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Recently I hopped onto Twitter to see what some of my miles & points folks were up to, and I came across this tweet by my friend Adam — also known as Travel Fanboy. He was responding to a post titled “Why You May be Losing the Miles & Points Game, Without Even Knowing It”
No one wants to make the wrong move. And, if you want help learning about points and miles and how to use them, we have just the place to do so: our Facebook group Award Travel 101!
So, let's turn this mentality around a bit and discuss how you know you’re doing it right.
1. Taking the First Step
Learning and understanding travel rewards is tough for many of us. It takes a slightly different mental outlook to change any preconceived notions. If you’re anything like me, you may be risk- and debt-averse.
My family history dates back to some of the poorer areas of Europe. My great-grandparents immigrated to the United States in the late 1890s. Due to experiencing “The Great Depression” firsthand, my grandparents passed on many of the beliefs that debt was bad to my parents’ generation. We grew up with those beliefs ingrained into our mental fabric and looking past that mentality can be tough!
It's important to know that we here at AwardWallet and Award Travel 101 still believe that you shouldn’t carry debt. If you can’t pay off your credit card in full, the interest you'll pay will outweigh any rewards earned. Instead, you should focus on lowering your interest rate while you pay off your debt. If you're in this spot, taking the first step may start with one of these posts:
- Best 0% APR Balance Transfer Offers in 2021
- How to Get a 0% Intro APR without Paying a Balance Transfer Fee
- Best $0 Annual Fee Credit Cards with 0% Intro APR
If you're able to pay your balance in full each month, we have plenty of resources that can help guide you down the right path. You can start with:
- Back to Basics: An Introduction to the Types of Reward Points
- A Beginner's Guide to Credit Card Application Rules
- Beginners Guide To Credit Card Rewards: Transferable vs Fixed-Value Points
2. Saving Money
The basis of the travel/loyalty/miles/points “game” is to save money and live better. Are you like me? When I first started working my way through the field, I thought that people who worked in this space were magicians! The reality is that there’s no black magic here. It takes some time and careful study.
Miles/points should be viewed as an alternative form of currency. This is why we often discuss flexible point “currencies” such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, or even the often overlooked Citi ThankYou Points.
Saving money is saving money. Some may scoff at the idea of purchase points because that's “losing the game”. But there are sometimes when it can make sense. Currently, you can buy Hilton Honors points with a 100% bonus. If you were going to pay for nights at a luxury property like those in Mexico, French Polynesia, or the Maldives, you can save over 50% off the cash rate by buying points.
For example, you could recently buy Radisson points with a 100% bonus. By buying points at that rate, you could pay $245 per night for an overwater villa in the Maldives. Wouldn’t you consider that a deal?
3. Traveling More/Better
Some people in the miles and points game need to take a step back and reassess the situation. All of us have different goals and ideals for each program. While some might want to get to Japan in first class, others may just want to save on flights for their family's next Disney vacation or trip to the beach!
If you pick up a Southwest Companion Pass or jumped on the Frontier Elite Status match I shared last year, you may fall into the latter category. Just because someone used their points or bought cheap cash fares doesn’t mean it's wrong; it's all about each traveler's priorities.
I’ve done everything from booking $10 flights for my family on Frontier all the way to redeeming miles for a $9,500 (per person) lie-flat business class tickets on ANA via Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club program. The latter I did as a gift to my brother and sister-in-law just because miles & points made it possible!
4. Accomplishing Your Goals
While adding more cards can be beneficial, you don’t need to be Heinz with 57 varieties to succeed in travel and loyalty programs. Having a clear-cut strategy for what you want to do and how you want to get there will eliminate much of the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
One of my business partners made a plan to use the extended Chase Pay Yourself Back feature to cover the cost of a kitchen remodel — it saved her $15,000!
Sure having a variety of award miles/points provides more options and choices, but there’s no point stressing yourself out collecting a few random points here or there and not having enough to complete your goals. After all, most people jump ship when they start bouncing all over the place because they don’t end up accumulating enough of the points they need to accomplish their goal.
Points & miles are similar to cash. They rarely increase in value and are subject to becoming less valuable over time due to inflation (of costs). Think of it just like a savings account. If you don’t save up for your next trip, you’re either going to have to cancel it or borrow from somewhere else.
5. Having Fun
Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, work out what you want to do personally or for your family. Are people still laughing at me for picking up Frontier’s Elite 100K status? Probably. And I don’t care because it helps me to do more of what my family loves for less. If we can make earning and burning award points/miles fun and rewarding, all while saving your hard-earned cash, that’s the real goal.
However, if you’re ready to step up your game a bit, check out Award Travel 201 ($89.99 annual fee which comes with complimentary AwardWallet Plus). We won't beat you over the head to maximize to the extreme, but we are building a community of people who love to travel and are interested in putting a little more time, effort, and research into the programs.
How do you define winning in travel and loyalty?
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