Playing the rewards points game – How to spend money to save money

Lately, we have been doing a lot of price comparisons between Costco and Superstore and price matching to get the best deals. One thing we’ve realized is that Superstore can have some really great deals, especially when we maximize PC Optimum earning potentials by combining the weekly promotions, the PC Financial credit card, and the PC Insiders program

How to spend money to save money

Since joining the PC Insiders program and using PC Express for free grocery pickups, we have been getting more and more of these PC Express exclusive deals. Most of these deals run for 24 to 72 hours and provide $10 to $25 savings when you spend over a certain amount of money for online order pickups. These deals are quite attractive since we get to save money and also earn more PC Optimum Points along the way. For example, we recently received an offer of $15 off after spending $100 or more for an online order pickup. Hypothetically speaking, let’s assume that for the $100 worth of groceries, 50% of them would be PC Organic products and 40% of the products that we would order have a $1 per 200 PC Optimum Points weekly deal. 

Quick Math:

$50 PC Organic Products @ 200 points per $1 spend = 10,000 PC Optimum Points

$40 products with weekly promotion @ 200 points per $1 spend = 8,000 PC Optimum Points

$85 spent with PC Financial Mastercard @ 3% earn rate = 255 PC Optimum Points 

10,000 + 8,000 + 255 = 18,255

This means we could potentially earn 18,255 PC Optimum Points, an equivalent of $18.26 for spending $85, or effectively a 21% earn rate.

In reality, when we placed an order for a total of $88.18 ($103.18 – $15 saving), we ended up with 12,666 PC Optimum points or a 14.4% earn rate. Not too shabby.

It’s not a surprise that frugal-minded people, myself included, love saving money whenever we can. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that we value earning points and taking advantage of deals. However, I often wonder if it makes sense to spend money for the sake of saving. Does spending money for the sake of saving make sense?

For us, since most of our purchases from Superstore are fresh produce, fruits, and perishable items, unless we have specific needs when these exclusive deals are available, I do not believe it makes any sense to spend money for the sake of saving $10 to $25. I suppose we can always purchase non-perishable items like canned goods, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies, but the idea of buying non-perishable items and spendinghit $100 or more seems a little silly to me. After all, we’d have to store these items and it’s silly to stock up continuously just so we can save some money. Besides, we don’t usually get weekly promotions and extra points from being a PC Insider on these non-perishable goods.

Therefore, I believe spending for the sake of saving doesn’t make any sense at all. The number one goal for these chain stores like Superstore is to earn money, so they are throwing out these “exclusive deals” to promote additional unplanned purchases. They are enticing customers to spend more money to save money.

So don’t get trapped in this point collecting game. If you need something from the store and you happen to get an exclusive deal, great, it makes perfect sense to use it to save money. However, spending money just because you have an exclusive deal doesn’t make sense. Remember, you are not “saving” because you get 50% on a $50 item. You didn’t automatically save $25, you are still spending money!!!

But maybe this just how my weird mind works, do you agree or disagree with me?  

Travel hacking to Kauai – Our plans

Speaking about spending to earn points, some of you may recall that we travel hacked our way to Maui last year and saved over $10,000. Basically, we applied for different credit cards throughout the year and collected welcome points that are either in Marriott Bonvoy points or converted them to Marriott Bonvoy points. Since we had enough points, we redeemed the seven nights hotel + air package and transferred the air points to Aeroplan. Thanks to the 35% transfer bonus promotion between Marriott and Aeroplan at the time, we earned extra points and use our Aeroplan points for airfare for the entire family.

After vacationing in Japan and Taiwan for two weeks earlier this year, Mrs. T and I both think a Hawaii vacation with the two little kids next year would be awesome. It would be nice to go to a place and relax completely, rather than having to tour around the different attractions. Hawaii would be more kids friendly since we can spend the whole day on the beach relaxing and not have to worry about checking out certain tourist attractions.

So, over the last few months, we have been busy applying for credit cards and collecting welcome points. 

The credit cards we have applied so far are:

  • American Express Bonvoy Personal Card – 50,000 Bonvoy welcome points
  • American Express Bonvoy Business Card – 50,000 Bonvoy welcome points

By referring back and forth, we have been earning an extra 10,000 Bonvoy points each time. 

In case you’re interested, use my referral code and you can earn 51,000 Bonvoy welcome points. Good for three nights at a Category 2 Marriott property.

Next up, we may look into applying for the American Express Platinum cards.

We plan to check out Kauai since we haven’t been there before. Looking around the following Marriott properties seem attractive:

Points needed per night are:

  • Category 4 (Courtyard): 25,000
  • Category 5 (Sheraton): 35,000
  • Category 6 (Marriott): 50,000
  • Category 7 (Westin): 60,000 


Marriott Bonvoy points – Calculation 

Marriott plans to introduce off-peak and peak points rates. These rates are supposed to be effective soon but who knows when they will be rolled out.

