PREMISE

During this difficult, unprecedented, uncertain, trying, insert-your-own-corporate-COVID19-word-here time, I’ve been hyperfocused on trimming my budgets, much of which were slashed to the bone. While we’ve been fortunate to remain gainfully employed, and actually better via my side-hustle income (improving my savings) and lowered expenses, I wanted to take this time to see where my money was going and how to save on expenses.

One of my largest non-house costs is my American Express Hilton Aspire card, which costs me $450 a year, as well as my American Express Hilton Ascend (now Surpass) Card, which is $95 a year. Of course, both of those cards are heavily travel focused in the Hotel and Flight verticals, with benefits nerfed to oblivion in this COVID19 pandemic of no travel. Thus, why am I paying hundreds of dollars for benefits that aren’t valuable or usable during this time? It makes no sense.

 

I can’t go.

 

WHAT AM I PAYING FOR?

Of course, I think the benefits are useful – but only when travel is available! Specifically, my Aspire was very worthwhile with all the annual benefits below:

  • Complimentary Hilton night (~$200)
  • $250 Hilton Resort Credit ($200)
  • $250 Airline Credit ($250)
  • Hilton Diamond Status ($100)
  • Priority Pass ($50)

And many more. Obviously, you can even see with my conservative valuations of the benefits that they far exceed the annual cost of the card ($450). But, in this time of no travel, the value of these benefits goes to $0.

 

No Travel = No Hilton Benefits

 

HOW TO SAVE ON YOUR ANNUAL FEES

Understanding that the benefits are not worthwhile, and with American Express not proactively offering any fee waivers, they did suggest downgrading my Aspire card. By doing so, they would refund my annual fee (which was just paid), and I could upgrade my card back to the Aspire once travel is a go and this pandemic is over. This made a lot of sense so that currently saves me about $37.50/month during COVID – enough for a Netflix, Disney+, and a couple boba tea combined. Additionally, I ended up cancelling my Ascend – saving me $95/year. Total savings comes to about $45/month which is not bad!

 

Calculate your Savings and put them to good use!

 

CONCLUSION

I don’t have any other major monthly/subscription fees (other than the mortgage, car insurance, and Spotify) and so I run a pretty lean ship, which is useful. As we are saving for another property it would behoove us to remain financially disciplined, especially in this turbulent and difficult market. I just ran the numbers on car insurance and ended up switching providers and saving about 30%+ on my six month policy, which is another win.

Of course, these credit cards are really only useful if you’re paying them off promptly each month and not carrying a balance and paying any sort of interest or other avoidable fees. If you are, then using a payment calculator would help you figure out how much interest you’re going to be paying – something to be avoiding! Also, if you want to avoid the big banks and charges associated, why not try a local credit union? I have accounts at local ones and the service and low or no costs can’t be beat. Of course, you give up some on the phone service side, but in this day and age of technology you can have most of your concerns addressed online. Plus, they have good budgeting tools and promote excellent financial health and practices, such as how to be more minimalist on a budget.

 

 

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