This post is meant for our new readers. If you are a grizzled miles and points vet, hopefully, you’ll pick up some useful info here as well. With new year upon us, I thought it would be good to put together a short primer for new recruits. Here we go.
1) Even at its most complex, this hobby is NOT rocket science
It’s true. Some want you to believe that regular people aren’t sophisticated enough to figure it out (cough, less competition for awards, cough). Wrong! I’m very much a regular SAHM, yet I’m capable of doing basic math. Shocker! And no, I won’t be sticking to my baking and crocheting. I want to give my family the gift of travel that we otherwise can’t afford. I also happen to like numbers and enjoy figuring out patterns. OK, so maybe I’m not a totally regular person.
Can (should) everyone do it? Of course not. But if you are reasonably intelligent and decent with finances, there is no reason why you can’t give it a shot. At its core, this hobby is similar to buying stocks. So, you want to buy low and sell high, always. But whatever you do, make it a point not to hang on to your “stocks” indefinitely.
Something seems super confusing? You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
2) This hobby can be whatever you want it to be
Some like to switch credit cards and collect miles and points in that manner. Others may decide to focus primarily on everyday spending. You can also buy points at a discount or participate in promos. It can be complicated or it can be fairly simple, the choice is yours. Either way, keep your eyes on the prize: deeply discounted travel. Speaking of…
3) Travel is not free
Never was, never will be. It can be almost free, but chances are, you’ll want more. As my reader Cheapblackdad said once: “mo miles, mo problems.” There is some truth to that. As you’ll see your balances grow, you’ll be tempted to travel to more exotic (read “more expensive”) places. Maybe you were satisfied with road trips once, but no mo!
Make sure to keep an eye on your wallet and don’t let your out-of-pocket expenses get out of hand. Aside from getting into debt, this is probably the biggest danger of participating in miles and points hobby. So protect your savings account and don’t let “free” travel destroy your future. It’s about finding the right balance, something I’m constantly struggling with.
4) Resist “Go Hyatt or go home” mentality
First, this is just an expression because I have nothing against Hyatt. In fact, I rather enjoy it. But something you’ll notice is that miles and points community as a whole has boxed itself into a certain style of travel. Whether it’s a specific hotel chain, airline seat or a set of destinations, there is a commonality, a pattern of sorts.
Obviously, people tend to go where their friends go, it’s normal. When you see beautiful photos of exotic islands and someone tells you how they got a few credit cards and boom… here they are, chilling on the beach with a margarita in their hand, you’ll want to do the same. But try to do your own research before you drop several grand on that free (not) vacation.
5) You can have your “waffle wedding cake” and eat it too
What the heck am I talking about? Well, over the weekend we attended a wedding of a girl we’ve known for years. I guess I should now call her a woman, except I remember her having a tea party with my daughter not that long ago. Or was it seven years? Wow, time flies. Anyway, she chose to have a wedding cake made from waffles. Her mom offered to pay for any cake she wanted, but this is what she got:
A unique wedding cake!
This girl, who we love very much, has always marched to the beat of her own drum, and her wedding was no different. And who says you can’t have a waffle cake at your reception? Is there a law that prevents it? It’s what she wanted and she didn’t care if it looked strange to the guests.
So, I encourage you to treat your travel plans the same way. Spending a wedding anniversary in a cheap Holiday Inn Express? I’ve done it and enjoyed it. By the same token, I have a reader who once redeemed three Hyatt certificates on one night at Hyatt Vendome in order to accommodate her family of six. She has no regrets and considers it a highlight of her trip to Europe. Both examples are very much a “wedding waffle cake” of the miles and points world.
6) Elite status is highly overrated (when you paid cash to get it)
Nothing annoys me more than reading about someone who dropped many hundreds of dollars on hotel mattress runs only to later brag about their “free” upgrades and breakfast. In what universe? If you don’t know what mattress runs are, chances are, you don’t need to.
