Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Miles and Points?

miles and points

The counterpoint is our monthly column, dedicated to looking at the contrarian view of commonly held beliefs in the miles and points space. Last month, I wrote about how Amazon’s Prime Day deals aren’t really always the best deals. Often times, we refer to this hobby as the miles and points game. It’s essentially a community of frequent travelers who like to find the best travel deals.

I’m often asked about how I’m able to travel around the world in premium cabins and stay at fancy hotels. I always find it difficult to explain to someone in a couple of sentences. People always ask me how they should start collecting miles. Then the next question is, which credit cards and which loyalty programs they should sign up for.

However, it this for everyone? Can everyone do this successfully? Here’s a handy dandy checklist. If you have one of these traits or more, you may not be successful at playing the miles and points game.

1. You 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 suck 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? Let us know in the comments section.

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