I’ve been hearing constantly how the points and miles game is a dead duck, so I started thinking about what’s different in my world. Thinking about points and miles today, I have to say that they are less important and exciting to me than they were when I first found them. I don’t actively chase miles, nor do I track them, but travel seems to be taken care of still.
I looked back to my first posts here from 2012-2013 and my gigs are pretty much the same – Casino comps, American Airlines and United for International travel, BA for domestic. I think the only airline ticket I’ve paid cash (AA Gift Cards) for in recent memory is a trip to Charlotte for the original ‘DO’.
Right now, I have better status than ever before, I hold top tier with:
- Norwegian Cruise Lines
But these are transient, and there’s no way I’m going to requalify for them. I still can’t come to terms with re qualifying for elite status if the majority of the spend isn’t being covered by an employer or someone else.
I’ve moved from strategic to sloppy
I know many people track miles earning and have a goal in sight, I’ve learned to just book up most trips in advance, and grab points wherever I find a whiff of opportunity. For example, I think the ATT card is a great one, so I applied without knowing what to do with TYP. I figure that I’ll get to about 300-400K in points there and then take the time to find a use.
Strategic acquisition is a great idea, but when airlines constantly move goal posts it might be better to roll with it by not focusing on a goal that moves.
I’m applying for less cards
I didn’t apply for the CSR at 100K. Not because of 5/24, I don’t think that exists. I didn’t apply because this year we already hold a premium card as I have a 100K Amex. I’d rather only expense 1 of these per year, so I’ll wait, and when it is time to pay the annual fee for Amex I’ll be on the market again for another big sign bonus. If it isn’t there, I can accept it. This year, other than a couple of AA cards, I applied only for the ATT, and two Flexperk Olympic Travel cards. I’ve never used the Flexperks program before, and I don’t really understand it but I think it will alleviate UR and MR from the need to spend Southwest and BA pts.
I’m spending more points
We went from 2 people to 3 people in our household, and my toddler has flown more Business Class than most people I know. We’ve also flown some Economy flights too since finding 3 seats is harder than 2. I’m definitely focused more on the total experience, which isn’t just the seat and champagne, but also the time of the flight, both departure (is it near nap time) and the arrival (is the hotel ready to accept us?).
I know gigs come and go, and that I don’t know them all
I believe in the ‘iteration’ concept of deal demise. That the more times a gig is hit the more chance it has of being shut down. I blame big hitters, noobs, and the people in between for killing my goose and choking my chicken. When I look at what I’ve benefited from most and least during my time I see the following gigs that I never really did:
Vanilla Reloads at Office Supply Stores
- Never did this, even though they were apparently there when I was getting started.
- Never got one, I did have two Serves, I never bothered applying for new ones after they closed.
- I use this only for min spend, or for the annual EDP grab. Can’t remember the last time I bought one.
- Never did this
Plastic/Radpad/all that stuff
- Never did this
Square/Google Payments/Other stuff
- Tried Google for a month
If I had been deeply involved in the above techniques I’d certainly be feeling the pinch, and frustrated when people out deals on their blogs.. but while I started reading the nooby blogs like everyone else, I stopped caring a long time ago.
This got me thinking about how much we think we know about what’s out there, and who the experts really are. I can say with some certainty that the real MVPs out there aren’t bloggers, even the hip bloggers. The real interesting stuff has been going on for a long time and it is still out there. You won’t see it on a blog because most bloggers don’t know very much, though it might be alluded to by a beginner who stumbles onto something in a forum and then quickly trampled upon via disinformation.
I don’t read forums or blogs outside of the network right now, other than a few member only groups for ‘real work’. But I also respect blogs and forums for what they are good at.
For example, it is popular to bash Ben from One Mile at a Time, but from my experience the guy seems decent in person and if I do want to check what a flight looks like when deciding between airlines, he’s the guy I trust. People also bash Flyertalk, but while there are nasty people there there’s also good depth of experience.
I’m still trying to change the world
But not by making a ‘better flyertalk’ or a ‘blog that cares about points and miles’. I spend most of my time now helping out with financial questions, because if you think points are important, wait until you need to retire! I do help out the noob when I can with points, but I’d rather post about taxes or investments because they are game changing.
When I started blogging it was like any other idiot with a WordPress site, talking about travel stuff and finance stuff. Since then I’ve gone down the rabbit hole, become an Enrolled Agent with the IRS, completed a Financial Planning course at NYU and passed the CFP exam. I’ve also launched 2 new businesses and I’m currently applying to Law School. I’ve become a dad, and renovated a home, which involved moving 3 times in the interim. I feel that I’m stronger today, and can offer more. These are things that I can carry forward after a transactional gig goes the way of the dodo.
I’ve learned that you can’t blame people for ruining your world. If someone can harm you by writing about a ‘secret gig’ then it means you’re not diversified. If you aren’t totally set in life in terms of financial independence then you need to allocate part of your day to improvement to remain safe from changes. I have skills now that I couldn’t fathom 4 years ago, and just like collecting TYP with no idea what to do with them, I know that knowing how to break (and hopefully fix) a website has value. As does knowing how to find and fix errors that accountants make, and how to spot fees that investment advisors want to remain hidden.
My biggest success
Without doubt, adding up all the points, miles, and cash I’ve earned over the past 4 years (and beyond) the biggest success story I have is from social engineering. But it isn’t about a British accent. It’s about understanding the situation. The biggest fault that I see people make when moving through life, or learning a new thing like points and miles is that they latch onto the wrong things. 5/24 is the perfect example, once you believe in it, it exists. Once it exists, you change to work around it… the biggest secret is that it doesn’t exist at all. When there is no issue, there is no battle.
Remember, if you allow others to frame your understanding of the world you will always be limited by their small mindedness. There’s a big world out there. Learn the Laws of the Land, but make up your own rules.