Speaking of, there are many folks who are gunning for new Hyatt status in the next few months. They need someone to do their mattress runs for them and they WILL PAY for your hotel stays. It’s like house sitting, except you do it in a hotel. I recommend you follow Hyatt Flyertalk threads, though in all likelihood, if you don’t personally know anyone, chances of you scoring a free Hyatt stay are slim.
But if you have a cheap Hyatt property near you, speak up. The way it works is the other person pre-pays the reservation and adds you as an additional guest. They get the credit towards status and you get a free hotel stay. I’m most definitely not passing judgement on (from scratch) status chasers, but this is an activity reserved strictly for those who have money coming out of their ears. That ain’t me.
But getting status for free or nearly free? Sign me up!
7) “Carpe Diem,” but don’t go crazy
Some deals only last few hours and you have to decide on the spot whether to take advantage of them or not. A rule of thumb: if an offer doesn’t require any financial commitment and blogger is raving about it despite the fact that it doesn’t pay him/her commission, chances are, you should jump on it.
An example: match to Hyatt Diamond status in 2015. The deal only lasted about 18 hours, so there was no time to waste. I told readers to go for it even if they had no planned Hyatt stays. If it’s free and takes few minutes of your time, just do it. You never know when it will come in handy.
Obviously, things are way more tricky when it comes to credit cards. This is definitely the case of YMMV I try my best to cover offers as impartially as possible, considering the fact that I’m an affiliate blogger. That said, I have my preferences which may not match yours, so keep that in mind.
Some offers, however, are no-brainers, like 100K points bonus on CSR. That offer no longer pays me commission, but I still think it’s the best deal out there, despite $450 annual fee. So, commission or no commission, my opinion is the same. I’ve said before that I don’t play games with readers.
Of course, you can’t get in on every single hot deal. Give yourself permission to disconnect from this hobby and make peace with the fact that you’ll miss out now and again.
8) You will make mistakes and that’s OK
I’ve made so many mistakes, it’s not even funny. I make sure to record them too because I want to paint a realistic picture of what’s in store. It ain’t always rainbows and unicorns. Which is why…
9) This hobby will make you want to puke at some point
Once the honeymoon phase is over, signing up for new credit cards will get old and tedious. If you have a spouse who hates anything miles and points related, you WILL have to pick your battles. That means skipping hot deals on occasion, especially if they involve your significant other picking up the phone.
You have to be determined not to let this hobby spill over into your real life. Deeply discounted trip isn’t worth it if you and your spouse hate each other as a result of hobby shenanigans. At some point you may decide that the juice isn’t worth the squeeze and even walk away (from the hobby, hopefully). That’s OK too.
10) Be determined to have fun
It’s human nature to focus on fails and take victories for granted. Don’t do that! Savor each fantastic redemption and remind yourself how fortunate you are to be able to do what you do. Travel is a privilege even if you end up flying in economy and sleeping in EconoLodge.
Bloggers are human beings
I debated on whether I should include this admittedly self-serving point, but I feel like it needs to be said. Very often bloggers are viewed as nothing more than content-producing machines. I assure you, we are not.
We are real human beings who live in the same world as you do, and we deal with the same set of problems. Our kids get sick and our spouses want attention. Most of us don’t have seven-figure savings accounts, so blogs become a labor of love/ small business. And why not? We pour our time, energy and money into out sites. We often forego other opportunities in the hopes that our words matter.
Of course, since we are real human beings, we make mistakes. I’m sure I’ve disappointed my readers on more than one occasion. My hope is that you can overlook inevitable blunders and focus on the big picture.
Miles and points bloggers are blamed for everything, it seems: killing deals, not covering deals before they die, posting too much, not posting enough, looking out for banks’ interests, not looking out for banks’ interests, and of course, global warming. Some of the criticism gets downright vicious.
Not surprising, unfortunately. We live in a society where being a jerk and a bully is often excused and even rewarded. Still, I hope you’ll remember that behind every blog, there is probably a real person with a family.
A family like this one:
Leana is the 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.