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Ed Pizza: This week's episode of the Miles To Go Podcast is brought to you by the new Wyndham Rewards Earner Cards designed with road trippers and road warriors in mind apply today, and you can earn up to 45,000 bonus points; enough for up to six free nights at thousands of hotels by Wyndham around the world.
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Speaker 2: You're listening to the Miles To Go Podcast, the go-to source for travel tips, news, and reviews you can't afford to miss. Now, here's your host travel expert, Ed Pizza.

Ed Pizza: Welcome back to the Miles To Go Podcast. Around this time of year, many podcasters will run a best of show to end/begin the year, sort of a week off from the podcast world, if you will. I really love podcasting talking to you guys on a weekly basis. Travel news is still a bit glum right now. So I sat down to do some thinking about what I wanted to include in this week's episode.
I didn't really feel like running an old segment, but I wanted to find a way to make this engaging and interesting. And this is normally that time of year where I would put together my year end numbers for travel. That would obviously be a pretty futile exercise right now. So instead I spent some time this week thinking about what the year meant to our family, when it came to travel. I'll be sharing that during the final two pennies. So definitely stay tuned for that.
But first I have some questions that came in from readers over the past weeks that I wanted to cover. And I also want to talk about airline credit cards. I get this question a lot about which airline credit card is right for people. And I was working on a presentation, and just thought it would be a good thing to summarize today. And my answer might surprise some of you.
As we kick off 2021, I'm really glad to have you guys along for the ride, 150 plus episodes at this point. If you've enjoyed the show, please take a minute and leave us a five star review and a rating on whatever podcast platform you're listing. Those reviews and ratings aren't just eye candy.
They really help make the show more visible to new listeners. And we definitely want to keep the podcast growing in 2021. There's a link in the show notes that makes it easy to submit a review in under a minute.
Before we dig into questions, just a brief reminder on how to submit your questions. You can email me Ed@Pizzainmotion.com. You can also find me on social media, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, all @Pizza In Motion. And we'll be spinning up a phone line for you guys to call in soon.
Okay, let's dig into some questions. Brianna reached out to ask about what cards she could use for an upcoming purchase. Here's what she had to say. "I need to make a $3,000 purchase and I wanted to put it on a credit card that would get me travel miles that are easy to use. I really would like a credit card with no annual fee. I don't usually use a credit card for groceries or gas, but would consider it if the cash back rate is good. I love the idea of this large purchase, getting me a trip on points one day post COVID."
Brianna. I feel exactly the same way post COVID. At any rate, she goes on to say that she's trying to decide between the Capital One Venture Card, the Capital One Venture One Card, and the Chase Freedom Flex. The two Capital One cards are actually pretty similar. The Venture One is a no annual fee Card. It earns 1.25 miles per dollar.
If we were just choosing between those two cards, I'd probably pick the $95 annual fee Venture Card. It earns two miles per dollar, generally has a much higher signup bonus. It's currently 60,000 miles. And you'll also get $100 credit towards your global entry fee. And and so I think that that represents a lot more value long-term, even though it's not no annual fee card, which was definitely something that Brianna mentioned that she was trying to focus on.
I'd also probably lean towards Chase Freedom Flex here, overall. We did a segment on the freedom flex a few months ago, which I'll link to in the show notes. It's a fairly new card from Chase. It carries no annual fee. So checks that box for Brianna. It still has a decent signup bonus, $200 cash back right now. And earns 5% cash back on travel that you purchase through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Platform, 3% on dining, including delivery services like DoorDash and GrubHub, 3% on drugstores, and 1% on everything else.
I also really love the fact that you can transfer the points you earn from Freedom Flex to one of the more premium cards like Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or one of the Ink business cards, and turn those points into ultimate rewards points for travel. You can transfer your Capital One miles as well, but I liked the list of transfer partners from Chase better.
That's probably my deciding factor here is just, not the Capital One partners are bad, but like the round out of not just airlines, but a whole bunch of hotel options when you're talking about Chase Ultimate Rewards. Brianna, I hope that helps you with your decision.
