Earning Miles and Points With a Non- Points Oriented Partner

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Like many of you, I have a spouse who isn’t as enthusiastic about the miles and points game as I am.  I’m totally okay with that because when I met him back in 2006, he hadn’t even flown in years thanks to panic attacks on planes, so we’ve come a long, long way from not getting on a plane to circling the globe recently for his 40th birthday.


Still all smiles on the boat ride to Park Hyatt Maldives after tons of travel!

We took baby steps to get him where he is now by starting small and with trips that were to places he really wanted to go on – think football games.  I ensured the travel was more comfortable for him with E+ seats or better whenever possible, and I tried to steer him clear of long lines at the airport and when boarding by utilizing Pre-Check, airline lounges, priority boarding, and things of that nature since those were parts of the process that were usually very stressful for him.  It may seem snobby or elitist, but really the main goal is simply to keep down the anxiety level at every step of the process for someone who at their core is a pretty nervous flyer.  I’ve learned how to play the travel game in a way that works for him, at least most of the time.

Along the way he started to not only enjoy travel much more, but he started to participate more on the earning side of the equation, too.  He applies for rewards credit cards a few times a year, and puts some thought into which card to use for a given purchase.  Usually we keep things simple and just give him a card to use for most everything when we need to hit a spending threshold, but he can tell you about which cards earn a bonus for restaurants or at gas stations, and usually even knows the Freedom bonus categories for the quarter.  He also knows to holler at me to help find a shopping portal when making an online purchase.  Again, he doesn’t take it to the crazy person obsessed level that I do, but that’s probably a good thing.

Recently we were driving by a gas station that historically has had Vanilla Reloads in stock that you could purchase with a credit card.  We were working on spending $10,000 on a credit card he obtained in order to trigger the 100,000 mile bonus, and needed a help boosting the spending a bit.  We only had the card with his name with us, so I offered to pump gas and stay with the four year old in the car while he went inside with the credit card to pick up a couple Vanilla Reloads if they had them.  His face went white when I said that – apparently he had thought I was the one going in the store to complete that task with his card.  This store historically checks IDs when buying any type of gift card, so I didn’t want to go in with his card only to have to come right back out.  Upon seeing his “freak out” face I offered to have us all go in together, but getting the four year old un-strapped and re=strapped in her car seat killed that idea for all of us quickly.

Ultimately he went in with a verbal reminder of what a Vanilla Reload looks like (he’s seen them before) and instructions to just text me a photo if he’s not 100% sure he found the right type of card.  With every step he took closer to the store I realized more and more this was a bad idea, and probably over the line of stuff I could expect a non-points junkie to do.

Sure enough, he came back to the car the proud owner of $1,000 in MyVanilla Personal Reloadable Prepaid Cards.  Yes they have the word Vanilla on them, but they are a far cry from the Vanilla Reloads I can just easily load online to my BlueBird.  I had saved a trip into the store, but inherited $1,000 of mess to deal with because I pushed the limit of his miles and points activities.


So close but so far.

He was annoyed he had gotten the wrong type of card (but they said Vanilla, so how could it be wrong?!), and I was less than thrilled.  Honestly though, fussing about what type of plastic vanilla type of card your partner bought has to be the absolute dumbest thing in the world to be upset about, seriously.  The dumbest.  Ever.  I just promised to myself to never ask him to purchase anything like that again, and told him I’d take care of dealing with it.  A few seconds later, it was done and already (mostly) funny.

Luckily taking care of the MyVanilla Personal Reloadable Prepaid Cards wasn’t very hard.  We needed some cash anyway, and you can pull $400 off per day each one per day via an ATM, and then we used the remainder to pay bills via Evolve Money.  There are small fees to do all that, so it wasn’t something I would do on a regular basis, but it was a quick and easy way out of the $1,000 spent to get those two cards.   You can learn more about the differences in all the similar Vanilla cards here.

That one event was a total non-issue in the grand scheme, but it was a good reminder to keep the miles and points tasks for non-point-a-holics within their comfort zone and ability level.  My husband is not comfortable with the nuances of gift cards, and that’s fine.  He doesn’t really need to be – heck my knowledge level there isn’t incredibly deep either.  I know just enough to easily hit minimum spending requirements when I need a little boost.  I’m not someone that is doing this day in and day out, and I don’t want to be.  However, I do want to keep both earning and burning miles and points fun and productive for both of us, so knowing the boundaries of that is important.  Sticking to those boundaries is equally important.

I consider myself lucky that my partner is as into miles, points, and travel as he is now.  Family travel wouldn’t exactly be very fun without such a key member of the family, so we will continue with the system that is working for us, and that includes keeping him far, far away from anything with the word vanilla written on it.  Unless of course we are talking about Blue Bell’s Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream!


Back in the saddle of a healthy points earning relationship!

What is your partners limit for miles and points related activities?

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  1. That’s so funny. When we landed at FRA I had to persuade/cajole my wife into accepting the notion the FCT was indeed worth going through EU customs/immigration and exiting the airport.

