The Weekly News Roundup is a collection of headlines from around the internet that caught the attention of the Tagging Miles team. Content on these blogs do not necessarily reflect the positions of Tagging Miles, and should not be considered endorsements. Have a great story we should read? Contact us now and let us know.
- A Sri Lankan play was delayed 15 hours for a very stupid reason. Here’s why.
- Most Lucrative Rental Car Promo is Back and Even Better? National One Two Free
- Myanmar 6.8 magnitude earthquake: Images from Bagan historic sites
- As The Joe Flies turns 4!
Miles and Points:
- Of all the posts I’ve read about the Chase Sapphire Reserve – this is the one I would tell everyone to read. And not because of the credit card, but rather a stark reminder
- Le Club Accorhotels is making changes… They’ll become a bigger deal with the upcoming merger with Fairmont and Raffles , but yeah, stuff to know.
- American’s AAdvantage Frequent Flyer program is rapidly entering the death spiral. The latest: No notice variable award pricing. It pains me to see this from an airline I’ve chosen to give my business to, over the past few years… but, well, I went through this with United too.
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve is alive… and so the onslaught of posts about it will continue.
- Another primer on how to support bloggers without direct credit card links.
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve was so big, over the past two weeks, that even Matt had to get his say, on the topic, even if it was a little tangential.
- Because you’ll have that fancy new Chase Sapphire Reserve, and will need to do some MS, or just some regular Ink MS since there are some deals going on, this is an important message to read about having an exit strategy.
- This Chase Sapphire Reserve has really led to a lot of talk. For PF Digest, it’s led to some introspective–nay–philosophical thought.
- Last week was Aviation Day – and there were a lot of #AvGeeks getting amazing access to some of the busiest airports in the world. Here’s the backstory.
Reselling and Finance:
- Matt’s been talking about The Framework for quite some time, here’s some more on that. If this doesn’t get you thinking, I’m not sure what will. Its really an interesting perspective as a reseller, where, you want to have a good access to capital, but if you remember where most of us started (e.g. bootstrappin’ it!), it can help making the decision to shelter some of the profit you’re getting.
Matt wrote a great post yesterday that reminded me of a post I had half written, after attending a company offsite back in August at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake. I won’t go into too much detail, but we had a guest speaker who talked about how one can apply project management principles and processes in your every day life. It was pretty common sense, but one thing he said really struck me.
Every one of us has 168 hours per week.
Maybe it shouldn’t have struck me the way it did, but this concept of 168 hours per week, really hit home. What we choose to do with those 168 hours is usually defined by a collection of commitments, goals, desires, and needs. I think Leigh’s comment on another one of Matt’s post further highlights how limiting, having only 168 hours per week truly is. I would argue that it is even more important in a Post Redbird environment, as folks are formulating their revised Manufacturing Spending strategies.
For example, on average, people need 8 hours of sleep a day.
– Subtract 56 hours, now we’re left with 112 hours.
Most of us work, and work is generally expected to be a minimum of a 40 hour week, so now we’re down to 72 hours. You read that right, the equivalent of 4 days of your week are already for the most part committed to work and sleep.
So, what do you do with your 72 hours per week? First of all, you’ve got to eat, commute to your job during the week, and a collection of other routine maintenance things. Lets say that’s 2 hours per day. Now we’re down to 58 hours.
This is where you start to get into your free time. It is amazing, that in an ideal scenario, your free time is just over 1/3rd of your week.
I did the math for myself, assuming one of those random weeks where I’m not traveling. Here’s where I came out on a weekday:
- Sleep – 9 hours allocated (although I don’t always sleep for 9, I make it a point to be in bed roughly 9 hours before I need to wake up.
- Work – 9 hours allocated – on average, I put in 8.5-9 hours a day.
- Commuting to work – 1 hour allocated round trip – I’m pretty lucky here, I have a less than 30 minute commute each way, so, rounding up for ease here.
- Eating – 30 minutes per day – usually I multi-task, but every so often I have to cook.
- Housework – 30 minutes – I try to do my part to help out around the house, this usually means things like laundry, dishes, vacuuming, standard stuff.
- Writing – 1 hour – that’s probably under cutting it a bit, but, I do try to spend an hour a day writing, or doing other research for Tagging Miles.
- FBA – 2 hours – I’ll usually intersperse looking for reselling products with writing, or catching up on Twitter.
- Gaming – 1 hour – This is how I try to clear my mind before bed.
