Get the Point

Richard Quinn

I’M A DEADBEAT. That’s what companies call people who pay off their credit cards in full every month and hence don’t incur interest. But I’m more than that. I’m a leverager. I leverage points and stars and credits everywhere I go.

Let me count the ways.

When I go to the gas station, I use my American Express card and my Exxon rewards card. I get credits from Exxon for buying the gas, which I apply to future gas purchases, plus I get triple points on my Amex card for the gas purchase, which I then use to pay my Amex bill.

My Starbucks membership earns me stars for my next latte and lots of other stuff, too. It also garners me free coffee on my birthday. What a deal. Back in February, I used stars to buy a package of sopressata and cheese to add to my Super Bowl sandwich.

My bank credit card gives me airline miles. I have enough miles for two round-trip first class tickets to anywhere. I haven’t flown that airline in years, but I’m going to use those miles. I can also use those miles to buy all kinds of other stuff. I took a cruise, and they gave me 50,000 extra miles and $200 to spend on the ship. On top of that, I earned more miles by using the card to pay for the cruise. Got that? Yeah, it’s complicated.

My hotel club card gets me a free bottle of water—whoopee—but it also got me four free nights at a hotel in London. Needless to say, as I accumulate points on the hotel card, I also get miles or points on the credit card. Talk about compounding. I just checked my balance. I’m thinking about a few free nights in Paris.

Then there’s my supermarket card—actually a phone app—which got me a free turkey last Christmas. Let’s think about this: I use my supermarket card for discounts, accumulate points for dollars spent, get a turkey, pay for the groceries with a credit card and then pay part of the credit card bill with the points I got for grocery shopping. You following me?

But it gets better. When I use my daughter’s Amazon Prime account and check out, the site asks if I want to use my accumulated Amex points to pay the bill, which have already been conveniently converted to cash value. Which is either very cool or very scary.

My purchases are being monitored, advertising targeted at me and my customer loyalty toyed with. But hey, I’m going to use those cards anyway. I want my free hotel stays and free flights. Starbucks gets my cash in advance when I load its app. But who cares? it’s convenient and, gee whiz, the company remembers my birthday. I know I am being used. But I’m a sucker for special treatment or, at least, it feels special.

Oh, and one last thing: I used Amex points to buy the iPad on which I wrote this article.

Richard Quinn blogs at Before retiring in 2010, Dick was a compensation and benefits executive. His previous articles include Poor JudgmentHow to Blow It and Don’t Call Me That. Follow Dick on Twitter @QuinnsComments.

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