In the Miles and Points Game, You Gotta Keep Moving

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In the miles and points game if you don’t keep up with the newest info on earning and redeeming miles and points you may quickly become a dinosaur.  This is true in many areas of life, but our hobby is not exempt.  Just yesterday we saw some leaked information that validates that Delta Airlines is indeed moving more toward a revenue based-system in 2014.  We have already seen Southwest Airlines do the same thing with their loyalty program almost two years ago, and there are others that operate on a revenue-based or -influenced model as well.  This move isn’t a shock, and Delta won’t be the last airline to make money spent (i.e., money earned by the company) a bigger piece of the elite status and rewards programs.

Yesterday we also learned that it might be true that the Amex Hilton cards that earn 6x at drug stores may very quickly no longer offer that bonus category (though Amex has given some conflicting reports on this thus far).  This is a bit of a blow to those who have found their favorite small and versatile items for sale at these drug stores.  This comes on the heels of Vanilla reloads being pulled from Office Depot.  Priority Club is revamping their chart.  Wyndham Rewards increased some redemptions 281% without warning.  The sky is falling.

There are tons of examples of how things change, but I don’t think anyone can argue with the reality that change is a constant in regards to how to best earn and use rewards.  However, change isn’t always bad.  For example, the Ink Bold and Ink Plus 5x categories just entered our lives a little over a year ago.  Even major award chart changes like the one that British Airways experienced a year ago revealed some hidden gem redemptions for Avios points that didn’t exist before then.  Of course not all change is good, but it isn’t all bad either.  You just have to adjust and learn the new ways to maximize what is available.  At the risk of sounding like a cheap and cheesy inspirational poster or a stale fortune cookie, many changes will reveal new opportunities.

Here are a few pieces of advice to make inevitable changes to rewards programs as painless as possible:

  • Stay in the loop on best current offers and potential upcoming changes to programs.  In addition to reading miles and points blogs and checking forums like Flyertalk and Milepoint, you can really learn a bunch if you go to some in-person seminars like Frequent Traveler University and Chicago Seminars.  I remember hearing Randy Peterson talk about the upcoming move toward revenue based programs about a year and a half ago at a session in one of these in-person events.  Being in the loop allows you to plan accordingly as much as possible.
  • “Earn and burn”.  Miles and points are not long-term investments that you save for retirement (unless retirement is imminent).  They will, generally speaking, only become less valuable over time – sometimes substantially less valuable in a short period of time.  Earn points and use them.  This doesn’t mean you have to use them immediately, but don’t let them sit for years.  If you do, you are taking a big risk that they won’t be worth as much as they are right now.  If you have more than you can possibly use (and I know some people do), then bring friends and family along with you on trips  to share the wealth.
  • Move quickly on good opportunities.  When good opportunities present themselves, act quickly.  Our hobby has grown, and many things that used to last for weeks or months now last for days or hours.  Some people blame bloggers, but the reality is it is the nature of the internet.  Be it bloggers, message boards, Twitter, etc., information spreads very quickly these days and “too good to last” opportunities are just that.  Just in the last few months we saw very limited time opportunities with huge Amex sign-up bonuses, high value Priority Club redemptions, crazy deals with MyPoints, etc.  However, none survived very long.  There have been other “mistake fares” that also come and go within a few blinks.  The important thing here is that the great opportunities do still come.  Some stick around longer than others, but if you want in on something, move quickly.  With the realities of family life, you will miss some deals because you have to do bathtime, go to gymnastics class, aren’t online on a Sunday afternoon, or are just too tired to mess with it.  No big deal – just be ready for the next time something lucrative pops up and move quickly then.
  • Twitter is your friend.  I am not personally someone who uses Twitter to post many updates on my personal life (I mean isn’t that what Facebook is for?), but I urge you to consider joining Twitter just for keeping up with miles and points info.  Things are Tweeted faster than they are posted on a blog, and some things are only Tweeted.  Hot deals will show up on Twitter quickly if you follow enough miles and points junkies.  Twitter is also a great way to get help from many hotels and airlines, or other mileage nuts.  Responses there are often way faster than via email.  So, consider joining the Twitterverse, even if only for this hobby.  Of course, if you do, feel free to follow @Mommy_Points !
  • Don’t be a one-trick pony.  While it is important to take advantage of hot opportunities while they are available, I don’t recommend being 100% invested in only one way to earn and use miles and points.  If you are, then a change could rock your whole world.  If you have a couple different programs and methods of earning and redeeming then a change in any one program won’t be as brutal.
  • Remember this is fun.  I take miles and points as seriously as the next person, but in the end this is all a pretty fun game.  I’ve seen too many tweets, comments, and posts recently where people are using the word “depressed” when describing the feeling of missing out on something or because of an upcoming change to an award program.  I’m probably guilty of throwing that word around too, but really this is all pretty fun and amazing.  Worst case scenario we can always just get a cash back credit card and pay for our airfare that way.  😉