For a weekend, I usually switch out work with some Manufactured Spending (MS), errands, FBA, more gaming, with some sports watching in the background thrown in. Here’s the rough breakdown:
- Manufactured Spending 2 hours
- Errands – 2 hours
- Eating – 1 hour
- FBA – 3 hours (total)
- Gaming – 3 hours (total)
- Sports/TV/Movie – 1 hour (although the TV is generally on in the background throughout the day).
What does that tell me? well, I like to look at things graphically, so here’s that:
But really what does it tell me? Other than the fact that I allocate way too much time to sleep, I spend a bunch of time working. My next largest time commitment is Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), which is logical, as I’m trying to build that business as a side gig. Beyond that, I spend a fair amount of time writing and gaming. Hey, we all have to de-stress one way or another.
Perhaps the biggest message I see here though, is that your opportunity to innovate on a weekly basis is pretty limited. Of course, there is a rather large block of time, aka, work, where you could take time off, to focus on innovating, or to travel. I’ll be honest, I burn nearly all of my vacation, of course, do I spend time trying to innovate while on vacation? Of course, because, well, I don’t shut down well.
What’s my point?
I think what this really comes down to is, you have 168 hours, each week. That’s it. What you choose to do with those 168 hours highlights what your priorities are. As Matt highlights in his post, there are plenty of options to outsource or drop things, but really, your are in command of your 168 hours. In the words of the the Knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – Choose Wisely.
How do you allocate your 168 hours per week?
If you’ve been following the mile and point community for a while, you’ve probably seen a few disturbing trends.
The fact is, churning credit cards is becoming more difficult. Don’t get me wrong, there are some banks–cough: Citi–that are still happy to give plenty of miles out as sign-ons, and even retention offers, but even Citi has 18 month terms. But the fact remains: Credit Card issuers are realizing that our community exists (my assertion, not fact), and responding in such a way that entices long-term holders that spend “early and often” to reference a well known Chicago politician.
The result is, that more and more folks are realizing that as they accrue significant miles from credit cards, and moreso, accumulate higher and higher credit limits from various banks, it becomes harder to get more credit.
Stefan of Rapid Travel Chai posed the question back in July, as to whether he should decrease his available credit with Citi to get more. Matt implies a similar question when he shares 4 things he does that others likely do differently.
If there’s one thing that those links say to me, it is that those of us who have been in the mile and point game for a while, are facing a new reality. It used to be, that you could apply for new credit cards, whether it was 8, 60, or 91 days apart, but you could still get the sign on bonuses. That world is changing, to an extent.
The message is becoming clear: If you’re a churner, we (banks) don’t see you as our core customer. I don’t think that the banks are saying that they don’t want us (manufactured spenders), but they are starting to be more sensitive to those folks that apply for cards for the sign-up bonuses and then ditch the cards–in some cases, without even paying annual fees that may not have been waived.
Is this the end of the game? I would argue: certainly not. It’s just like any other game, the rules change, perhaps the goal posts have been moved, but any good athlete (or so I hear, since I’m anything but) figures out a way to ultimately make it to the goal posts, even if it is a moving target.
This is not the end of the world. However, I think it hits home the fact that you have to see the forest through the trees. If you’re new to the game, then this is just a word of warning. If you’ve been in the game for a while and have yet to encounter topping out on your credit card limits, then you’ve been lucky. What can you do in the future? I don’t have a crystal ball, but if I were to offer, I would say: Find a balance between canceling credit cards and downgrading credit cards. If you don’t see a particular card adding value, get rid of it, because holding on to that credit card might be the difference between being approved or not, the next time you churn.
1. Are you good with credit cards?
2. Do you like tracking things? Do you dream about Microsoft Excel?
3. Do you like to travel?
I know, as crazy as it sounds, there are people who don’t wish they could get on an airplane every week (or weekend). I met a few once. It was an experience much like this:
4. Are you flexible with your travel dates or can you plan far (like 330 days ahead)?
5. Do you enjoy flying in Economy?
6. Does traveling to other countries and experiencing other cultures scare you?
I’m sure this is not an all inclusive list, but, hopefully it offered a nice quick read for your day.
I have a confession to make: When I started in this game, 5+ years ago, I was a huge fan of Lucky otherwise known as Ben Schlappig. He inspired my first trip award trip to Japan, in Lufthansa First Class with my wife. Because of Ben, my wife and I lounged in the Lufthansa First Class Terminal both ways. We enjoyed ourselves immensely, and in fact, have returned there whenever we could. In fact, despite not being mentioned by The Points Guy, we were there when he was, even hearing about his visit to the White House. So it’s tough to share this post, but, I feel I have to.
Are absolutely awesome. In fact, Emirates was so awesome the last time we flew, as to present my wife a birthday cake! (if only I could fly Emirates for my Birthday!):
But alas, I had to shake my head in, what may have been his direction (one never does know where he is at any given point, after all), this past week.