Next up, Dan writes in about a recent segment that we did in the show. We were talking about downgrading a credit card. If you don't think it would pay for itself, most credit card companies offer a no fee card. And certainly there are some lesser fee cards from some of the really premium fee card, like the four and $500 a year annual fee cards. And those no fee cards, or the $85, $95 annual fee cards, they could be good options when your travel patterns change; sort of like in a global pandemic.
Dan notes that downgrading a card may be costly in that it may exclude you from a sign-up bonus for the card that you're downgrading to. Typically a downgrade isn't seen as a new signup by the credit card companies, more as a retention effort to keep a card in your wallet. Dan, isn't wrong here at all.
You may be able to earn a sign up bonus on that new card you anticipated downgrading to. There are some other factors to consider, such as whether you're likely to be able to get approved for that new card. As well as, when an annual fee might be due. In some situations, it can absolutely be worth canceling your existing card in order to qualify for a signup bonus on a new card.
Of course, you'll have to pay down any balance you have on the card. And, if you plan to carry a balance, you should absolutely focus on cash back cards with low interest rates, not earning miles and points. Also, before you cancel any card, make sure you understand what will happen to any miles or points you've earned.
The smartest path there is to transfer or redeem any miles or points you've already earned. Dan, thanks a bunch for writing in, and also for being a fan of the show. Love having you here.
Okay. Now let's dig into airline credit cards for a bit. This question came up when I was recording some videos, someone asked me to make for an upcoming seminar, you've got the big three domestic carriers; American, Delta, and United Airlines. They all have co-branded credit cards you can earn miles with, as well as a host of other benefits. For the purposes of this comparison, I'm focusing only on the entry-level cards for each airline. These cards all have an annual fee of roughly a $100. Whether it's 85 or 99, they're all in that range.
Side note, Delta does have a no annual fee card, but I really think that the majority of folks will do better with the Gold American Express here, or one of the higher annual fee cards. Delta has a bunch. We're also looking at cards like the Aviator Red Card from American Airlines, the Citi Advantage Platinum Select Card, another American Airlines Card, and the United Explorer Card.
I'm going to use the Explorer Card as a placeholder here, but the cards are all pretty interchangeable. The Explore Card earns two miles per dollar on all United purchases, which is pretty standard across these entry level airline cards. The Explorer Card also earns two miles per dollar and restaurants, and third-party delivery services like Door Dash as well as hotels. That's a pretty standard run of bonus categories that you'll find on a card like this.
You'll also find other soft benefits, like free checked bag, priority boarding, free lounge passes, and discounts on in-flight purchases. If you're a loyal United Airlines flyer, it might make complete sense that you should sign up for United Airlines credit card. But hear me out for a minute on why you might want to consider another option. Especially if you already have some level of elite status with United Airlines. And I like even the most basic silver level.
With that, you already get free checked bags, priority boarding, and no blackout dates on awards. So none of those credit card benefits are really worth anything to you. For roughly the same annual fee, you could apply for say the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. You'd earn two points per dollar on travel, not just airfare and hotels, but things like taxis and trains.
You still earn two points per dollar on dining. And you'd also get benefits like a free Dash Pass Subscription, which is Door Dashes, sort of like subscription service for free delivery. You can get a $60 credit back on a Peloton membership, and you can get five points per dollar on Lyft rides. Probably most importantly, or most importantly to me, you'd have flexibility.
That Chase Sapphire preferred card earned ultimate rewards points, which transfer to United, at a ratio of one-to-one. But if you're not in the mood for United miles, or they just can't get you where you need to go, transfer those Ultimate Reward Points to British Airways and book an American Airlines flight, if you need to. Or transfer them to Hyatt, or Marriott for a hotel stay; you have lots of flexibility.
And don't get me wrong, some folks will absolutely find value in the United Explorer card. I'm just saying it's not a perfect fit for everyone. And especially, so if you already have elite status. I think many people overlook the value of credit cards that earn flexible currency. And sometimes just assume that the best value they can get is from the airlines own co-branded credit card. And I'm reminded of an argument that I had with a friend.
