Is the Miles/Points thing a niche hobby?

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by boondr, Aug 6, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. boondr

    boondr Gold Member

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    Reason I ask is from my experience people tend to treat my enthusiasm for it like it is a borderline criminal activity. I am talking about people who are very similar to myself in lifestyle demographics who want no part of the "game".

    Then you have the case of my father-in-law, GS on UA from his last job. (may not be current but he did 2-3 International trips a month in full-fare premium cabins for 5 years) and currently Delta DM from his current job (~1 international premium every 1-2 months and 3+ domestic RT in business per month). The guy loves to travel in his limited free time but is clueless and indifferent on the miles/points front. I know more about the various loyalty programs he is part of than he does and he makes no effort to find the saver level awards for redemptions. He has only 2 Reward cards, (Delta Amex and UA MP Explorer) that he only uses to purchase flights, all other spend goes on debit card(s). Maybe he has the luxury of not needing to put forth the effort due to his high level business travel, but to me he could easily take advantage of his situation more. His employer offers to reimburse him for hotel stays(10-15 days a month) paid for with his own cards but they also gave him a company card. Guess which one he uses? "Because it is easier".

    I can't seem to emphasize to him enough the opportunity lost, but it falls on deaf ears.
     
  2. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Yes, it is.

    Most folks don't care and don't want to. They end up "subsidizing" the folks who do care since they help keep the average costs of the program down by not taking full advantage of the benefits. Doesn't mean it isn't worth trying to help them slowly adjust and get a bit more value out of their efforts, but not everyone is willing to put in the time for the "free" stuff. Time really does have value.
     
  3. MX

    MX Gold Member

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    Embrace the differences! :)
    I'm guessing that point collecting has about the same general appeal as extreme coupon clipping.
     
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  4. marcwint55

    marcwint55 Gold Member

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    I assume he has some business acumen from the amount of travel he does for work. Put together a spread sheet showing him the benefits that he has lost and will continue losing based on his spend.

    If that doesn't work, give it up.
     
  5. TravelBear

    TravelBear Gold Member

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    I firmly believe it is a niche, and more and more I like the fact that others don't want to play the game. Like Seth says, those people subsidize us. I talked about it a bit at work when I started but now I just kinda keep quiet unless someone asks. Until they can perceive value in it, it just isn't there for them.
     
  6. miles and smiles
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    miles and smiles Gold Member

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    Aren't all hobbies, by definition, niche hobbies? How boring the world would be if we all had the same hobbies/interests.
     
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  7. ariosto

    ariosto Silver Member

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    I AGREE "Time really does have value."
     
  8. Aktchi
    Original Member

    Aktchi Silver Member

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    Agreed, it is a niche hobby like all hobbies. Obviously takes some learning and effort. So take care of yourself, help those you can and want to, but be at peace about those who don't want to bother: maybe they care about things you don't.
     
  9. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Same limited appeal....but very different yield. :)
     
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  10. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    Most of us who look at points/miles for aspirational travel, know that it usually means something other than a non-stop flight. When I have discussed this with some friends, they look at me like I'm nuts - they would NEVER want to have a stop.

    I then explain the type of stops we have. Go to the First Class Lounge after arriving in Europe in the early to mid-morning. Take a shower and shave. Change my underwear and a shirt. Have a bite and a drink and then, thoroughly refreshed, feeling great after both a wonderful flight that would have cost a fortune and some time in the lounge, going to board the next, usually short, flight to our final destination and still usually getting there before most hotels will give you the room!

    Some people get it, others don't. Trust me, I never argue. It works for us - in spades! And as Seth said, those people are most certainly not only subsidizing us, but leaving the seats we crave for us to pick up. A number of friends, including my business partner, all went to Israel in May. Everyone but my partner paid $8,000 for two Business Class, round-trip tickets. He used US Air miles on Austrian Airlines in their new Business Class seats and his total cost, if I recall correctly, was under $400! He bought a beautiful piece of artwork and some jewelry for his wife. The friends got to fly non-stop. As they say, YMMV!!!
     