The Elephant in the Room
Recently Lucky was the centerpiece of a Rolling Stone article that seems to have generated him so much press. He works hard, in fact, he’s admitted to being a work-a-holic, so, to get that kind’ve recognition isn’t a bad thing, on a personal level, so when Lucky is writing Welcome to OMAAT, because he’s got so many new readers, for him, that’s a net win. This probably goes to the whole concept of: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
But, I’m not sure that this level of media attention on what is apparently now referred to as “the Hobby,” is a good thing. Perhaps this is the exception that makes the rule on my aforementioned quote. Of course, media on the miles and points game isn’t always bad, following September 11th, 2001, Randy Peterson did a crazier mileage run than my 90 minute turn around in Cairo, it was called “Come Fly With Me,” and it was an effort to get people back in the air, highlighting how safe air travel really is.
When I originally wrote this post, it was more focused on Lucky, because, I really had saw the Rolling Stone article in a negative light. Someone pointed out to me though, that I’m likely not the target audience for Rolling Stone, and that just maybe, it was written specifically for their target audience. Ok, I get that. Despite that, I still feel it necessary to highlight some things:
Will the real Godfather please stand up?
The article states:
“That year, Schlappig was elected to FlyerTalk’s governing TalkBoard; in 2009, he ascended to vice president, second to Gary Leff, now 40, one of the Hobby’s most popular bloggers. (Schlappig calls Leff “the Godfather” of the hobby).
I respect Gary Leff, in fact, after the Rolling Stone article (and probably before), I respect Gary Leff more. But as much as I respect him, the true Godfather of Miles and Points is Randy Peterson. I would bet a full meal at Elephant Jumps, that Gary would concur.
“Lose Lips Sink Ships” — Or in this case, may kill deals.
With the way social media is now, I assume there’s not a whole lot of probability that “gigs” (using Marathon Man’s term), like some mentioned in the article would last as long as they used to. Here’s an example:
During his senior year, he carelessly bragged to a New York Times travel reporter that he had amassed more than $10,000 in bumping vouchers. A few weeks later, Schlappig says, just before his last college final exam, in April 2011, he received a certified letter from United, cheerily informing him that because he had tacked advantage of the system his frequent-flyer account was permanently suspended.”
So, I remember hearing a different story, one that, one could probably find by digging through FlyerTalk, but quite honestly, its not my place to correct stuff like this. But, this jumps out at me, because I remember another person who reflected on a quote/article he had done with the New York Times as a mistake, because it brought too much publicity to a component of the
Why do I reference that? Because, despite how unforgiving social media is now-a-days, I still feel you get at least one mulligan. That was a mulligan, if you ask me. Rehashing that, is probably not a positive, but, for all we know, it could’ve just be the writer being thorough. The writer, Ben Wofford, must’ve been quite excited to have his first article published in Rolling Stone, and maybe it led to him digging everything he could up. I don’t know.
Let’s continue on though, here’s another quote:
Earlier this year, Delta and United both switched to revenue-based reward systems: Frequent-flyer miles are now awarded by total dollars spent, effectively ending the practice of mileage running. Schlappig seems unconcerned. “I’ve been at this for 10 years,” he says. “and there’s not a single year where I didn’t hear at one point or another, “this is coming to an end.’ but every year, we find new opportunities. We’re one step ahead of them.” (emphasis mine)
We are one step ahead of them, who are we referring to? The frequent flier program managers. Let me reference someone else quoted in the article, Henry Hartevekdt, someone who I’ve had a chance to chat with myself, and I certainly respect his opinion, and know that airline managers listen to him.
“No one’s hands are clean in this fight, the gamers have dirt on their hands, and airlines have dirt on their hands.”
But I’m not sure that it makes it right, if everyone has their hands dirty. What is the saying? If its eye for an eye, the whole world ends up blind?
I feel like reading this, the thing that jumps out at me most is, an argument of: “They left the door open.” and from the airlines’ perspective “We didn’t intend that.” The fact is, Both sides are wrong. When I think harder, I ask myself, am I abusing the airlines? I’d really like to believe that the answer is no. I understand their rules, I understand the guidelines of their program, and while I may–my word–leverage it, I don’t believe I abuse it. How do I leverage it? I re-qualify for Executive Platinum via Elite Qualifying Points, leveraging partners OneWorld Partners, like Qatar Airways, that may offer less costly fares from out of the way place, that I’d visit anyway.
So what’s the point?
I think Nick at Personal Finance Digest has beat me to the punch on a couple of questions that the article, and the media onslaught raise for me:
- Why did we have to capitalize (and just to be fun, I even underline) “Hobby” ?
