My friend DeltaPoints penned a post yesterday that struck a chord with me. It’s not that I’ve never heard the underlying message before, or had not preached it myself from time to time, it’s just that it was timely. There have been a handful of good deals out there of late – 100K AAdvantage, Chase Ink 60K, and now the 30K SPG card has returned for bit too.

After some dithering, I bit on the 100K AAdvantage card. I had a specific use for the miles and a way to meet the spend so I went for it. I returned to the SPG card fold before the May 1 Amex changes to collecting a new account bonus. Notably, I took my own advice on the Chase offer and did not bite. Why? Let’s talk about priorities.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “when it rains, it pours.” It started before the new year, and just kept coming. Vet bills, dental bills, and best of all, tax bills. I’m a big believer in saving for a rainy day, so we didn’t miss a mortgage payment because of any of that. However, it absolutely did negatively impact our savings cushion.

While Ultimate Rewards are probably my favorite all around points currency, the truth is that I have enough miles and points stashed to meet our travel needs for at least 2 years. The other truth is that if I were offered a choice between not having a single mile or point in my accounts or having cash in the bank to cover 6 months of expenses, I’d give every mile/point I have away and take the cash. There will always be another point bonus out there somewhere to collect. Yes, there are ways to meet the spend and not add to debt. Yes, I could have done it. But it’s just not my priority at the moment.

What I call “playing the game from ahead” is about more than not paying any interest to the banks. It’s also having a little money in the bank for a rainy day. Perhaps you can do both. Actually, I can too, but I’ll reach my cash goals faster if I take a little break from “the game.” That’s my priority. Sooner or later, there’ll be another good deal, and I’ll be ready to play the game from ahead.

-MJ, June 5, 2014