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Maximizing credit card rewards with Barry Choi

On Ratehub’s Real Money Talk Podcast, we sat down with Travel and Credit Card guru Barry Choi. Barry is a personal finance and travel expert, sharing his wisdom on his blog Money we have. Barry sat down with the Real Money Talk team to chat about travel cards and money-saving tips and to explain how he booked his parents $11,000 worth of travel, for only $200.

Choosing the right credit card

Well, Barry’s advice is to focus on your spending. “If you’re spending a certain amount of money on say restaurants or gas, you want to look for a card that earns you more points.” You’ll have to look through your bank account a bit, but a little research can go a long way. Barry loves the PC World Elite Mastercard because he shops for groceries at Loblaws.

Getting a card with a big travel bonus can also help you rack up those points fast. By taking advantage of that bonus and any deals to waive the first year annual fee, you can get a value of $400 with your new card just by signing up.

Barry Choi’s travel tips

“A lot of people think travel is expensive, [but] it doesn’t have to be. You’ve got to be smart, [and] do your research.” Barry’s tips to keep travel costs low, of course, start with a great travel card. Booking in advance and spending the time to search out deals can also make a big difference. “Last minute is usually the most expensive, [so] if you’re always thinking a season or two ahead, you can save.”

By planning ahead and taking advantage of points, Barry was able to pay for eight nights at a hotel in Amsterdam with his family. He also booked his parents two premium economy tickets to Hong Kong and Singapore and two weeks of hotels all on points. All he had to pay $200 in taxes for the whole trip.

South East Asia is a great budget travel destination, says Barry. Many people worry because they need a lot of points to get there, but it’s not that much more than a flight to Europe. “I believe it’s 60,000 Aeroplan points to fly to Europe, but the taxes are [expensive],”  explains Barry. “I’ve seen flights to France where the taxes are $800. But if you were to fly to Asia, it’s anywhere from 75,000 to 90,000 points, so it’s not that much more, but your taxes are usually less than $200. So, it’s a lot of value.” 

The bottom line: Mind the interest

The big take away from Barry is that reward points don’t matter if you’re paying credit card interest. “Great, you’re earning 2% cash back, but you’re paying 19.99% interest. So that’s terrible math.” If you’re looking for a new credit card, but are still paying off some debt, a balance transfer or low-interest card is a much better option. Earning bonus travel points to pay for your next vacation is great, but bringing down your interest payment is a much better financial decision. 

To hear the full podcast, click your favourite platform.