Chappaqua’s Points Mom Offers Insight On Credit Card Rewards Programs

Cindy Greenstein from The Points Mom. contribution image.

Navigating the world of credit card rewards programs and matching multiple cards to achieve the required points and miles can be a daunting task. And that’s where Cindy Greenstein comes into the picture.

A former public accountant, who lives in Chapacoa, has been giving free advice on her website, The Points Mom, since 2014 before making the decision in 2018 to run it as a consulting firm offering one-on-one guidance and talking about the best ways to get the most rewards, points, and benefits from credit cards.

Greenstein’s first brush with points expertise came when she was a freshman accountant in college, traveling with a passion and accumulating points.

“I got kind of addicted at that point, just earning points and miles by traveling and staying in hotels,” she recalls. “This was before any of the major banks had credit cards tied to loyalty programs.”

Today, The Points Mom strives to guide customers through the ever-changing landscape of reward cards and loyalty programs, which is subject to constant change by banks and businesses, with both positive and negative impacts on existing cards.

“This game does not work if you apply for a card, and you end up paying interest or fees. It completely negates any rewards you might earn,” she said.

Many of Greenstein’s clients are wealthier ones but still want to visit exotic locations without spending huge.

“We all love to travel, and there are a lot of cards that will get you free travel if you use them right and apply for them at the right time,” Greenstein said, adding that one customer will be traveling to Hawaii during the Christmas holidays thanks to her contribution.

Greenstein herself has taken many vacations over the years with her family to popular destinations like New Orleans, London and Paris. However, Greenstein has found that the customers who get the most out of their cards are small business owners because of the significant expenses that occur when running a business.

“If you have a small business, you can have personal cards and you can have business cards, and those cards can earn sort of the same rewards that all flow into the same deck,” Greenstein said. “It’s a lot easier to earn and get free travel.”

Greenstein drew attention to three cards of interest to those looking to win the most points. The first is the American Express Gold Card, a card that earns the same points as other American Express cards that people may already own, such as the Platinum Card. Gold card holders earn four times as many points for every dollar for dining and groceries. The annual fee is $250, though Greenstein noted that diligent use of the card’s monthly benefits allows a person to cut it down to $10.

Greenstein also recommended Capital One Venture X, which gives two miles for every dollar spent, regardless of what is purchased. Miles earned can be exchanged for 1 cent and are not linked to the Capital One website. Additionally, Capital One offers a $300 travel credit (albeit only to be used through capitalonetravel.com) and gives holders an additional 10,000 miles every single anniversary, meaning that cardholders can more than cover the $395 annual fee.

Another card that Greenstein has praised is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which I suggest especially for those entering the points and miles world for the first time. A holder can earn three points for every dollar spent on dining or streaming services, or two points for travel. The most attractive thing about the card, Greenstein said, is that one point can be exchanged at a price of $0.125. However, she cautioned, you’re “restricted if you’re going to use it as money to go through the Chase travel site.”

Regardless of the card used, Greenstein stressed the need to avoid loyalty programs.

“One of the mistakes I think people make is that they use a credit card linked to a loyalty program for their daily spending. What I recommend is using a card that earns miles or flex points for your daily spending, where you can use those points as money or you can transfer them to partners,” Greenstein advised.

The rewards and points industry has managed the effects of the pandemic well enough due to companies’ efforts to retain and attract customers in response to the drop in travel.

“Most companies have offered amazing incentives that we’ve never seen before, and we probably will never see again,” Greenstein said, noting that this has dramatically reduced the number of points needed to reach top-tier rank, which comes with bonus rewards and additional points. JetBlue is one such company, which has reduced the number of points needed to reach Mosaic status from 50,000 to 15,000.

The waning severity of Covid-19 in the public eye has recently, according to Greenstein, increased the desire to travel among its clients.

“I think people want to travel, and maybe they want to spend a little bit more,” Greenstein said. “Maybe it wouldn’t have been this way if Covid hadn’t happened, and maybe people wouldn’t want to spend that little extra on a hotel or flight.”

Although Covid-19 has not had a significant negative impact on her work, Greenstein has expressed a desire to improve the one-woman process, namely in how advice is conveyed.

She said, citing her one-on-one consultations as she hoped to form group sessions with about 10 or more clients.

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