Confused: why pay for MRs just to earn status perks?

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by elizadoo, Feb 20, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. elizadoo

    elizadoo Silver Member

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    Let me clarify the scenario.

    I am a stay-at-home mom with a retired hubby. We have a lot of time and some money to work with. We like to travel once or twice a year, long trips to Africa or Asia. Of course, we would prefer to go business class, but the full fare is not worth it.

    So, enter mileage runs. In January I find a 20K mileage run that costs, say, $800. I do the run. In February I see the same opportunity, as I do in March and April. Come May, I have reached Platinum status because I have topped 75K miles. My outlay has been $3200-. Not enough to get me to Africa from USA. So, I make 3 more MRs and now my total is 140K miles, enough to get me to Africa r/t business class. But I have spent $5800- in earning the miles to get me my business class r/t tix to Africa. That's almost the price of the full fare business class tix I would have purchased in the first place, without having to make a bunch of MRs.

    The only way I can see this would work to our (hubby and my) benefit is if we started with an initial cash outlay of, say, $10,000. We decide that this year we are going to travel, and our destinations will be dependent upon the best MRs. In January a MR to, say Istanbul comes up. So we both hop on it and go to Ist for 5 days--after all, it's on our bucket list. Then in February a good MR to Lima comes up, and we take that, and in our 4 days we do a side trip to Cuzco, Machu Picchu. In March a MR comes up to Singapore, one of our fave spots, and we spend a week there....on and on. By June we will have earned enough miles to go to Africa business class on an award, and not only that, future travel (MRs) for the remainder of the year will eligible for an upgrade. So, future MRs will be less painful on the tailbone and miles will be more easily earned. As long as we have enough of a cash kitty to continue traveling, we'll be okay. [Note, I am not including cc mile awards with this]

    Do I have it correctly? It's a snowball effect, more or less---you gotta start with some snow to make the snowball in the first place, but the more you roll it, the larger it grows? And if you stop rolling the snowball eventually melts?

    I've traveled all over the world (for pleasure) and I'm as savvy as they come to saving money on land;I have a 'Founding Member' tee shirt from Trip Advisor and I've been reading ff boards for a few years now, but I think I'm missing something here. Thanks!
     
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  2. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    I don't think that people ever take mileage runs for the purpose of collecting miles that they're later going to redeem for a ticket. Getting those miles during a mileage run is a nice bonus, but considering you will generally spend a large fraction of the money it would cost to buy the ticket you want and that there are ways to buy the miles you need, it doesn't make a lot of sense.

    Mileage runs are made in order to attain or preserve elite status on airlines. In general, you don't pursue mileage runs starting with no qualifying miles at all on an airline, you pursue them when, in the normal course of business or life, you would already have a bunch of qualifying miles but would still fall short of high-level elite status. At that point, it might well be worth it to you to take one or two flights purely to boost yourself (or keep yourself) in the high-level elite category.

    The chief reason that you want to be in the high-level elite category is that you then earn free upgrades to business or first class. Therefore, once you make the right elite level, you can make at least some of your international trips in business class by purchasing economy fares and using your elite-granted upgrades. (There are other benefits, of course -- you earn bonus redeemable miles as an elite and so can accrue the number of miles you need to get a business class ticket faster).

    So, mileage runs are for people who are already approaching top-level elite. Like you, I don't fly regularly on business but rather two to four times a year for pleasure. Mileage running makes no sense for me since I don't have any elite qualifying miles to start with and since I wouldn't have that much opportunity to take advantage of the benefits. If I were flying weekly for business, it would be a different matter entirely -- free, unlimited domestic upgrades alone would be worth it in that case.
     
  3. 7Continents
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    7Continents Silver Member

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    :confused:... You missed one of the cardinal rules to be a member of the club. You have to fly enough so that the value of what you earn outweighs the outlay to get there. The casual flyer will rarely be able to justify this stuff.
     
  4. yaychemistry

    yaychemistry Silver Member

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    I also see MRs as a way to top-off, say if you're short 20k EQM from a top tier, then its probably worth the $800.

    For people who don't fly, the credit cards are key (which you noted). For instance, throw in a couple 50k point (e.g. the Chase Sapphire + Ink Bold) sign-up bonuses and two 20k MRs, and you've got your 140k business class ticket to Africa for a cost of less than $2000, when you include the c.c. annual fees.

