marriott's $450.



In 2015, my wife and I paid nothing for 7 nights of stay at a Renaissance hotel in Beijing. That saved us at least $1,000. How did we do it? We used the website to decide the best timing to sign up for the highest bonus points available, which was 70k for a Marriott-branded credit card at that time. Together we had 140K points. We stayed at a Renaissance hotel in the center of the city. On top of that, if you redeem 4 nights all together, you get the 5th night for free (each Renaissance hotel night costs 20k points). As a result, we spent 120k points (80k for 5 nights, and then 40k for 2 more nights).

In 2016, we repeated it for our vacation in Thailand. We spent $0 staying at a Renaissance hotel again. 



source: thepointsguy.com

source: thepointsguy.com

As a business, The Points Guy needs to make money. And they way they do it is through payments from credit card sponsors. As a consumer, you should be aware of his monetization strategy because it influences what gets marketed to you.

The content is definitely valuable. No doubt about it. However, according to their own disclosure, they receive compensation from credit card companies directly and it may influence the order of credit cards' appearance.

What can you do to exercise your best judgement then?

1) Read the WHOLE review and judge it for yourself. Don't just blindly take their word for it based on their ranking of credit cards. 

2) Cross-verify the information with other sources. An alternative good source is Nerdwallet. Double check the information either on Nerdwallet or on the credit card's official site,  before you sign up for any.



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