Gosh, probably 20 years ago now, was a big American Airlines guy. I proudly proclaim that my Citibank Advantage Card was the best way for me to earn American Airlines miles. As it turned out back then, the Starwood American express card on everyday spending actually earned me more American Airlines miles than American Airlines' own card.
So I think it's just a good reminder that the straightforward answer may not always be the best one. If we talk about an example of Delta, you could sign up for say the American Express Green Card and earn three points per dollar in airfare. Instead of the two that the Delta Gold Amex earns you. And you can still transfer those points to Delta SkyMiles program, but you could transfer them elsewhere as well, if you didn't need to fly on Delta.
Now, the American Express Green Card does have $150 annual fee. So you'd want to make sure that you're getting enough extra value to justify that slightly higher annual fee, but hopefully you get the gist. We want to break down what each of these benefits is actually worth to us. And, if you already get free check bags by virtue of your elite status with an airline, then that benefits not worth anything to you on the credit card.
The loan potential exception here for these entry level cards is American Airlines. There's no flexible currency card that currently serves as a transfer partner for the American Airlines Advantage Program. So if Advantage Miles are your first choice, you'll need one of their cards. And they have two banks issue cards, Barclays, and Citi Bank. So you do have some options there. As I did mention earlier, you can use ultimate rewards to transfer to British Airways, and then book an American Airlines award flight that way.
But I totally understand that a good number of you listening may not want that much of a hassle. And if you haven't booked through British Airways yet their websites not necessarily the greatest, and their call centers can be kind of brutal from a whole time standpoint.
All right. I want to take a quick break to recognize our sponsor this week. It's right on topic for this week's discussion about credit cards. The folks at Barclays and Wyndham rewards announced a new suite of credit cards, dubbed the earner credit cards. There are two personal versions, the Earner and the Earner Plus Card.
The Earner Card is a no annual fee card where the Earner Plus Card has a $75 annual fee. Similar to our discussion earlier about the Venture One and the Venture Card from Capital One. I think there are plenty of reasons to lean towards the Earner Plus Card. Its pretty easy to get $75 in value out of the card. For me, the earner business card is probably the right choice though.
It's got one of the most unique bonus categories for a credit card geared perfectly to small business owners. I'm looking forward to earning five points per dollar on all of my utility bills when I get the card. The earner business card also comes with top tier diamond status in the Wyndham Rewards Program. A big thanks to Wyndham Rewards, Earner Credit Card for sponsoring this weeks show.
And if you want to earn top free, top tier your Wyndham Rewards Diamond Status for a year, make sure you check out the show notes for how to enter our giveaway. Okay, we're going to take a quick break. On the other side of the music, we're going to come back with my thoughts on 2020 in the final two pennies.
Back to wrap up this week's show with the final two pennies. I've recorded over 150 episodes, as I mentioned at the top of the show, since the podcast launched three years ago. Three years is a long time in any endeavor, but the time has really flown by. Whenever the end of the year rolls around, that's generally the time that I start adding up the miles I've flown and the number of nights I stayed with various hotel chains.
There's a tally of elite status's, almost like trading cards, but without that horrible stale gum that used to come in the packs for those that are over the age of 40, like me. I've got a Hyatt Globalist, a Hilton Diamond, the United 1K, and a couple of free drinks certificates. This year was absolutely different. And I wrote about it on my blog recently, you can check that out. I'll throw a link in the show notes.
But one of the things I appreciate about podcasting is it allows you, the listener, to get a deeper perspective, a different perspective. So, I wrote out a script for the final two pennies, the show ending, because I want to make sure that I covered all my thoughts. And as I was writing the script out, I mean, I got pretty deep into it. And then I just realized that, that wasn't really the way that I wanted to end the episode, or begin 2021.
For better, for worse, I just wanted to sort of share my thoughts on where 2020 was. And some of this will certainly align with what I wrote in my recap post for the year. But but no script, no notes, just sort of winging it here. The year started out remarkably normal for us as a family. We had a cruise planned for January, a Disney cruise, and our son is a huge Marvel fan. We found a Marvel day at Sea Cruise.
