In the Name of Miles and Elite Status…

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My favorite kind of miles, points, and elite status are the ones that you get primarily by just maximizing the things you were already doing. However, I have been known to go out of my way to earn points and even elite status by doing things I wasn’t going to otherwise do such as check-in for a hotel stay I didn’t need, or take a flight to just turn around at the airport on the next flight home, etc. I did those sort of things much more a few years ago before my second daughter was born, and when the promotions and earnings were more lucrative for those type of activities than they generally are today.

So while I have dabbled in that world of “mileage and mattress running”, and fully appreciate that sometimes the math can work in your favor to say spend $70 for one night at a hotel you don’t need when it triggers 50,000 bonus points you can use for multiple nights elsewhere, I am rarely in that world today.

In some ways that probably makes me a ‘worse’ miles and points blogger because I am not pushing the envelope or walking onto as many planes and hotel rooms as I would be if I was mileage running, but that’s just not where I am in life. Frankly, it’s not where I recommend other busy parents to focus their time and energy either. It’s like a casino, you may have some wins over the house here and there, but the hotel and airline loyalty programs aren’t stupid, and spending more (in terms of both money and time) to earn more can become a game of diminishing returns.

Boston United Club Plane Spotting

Don’t just watch the world fly by in the name of miles

An additional flight or two, or an extra hotel check-in to get you over the hump for a big promotion payout or the next elite status level can be one thing, but convincing yourself of wishy washy math at best to justify lots of flights and hotel stays you don’t really need or want is another thing entirely…especially if it comes at the expense of time away from your family and friends. I have seen this in action, and I agree with the post that Andy’s Travel Blog recently shared today there is a dark side of the miles and points game, and that travel itself, even in the name of miles and points, can become an escape, and not in a healthy way.

There are plenty of ways to get points and travel perks without spending your weekends off away from home traveling in circles. Mid-tier hotel elite status, priority boarding, checked bag waivers, etc. comes easily via lots of different credit cards, you can get 50,000 – 100,000+ miles and points from various credit card sign-up bonuses, and airline elite status, while nice, is not the end all and be all of life. I’ve personally taken to just buying up to first class on a select few flights when I want to splurge (and when the price differential is reasonable) instead of flying around the world multiple times to earn potential upgrades.

DSCN9026

Better seats, but at what cost

I share this both because I really enjoyed Andy’s post and think it is worth a read, and because the end of the calendar year is a popular time for people to consider doing some very out of the way things to keep their spot on the elite status hamster wheel. I’m not saying don’t do it, just be very sure it’s really in you and your family’s best interest before devoting precious time or money in the pursuit of miles or elite status.

Have you ever been tempted to do things that really didn’t make sense in the name of miles and points?

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Comments

  1. This is definitely a good point. Its easy to spend more money and time and go out of your way to get that promotion or bonus points or whatever it is, even if you don’t really want or need to, just because it’s such a good deal. Ever since getting involved in the world of points and miles we’ve spent 3-4x more each year on vacation than we did in the past. I wouldn’t change those memories for anything, but sometimes its important to step back and wonder if we’re actually trying to make memories as a family, or just trying to pursue a deal.

    • So true and great point that it is possible end up spending even more…though you are typically getting much more in return. Still, this time of year is a good time to step back and take stock for a bit.

  2. I may have just flown to Anchorage and back to get MVP on Alaska. Not entirely sure that made sense, I guess I’ll know after a year of MVP and see if it’s worth it.

  3. Well, I’m not sure about how much sense it makes, but I’m following your idea on the last great MR. My wife and I have gotten such great value from Hyatt Diamond status that I’m doing a couple of extended trips to get this status for 2017/18. It’ll be a huge pain, but top tier at Hyatt has been superb, so we’re both on board.

  4. A few years ago my husband was one segment shy of Gold status on United. We were heading to his parents for Christmas, which is a 3 hour drive. We decided I would drive the kids and he would fly, and I would pick him up at the airport as we both should have arrived at about the same time. I dropped him at the airport and got on the road. Heavy snow started. It took me 7 hours to make the 3 hour trip – extremely stressful by myself with 3 little kids. Then his flight got cancelled and he had to stay in an airport hotel. When he couldn’t get a flight the next day, he ended up renting a car and driving! It was a total disaster. On the bright side, when he told the United agent his story, she credited him the segment and he got the status anyway! This year, he is 400 miles short. We *briefly* decided to try this again, but ultimately decided it was not worth it.

  5. Before kids, I would happily fly extra stops or take early/late flights just to save on miles or money. Now, I will pay for standard awards without flinching if it means non-stop daytime flights.

    Coincidentally, having a baby means you naturally travel less, so you are easily able to replenish your mileage balances fast enough to keep up with the higher drawdown.

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