Ideally, we want to stay at Kauai for at least 12 nights. If we have enough points, we would love to stay for 16 nights (2 full weeks plus weekends). For Marriott, when you redeem for five nights of stay, you only need four nights worth of points. This is a great way to stay for longer for lower amount of points. Below are points needed, based on the current category redemption rates.

Points needed for staying 12 nights, redemption rate, and additional cost:

  • Courtyard: 250,000 points, 1.2 cents
  • Sheraton: 350,000 points, 1.2 cents, $360 USD resort fees (plus taxes).
  • Marriott: 500,000 points, 0.816 cents, $420 USD resort fees (plus taxes).
  • Westin: 600,000 points, 0.8 cents

Points needed for staying 16 nights, redemption rate, and additional cost:

  • Courtyard: 325,000 points, 1.23 cents.
  • Sheraton: 455,000 points, 1.23 cents, $480 USD resort fees (plus taxes)
  • Marriott: 650,000 points, 0.8369 cents, $560 USD resort fees (plus taxes)
  • Westin: 780,000 points, 0.8205 cents

Since the Travel Points Guy rates the Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.8 cents per point, we are getting our points/dollars worth based on the above calculation. 

However, we may need more points if the new points system kicks in and if we were to stay during the peak season (I’m guessing 95% of the time it’s peak season in Kauai). So we may need to redo the calculation.

We haven’t decided which hotel property is best for us. Based on the initial research, the Sheraton and Marriott resorts look good, but I dislike paying the extra resort fee. We’ll have to do more research for sure.

For now, we have a lot of work to do so we can earn enough Marriott Bonvoy points. Oh, the joy of travel hacking!

Dear readers, do you play the travel hacking game? Do you have a trip in mind you are collecting points for?

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21 thoughts on “Playing the rewards points game – How to spend money to save money”

  1. I am looking at hotels in Hawaii in the Marriott programs and the ones I looked so far all charge an outrageous amount for kids. We will be travelling with two kids and the extra person cost and taxes and fees for a 5 night package ranges from 1,500 to 2,500. Obviously not worth it. Are you travelling with kids and are there properties that do not charge fee for extra persons? Thanks

  2. Do you factor in the annual fee of the credit card into your purchase for the travel hacking? In addition to the resort fees will you add the $120 it cost for the annual fee?

    Thanks for the reminder to look into travel hacking our potential Asia trip!! 🙂 🙂

    • I do factor in the annual fee of the credit card. You still come out ahead even with the resort fees. But there are tons of Marriott hotels that do not charge resort fees.

  3. We travel hacked this same trip to Kauai in January. We ended up using a combination of Chase points for the airfare, and Hilton Honors points (via AmEx) for the hotel for a completely free week there. Other travel hackers I read had given the Hilton Amex points a bad rep, but we managed to get over 75,000 points each in sign up bonuses alone, plus our fifth night free (and an awesome free upgrade to a massive beach bungalow!) so it ended up working out great for us!

    My fiance loves Hawaii, though, and tries to go at least every other year. That means we are on the continual hunt for more ways to travel hack it. We weren’t familiar with the Marriott points system but the sign on bonus + referrals sounds enticing.

    A few years ago we stayed at the Sheraton Kauai at Poipu, which is on your list. It was an amazing location – would definitely recommend it for the family, especially if you want to be close to a beautiful, swimmable beach. The morning breakfast buffet was also on point!

    Kauai is our absolute favorite island. Let us know if you want any tips!

    Enjoy your trip!

    • That’s so awesome! Haven’t gotten into Hilton because we don’t have Hilton credit cards here in Canada.

      That’s great to know that Sheraton Kauai is amazing. It looked quite awesome from the pictures I’ve seen and the location seemed quite ideal. Thank you for the recommendation.

  4. We took a big family trip down to the Cayman Islands last summer and the family just started discussing a possible trip to Hawaii for Summer 2020. So your post was extremely timely since I’m trying to figure out how we can get there as cheap as possible.

  5. Have you tried TD Aeroplan credit card? My partner and I have been applying and cancelling this credit card back and forth many times. Together we have earned over 500,000 miles over the past 6 years! Apply from to get your first-year annual fee waived. I usually cancelled this credit card after 6-8 months and wait for the next promotional round (only when the annual fee is waived) to apply for it again.

    I used to churn the Amex card for Aeroplan miles; however, they do not give bonus points to returning customers a while ago.

  6. We’re taking a quick break from travel hacking. We have too many cards and points now, it’s getting too confusing. Once we used up some points, we’ll start again. The Bonvoy points sound good. We never spend money on luxury hotels. It’ll be a nice break from our usual 3 stars vacation. Hawaii should be a lot of fun for the kids. You can’t go wrong with the beach.

  7. Very interesting. The only thing holding me back is the annual fees. But I guess even getting one free night makes up for it. At the same time, there is a chance of getting the points devalued, like what may happen soon for Aeroplan.

    Do you have separate accounts for both you and your wife? Do you ever cancel the cards?

    • Yea I was a bit hesitant on the annual fees before but after some calculations, I feel it was worth paying the annual fees.

      We have separate accounts for my wife and I and we cancel the cards if we don’t use them.


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