There has been a fair-amount of hand-wringing in the points & miles world, some of it from me, about how things aren’t as good as they used to be. I know that it’s still possible to generate obtain enough points and miles to satisfy any reasonable person, but it’s not as easy as it used to be and the 5/24 rule is only the latest in a string of setbacks. Andy at Lazy Travelers had a good post on this recently:
Everyone else should do a simple mental exercise. If you could (or do) sell all the miles and points you earn with manufactured spending, how much would (do) you make? And no, that first-class seat doesn’t count, because it isn’t really worth $10K. The real cost of your miles and points is how much you could get for them on an open market. Even if it’s a gray market, it works for this exercise.
If you spend one, two or whatever extra hours a day doing this thing, are your hourly earnings comparable to your real-life wages?
If the answer is no, you need to ask yourself why you’re wasting your life doing this instead of making more money. And if the answer is yes, why are you wasting your life instead of growing professionally, instead of trying to start a new business, or even instead of playing ball with your kid?
Exactly! Even if you can still manufacture spend, it may cost more (in either time or money) than it used to. So you can expend more resources for the same amount of points and miles, or you do a better job of using fewer points and miles.
Andy offers up a couple of ideas of how to change up your approach, one of which is hoarding:
Here is the thing. If you really love to travel (which is different from loving to travel in luxury), then this “earn it and burn it” mantra (of which I’ve always been skeptical anyway) makes no sense anymore. You might want to dust off your old “hoarding” box from the days when miles weren’t so easy to get, because if we are honest to ourselves, coach has devalued very little in the last two decades. If anything, international coach availability has considerably improved in the recent years across all airline programs.
I think hoarding is a good idea because for all we know things could get even tighter in the future. Hoarding has worked out well for me in the past as well. And yes, your points and miles can get devalued, but if they get harder to earn then devaluations are less likely. Plus, as Andy pointed out, coach hasn’t been devalued as much as business and first–which, of course, is what a lot of travel hackers have been redeeming for. Although it still saddens me that I can’t use my Avios to fly coach to NYC for 4,500 miles anymore.
Speaking of coach: flying it more often is another suggestion Andy offers up:
I hereby declare my personal moratorium on booking first class award seats, unless there is an offer I would be stupid to refuse.
In other words: lower your expectations! Which, c’mon, isn’t really all that terrible. With all the first class braggadocio I’ve seen over the years, I wonder if anybody’s lost sight of the why of travel? The “why” will vary from person to person, but for me it’s to see new places, experience new things, relax, and take a temporary break from my usual routine. It’s possible to do that without traveling to the Maldives in Etihad first class (or Vendoming).
Heck, there are plenty of places within a few hours’ drive of my house I haven’t even seen yet and I’m sure that’s true for some of you as well. I’m currently considering a trip to Helen, Georgia to take in some nature and some ersatz Bavarian architecture. There is a category 2 Hampton Inn (speaking of which, see “Three Cheers for Category 1 Redemptions!“) nearby with good reviews that will net me over one cent per point which is just peachy for HHilton PPesos. I won’t be flying, first class or otherwise, and I won’t be pampered like an 18th-century monarch, but the kids will still be able to jump on a hotel bed, swim in a hotel swimming pool, and see a new place.
A change I’ve made recently is making the Freedom Unlimited my primary spender. I consistently get at least 2 cents of value per point from Ultimate Reward points, sometimes more, thus the switch. I had a Chase Sapphire Preferred whose annual fee was coming due and I was able to convert it, so no 5/24 issues for me. I currently have two Chase Inks, and because of how much Chase has tightened up I plan on keeping both of them. With all the money I save on plane tickets, it will still be worth it.
Another possible change to make: scour a little harder for opportunities you may have passed up before. I’m currently investigating something myself as time permits. Maybe there’s something interesting at a local credit union or maybe there’s a points and miles meet-up nearby you could check out. Or maybe there’s some opportunity which has nothing whatsoever to do with points and miles that you need to check out.
Have a great weekend everybody…