And it was one of those things where this was a once in a lifetime sort of opportunity for him. And if you've ever been on a Disney Cruise and gotten the bill at the end for what it costs you, then you totally understand what I mean by once in a lifetime. But we left that trip. There were some bumps and bruises, whether it wasn't that great. And our daughter got a little seasick and wasn't thrilled about it.
But we sort of left it just like any other trip. It was like, this is a great trip. We can't wait for the next one. And I can remember I was actually in New Zealand helping a friend right around the time things were starting to ramp up for the pandemic. And certainly things were out of sorts when I left, because I was only gone for a handful of days. But they rapidly got worse while I was there.
Such that I was on the tarmac at Auckland International Airport in New Zealand, getting ready to take off when the US announced that it was closing their borders to everybody from Europe. Something that's never happened in my adult lifetime. I mean, that was really a big sign that this was just very different. And yet, even at that point, I didn't really think about it getting really bad in the US, because it just felt like, it was somewhere else.
I was just a little bit slow on the uptake there. I stopped in Las Vegas on the way home and did a little work. And by the time I got home, in-person school had been canceled for the year. And now I was starting to wonder if we were going to be able to take our first trip of the summer, which was a trip to Bermuda for our family.
And for those of you that have been in this miles and points game for a while, you'll know that Bermuda is a really tough place to get to using miles and points. You can find your share of flights here and there, but there isn't a ton of lift, if you will, a ton of airlines that fly to Bermuda. So award tickets can sometimes be hard to find, and there's almost no hotels on the island that take points.
And we had taken advantage of this pretty awesome Delta promotion earlier in 2019, that allowed us to book this trip through Delta Vacations for essentially half the price of what it would normally cost us, and use American express membership rewards points that were transferred to Delta for the trip.
And I was like, "Wow, this is really, really cool." So this was one of those things that took a long time for us to get right. And I didn't want to cancel it till I knew that we couldn't make it. Spoiler alert, we didn't go to Bermuda. And we sort of had to pivot into this whole new world of travel. And I'm going to have a Richard Kerr back on the show again, hopefully next week to talk about all the stuff that's gone wrong in the RV world.
But if you've been listening along, you've heard some of it. We thought RVing would be a great way to still have the kids explore. And we do all this stuff in the US that we'd never done before, and they'd do school from the road, and it would all be awesome. And I'm not going to tell you that it hasn't been awesome, but it's had its fair share of bumps and bruises.
Some of which have made it to social media and others that haven't. We showed up at some campsites where we just totally didn't fit in with the vibe. We showed up at campsites where it was too big of a Hill that we were parked on and I couldn't get the trailer level. And so we'd roll out of bed cause we weren't level. And I just didn't know what I was doing.
We talked about, do we go to theme parks? And we love theme parks. How do we avoid them? And it was just this sort of roller coaster of things. And I think a trip to Disney World that we took in October was a really good sort of snapshot of what the year has been for us. I can't say for everyone. But I haven't been on an airplane this year. Sorry, I haven't been on an airplane in 2020.
I obviously haven't been on one of '21 either and don't have any tickets booked at the moment. But we bought a pickup truck, and we bought a trailer after renting a few, and we said, "We're going to go to Disney World." And as the plan started to form, some friends, Summer Hull, Mommy Points, and Richard Kerr, all decided that they were going to come with us.
Richard has his own trailer, and Summer rented a trailer and had it delivered to Disney's Fort wilderness Campsite, as only Summer can do. And so like we had seen that the parks were empty. Like there was just nobody there when they opened in the summer. So like, well, this'll be a good idea. We can have some Disney time without any crowds. And yeah, its social distance, and we're wearing masks, and it's Orlando and it's hot and muggy, but we're going to make the best of it. It's going to be fun.
And we got down there, we, ourselves, our family, the Pizza family had planned to be down there for a total of three weeks. We had a friend who was getting married down there. So the plan was go to the wedding, do some Disney time, do school from the trailer during the day. And then go to parks in the evenings. Again, all seemed like a great idea. Had to figure out the drive down on the drive back and all that stuff.
