Lupita Nyong’o’s Number One Rule About Credit Cards

Photo: Courtesy of Delta.

Stars — they’re just like us. It’s not only us non-famous normies who regularly work long hours. Turns out, Oscar-winning actresses have to remind themselves to recover from endless days on set. “I've learned the value of downtime,” Lupita Nyong’o tells Refinery29. “If you can, one should, you know? It’s a real privilege to have that option.”

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Women in general are more likely to suffer from burnout at work, too — which is why it’s so important to take time off instead of guilting yourself into pushing through your exhaustion. We’re talking real time off; vacation days spent on catching up on other work or looking for other jobs don’t count. Especially in the midst of a cold, colorless winter, nothing gets you recharged like spending a week somewhere sunny and warm.

Of course, it’s not always possible to take vacations, depending on your industry and company culture. (And if that’s the case, maybe it really is time to start looking for other opportunities.) Other times, we just can’t afford a getaway. The average American, when they do actually go on vacation, spends an average of $2,000. About 74% of people surveyed by LearnVest said they’d gone into debt for a vacation.

A good travel rewards credit card is one way that you can help make vacations a reality. At the recent relaunch event of the Delta SkyMiles American Express Card portfolio, Refinery29 caught up with one of the brand’s celeb ambassadors, Lupita Nyong’o. She told us all about how she maintains a work-life balance, the financial habits she swears by, and her favorite way to vacation.

Refinery29: The relaunched card sounds exciting. What was the perk that you were personally most excited about?
Lupita Nyong’o: The miles that you can earn per dollar is something that I'm very excited about. I love watching my miles rack up and then being able to use them towards a vacation, because that's a way for me to make sure that I take care of myself and reward myself with some downtime.

Do you remember how old you were when you got your first credit card?
Yes, I do! When I got my first credit card, I must have been about 26.

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Do you remember how you felt when you finally had your first credit card, what you wanted to use it for?
I remember being really scared about using money that I didn't have. So I needed to learn how to manage the debt. But I remember being really excited to get credit history and be able to purchase things within reason. I had the money to pay for it, but I think it was about developing a healthy relationship with credit and recognizing the power it gives you, but making sure that I wasn't abusing it.

So now that you’re more experienced with credit cards, do you have any rules that you always keep to when it comes to using credit cards?
Don't purchase things you can't afford. For me, at least, I try and predict what the repayment would look like and make sure that I can make it before I purchase it.

I'm sure you're so busy with your work — do you personally find it hard to find time to take vacations? Or are you pretty good about recognizing when you really need a break?
Yeah. I think because I don't have a permanent job, I try to build it into my schedule — vacation rewards for myself after big projects and stuff. And I think just having that as a rule, an unspoken rule... Well, it's quite the spoken rule, actually. Having that as a rule is helpful. I think the trick to giving yourself time off is to build it into your schedule kind of arbitrarily. What I’m saying is, yes, I take vacations and I believe in working hard and playing hard. And I'm sometimes more faithful to myself in that way than in other times.

Where's the last place you traveled to and how was it?
Ghana. I was mainly in Accra and I traveled around it as well. Yeah, it was fantastic. It was a lot of fun.

Do you have a winter getaway that you love that you think more people should know about?
Well, I really like going to different places. I don't think there's a country I continue to visit, but I do really like Jamaica and it's not far away from the U.S. And yeah, it's the perfect tropical getaway, and there's so many different places in Jamaica to visit — I've been to Negril and to Montego Bay and enjoyed my time there.

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What does a perfect day while traveling look like for you? Are you the type to have an itinerary or do you tend to go with the flow?
I really love to visit places where I know someone, where I have a personal relationship with somebody. And I love to do their version of that place. So I definitely like to have a loose itinerary, but I also want to have the flexibility to go with the flow as things come up and change plans. I don't like to have rigidity when I'm on vacation. I think at the end of the day, a lot of my life is scheduled already. Part of the vacation is the vacation from scheduling.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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