The first class seat on Lufthansa. The Park Hyatt Vendome. The amazing experiences you’ve had with your own family that would have not been remotely possible without miles or points. Ah, what a wonderful world we live in to be able to game the system and travel for free…according to the media anytime it covers miles and points at a mile high level.
Whenever you see a report about traveling for free, I want you to invoke the Bonnie rule. Let me explain. When I first started blogging I fell into the “points are free” trap until I had a reader, Bonnie, ask me point blank what I could have gotten had I used a cash back card instead. I realized she had a point.
From that day to today I value my miles and points (with exceptions such as IHG or Club Carlson) at a penny each: the value Chase, AMEX, or Citi would give me towards paying my bill or a Wal-Mart gift card. A 50,000 Ultimate Rewards sign up bonus? Worth $500. That “free night” with renewal? The cost of your renewal fee. Note I’m not even beginning to get into the time commitment, which is another animal altogether.
For instance: in my recent post about redeeming miles for 4 tickets to Asia I reported both the out of pocket cost of $469 AND the value of the miles + cash of $5,344. It’s simply dishonest to report it otherwise as I could have used those miles, collected on the right cards, to pay my mortgage.
No wonder so few people actually collect miles and points: the media is lying to them! People know when they’re being played, and it’s a fallacy that travel is free. I wish a more balanced picture were presented. How about something like “by strategic planning, careful budgeting, and leveraging promotions you can travel for less than half of what it would normally cost”?
Nah…who wants to read about that?