But when we got down there, like I said, there really weren't that much in the way of crowds. The crowds were pretty low key when we got there. But they really started to ramp up a few days after we got there. And so we started doing school during the day and just doing parks at night, and the weekends.
And pretty quickly we just realized we weren't comfortable in the parks on the weekends. There were plenty of people there and plenty of people were comfortable, and those were their decisions. And I support them 100%, but it just wasn't for us. And so that made the trip a little bit harder.
And so we spent more time around the camp site, and we visited with some friends that we have down in the area. From a social distance, we would grill or hang out, outside and space ourselves out around a fire. And it was fun enough, but the parks kept getting busier. The stores were getting busier. We weren't eating in doors or anything like that, but it just became less comfortable. It felt more serious.
Counts were going up around the country. It was not as easy as you would imagine to do the schooling in a trailer if the wifi didn't work great, or if everybody needed to have a quiet space all at one time. Just lots of little things like that. And along the way we had mishaps with the trailer, mostly mine.
We have the pipe that goes from the black water tank to the sewage, which carries all the worst stuff that you get out of a trailer. And they're sort of like flexible pipes, if you will. They're not very durable as I found out and I was behind the trailer trying to fiddle with some stuff one day after it been raining and it was slippery and I slipped and lost my footing for a second and I stepped on the pipe and I cracked it.
And that was like a $60 slip and mistake because it was obviously once your Blackwater tank pipe is cracked, you're kind of done. And we had just like any number of things like that, that kept popping up. And I think as I kept going, like there were parts of camping that really just didn't fit me.
I am absolutely a luxury travel sort of guy. I like four-star, four diamond, five-star five diamond sort of places. And so while we did get a really nice trailer, and there was a bunch of extra space. In the end, there's a lot that goes into keeping a trailer moving. It's a house. And so, I mean, like all the things you can think of that you need in the house, you need them in a trailer.
And there was a lot of work involved with it, along with all the other normal stuff. We've got a teenage daughter and a teenage daughter's shower was enough to fill up the gray water tank, which meant that if she was going to take a shower, I sort of had to be around to pull the plunger on the gray water tank to let it drain.
And you could say, "Well, just leave it open." But there are other pitfalls to leaving your tank valves open, which I'm sure Richard and I will discuss next week. But suffice to say, we learned through all these things, and we packed up and we went home. And I think the thing that was most remarkable is after three weeks on the road, and lots of frustration with schooling.
And lots of happy moments with being a Disney and sort of the rigor of a 15 hour drive in a trailer down, and a 15 hour drive in a trailer back with multiple stops at campsites, late at night. And all the balancing and everything else, we got home and nobody wanted to kill each other. The kids got along pretty well, and they actually have really good memories of the trip.
And so I had us take a step back for all the things that I really didn't love about trailers and camping, and all that stuff. I think it was something that my daughter said about how she said something along the lines of, "Dad, thank you for helping us create those memories." And it might seem like I'm not telling you the truth when I say, I really hadn't thought about that for a while.
Like when we first decided to embark on this adventure in May, it was about creating memories. It was, "Hey, we don't want a year in our kids' lives where they don't get to create those awesome travel memories that they have every year over the course of their lifetime." Our son came up to me one day and I think this is one of the benefits of having homeschool, what they call, distance learning, our kids are going to school in another the room in the house, and I'm in my office.
And my son comes running in one day to tell me, he's all excited because his teacher was talking about volcanoes. And he was super excited because he could tell her about when he was in Italy, and he got to climb Mount Etna, an active volcano and how that was very real for him.
And so, as I think about it, I don't really know what our kids are going to remember from this year when it comes to the good and the bad. I know that you're going to have some travel memories, and I'm insanely interested to hear what those are. As everything sort of fades in the background, what is it that they're going to remember about 2020 when it comes to travel? Like I said, I know they'll remember bad stuff, and there's plenty of that, but we want to try and focus on the positives.
And I wonder like, will it be that Disney World trip? Will it be laughing at dad when he couldn't get the trailer hooked up right? Will it be hearing dad mutter words that no ten-year-old kid should ever hear a dad mutter when he hurts himself trying to hook the trailer up. There were plenty of those sorts of memories throughout the year.
