Welcome back to Good Points, a weekly Q&A about credit card points, the people who collect them, and where they take us. This week’s guest is Cal Krome, an IT Manager at Lyft (the company’s first IT person, as a matter of fact) who currently specializes in setting up, expanding, and retrofitting offices when he’s not busy adventuring with his equally travel-hungry wife, Kasia.
If you know anyone who just won’t shut up about their points strategy, have them send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Good Points” for a chance to be featured. We want to talk to everyone from professional travelers who spend their lives on the road, to people who save all their points on one trip per year, so don’t be shy!
What first got you hooked on collecting points?
My parents always used Marriott Points to travel when I was a kid; so I dove in as soon as I was able.
What are you trying to accomplish by collecting points? Pay for all of your small trips? Splurge on vacations that you wouldn’t otherwise take? Somewhere in between?
Free or extremely cheap travel - both for large and small trips. Being able to go on a two week vacation while paying only for food is incredible. But even just free flights to visit family or take a small weekend trip is worth it.
What credit cards do you currently hold, and why’d you get them?
All of mine are Chase Visas, just because so far they’ve had the best bonuses and values:
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier - originally for the sign up bonus.
United Explorer Card - originally for the bonus.
Marriott Premier Plus Visa Signature - the 100k bonus was great, but I love earning 5x on Marriott Hotels which is where I stay mostly.
Chase Freedom - I downgraded to this from my old Sapphire Preferred.
Chase Sapphire Reserve - the best card out there. Great signup bonus, travel credit, priority pass, free Global Entry; 3x on travel; it’s the best.
What point redemption are you most proud of?
We flew from California to Europe for vacation; and then on the way home it was only an extra 5k points to go from Poland to Maui (a 12 hour time zone differential!) so we added a nice beach trip to the end of our vacation.
What point redemption are you least proud of?
Any last-minute Southwest fare where it’s a flat rate much more expensive than it would have been if I’d booked earlier (usually 25,000+ points, when it could have been between 6,000 and 10,000 if I booked in advance)
Do you chase status at a specific airline or hotel chain, or do you just shop around for the best deals, locations, and flights?
The Southwest Companion Pass is definitely what I always aim to keep at any cost: 2-for-1 on any Southwest flight, including award flights. It’s the best value around.
Especially when they have a sale; you can get a round trip cross country for around 15,000 points; for TWO people.
For hotels; I always stick with Marriott when I travel for work because I’m in the system and prefer to maximize there; and the free night and upgrade perks are nice.
Otherwise, I’m always looking for travel deals that we can combine with points for discount travel. I saw an extremely cheap flight to Australia early last year so I bought that with cash, and then used points for the hotel.
What’s the first card you recommend to people who are interested in getting into points, and why?
The Chase Sapphire Reserve - 3x points on dining and travel, a $300 travel credit yearly which essentially cuts the fee to $150 a year, Priority Pass for lounge access at airports, and they pay for Global Entry or TSA Precheck. Plus, they have a great list of transfer partners. But the Sapphire Preferred would work too.
What’s one piece of advice you wish you’d known before you got into points collecting?
Never pay for anything in cash when you can earn points for it instead. At a group dinner everyone is splitting? Pick up the cash, put the whole thing on your card, and pay it off.
How do you keep track of things like points, bonus categories, free nights, and annual fee dates?
For points and Free Nights I just log into the various websites. I’ve played around with a few different apps to track them, but none of them stuck.
Categories I don’t really track; I put everything on Sapphire Reserve except for Marriott stays, which earn 5x on the Marriott card.
Annual fee dates I don’t really worry about - though I probably should; I just pay it off when it occurs as a cost of having a points card.
Let’s finish off with a few rapid fire questions. I give you enough points to take three flights anywhere in the world in economy, or one flight anywhere in the world in first class. What do you choose?
Definitely the economy flights: the destination is why you travel. Suck it up for 12 hours on the way to Bora Bora!
Top three items on your travel bucket list?
Bora Bora, The Maldives, and seeing the northern lights
Three items you can’t travel without?
Anker battery pack - to keep everything charged without ever thinking about hunting for a power outlet.
Bose QC35 noise canceling bluetooth headphones - you’ll never hear a screaming baby on a plane again
Grid-IT Organizer - keeps all your cords/cables/adaptors in one convenient place and you can pull them all out of your bag easily if needed.
Suitcase of choice?
TravelPro Maxlite 4 carry on - it’s super light (important when international weight limits are in place); and has proven extremely durable over hundreds of flights. Still rolls along smoothly!
Favorite city you’ve ever visited?
Tough to answer - Santorini, Greece was incredibly beautiful and Amalfi, Italy is an adorable little town with fabulous scenery.
Oakland or Burbank; small but very efficient, fast in and out.
Newark or Laguardia - both are nightmares to get in and out of, and they’re run down.
Favorite hotel you’ve ever stayed in?
The Grand Hyatt in Kauai - absolutely beautiful; or the place we stayed at in Santorini with a view of the Caldera and a hot tub on the balcony.
Airplane drink of choice?
Diet Coke (the can, please) or a Jack and Diet Coke
Can you sleep on a plane?
Not really - on a redeye I may get a little bit; but it’s not great sleep and not much of it.
Window seat or aisle seat?
Window - I almost never get up even on long flights.
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