  2. “gas station that historically has had Vanilla Reloads in stock that you could purchase with a credit card “.
    Which one in Houston ? I never tried gas station for VR in Houston.

  3. After almost two years, DH is still very reluctant. He loves it when we can fly and stay for free via points, but he is always deeply concerned what this game will do to our credit scores (so far so good!). And, when we were in the thick of buying VRs at CVS, he asked me on more than one occasion “are you sure we aren’t going to jail?” 🙂 I don’t anticipate him ever diving in full force, but he is happy to switch out cards and keep in his wallet whichever card I say to use on a regular basis until it’s time to switch it out. His least favorite task? Having to call the Chase recon line! I won’t be asking him to do that anytime soon! LOL

  4. Oh I had to laugh at this one because I did this myself! I wasn’t sure what to do my first time out trying to get VR’s even though I’d seen the pictures. I ended up with one of these to0 (though only $50, thank goodness) and my what a mess that was to cash out. I lost out a lot on fees but learned a good lesson!

  5. Basically I run every card for my wife and try to limit contact with the credit card compnaies to online internal messages. Its worked out fine up till now.

  6. Oh my, hilarious post. I wouldn’t dream of sending my husband in a gas station to buy a vanilla reload. That would blow his mind. I handle the application process for all the cards and pretty much tell him which cards to use for what. He used to hate calling the credit card companies for reconsideration or negotiating annual fees but I prompt him on what to say and actually he doesn’t mind too bad if I catch him at a good time. He always adds me to all of his cards as account manager during the call. Recently, I had to get him to call Amex when his $175 annual fee showed up for his Delta Amex. Even though I am acct manager on the acct, they wouldn’t discuss it with me. He called and they knocked off $150. I think this really gave him confidence to handle if he has to call them again. 🙂 Just got approved for another card this morning. Need to build those balances back up after booking a big trip in October totally paid for with airlines miles and hotel points. Gotta love it!

  7. My partner thinks it’s a scheme! He’s totally not into it and thinks we have enough miles as it is. I’m going to prove him wrong when I’m able to get us up to the front of the plane on flights and stays in some pretty nice hotels.

  8. Great post, this one really hits home for me! My wife sure loves the results of all of my efforts but is very skeptical about being a contributor! I’ve been trying to get her to go to WM to load up her BB card for years to no avail!

  9. I have a reluctant wife as well.

    In terms of reconsideration lines or cancellations, I always have her call and tell the operator that I will be the one discussing her account. This makes things less stressful for her.

  10. This cracked me up–and is TOTALLY something that could happen in our household. I swap cards in and out of my wife’s wallet, and she does a great job meeting spending requirements–and then enjoying the trips we take for free. And you’re right, being mad at a spouse about something like this is silly (though I admit I’ve criticized once or twice for “you used the wrong card” reasons). Great post.

  11. Doesn’t this tend to be a game that more guys like to play? In our case, like yours, it’s me and not him. He doesn’t have the comfort level with it, being a conservative CPA. However, he does cooperate now, after flying business class and staying in some awesome free hotels! My problem is my friends who want the benefits, but really seem to be having difficulty learning. It doesn’t help that my husband tells them about free travel and directs them to me! Why is it that some of us are points junkies and some never get the bug? Is it the fear factor? But everyone wants to travel free!!

  12. Funny, I think of it more as something women do, with reluctant husbands. My husband has really come around, but would only consider buying VRs if I am right there. Not sure why it is so confusing to people who don’t religiously follow blogs 🙂

  13. Hahaha….I love this post. My hubby is super reluctant in buying gift cards as well but he knows it’s the only way we can boost our points so we can fly comfortably to Europe.

  14. Great post. My wife is not into the points game. I also asked her to purchase a vanilla reload card, as she was not comfortable

  15. Excellent post! I’m ramping up quickly into the free travel game but am trying to be respectful of my husband’s more cautious nature. He almost accidentally got the Starwood card (yay!) and I had a good reason for him to get the Choice card (we’re cheap dates). I’m doing all the manufactured spend, a concept that does make me slightly nervous but I keep telling myself it’s not illegal and I..NEED..TO..TRAVEL..a lot. It’s encouraging and helpful to see how you handled this with your husband.

  16. I can so relate. Husband is a reluctant traveler even though we have been many places in our 29 years of marriage. While we had UA Mileage Plus Visas for years, and redeemed for multiple free trips to Europe (in coach), we have dipped a few more toes in the cc waters in the past 3 years. I have to handle getting him to apply, and we only needed him to call reconsideration once, thank you. I actually wrote out the points he needed to discuss with them! He mostly does what I tell him about which card to use (limit him to 2 in his wallet at a time). What helps is that I examine our goals, and only apply for cards needed to reach those goals, so we are not doing app-o-ramas every 90 days. He’s slowly getting more comfortable with it all. But it’s an on-going process.

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