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The Paradox of Choice in Miles and Points Hobby

I was reading an excerpt from “Modern Romance” book written by comedian Aziz Ansari. It tackles a subject of, you guessed it, modern romance, and how things in this area are quite different now than they were just a  few decades ago. Of course, most of it is due to technology and an abundance of choice. You have Facebook, Twitter, dating sites etc.  Potential  romantic partners are everywhere. How do you pick the most optimal candidate?

In this excerpt, Aziz was talking  about his parents and their arranged marriage back in India. His father has met three potential mates. According to him, the first one was too short, second one too tall. The third one seemed just the right height (finally!). They talked for 30 minutes and decided they were a good match. Many years later, they are still happily married.

Aziz went on to describe how once, he wanted to investigate some food choices in Seattle where he was scheduled to do a stand-up tour. He went on TripAdvisor, Yelp and multiple other sites. He finally found the one, little restaurant that would be the perfect fit. Suddenly, it dawned on him that it took him more time to choose a place of his next meal than it took his parents to get to know each other before they got married. BTW, when he got to the restaurant, it was closed, so he ended up making a sandwich back in his hotel room.

Some of you may be familiar with the book “The paradox of choice: Why more is less”  The description on Amazon gives this summary: “We assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. But beware of choice overload: it can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures. “

It honestly made me think of miles and points hobby. There are so many choices, you can go nuts trying to pick the most optimal redemption, the best bang for your point. Should you burn Ultimate Rewards on this hotel?  What if Chase doesn’t approve you for CSP card again? Should I use SPG points? After all, they are more valuable than my newborn.  Cheapblackdad, I’m looking at you! Should I go with IHG offer or try to get Marriott card? After all, Marriott is so darn consistent. But IHG has PointBreaks program.  Speaking of, I’m only going to use my IHG stash when I can get that overwater bungalow in Bora Bora for 5,000 points per night. I won’t settle for a less spectacular redemption!

You get the idea. This hobby can drive you nuts. Just look at some folks bragging about having  gazillions of miles and points in every program under the sun. And yet, they still hit CVS like there is no tomorrow. But they will not part with their existing stash, no way, not till the moment is right.

I remember when  my husband and I got married. The whole idea of taking  a honeymoon is a foreign concept to an Eastern European. People just don’t do that back home. They get married and usually go to work few days later or even the next day. Of course, that’s probably because they are broke after paying for a huge wedding reception that lasts two long days, and involves an elaborate feast fit for  a king.

Anyway, my husband isn’t a planner and didn’t really have a clue as to where to go. So, his mom suggested a place at the beach where they regularly vacationed as a family. Yes, my mother-in-law planned my honeymoon and we went to a spot where his family has been coming to for years. Awkward pause…

Of course, that was before I became Americanized (the term my parents use) and learned about miles and points. Imagine if I were to plan it today. It would take many agonizing months to pick the perfect spot, the right credit card combination etc. Naturally, we are talking Maldives or Tahiti, not a humble beach apartment in Florida. But you know what? That apartment was perfectly fine.

In the book “The paradox of choice” the author goes on to describe two types of people: The maximizers and satisficers. Naturally, maximizers are those who obsess about every single decision, making sure they get the most value out of everything. Satisficers have certain standards, but once they make their choice, they are not worried about the possibility that there might be something better. When it comes to miles and points, I believe you should be both maximizer and satisficer. Let me explain.

Be a maximizer when it comes to earning  points. Make sure to pick the best combination of long-term credit cards and re-evaluate it at least yearly. It’s worth it to spend a few hours doing the math in order to get an extra couple of hundred bucks or an equivalent in points. The same goes for sign-up bonuses. I recommend you choose wisely and focus on cards that work for your unique situation. It goes without saying that you should only apply for the best possible offer. I try to keep my list of bonuses updated (a pain!), but recommend you email me so I can investigate it further.

I never intentionally hide anything, but I am human and occasionally miss links here and there. My policy is to treat readers as if they are my family, period. And incidentally, some of my relatives and friends  do read the blog. I recommend you  follow this Flyertalk thread  for hot offers that may expire within days. You may also check CardMatch tool from time to time. Your credit is not pulled and it only takes a couple of minutes. Over the last few days, many have reported getting lucrative offers for Amex Platinum 100K bonus and Amex Premier Rewards Gold offer of 50K points. The latter is listed in my page of best credit card deals for family. I really like the fact that the minimum spending is only $1,000 in 3 months, quite doable for most non-manufacturers (aka normal people).

However, when it comes to burning, be a satisficer. You don’t have to follow the rule “get 2 cents per mile or use cash.” I almost never get that kind of CPM return, but  burn them anyway. If you like a hotel, use the points on it. So what if you are not getting a terrific redemption? You are saving cash, and those points will only lose value over time.  Use “bird in the hand” approach. It isn’t sexy, but family travel isn’t sexy anyway. Blogging about it isn’t either.

You don’t have to use Hyatt certificates on hotels in Maldives or Paris. In fact, you don’t really have to go to Maldives or Paris. Ok, I’m actually planning  to go to Paris in two years. But it doesn’t mean you should. Yes, both are terrific redemptions when you look at the price. But so is Hyatt Clearwater Regency resort, so are many other places in the world.

Say it with me: I am a “burning satisficer,” and I’m darn proud of it!

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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3 thoughts on “The Paradox of Choice in Miles and Points Hobby

  1. LOL! I love the reference to time spent on picking a spouse vs restaurant.
    I am very OCD when it comes to planning for vacation (how many sights I should cramp into a day, etc), but interestingly, I think having hotel points/free nights takes away some of the planning work. When I book hotels, I check if I can stay at the couple Hotel chains for which I have points (right now it’s just Hyatt and CC, so it’s easy!). Then I use points whenever possible, unless airbnb is going for $50 a night. I am a horrible point/value maximize when it comes to hotels. I like to minimize using cash, and I want to burn those points while we are still Diamond! If I have to pay for a stay, I would have to go through various booking sites to find the best value hotel for my budget. So hotel points saves me time.
    BTW, I am really liking your posts! There are tons of other websites that provides endless updates on points and miles world (which are useful, but we have got plenty of those already). Correct me if I am wrong, but I see that you posts are more about reflections and family trip reports. They are all unique posts and very enjoyable to read.

    • Katye, thank you so much for reading and saying that you are enjoying my posts! It means a lot. My blog is probably a bit too unique, it needs some mass market appeal! I thought about making regular updates on deals and news items like I used to, but decided against it. It’s a tricky thing, in this industry, if you are not the first, you are last. I really don’t want to/can’t be glued to computer since I have small kids. When my youngest goes to Pre-K in August, I hope to do more volunteer work. So, sitting and writing 5 posts per day on various promos is not in the cards.

      As you’ve said, many blogs already do it quite well, some even have employees and ghost writers. There is no way I can keep up, and I don’t want to be part of the rat race, to be honest. Miles and points industry is a cutthroat business due to affiliate payouts. I’m hoping to put out beneficial posts now and again, and maybe people will enjoy them. I’m sure, at times I’ll take a week or two off. I’ll still make commentary on some news items, and plan to do a post on Pointbreaks since it’s kind of a big deal for middle-class families.

      Oh, and you are absolutely correct. Hotel points can take the pressure off since they limit your choices. Less stress and obsessing on which property is in the best location etc. Totally true! I think the problem arises when you have points in 5 different programs. When it’s just two, it’s not a big deal.

  2. Pingback: How to Minimize Choice Overload When it Comes to Lodging Options | Miles For Family

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