Author Topic: Airline miles game...Mustachian?  (Read 2192 times)

Allen

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Airline miles game...Mustachian?
« on: December 30, 2013, 02:30:38 PM »
So I'm happily getting cash back on my credit card purchases.  No one thinks a discount on things you have to buy is a bad deal.

However, my wife loves to travel.  Is there actual VALUE in pursuing the elite status, high mileage points, "points guy.com" strategy from a mustachian mind set?  It seems like paying dollars to save cents.  I always have to stay with 'Hilton' or whatever, at whatever price, because that's where my loyalty program is VERSUS going with whoever has the best value for my particular trip (or even going ultra-mustachian and arranging some trade program with locals like MMM did with his Hawaii trip).

Are these airline programs really value hunting or just a way high consuming conspicuous spenders get to have some perks, like a dealership throwing free chrome bumper upgrades on a new giant SUV purchase?

randymarsh

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Re: Airline miles game...Mustachian?
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2013, 03:52:38 PM »
I have yet to redeem any of my miles, but I've accumulated quite a few just from CC offers.

I have around 80K on American, which is actually enough to fly roundtrip to Europe 2 times off-peak. I have another 50K with British Airways, that's almost enough for a roundtrip Europe fare also.

All of those points were just CC sign up offers. I think one had a minimum spend but it was just make one purchase or something easy.

So those offers could easily let me fly to Europe for practically nothing. But the real magic happens when you cash out big. There's a Hilton card that gives 2 nights free on signup to any Hilton hotel and I believe it's practically any room. So you can get something that's probably out of reach financially with these offers.

As far as status, as best I can tell, that really helps people who travel a lot. If you only fly once or twice a year, then status isn't as beneficial.

CupcakeStache

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Re: Airline miles game...Mustachian?
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2013, 04:49:04 PM »
There can totally be value in it.... if you'll use it, and if it would be something that you would be willing to spend money for anyway.

For a specific example: there are periodically CC offers for Southwest Chase cards that award 40,000 - 50,000 miles when you open a new account and spend $2000 in the first few months. This card has a yearly fee of $80 (or something like that). I signed up for it knowing that I will use those points to fly to see my sister who lives several states away. I would pay the money for plane tickets anyway, but by using the benefits of the CC signup I will pay $80 for tickets that cost a lot more, and still have some points over for other travel. I will probably cancel the card after 10 months or so to avoid paying another annual fee.

It's definitely not free, because I'm paying the annual fee, and I'm putting $2000 of spending on the card (to get the bonus points) instead of using a card that gives me cash back or some other benefits. But I've run the numbers and found that this is worth it for me.

The big miles and points bloggers accumulate huge amounts of points and miles with every airline, hotel, and loyalty program possible - and they use their knowledge to score great trips. But it's a lot of work to keep up with, you have to spend a lot of money to meet minimum spend requirements, and if you don't have a plan or a lot of knowledge, a lot of the points will go to waste.

If you're new to the miles and points games, it's best to pick some specific vacation or trip and then figure out the best CC signup bonuses/programs for that. Like you might decide you want two plane tickets to France for next summer. So you do some research and figure out that based on your location and the various airline programs that United is your best bet, and you need 100,000 United miles to get the tickets. Then you figure out that you can sign up for the United Mileage Explorer card for a 50,000 mile bonus, and the Chase Ink Bold for 50,000 ultimate reward points (which transfer to United at 1:1). And finally, you have your points - yay! Next you have to find flight availability to your destination (which varies by time of year, location etc). But eventually - you get "free" travel!

The tl;dr version is: you can get a lot of benefits, but it's a lot of work and takes a fair amount of research. So start small! Good luck! :)

Last note - elite status (in any program) is expensive and hard to get unless you travel *a lot*. Generally not worth it.

mushroom

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Re: Airline miles game...Mustachian?
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2013, 08:00:05 PM »
It definitely can be, but it depends on how you play. The most lucrative and least time-consuming tends to be signing up for credit cards with big sign up bonuses.

I like to travel and it would be something I would spend money on anyway even if there weren't a lot of great deals floating around. But considering there are, sign me up!

For example, I got an AA card that gave me a signup bonus of 60,000 miles.

I then used a total of 47,000 miles and about $100 in fees to pay for both a round trip ticket to Sicily in March and a round trip ticket to Alaska in August by knowing about obscure stopover rules. Normally just two domestic tickets would cost 50,000 miles so I think that's a great deal.

I generally think the hotel game isn't worth it, though. I don't generally like the nickel and diming luxury hotels (why is it that expensive hotels always charge for things like internet, have extra resort fees, exorbitant food prices, etc.?) even if the stay is supposedly free. I like to rent cheap apartments instead where I can generally stay in more residential neighborhoods and avoid tourist trap restaurants, use a kitchen to cook for myself, interact more with locals, etc.