I’ve been collecting miles and points for almost two decades, though the bulk of the activity has taken place over the last six years. Incidentally, that’s also how long this blog has been around. Over that time period, I’ve had the privilege of interacting with many readers. I’ve also observed overall trends in the miles and points community.
So, I thought it would be fun to put a listicle of five things that IMO people are doing wrong. It’s meant to be lighthearted and non-judgemental. I hate reading posts that come across as pompous and patronizing. Hopefully, it’s not one of those. Plus, I’ve made some of these mistakes myself. Without further ado:
1)Not striking when the iron is hot
There is no question that you have to be picky when applying for credit cards. One of my readers has told me that his biggest pet peeve is seeing a ton of blog posts all touting the same mediocre “last chance” affiliate offer that will surely come back in a few months. I get it.
I don’t feel like explaining the whole affiliate commission thing again, but needless to say, most blogs (including this one) are businesses. We make money from you, the readers. This isn’t anything unique to miles and points blogging. And really, you should always read online articles with a critical eye. That post promising a weird trick to get rid of your belly fat? It ain’t real. I know, I was disappointed, too.
That being said, sometimes readers hesitate when they really shouldn’t. Obviously, I’m assuming you are responsible with your finances and pay off credit card bills every month. You may be familiar with 100k offer on Chase Sapphire Reserve from a few years ago (no longer available). It’s an excellent example of a no-brainer deal that everyone should have taken advantage of if eligible. Yet I saw folks ranting online that they weren’t going to apply because it paid bloggers commission. Surely there must be some conspiracy. Nope.
Others were spooked by $450 annual fee even though there was $600 travel credit to make up for it. Here is the thing. When in doubt, just use good ole’ math. Not to sound like a jerk, but if you didn’t think 100k offer on CSR was a hot deal, then you probably have no business participating in this hobby. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s true.
The thing is, many exceptional offers don’t come back. Some pay commission, some don’t. That shouldn’t be the determining factor. Plus, we do try to cover all amazing deals, regardless of whether they pay us or not. One example: 50k offer on Merrill+ Visa from BoA (also no longer available).
2) Paying too much attention to everyday spending and shopping portals
Very often I get emails from readers who have just applied for their first card in years. Most of the time it’s Chase Sapphire Preferred (an excellent option). They want to know how they can now maximize earning Ultimate Rewards on their everyday spending. Wrong question.
If there is a spouse/partner in the picture, the first order of business should be to apply for another Chase Sapphire Preferred card in their name. After that? I recommend focusing on picking up 100k targeted offer X2 on Amex Platinum via CardMatch tool. Well, assuming you can handle the annual fee. And after that? Probably 60k Citi Premier bonus X2 or some other decent offer on a flexible currency earning card. Got a business? Forget all the other UR-earning cards, and apply for 80k offer on Chase Ink Business Preferred first.
My point is, you will never earn via everyday spending what you can pick up via new signup bonuses. Obviously, at some point, the rejections will start pouring in. That’s why it’s important to get all the best offers first. Then focus on everyday spending. Of course, constantly switching cards isn’t for everyone, so do what you are comfortable with.
The same logic applies to shopping portals. I will sometimes get an email from a reader asking me if they should make all their purchases via Alaska portal. And they don’t currently have any Alaska miles! Just because a certain mileage currency is considered very valuable, doesn’t mean you should go out out of your way to collect it. Mileage shopping portals are for topping off accounts when you have a specific redemption in mind. It will take an Average Joe years to collect a meaningful amount from scratch.
3) Completely relying on bloggers for travel/points advice
There is nothing wrong with reading blog posts in order to get travel inspiration, or simply for fun. Just don’t lose sight of what YOU personally like. Redeeming miles on first-class seat on a plane bound for Middle East may seem fun, but if you never had any interest in visiting that area of the world, what’s the point? If you love nature and hate jet lag, maybe it’s best to use your stash to visit Yellowstone even if you have to fly in economy.
I redeem miles on business class from time to time when it seems like a good deal. While it’s a fun treat, I’ve discovered that it’s not really my thing. It is for others, and I totally respect that. But for me, it’s all about the destination or collecting miles to visit my family in Europe. The seat is always secondary.
Similarly, I’m not itching to fly to Maldives just to stay in an overwater bungalow. The reason? It’s simply too far and too difficult to get to. But if I’m already traveling through Asia, I would totally consider it. Speaking of, if you are looking for a spectacular location with overwater bungalows that is closer to US, I wholeheartedly recommend French Polynesia. And no, you don’t have to sell your kidney to vacation there, I promise.
4) Not having any goals for miles and points
Collecting miles and points takes time, energy and money. I’ve had quite a few side hustles in my life. As a ten-year old growing up in the Soviet Union, I learned how to make macrame products and sold them at a local market. I even once sold kittens! After moving to US, I had a number of jobs, including cleaning houses. Collecting miles and points has been my most lucrative hustle, by far. Still, it does require energy and mental bandwidth to keep up with various credit cards, mileage balances etc.
Rather than a hobby, you should view it as a small business. Would you buy supplies if you didn’t have any idea on how you’ll end up eventually using them? Probably not. Yet folks in this hobby are currently sitting on millions of miles and still spend many hours each week doing MS so they can collect more miles. Sure, things are getting tough and all. Still, I think it’s important to keep things in perspective. Speaking of..
5) Thinking that miles and points (and/or travel) will finally make you happy
Not to go all psychobabble on you guys, but miles and points or travel for that matter, can only accomplish so much. A fancy trip covered via points might make you happy for a period of time but eventually, we all have to come back to reality. It’s good to set realistic expectations and not view travel as a panacea for deeper issues. If you are dissatisfied with your life right now, chances are, you will feel that way even after you collect millions of miles or take that trip to Maldives.
Travel is a privilege, and we are all so lucky to be able to do what we do. It’s a wonderful thing that I hope to never take for granted. But as I’ve said before, one fancy trip won’t make up for dysfunctional everyday family dynamic. If you and your spouse are having relationship issues, it’s very unlikely that an epic getaway will solve them. Those things require work and being present in each and every moment. There are no shortcuts when it comes to relationships.
You may have seen this SNL skit by Adam Sandler that perfectly summarizes what I’m trying to say. One quote: “We can take you on a zip line, but we can’t make you go “wheee” and mean it.” If you haven’t seen it, check it out:
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.