George Santayana was once quoted: “Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes.” I believe this to be particularly true in the points and miles world as well: if we are unable to learn from the mistakes of deals killed and programs lost, we will be doomed to confront them again.
History has also provided an excellent primer for how I approach my own relationship with points and miles. Not only have I learned from my personal mistakes in credit (which many of us have made), but I also draw inspiration from viewpoints from the past, which is where today’s lesson on points and miles come from.
100 years ago – well before points and miles were even imagined – a very small community newspaper in Ohio published “The Creed of a Fool.” The creed, written by an anonymous author, explores the dangerous thinking that can go along with a false sense of wisdom:
I believe that I was born to have a good time and the world owes me a living. I also believe that responsibilities were never meant for my shoulders, for but my neighbors, for if I should be foolish enough to assume any, look at the interruption it would cause me in my pursuit of pleasure. I also believe – and I most firmly believe – that while the heels of my shoes may be down on one side, I am the wisest person in the world.
This prompt, along with seeing how points and miles have changed over the past five years alone, made me wonder if we were traveling like the fool outlined above. More importantly, is it too late for us to change our ways and improve our methods? Here are three ways to determine if we are traveling like fools and how to stop them before we become detrimental to ourselves.
Maximizing Exploits In the System to Earn Points or Miles
Can you name any points-earning opportunities that have been ended due to mass publicity and many jumping on the bandwagon? Over the last five years alone, frugal travelers have watched the demise of several easy points earning opportunities, from purchasing coins from the U.S. Mint with a credit card, to loading REDBird cards using a credit card. Additionally, some credit cards have tightened up when account holders qualify for points bonuses as well. While some could say this is a natural adjustment, I would argue that publicity and the rush to apply these methods are equally responsible for their disappearance.
Before shrugging off points-earning opportunities as “responsibilities meant for the shoulders of my neighbors,” think about the greater ramifications to the community. While there is nothing wrong with drawing from the well, drawing more than our share dries up opportunities quickly.
Spending Without A Plan, for the Sake of Points or Miles
As I have argued before, points and miles are only good to the extent that we gain value out of earning them. While these reward currencies we collect can have a lot of good, they can also create more problems as well.
Many cards offer significantly large points balances for meeting a minimum spending threshold within the first three to four months of opening the card. However, opening up these cards and running a balance can result in the accrual of interest, quickly devaluing those points. Before opening a card and “wearing down the heels of our shoes on one side,” be sure to have a plan to make the minimum spend and pay it off, or choose a card with no minimum spend requirement. The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card offers 50,000 Gold Points with the first purchase.
Only Using Points for Premium Redemption
Finally, many travelers often dream of saving their points and miles for the most luxurious of points and miles expenses. However, saving those points for too long can create some unfortunate scenarios for frugal travelers.
When holding on to points for too long, devaluation is always a threat. While saving for a goal can be a good thing, it can also backfire when travelers think they have enough for a trip, just to find out their award chart changed overnight.
Although there is nothing wrong with having a great time in first-class suites with in-flight showers, our favorite carriers do not owe us a class of living for our points. By making smart, redeemable goals for our points and miles, every traveler can immediately realize the benefits of frugal travel.
In today’s modern era of flying, no traveler should go down the road as a fool. By understanding some of the key pitfalls of this hobby, everyone can see the world in a sustainable, responsible and (most importantly) frugal manner.
How do you avoid being a fool with your frugal travels? Share your tips in the comments below!
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