We often refer to this hobby as the miles & points game. It’s essentially a community of frequent travelers who like to find the best travel deals. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown many common travel strategies out of sync. Many miles and points enthusiasts have ended up not traveling during an entire year, but have continued to accumulate miles & points. In such a scenario, what’s the right strategy to pursue in the near term? Should you cash out your miles & points? There’s no one size fits all recommendation here, but taking a closer look at some common pitfalls may help you tune your strategy better.
1. You love collecting miles & points, but lack attention to detail
Loyalty programs, be it miles or points, are essentially currencies created out of thin air. If you’re not good enough at going through complex details like reading through terms and conditions, then you’re not going to excel at this game. If you can’t read an award chart correctly, then you’ll struggle in figuring out the sweet spots. Details and complex and often pedantic. You need to have a focus and attention in order to sift through them and maximize.
2. You lack a long term focus
If you read Flyertalk threads, you’ll see a lot of people complaining. One of the common complaints is that of being shut down by a bank or a card being closed. It’s not too difficult to decipher. If you broke a rule, the bank will shut you down. If the banks think you’re too big a lending risk, they’ll shut you down.
While I don’t advocate that you hoard miles, a crash and burn approach isn’t prudent either. The miles and points game is a marathon and not a 100m sprint. So have a long term strategy, be a desirable customer and don’t play loose with any rules.
3. You lack discipline
The miles and points game required a lot of discipline. You’ll need it especially if you’re looking to jump into the deep end. Award charts, seat availability, deals, bank application rules, payment deadlines and what not. There are a lot of moving pieces. If you’re not disciplined and cannot maintain the information at a single accessible source, you’re going to struggle to keep track of it. If you’re not disciplined enough, you’ll end up missing sign up bonuses and end up late on payments.
4. You have a sense of entitlement
Many of the companies that run these loyalty programs are public limited companies. They’re accountable to shareholders and employees. If you think you missed a deadline, then put in a request. If you missed meeting minimum spend, ask for a favor. Far too many people think that the bank or airlines should just give them the miles because they forgot.
If the bank or airline broke the rules, then sure you’re entitled for recourse. The industry is heavily regulated. Unless the letter of the law says so, don’t expect anyone to be nice to you. If you play the game long enough, you’ll also notice how nice some credit cards issuers may often be to you because you’ve been a long-term customer in good standing.
5. You’re bad at math
It is a numbers game. From a psychological perspective, we always try to assign a numerical value to our airline or hotel redemption. Did I get at least 2 cents per mile for that flight in economy class? Did I get at 2 cents per point on my previous Hyatt points redemption?
If you’re quickly looking to book flights and hotels on the go, then you need to think quick on your feet. While a number of miles and points blogs may be helpful, it’s up to you to book that ticket. You need to calculate the net expected value you’re getting out of signing up for a credit card or booking an award flight or night.
6. You can’t resist temptation
I’ve written previously about how loyalty programs and travel brands run marketing gimmicks every now and then. Limited time offers aren’t necessarily limited time in a lot of cases. Don’t believe the hype. Figure out what suits your travel goals the best. Just because there’s a 100,000 points offer, should you sign up for a card which has a $450 annual fee. Would you be better off signing up for that other card that has no annual fee but gives you 60,000 points instead?
So think twice or even thrice before you apply for a card. What would you rather prefer? Getting 40,000 fewer miles or paying hefty annual fees on premium cards and risking running into debt?
The Pundit’s Mantra
The miles and points game ebbs and flows. Deals die. New deals show up. It’s a cycle that keeps spinning. A lot of it is also dictated by the state of the economy.
It’s vital to stay focused on attaining your travel goals through miles and points. So ask yourself the question, where do I want to travel next? Once you have the answer, then start strategizing the next steps. Which loyalty programs and credit cards? Which deals? Be structured and focused. And most importantly, enjoy your travels around the world!
Have you been guilty of making any of the mistakes outlined above? What’s your take on how the miles and points game keeps evolving, especially in a post Covid-19 era? Let us know in the comments section.
The American Express Gold Card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points. You’ll earn a welcome bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first 6 months after you’re approved for the card.
Moreover, the card offers lucrative bonus earning categories, benefits and credits.
- 4x points on dining (including takeout and delivery) and grocery spend
- 3x points on flights
- $120 dining credit annually
- $120 Uber Eats/Uber credit annually
- $100 airline credit (ends on December 31, 2021)
- No foreign transaction fees
Please note that American Express may not approve you for the welcome bonus on this card if you currently have the card or have had the card in the past and received a welcome bonus for the same. This may also include any upgrade or downgrade offers that you may have signed up for.
Disclosure: The Points Pundit receives NO compensation from credit card affiliate partnerships. Support the blog by applying for a card through my personal referral links. This article is meant for information purposes only and doesn’t constitute personal finance, health or investment advice. Please consult a licensed professional for advice pertaining to your situation.
Never miss out on the deals, analysis, news and travel industry trends. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and Twitter and get the latest content!
Don’t forget annual fee creep. Reduction in travel has required carefully considering the value proposition of each card, as benefits are utilized less & future travel patterns change. I am cutting the Amex Platinum, Amex Delta, Chase United cards. These 3 cards are going to save almost $800 in annual fees. The marginal value these cards offer pales in comparison to what you can purchase out of pocket with $800. A few free bags here and there, two united lounge passes, dell.com credit, Amex promos, and the centurion lounge do not amount to $800 in value. Especially when you honestly… Read more »
I hear you! While many issuers are offering credits and other bonuses during this lean travel period, the annual fees don’t look like they’re gonna be reduced any time soon.
The Amex plat has been so awesome with the benefits and offers this year that I’ve already more than covered the AF. $200 incidental airline credit spent on United TravelBank credit (they apparently closed this loophole last week but I got in early, haha), $180 PayPal credit, $200 Amex Travel credit, $100 free money at Best Buy via Amex Offers, $100 free money at Home Depot via Amex Offers, $100 free money at Saks…that’s $780 of value right there (for a $550 annual fee) BEFORE lounge access and any of the other more travel-related fringe benefits!! Plus who knows what… Read more »
Good list. There’s a typo on #5.
Hi L Martin,
Thanks for pointing that out. Updated it.