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  1. Would you mind listing the tweeters you find most useful? I’ve found twitter annoying in the past, but I’m thinking of dipping my toes in again. I don’t really want a lot of junk volume, but it would be nice to get real news more quickly.

    Thanks for the “this is fun” reminder. I need to keep telling myself that. Priority Club changes are messing up my next vacation, and I’m freaked out I won’t be able to burn my SkyPesos before their value crashes. I working on improving my attitude, but I’m kind of stressed out.

  2. MP:
    Great Post. You bring up excellent points. Especially, the last one. The key is to enjoy the rewards; not just accumulate the rewards. I have hundreds of thousands of miles/points with multiple programs, but each point is accounted for over my trip planning for the next two-three years or so. By constantly moving over the next few years, hopefully, when those trips are done, I’ll still have a few hundred thousand more points. Maybe under different programs than we’re not even talking about today, but I am confident that there will be opportunities. And if not, then I’ll go back to living my life the way I did the first few decades of my life; by paying with money (oh, the thought of it puts chills in my body).

  3. Hi MP,thank you for this post and gentle reminder! I am very much an amateur at this game. However, thanks to blogs like yours I’ve managed to score the SW companion pass and just redeemed UR points for a ticket to Vegas to celebrate my best friend’s bachelorette party (it would have cost me $700!). So, although I’m not going around the world, or reaping large point gains, I’m so grateful to be able to utilize the tips where I can.

  4. @ Larry.

    Nice to hear from another hoarder. My points are mentally allocated to travels a few years ahead. I agree with the earn and burn principle, but I’m small fries, it takes a lot of effort to accumulate my miles, AND I’m convinced that we’ve already seen the best sign-up bonus. Going forward, I may be able to maintain my balances, but I expect them to dwindle. Some of my planned trips (like going back to my Peace Corps village), just won’t happen without the points. Anyway, I’ve gotten really worked up over program changes that I knew were coming over the last few days. I’m annoyed myself. Changes happen, and I’ve gotten a lot out of this hobby. 2012 was my best year for travel ever. I’m going to Key West this weekend. I sent my sister on a 3-week honeymoon Asia for her honeymoon. I’m taking my folks to Paris in May. Whatever changes come, we’ll find new loopholes.

  5. My strategy — and maybe it would work for others — is to concentrate on requalifying with my preferred airline (American) and hotel (Hyatt) so that I’m three-quarters the way there by the beginning of the summer and THEN start redeeming those miles in the “high-season” months when they are more value to me.

    This works well for me since I’m not left needing with a mountain to climb to requalify and I’m not holding on to my points indefinitely.

  6. I should point out that my requlifying numbers are high (100K with AA) and (25 stays or 50 nights with Hyatt) so I have to focus this way.

    Also, since AA offers one way awards, I’m often booking award travel with them in FIRST in the miles I spent requalifying. As for Hyatt, as Mommypoints has stated, the best value they offer is the guaranteed suite upgrades for up to seven nights on one stay — I use the suite upgrades for my family to stay at places such as Grand Hyatt Kauai and the Andaz in NYC.

  7. Travel Bug, I’m launching a post soon on who to follow to get you started on Twitter since I have also gotten a few emails asking the same question. Hope it helps!
    Larry, I have a similar system, though I don’t really go any further out than two years. Enjoy your trips and rewards!
    romsdeals, nope. Earn then and use them for amazing trips!
    Erin, sounds like you are off to a great start!
    Michael, well done!

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