- Is the golden age over? I’m not entirely convinced, but, I don’t see a spotlight on the miles and points game as a good thing.
Also playing into things, was at first, the slightly confusing media onslaught that Lucky did in Australia, and probably well, everywhere, or so it seems from his weekly recap.
I think if you look at most of the media coverage centered around the Rolling Stone articles–and in fact other articles, which I won’t even justify with a link–the fact is, that what they all seem to be selling, is this concept of Flying for Free. The irony of the matter, is that when I read what Lucky writes, he’s pretty clear, he’s not flying for free! For example, the amount of time he spends talking about Emirates, he’s not talking about flying for free, he’s talking about buying miles at 1.3 or so cents per mile, when Alaska Airlines has a sale, and fly Emirates First Class for $1,900 rather than whatever crazy amount they actually sell First Class fares for.
So, I think the media is wrong. Let me go one step further, I think the media around this Rolling Stone article, including the Rolling Stone article, is intentionally wrong. In some cases, they might’ve even taken things out of context, to further press home this point of Flying for Free. That’s not what I see the bloggers that I bother reading, talking about. There’s always a cost. As a result, I fear some folks may be in for a nasty surprise, kind’ve like Gary’s first example in his favorite Award Booking Requests.
How will all this media exposure impact our Hobby?
As I tried to figure out how desire for keeping the miles and points game alive, and the huge media exposure, I kept asking myself: Why would someone, who’s clearly enjoying the game, do something that would put such a huge spotlight on it?
I come back to the fact that maybe its not a question of trying to hurt the miles and points game. If I want to be unrealistically optimistic, its entirely possible that more new folks in the miles and points game helps force frequent flier programs to be offer greater advance notice of changes, and maybe not go down the route of Delta and United. If I want to be way to pessimistic, then its entirely possible that more new folks jumping into the game cause airlines to speed up plans for program devaluations.
I’m not sure what the answer is. But, if there’s one thing that rings true, it’s that we’ll need to be as agile as ever to adapt.
What do you think about the Rolling Stone article and the huge honkin’ spotlight on our “Hobby”
I’ve written about shopping portals a lot, but, as I wrote the Beginners Guide series, I realized I haven’t explicitly written about how much of a game changer Shopping Portals can be.
In my day job, I use a lot of terms not terribly common to the miles and points game. Perhaps the most appropriate is: Key discriminator. This isn’t to exclude. Rather, its to show what the real value of shopping portals:
When I talk about shopping portals as a key discriminator, I’m talking about the thing that makes a deal go from–before points–a loss to breakeven, or breakeven to profitable. Of course, I’m looking at the latter situation, but I realize that there are points where folks are happy to break even before points. After all, I don’t know about you, but, I started reselling for the purpose of generating points. So, let me give you an example: A few weeks ago, Ebates had an anniversary special, with 16% cash back on varying stores. Well, on Wednesday 13 May, they had 16% cashback on Staples. I bought a ton. Here’s one product that would have made no sense buying without the 16% shopping portal:
Now here’s Amazon’s price:
Same price, I know, blah, right? Except for the fact that the Surface 3 is a top seller on Amazon, and, after all, I really want to focus on the quickest inventory turnover that I can. So lets see what the revenue would be, selling a Surface 3 on Amazon:
Now, let’s work out the math accounting for the 16% cashback from Ebates:
As you can see – Purchasing and selling a product at the same price, when paired with a great Shopping Portal bonus, can in fact be quite profitable. In this case, more than $50 of profit, plus more than 3,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. This is a case where a product that would’ve been a loss, not only becomes breakeven, it rockets past to be a profit (albeit, less than 5% profit, but still profitable!).
The tools of Shopping Portals
My number one go to website is Cashbackmonitor.
Cashback Monitor offers all the info you need for Cashback Portals, Miles and Points portals, Bank Points, and whatever swagbucks is. In fact, you can configure your Cashback Monitor to show you the values of each portal based on your value.
Other tools out there include:
You can see that they identify the rewards portals differently than Cashback Monitor:
Regardless of which aggregator you use, do use an aggregator so you know which cashback/miles/points portal will give you the greatest value. And remember: Shopping portals can make the difference between an uninspiring reselling opportunity and a profit maker!
The Weekly News Roundup is a collection of headlines from around the internet that caught the attention of the Tagging Miles team. Content on these blogs do not necessarily reflect the positions of Tagging Miles, and should not be considered endorsements. Have a great story we should read? Contact us now and let us know!
Earn and Burn
- As we approach the merge of AAdvantage and Dividend Miles, Lucky offers a consideration of whether to redeem now or wait. I particularly like the process diagram – you choose, time or miles?