And, we're sitting here in '21 with no travel booked. We're not sure what our next trip on an airplane is going to be, because we're just not ready to plan yet. And again, I 100% support anybody traveling who feels like they want to travel right now. Make your own decisions about what's safe and what's not safe. I'm 100% behind you, whatever you choose. For us, just because we know it's not safe to travel yet, we haven't been doing a bunch of what I would call dream booking.
And yes, I absolutely know, and I preach that, hey, with award points and miles, especially with the current flexible cancellation policies, it's really easy to cancel a trip even after you have it booked. So why not book something and dream about it? As my friends have been telling me the trips that they've been booking. I don't think they're wrong. It's just not the right fit for us yet.
I think when I want to start figuring out what that dream trip is going to be, I want to feel like I'm ready to be out there, start traveling, and maybe I'll be there in a couple of months. I'm not really sure. And I'm not really sure where you are as you're listening. All I'd say is, don't let someone else tell you what the right travel pattern is for you.
Whether it's today, whether it's a month from now, or a year from now, make your own memories. We did things that were so far outside of our box this year to make travel memories. And I really feel like they're going to be some great memories for our kids. Are they going to be the absolute best ones? Are they going to be the only ones they remember from this year? I have no idea.
And quite frankly, I have no control over it. I think about the things that I remember from when I was a kid. Things like my mother being paranoid about us touching the floor in hotel rooms because they were all I guess, wreak with germs and disease. And so we had to jump from bed to bed. If we wanted to get around the room. I can remember as a young kid, we had a diesel that we drove to visit family in Canada.
And it was my job as the youngest, because my sister didn't want to get out of the car to run into the various motels on our ride up to Canada in the winter time to see if they had plugs near the doors of the motel rooms. Because we needed to plug in the diesel so the diesel fuel wouldn't freeze when the temperatures went below zero. Those are the things that I remember.
Some of them were fun, some of them weren't. But I took this weird mishmash, this collection of memories, and it's all of those, even the bad ones are the reasons why I love traveling now, because I love seeing my kids create those. Those same memories, whatever theirs are going to be. And I'm sure our son will remember the Disney Cruise from the beginning of the year, because he's such a huge Marvel fan.
He got to meet all of his biggest fans, and I'm sure our daughter will remember it because of her anxiety and seeing someone puke in the restaurant was traumatizing. But after that, again, I really want to see what they remember about the rest of the year. And I hope that while this has all been going on, you've been thinking about the memories that you can make, and did make.
Let's hope that we don't live through another pandemic. Let's hope that this is a one and done sort of thing for us. And we can look back a year from now and just say "Hey, we made it through and here's what we learned. And these are the bad parts. And, there's tons of sadness there for the lives that were lost, but we're past it. And we're on to bigger and better things."
I think '21 will be that. I'm not ready to start talking about awesome travel deals or cheap flights, or things like that yet. we definitely will be soon. We'll have some conversations coming up with folks who are out there traveling and what that looks like, and how to do it safely. So definitely stay tuned for all of that.
Thanks for hanging out with me and let me ramble a bit about what I felt like this year meant to us, to our family. And I hope it meant a bunch to your family as well.
That's a full wrap on this week's show. A big, thanks this week goes to you guys, not only for submitting great questions, but also for your support over 150 plus episodes. It's a big number. As we March, along to 200 episodes, I'm glad to have you guys on this journey with me.
Another reminder, Wyndham Rewards gave us those 10 prize packs to give away. That means 10 lucky listeners will win Wyndham Awards, Diamond Status for a year, and 15,000 Wyndham Rewards Points that could make for a great star on a vacation in 2021.
And one final reminder to leave us a review and a rating. That helps us out just a ton. That's a full wrap. Like I said, we've got Summer Hull, Mommy Points, coming back on the show in the near future. And I am still trying to track down Richard Kerr for another hilarious RV update, as we poke fun at ourselves. Lots more to come, but until then we've got miles to go.

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