  11. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    Most places I aspire to go do not have a nonstop option anyway.

    Plus, a nice lounge shower and breakfast are better than getting straight off the flight anyway, much of the time. Also, the option to route indirectly opens up things like visiting old friends or multiple destinations en route.
     
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  12. Stils

    Stils Silver Member

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    I helped my dad get Silver Medallion simply by pointing out that if he had spent $500 more on his DL amex the year before he would have gotten an MQM bonus. He used to pay for exit rows.
    I've explained it a little bit to my brother. He gets it but I haven't asked him if he wants me to explain it to him how to do it. He knows what I do and I'll let him ask me if he's interested.
    To be honest I would love to talk about it but I don't think other people I'm friends with would "get it". Probably think I'm an idiot so I just keep quiet about it.
    My wife kinda understands but really doesn't care and just tells me to do whatever I want. She doesn't seem to mind the free flights and last minute award trips I line up though. :D
     
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  13. boondr

    boondr Gold Member

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    He's a VP with one of the largest privately owned firms in the US, his business acumen is not lacking. Yet I can't seem to get across to him that using a credit card like the CSP, Amex PRG even a Freedom card is superior to using his debit card.
     
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  14. tulane09

    tulane09 Silver Member

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    This is 100% my experience. Right down to my fiance enjoying the trips but shrugging her shoulders about how we get there. God forbid I ask her to apply for one card (like hilton reserve). She has a chase freedom but still insists on using her BoA because thats how she's always done it. Once we're married I'll just get her cards under my accounts.

    Every now and then someone (friend or coworker) will ask how I travel so much, but once I start explaining they just look bewildered and walk away. I've talked a couple people into the southwest card though.
     
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  15. Espan

    Espan Silver Member

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    Agreed. Heck, many people don't even understand the concept of paying off cc spend in full every month...
     
  16. marcwint55

    marcwint55 Gold Member

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    Get him a debit card that earns miles. Delta, AA and Alaska all have such cards. I have all three and use them with bluebird for extra miles each month.
     
  17. iolaire
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    iolaire Gold Member

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    People fill their minds with something, some of us fill it with travel ideas/plans, and others might be focused on work, sports, women (or men), exercise, stamp collecting etc...

    I find a few people receptive to the travel opportunities, the rest you cannot do much about, other than try to not bug them too much about the topic.
     
  18. Aktchi
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    Aktchi Silver Member

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    I run into this argument often and, like you said, from very smart people. Paraphrasing their line: I have to pay $100. What does it matter if I pay cash (provided I have it), or write a check to the store, or write a check to one credit card company or another? Oh, the points. Don't you see that they are just trying to get you hooked to frivolous stuff?

    "But the power of instruction is seldom of much efficacy, except in those happy dispositions where it is almost superfluous." -
    Edward Gibbon
     
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  19. MX

    MX Gold Member

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    Remarkably, those folks have a valid argument too.;) Our addictive behavior is exactly the reason why providers continue to use "loyalty" schemes as a marketing tool. Our consumption patterns are driven by both rational and irrational factors, just like in any other demographic segment. We should accept that sometimes our time is not always spent most profitably - we just enjoy the adventures and the company of interesting people. I would propose that "No Proselytising" be included as one of our hobby's commandments!
     
  20. Aktchi
    Original Member

    Aktchi Silver Member

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    Absolutely. It is no different from time/money others spend on their hobbies - fancy clothers, spas, expensive wines, golf, opera, spectator sports, etc. None of that is profitable, just enjoyable.
    I would agree with a milder version. It is fine to point out to people how they can benefit from and might enjoy something, but if they are not inclined, leave them alone. That's what I would want from others who think I might benefit from something they know.
     
