I am a sucker for spirited debate, and at the end of my last such interaction with my flesh and blood father, he said to me, “Nobody’s mind was ever changed.” Aside from the weird sentence structure, I think that’s a fairly common sentiment. You get old, you get set in your ways, you never change your mind about anything. Knowing that to be human nature, I’ve always tried my best to be open to new ideas. Or rather, as I’ve gotten older I’ve tried to be MORE open to new ideas. Things rings very true for me in the miles and points world, where my mind has changed quite a bit since I started this blog thing almost six years ago.
So, I present to you some of my former “truths”, and discuss why my thinking has changed or evolved on each. I’m very curious to hear what everyone else has changed their minds on over time so let me know in the comments!
There are right and wrong ways to use your points
Let’s start here. This kind of post invites commenters to come out and tell you why you’re wrong. But that’s the first thing I’ve really changed my mind on: there’s really no right or wrong way to use points. The best use of points is situation dependent. Specifically, your best use of points is specific to your situation. So even though I’ve changed my mind on some of these things, maybe that’s not your perspective because of your situation. And that’s okay.
Just because I now no longer believe there’s a wrong way to use points doesn’t mean I won’t cringe when someone uses points for an iPad. But I need to remind myself I’m cringing because I don’t have the point balances to do that. That doesn’t make it “wrong” for someone else to use their points that way. Judge not, glass houses, etc.
You get the most “value” out of your points flying international forward cabins
OK, obviously this one relates to how you define “value.” If, like I used to, you define “value” as straight cents per point, flying international forward cabins obviously still gets you the best value. If, like me now, you rarely get to travel without your kids and thus “value” now means getting to take the trips with your family that you want to take for less, then it’s a different story.
When we didn’t have kids, we’d fly business (or first) to both Europe and Asia at least once a year. To fly my family to Asia in business class costs around 640,000 points round trip plus however much the lap infant costs. Europe costs, say, 400,000 points.
My current plan is to splurge for business class when flying to Asia and suck it up in economy at least one way flying to Europe. That will get us almost a full extra trip to Europe per million point cycle. I value getting to go to Europe twice over going just once in business class, especially since the flight time is about the same as flying to California.
A corollary to this is my investment in flexible point currencies and bank points to book domestic travel. Since it’s less realistic to fly internationally twice a year, we will vacation more domestically which means using things like Flexperks for Southwest flights or cashing in Chase Ultimate Rewards at 1.5 cents per piece becomes more valuable.
Honestly, I never would have imagined ever thinking redeeming at 1.5 cents per point would feel more valuable to me than redeeming for first class, but hey, I changed my mind.
Cash Back cards are a bad deal
Oof, this one embarrasses me. “Why would you ever settle for cash back?” said a stupid, younger asthejoeflies. It turns out you can use cash to pay for lots of different things. Mortgage, rent, McDonald’s, beer, all sorts of stuff!
Anyway, it ALSO turns out that having three children can get costly and can cut into your disposable income! Thus, cash back gets pretty exciting compared to stupid situations like this:
Good news, I can continue to save my 50K Starpoints for the perfect airline transfer, four years and counting
— Joe Cheung (@asthejoeflies) April 17, 2018
Like I said, I’m embarrassed, let’s move on.
Hotel credit card free nights justify the annual fee
Another “truth” where my mind changed as my life situation changed. Much ink has been spilled over the devaluation of the IHG card free night, but the reality is, my wife and I were no longer getting $49 stays at the Intercontinental. While we could have stayed there with the kids, not getting free breakfast sort of was a bummer and we stopped using the free night for the “expensive” properties.
$49 still probably could justify holding on to the card, but any annual fee higher than that isn’t worth it to me anymore. I did manage to use my Hyatt cert this year, but one night stays are few and far between. If a hotel card brings me a lot of other benefits (like if I was chasing status or something), I’d still hold on to it, but the free night alone just doesn’t cut it for me anymore. However, on this one, I’m willing to bet older kids will change my mind once again…
Staying on site at Disney World isn’t worth it
If you go strictly by cost, you almost always get more bang for your buck staying off site at Walt Disney World. For half the amount of money that it cost to stay at a moderate, my extended family and I were able to stay in a four bedroom apartment with a kitchen. I’m sure there are even better deals out there.
But…the mouse got me. There’s something about making my vacation easier, proximity to the parks, and yes, that Disney magic that has drawn me more and more to on site hotels lately. Staying at Disney hotels isn’t always perfect, but I’ve enjoyed my experiences and the reality is, staying there has made my life easier (especially when traveling alone with my kids).
Again, as they get older, I expect this to shift again, but I’m happy staying on site at Disney for now, especially when paying with bank points.
Every 40,000+ sign up bonus is worth chasing
I no longer believe in chasing shiny, flashy things just because they are shiny and flashy. Well, I try not to at least. I’ve got to evaluate whether I have an actual use for the points, and act accordingly.
I find it fascinating how much my opinions have changed over the years of being in the game. I find it equally fascinating to see that others’ opinions have evolved, while others keep holding on to the same ideas. Like I said at the top, there is no right or wrong. But at this point, I personally find my mind changing enough (over time) to try to avoid sweeping generalizations. Only a Sith deals in absolutes, after all.
So, I’d love to hear it: have you changed your mind on anything in the miles and points world over time? What, and why?