    Additionally, there are other people (not me) who are quite good at choosing routes to get VDB'd (or bumped) while flying, and they collect the $400 voucher and use it for a future MR. They can then get VDB'd on the future MR, earning another voucher... etc....
     
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  5. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    Remember too that if you fly international business or IFC, elite status doesn't get you much additional, perhaps a better lounge on LH, a nicer greeting and thanks from the purser, and possibly your first choice meal on some carriers or with some FAs.
     
  6. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Some status perks can be worth quite a bit. E.g, 6-8 system wide upgrades on UA or AA for reaching the top elite level.

    In general, I personally am not a big fan of MRing (for myself). I do like to take extra trips that get me to a location I want to visit, even if it's just for a day or weekend. But flying XYZ-ABC-....-XYZ without ever leaving the airport isn't my thing.
     
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  7. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    You can stretch the definition of mileage run to include trips you have to take anyway but with complicated routings that add one or two extra thousand miles, like connecting in Houston to get from Seattle to DC.

    I think the problem with the OPs situation is that they're taking a lot of international trips and almost nothing domestic. My favorite perks for elite status are almost exclusively on the domestic side (75% of my miles flown), including free upgrades on most flights, generous baggage allowance, etc. On an international flight, even general members with no status will still get a meal and one or two free bags. Elites generally have to use an instrument/certificate (with sometimes awful restrictions) if they want that upgrade.

    And yes, the point is not to travel to get miles but to travel to get status. The miles are simply a way to offset the cost of the travel by getting additional travel free. Don't pay for one trip you hate just to get another trip free. Pay for cheap trips you want to take to get the expensive trips you want to take for free.
     
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  8. MDDCFlyer

    MDDCFlyer Silver Member

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    As other said - the goal of a MR is to get tangible benefit you can use. Those benefits are only relevant if you are already flying as most of them are better flying experiences (upgrade etc') if you start with flying coach domestic. If your flying patterns are more paid front of the cabin and international trips the value of status diminishes.

    If your only goal is to get miles there are much easier and cheaper ways of getting those miles.
     
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  9. cotter77
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    cotter77 Silver Member

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    Perhaps the OP goal is not just to get miles and use them for award flights but a means to get F/J experience.
    I am not a business traveler. I do not do MR. I can afford to fly anywhere I want to in Coach any time, assuming appropriate planning (not full Y fare). I could swing a few single J tickets if i wanted to, but that certainly is not wise spending, especially if it means 2 seats for my wife to come.

    Thus, the only reliable way to plan trips sitting up front is to have loads of miles and learn how to book award flights in the front cabins. Other methods for the leisure traveler are so much harder or taxing. I have even "bartered" for CR-1s to upgrade to hawaii but planning it while also trying to make sure the flights had upgrade availability, and communicating with "friends" to get the upgrade applied was more complicated than it would have been for me to find J/F award seats on my own. Trying to obtain status is way to hard for me, i just dont travel enough; fat finger fares are not frequent enough; and spending 2-3 days on a double or triple miles trip in Y or even in J to NRT for half price, only to maybe get close enough to status that a another MR would be warranted, just isnt for me.

    I made DL silver by simply transfering MR points to DL...and I still havent and not sure if i will ever get to use that. I used the miles and transfer bonus for two 0J awards seats to Europe on AF this summer on peak dates.

    So for the OP, probable just maximizing credit and spending and finding free status whenever possible is the best it will get. works for me.
     
  10. elizadoo

    elizadoo Silver Member

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    My primary goal is to get miles. I can open only so many credit cards, though, as well as brokerage/savings accounts. We have some very hefty expenses, like daughter's college tuition & housing, but the school assesses a 5% fee, which is pretty darn steep--I can buy the miles cheaper from the airline!

    I rack my brains on creative ways to earn miles on my cc but no matter how I work it, there's a brick wall.

    I guess I have to do an Excel spreadsheet to figure out how much we'll be traveling in the next few years, and the best options for us. Like MRs to places we really would want to visit, regardless. .
     
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  11. jetsetr
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    jetsetr Gold Member

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    I concur with an earlier poster: There has to be a net positive return on investment on a Mileage Run. Note that I am not saying that any particular MR has to be net positive, but the end result must be net positive, factoring in cash outlay and time.