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  21. thesterlingtraveler

    thesterlingtraveler Gold Member

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    For over a year my mom has been asking me to tell her more about this hobby. I have repeatedly told her that I would be more than happy to, all she has to do is tell me when. Well... she still asks me.

    You can lead a horse to water...
     
  22. Stils

    Stils Silver Member

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    haha I kind of don't want to be responsible if my mom screwed it up somehow.
     
  23. Travelmom4

    Travelmom4 Silver Member

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    Yes, I think it is a niche hobby and I suppose that it works to my advantage that it is. A friend was once impressed that I got my family of six to Europe in business class for miles and fees and kept saying "you have to tell me how to do that". When I gave her a primer on cc bonuses and spend, however, that was the last I heard. To each her own!

    I do agree that time is also a valuable commodity. In spite of my points/miles obsession, I do often make the choice that I don't have the time/energy to apply for every small offer of bonus points for signing up for this or that service/promo.
     
  24. KenInEscazu

    KenInEscazu Gold Member

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    I play both sides of the game.

    Side one: I'm writing from my room in a Marriott Renaissance, where I'm on the executive floor, receiving free internet, free parking and get free breakfast. I booked a weekend rate of $80/night, and I get 10% cash back by booking via topcashback. I flew here in F via a CPU on a K fare. Of the 6 flights I've been on since Thursday, three were in F or BF, and 2 of those in economy were RJs with no F cabin, so I only missed one CPU.

    I fly back and forth between Costa Rica and Colombia at least once/month, and I pay only the taxes on fares that run at least $800 if paid in economy. These flights are free because I participate in both MileagePlus and Lifemiles, and earn on both paid flights and CC purchases. With Lifemiles, I also supplement with purchased miles when they run 2x1 specials, resulting in $0.015/mile cost before calculating the miles I earn by buying them with their CC.

    Time is valuable, therefore I appreciate the time I save by having a dedicated line where I don't have to sit on hold when I have to call the airlines. I also never worry when they oversell and I HAVE to get somewhere, as I know I'm almost never going to be the one who gets IDBed.

    People who don't travel as frequently as me won't get the same value, but they also won't spend as much time focused on the earnings. Simply using a CC means something for nothing when they do travel, even if it's 3 or 4 years from now.

    We really do get value from playing this game, and for me it's a game I truly enjoy playing. Call it a hobby, and that fits, but most hobbies are an expense. Mine pays. I'm happy.

    Side two: Because of my own hobby/obsession, and knowing by reading these pages that I'm not alone, I recently started offering points/miles options to customers who visit my website. I knew that people like me who could buy my products from a competitor and get nothing or buy it from me and get miles will buy it from me when all things are equal. It's an edge that pays me when trying to lure those who are like me. It certainly gets me the last look for those who are price focused, and we usually have that advantage, too.

    Our program is new, so it's too early to say just how much it will pay off, but it seems that right out of the box we are seeing about 7% of our customers opt in to the earnings program (it costs them nothing), and 90% of those opting in are new customers. I'm also seeing that of those who were already buying from my company, their order sizes are increasing. One customer who had never spent more than $100 on any given order bought $800 on last week's order, and she added a bunch of products she had not previously purchased from us to get to that higher order value.

    If I weren't into the travel "hobby," I would never have thought of this marketing campaign. It's paying off already, and it hasn't even had time to spread throughout the travel community. I figure that 5 years from now it will be a significant part of our business.

    Sorry for the long post, but I figured this is a unique perspective of what a truly win/win this hobby can be. I'm enjoying and benefiting from being a source for miles/points earning and a participant in the very programs I'm using as a marketing tool. Not only is it profitable, it's both fun and a fascinating observation of human behavior.
     
  25. Pizzaman
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    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    That's a great story. We have a brick & mortar retail business where we were considering offering miles and points to the customers. It's something we've chewed on for a while but haven't taken the plunge. Love to hear more when you have more data.
     

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