- Meanwhile, Are We There Yet reports the US Airways Award Space problems on ExpertFlyer have been resolved. Not that it may matter in a couple of months…but at least we have that win today.
- As The (other) Joe Flies offers a handy guide to determine whether or not you should make a last-minute award booking. In case you had any doubt about using points.
- Giddy for Points recently started a series on How To Use Award Certificates at our favorite hotels. So far, she’s covered Marriott and Hyatt – and (personally speaking), Joe is looking forward to the rest of her suggestions.
- As if you didn’t have enough things to think about- ABC News reports while the Euro goes down, European goods may not drop in price.
From the Flight Deck
- Here’s a very good question from Very Good Points: do you actually buy any of those products featured in amenity kits? Joe used to use Bath and Body Works products…which is totally acceptable, right?
- Going to the New York Times Travel Show this weekend? Michael W. Travels notes it may be the closest you get to spending any time in The Residence by Etihad.
The Company You Keep
- Lucky offers his thoughts flying with His Excellency, Akbar al Baker.
- Traveling children can be cute – from a distance. Mapping Megan has created a complete list of the cutest kid wanderers around the world.
- Speaking of good company: TaggingMiles was invited to participate (along with a number of familiar names you know) in a roundup of underrated credit cards at Doctor of Credit. We’d like to thank The Doctor for including us in a group of highly esteemed bloggers!
- Finally: here’s all the interesting stuff that the TSA found trying to get past security checkpoints in 2014, as published by the TSA Blog. Joe’s favorite: weapons-grade enchiladas!
You may have already received the e-mail this morning – but for those who haven’t, it’s time to register for the latest Starwood promotion: SPG Double Play. Starting now, those who sign up online can earn double points on eligible Starwood stays.
What is SPG Double Play
Like many seasonal promotions, SPG Double Play offers travelers the opportunity to earn bonus points through the spring by registering for the promotion on the SPG website. Once registered, guests with stays between January 5 and April 15, 2015, can earn double Starpoints on stays of two or more eligible nights. In addition, every five nights stayed will earn travelers 1,000 bonus Starpoints. This can be repeated for twenty nights, for a total bonus of 4,000 bonus Starpoints.
Is SPG Double Play a good promotion?
According to the terms and conditions from Starwood, the promotion will earn guests four points per dollar spent if the guest spends at least two consecutive nights (or more) at the hotel. Directly quoted from the terms and conditions (truncation is mine):
Registered members will earn double Starpoints on eligible stays of two or more consecutive nights…Members who earn double Starpoints will earn an additional two (2) Starpoints per eligible US$1 spent (for a total of 4 [four] Starpoints per dollar).
As always, the bonus is posted on the base points, and elite multipliers won’t count towards the bonus. And while the bonus Starpoints from the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card (not an affiliate link) still applies, it won’t be multiplied. Also quoted from the terms and conditions:
Offer is eligible with other Starpoints promotions; however, each offer will award bonus Starpoints independently of each other, and offers are not combinable.
Therefore, if you play your cards right (pun intended), it appears possible to earn more than four Starpoints per dollar during the promotion, when elite and credit card bonuses are applied. While this is definitely better than the regular earnings, it really seems to be targeted towards Starwood loyalists – like most hotel promotions.
Should I sign up for SPG Double Play?
While your earnings may vary, anyone with substantial Starwood stays coming up will be well served by signing up for SPG Double Play. But if you don’t have a lot of Starwood stays during the next three months, I’m not sure this is worth going out of you way to stay here versus a hotel that you do have status with. As always, make sure that your selected hotel is participating in the promotion.
Are you signing up for the SPG Double Play? More over, how many stays do you have coming up through Tax Day 2015? Share your plans and ideas to maximize the SPG Double Play in the comments below!
AMEX Disclaimer: No compensation nor incentive was given to mention or link to any product or service in this article. This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express.
H/T to Wandering Aramean
Over the holiday, I noticed a few folks on twitter mentioning that their accounts were locked out. Of course, my first response was to check mine (because, for one reason or another, I still have miles there, even though they’re approaching skypesos status). Luckily mine was good, but, it appears that United is notifying some of their members of the security breach.
I’m posting this without another “linkable” source, but I have confidence based on what I’ve seen on twitter that this is legit (plus Seth doesn’t cry wolf). I’m not sure if the lack of coverage is United successfully downplaying things, or it being holiday week. Regardless, this is important enough to get out there.
All that said – it wouldn’t hurt to check your United MileagePlus account… Maybe even take a screenshot of how many miles you have, it never hurts.