    For example, a mileage run to maintain status may be a negative cash outlay with only marginal returns on miles earned, but the MR enables one to keep an elite status, which will bring free checked bags, bonus miles, etc. Or, a MR could be net positive in and of itself because of bonus offers on the route, like the recent TEQM/DRDM SFO/LAX-ORD/DFW routes which were paired with extremely low fares on AA, making the runs less than 2 cpm (RDM) and also less than 2 cpm (EQM).

    Bottom line, IMHO, unless one loves flying for flying's sake (and, yes, I fall into this category), MRs have to be part of a broader strategy with a net positive ROI.
     
  12. MDDCFlyer

    MDDCFlyer Silver Member

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    Sometimes it is cheaper to do just that, if the airline has a 100% bonus for example.
     
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  13. elizadoo

    elizadoo Silver Member

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    Then would you all suggest that if we (as a couple) know we are planning to do some heavy-duty global traveling over the next year, that we plan our flights to maximize mileage accrual? Yes, it can be a literal PITA to do convoluted itineraries, but with medicinal support and decent planning, it could benefit us. Am I correct?
     
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  14. YULtide

    YULtide Gold Member

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    If you have flexibility to travel more or less whenever you want, why not just make a list of all the places you want to go, then watch for fare sales and grab them when they come along? You'll earn the miles at reasonable rates, which can then be used to fund later travel. It's not mileage runnig strictly speaking, but a system of accumulating miles for future travel as cost-efficiently as possible. You might even luck out and get status along the way from time to time.

    Enjoy your travels. :)
     
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  15. kyunbit
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    kyunbit Silver Member

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    Exactly.. An example would be the recent IST sales
     
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  16. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    This is my strategy all year long except for the family trips, and they usually pay for those.
     
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  17. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    this is mostly the sole purpose/reason I do MRs.

    The 'cheap' miles I earn on MRs are used for award tickets or upgrades later.
     
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  18. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    So how do you earn redeemable miles by flying such it wouldn't cost about the same to just buy the award ticket instead?
     
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  19. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    Despite the discussion here, I'm convinced that some people (particularly students and other young folks) do MRs for fun and to avoid boredom, perhaps as a hobby to ride all aircraft types, collect passport stamps, sample different airlines, etc.
     
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  20. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    not if redeeming for the right award or upgrade. Granted MR fares are tough to find compared to the days when I'd get econ fares <$600 ORD-SIN but MR is still worthwhile when the right fare is out there.
     
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  21. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    I'm honestly curious. Low cost RDMs cost at least 5 cents per mile these days. Except for some of the extreme first class awards (which aren't really the list price to me), what awards pay back at more than 5 cents per mile?
     
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  22. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Many (most?) international business class awards would be 5 cents or greater (not just first class) valuation.

    Lax-JFK in j (or f) usually always pencil out at/above 5cpm. Same with east coast to Hawaii in front.

    Basically, the 5-15cpm valuation is the basic math if you like to sit in a premium cabin. Rarely...but not never...do you see that sort of valuation on a y award.

    Some seek "aspirational" awards...some are only willing to fly in f/j...and some don't care and are perfectly fine in the back of the bus for 10+ hours. There is no right answer...the math on "valuation" really depends on what you value.
     
  23. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    However, there's also the argument, which I think makes some sense, that award tickets should not be valued at the alternative fare in money for that cabin class, but rather adjusted a bit to reflect what one would really be willing to pay for that trip in the premium cabin. The rest is just a bonus and should not go into the calculations. Otherwise it's too easy with enough miles to earn redeemable miles at about five cents and get premium long haul award tickets worth ten cents a mile.
     
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  24. jetsetr
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    jetsetr Gold Member

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    Sure. But, at least in my case, what I would be willing to pay to sit in a premium cabin is not usually what is offered by a carrier, thus I would not necessarily have a real proxy against which to benchmark. YMMV.
     
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  25. jetsetr
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    jetsetr Gold Member

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    Depends. The recent TEQM/DRDM (or if you were AA Plat or EXP, TEQM/TRDM) offers between SFO/LAX-ORD/DFW were available for well below 2-3 cpm RDM/EQM.
     
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