My life has changed, and thus my opinions on miles and points have changed. Let's take a look at all the ways my views on miles and points have evolved.
Miles and Points Thoughts

Things I’ve changed my mind about in the miles and points world

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.

My life has changed, and thus my opinions on miles and points have changed. Let's take a look at all the ways my views on miles and points have evolved.
I probably wouldn’t use my points for this, but if you have 4 million points…

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 life has changed, and thus my opinions on miles and points have changed. Let's take a look at all the ways my views on miles and points have evolved.
We’ll probably save the up front cabins for the longest flights going forward

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:

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.

My life has changed, and thus my opinions on miles and points have changed. Let's take a look at all the ways my views on miles and points have evolved.
We really loved Coronado Springs

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.

Final Thoughts

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?

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Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less

24 thoughts on “Things I’ve changed my mind about in the miles and points world

  1. Funny… all of your “new” outlooks are where I started in this game, and your “old” outlooks are where I’ve tried to get to… and realized how fruitless it is for my situation. I didn’t get into this game until I had a family, so I certainly relate to all of these ideas. For me, cash is king, and I can never have enough Southwest points. International premium awards? HA! If you know anywhere we can go and easily find 5 business class award seats during peak season, I’m all ears. Still, blowing that many points is hard to stomach.

    1. That just means you are wiser than I am 🙂 getting to Europe from the east coast isn’t too bad in business even in summer but like I said that’s not worth it for me. I’ve had the most success looking for award space 11 months out, especially on carriers like Korean /Asiana. For us, CX bos-hkg is ideal, I plan to search for next summer!

      1. Wiser? I don’t know about that, lol.
        Here’s one for you… best points to use non-stop USA to Ireland in business class for 5 during the summer? I’m based out of CVG. I’m looking at Chicago, where Aer Lingus flies non-stop to Dublin but as I understand it they don’t release any more than two seats for that flight. United also goes there non-stop but I’m not sure about their premium award space on that flight.
        Yeah, some people say it’s too short to enjoy the premium cabin experience. As for me, I (and the kids) just want to be able to easily sleep!

    2. Can’t help with the gut-punch of redeeming so many points, but you can regularly find 5 business class seats US-HKG on Cathay if you search 10-11 months out.

  2. Totally agree with your Europe logic. I agree with everything else too. Re Europe: I actually only fly coach there. I once used United miles to fly Lufthansa before the devaluation w more miles for partners to get to Nice. I felt the ride was way too short to justify the miles I used. I slept and by the time I woke up, we were there. I didn’t even get to enjoy anything bc I was sleeping. I feel it’s a waste of miles, at least from where me and you are located. I like the after work 8pm and later flights to Europe a lot. I don’t need to take a day off, go straight to the airport after work, get on the plane and I’m there in a few hours. I just can’t justify it. Asia, definitely j or f. I’m actually even reluctant to spend the extra miles on f when I can save that and put it towards another flight in j. Biz in CX is completely fine with me. I don’t get people’s logic with the whole oh it’s only another 10k miles might as well. CX j has definitely spoiled me and I can’t imagine getting to HK in coach anymore 😭….hahaha bad I know. Maybe if the flight was like $200. I remember the old days where I used to fly United coach to HK…I actually really enjoyed their cheeseburger during snack time.
    I need to stay on site at Disney. They make it so easy. Get off the plane, get on the shuttle, and your vacation begins. I can’t justify paying for the more expensive Disney hotels yet though. I’ve only done the value ones recently. I’ve stayed at Port Orleans once and I was so disappointed. I didn’t like how subtle the Disney design was. I need the entire place and room to scream Disney. That’s what I’m paying for. I also can’t justify the prices when the value resorts are so much cheaper. That said, I did stay at the HP Orlando Universal location once. They had a free shuttle to Universal and that worked out wonderfully. So for Universal, I probably won’t pay the premium at the Universal hotels. Just don’t love them as much.

  3. A great post and very interesting reflections. As someone with a 4 year-old and 2 year-old, I can appreciate much of it. While my wife and I have used points and miles to fly business class to Europe and Hawaii for anniversary trips over the past 5 years, it is certainly hard to imagine taking a family trip in business/first. The one reason I will likely keep our IHG cards going forward is that it almost forces us to find time for a short getaway during the year – even if like last year it was simply spending a weekend at the Intercontinental in Boston (where we live in the suburbs). Making sure we use them in order to get value from the annual fee is something I see as more of a blessing than a burden!:)

    1. I’ve always wanted to take a staycation at the intercontinental Boston, how do you like it? The view at the arch is one of our favorites

      1. We’ve had great experiences there. The rooms are spacious and the views fantastic. I also like how it is easy to walk to so many places from that location – North End, Seaport, etc. I would highly recommend a staycation there if you get the chance 🙂

  4. Taking kids on premium cabin is mostly waste. After couple of those, they usually forget the experience and move on to the next cool thing. For example, kids don’t even remember their Disney trip after so many years..
    It may make an adult feel better, but that is a different thing..
    Also, the Premium cabin travel is mostly waste of points unless you are counting how much you can get cpp as a yardstick…

  5. I never was anti-Hilton, but they have become my favorite hotel chain since moving to the family travel world.

    1. I feel like in this game everyone is Hyatt or bust, but they’re just not where my family wants to go.

  6. For us, Premium international vaccine are still the best. We’re in the West, so it’s either 13 hours to Asia or 11 hours to Europe. With no kids, it’s really about finding 2 seats and the miles.

    That said, I’ve twice redeemed UR this year for domestic flights, something I would not have considered worthwhile before. But the situations made it worth saving a few hundred dollars. I now think petty much any redemption has value unless you are buying something for more than you`d pay using another option of the same points (like buying something at less than 1 cent/ point when you could redeem points for a penny and then buy).

  7. Thank you so much for posting this! I’m a single mom to two boys who have been flying since they were infants. This is spot on….especially the free breakfast and “on property Disney” 😉

  8. I feel like we’re on the same evolution, my oldest just turned two so I’m already not looking forward to finding 3 award seats (+infant fee). But there’s more to J/F than the champagne wishes and caviar dreams, with kids I find the ground service can make all the difference. Also, I find a good use for those free night certificates are airport hotels. My cardinal rule with kids is never ever connect, but if you have to then always overnight at the layover. This is where those certs can be super useful (pro tip: Crown Plaza at SIN).

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