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Travel Rewards, Health Savings Accounts, and One-Salary Families

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As I mentioned a few days ago, Consumerism Commentary is matching your charitable contributions. Please take this opportunity to give to your favorite charity. Here’s how to make your charity count twice.

In other news, I have returned from visiting my family in California for Thanksgiving. I spent some time with my brother and sister-in-law, hiking, trying yoga for the first time, seeing a play in Los Angeles, and participating in two great Thanksgiving meals. I’ve included a photograph from a nearby lake I explored on Thanksgiving day before arriving at dinner.

ThanksgivingLast week, in the midst of my travel, U.S. News published an appropriate new article of mine, The 3 Best Ways to Increase Travel Rewards. I expect to travel more in the future, so I’ve shifted most of my spending from cash back to travel rewards. Making the most of my miles has been on my mind lately.

The best time to start a health savings account is two years before you start having children, according to Money Reasons. I don’t use a health insurance plan that is eligible for health savings accounts (HSA), so I haven’t paid much attention to the rules.

Donna Freedman asks, Could Your Family Survive on One Salary? I have a family of one, so this question is most likely not directed at me. The answer to this question is unique to every circumstance. In a family where there are two salaries, perhaps one salary could support the family with minimal struggle while the other could not support the family without major adjustments. Some families will need both salaries to survive.

If you are interested in personal finance blogs, take a look at this collection of the 25 most influential finance bloggers from Redeeming Riches. I appreciate being included!

Consumerism Commentary participated in a number of carnivals this week: Carnival of Personal Finance, Carnival of Wealth, and Stock Carnival Ecstasy.

Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published November 28, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar DonnaFreedman ♦65 (Newbie)

Thanks for the link, Flexo.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,455 (Platinum)

No problem, Donna!

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avatar SomeGuy

Travel rewards are definitely a better use than cash back. Obviously it depends on your spending mix and the cashback card, but we typically don’t exceed an average equivalent cashback of more than 1.3-1.5%. With travel rewards, it is generally more valuable to use miles/points to UPGRADE a flight you have paid for normally, versus the outright full purchase of a ticket. For example, for a trip to Hawaii, we recently purchased coach RT tickets for about $800 PP. We then used 30K Amex points transferred to airline miles (1:1 — just missed a 1:1.5 50% bonus) PP to upgrade to first class. Those same first class tickets were priced at $2800 PP for the non-changable web fare and $4500 PP for full fare first class. For the two of us, 60K points total were worth $4000, far more than the $600 cash back they would have been worth.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,455 (Platinum)

I agree that upgrades seem to provide the best value — if you take the airline’s first class fares (or cost to upgrade) at face value. If you wouldn’t have paid $4,500 for the full fare first class, then it’s not worth that. If your saying your standard fare was $500 and it would cost $4,000 to upgrade, then you could interpret the 60k points as being worth that amount, but if you wouldn’t pay that to upgrade, you’d have to ask yourself how much you would pay to upgrade… maybe another $500. Maybe $600. So then your points could be seen as being worth about the same as cash back… it’s just that the first class ticket is overpriced for what you receive.

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avatar someguy

Flexo, in our case, I am extremely tall and the Mrs. has health issues so our options are typically to either limit flights to 4-5 hours in coach or fly longer in business or FC. In the case I gave above we would probably have paid the extra $2000 PP to upgrade to web fare FC and therefore the $600-cash value of the points was instead used for $4,000 worth of upgrades. I understand and agree that for other less tall or more healthy folks, the value would be less. In other cases, there are places we would like to visit that involve at least 16-18 hours on a plane and upgraded class airfare is +$10K or more per person. The only way we would go is using points to upgrade. So there is intangible value in those points beyond the debatable cash-equivalent value; i.e., that points upgrade open doors that otherwise would not be.

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avatar The Financial Blogger

Thank’s for the links. Looked over the 25 bloggers, congrats for being there! ;-)

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avatar Money Reasons

Thanks for the mention!

That lake has a very nice color to it’s water, I hope it was as great as it looked!

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avatar 4hendricks ♦248 (Cent)

We lived off mostly one salary for 2 – 3 years – mine – we went through our savings, however – we could have done things much different and made a lot of cuts, but no one in the family but me thought it was necessary – things were going to get better. I think it is great that people are working together and on the same page.

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avatar 4hendricks ♦248 (Cent)

I have had an HSA for about 5 years – we have used it down to .35 cents, but have built it back up again. I actually fund this before funding retirement, because you don’t have to use it from year to year. It really came in handy when my husband had surgery 3 years ago. I charged the surgery, got the rewards points, and then paid the bill.

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