I’m a big believer that when done right, miles and points hobby can improve lives. No, it won’t solve major issues you may be dealing with. And it certainly won’t give your life purpose. However, it can enrich it with amazing experiences and bring families closer.
That said, it’s important to be aware of potential downsides. Now and again, Nancy and I like to give a reality check on what’s in store if you decide to go down the rabbit hole. Spoiler alert! It’s not all rainbows and unicorns.
In this post I won’t address the obvious issues, such as getting in debt when using credit cards. I’ve said many times that if you can’t control your spending, move on and find another hobby. Instead, I would like to address not so obvious things you will most likely have to deal with at some point. In fact, I’ve had to face all of these issues in just the last few months. Here we go.
1) Stolen identity
If you apply for a ton of credit cards, at some point your identity will get stolen. If the idea of this happening sends shivers down your spine, you are not alone. I’ve had my credit cards hacked at least five times, possibly more. I’ve lost count, to be honest.
In the last few weeks, two of my credit cards were compromised. First, I saw a $1k charge on my AmEx account from some call center in Panama. It was still pending, so I did a chat with a rep and it was reversed. New card was mailed and all was forgotten. Easy peasy. But it’s not always that simple.
Just a few days ago, I got a statement in the mail for my husband’s Terps card. Oh brother! So, a person in Atlanta has hacked the card somehow. He or she has only put about $150 on it so far, a conservative criminal. Anyway, the charge wasn’t ours, so my husband and I had to call Terps credit union. There was no way to dispute the charge online.
Needless to say, my husband was “thrilled” to do it! Anyway, he gave me permission to handle most of the call. I spent probably 30 minutes on the phone dealing with this issue. At the end of the call, the lady said they would mail me forms which I would have to fill out and fax to the fraud department. In the meantime, I will need to make minimum payments on the card while the investigation is taking place. All of it for $150 charge.
To be sure, with most banks, it’s a fairly simple thing. But as you can see, there are exceptions. My point is, the more new cards you apply for, the higher is the likelihood of your identity being stolen. And it’s not just credit cards. The same thing can happen to loyalty accounts.
Do you have the energy and patience to deal with it? Only you can answer that question.
2) Dealing with cancelled reservations and incompetent reps
Two months ago, I wrote how American Airlines cancelled out flight from Tokyo to LAX, and British Airways (partner we booked through) never sent me a notification. In this hobby of ours, things fall through the cracks all the time, so it’s essential to stay on top of everything. You have to check your reservations regularly or potentially face an unpleasant surprise right before your trip.
Fortunately, because of a wonderful and super helpful rep, this particular problem was resolved in my favor. But many reps are not that way. Just a few days ago I called Hilton to use my free weekend certificate. Unfortunately, there is no way to do it online.
The lady I talked to seemed a bit confused, which should have been a red flag. But she did apply the certificate eventually. All was well, except a few minutes later I got an email telling me one of my reservations was cancelled. It was at the same property but for a different date, so my guess is, the rep assumed I wanted to change my stay. Except I never told her to cancel it.
What’s worse, my father-in-law was having a life threatening surgery and we were getting ready to go to the hospital. Instead, I had to log into my account and quickly rebook the stay before someone else snapped it up. But what if I didn’t see the cancellation email?
Once again, do you have the energy to deal with this type of nonsense?
3) Missing out on a better credit card offer or hot deal
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post on applying for Expedia Voyager card I felt like 50k points was a very good deal, so I pulled the trigger. Guess what? Just days after my approval, the offer was temporarily increased to 70k points. I called Citi, but they refused to match it. YMMV
This isn’t the first case when my timing was off, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I don’t lose sleep over it, but as a deal lover, I would be lying if I told you that it doesn’t irk me to miss out on cash or points. I have to remind myself that anything I get from sign-up bonuses is extra I wouldn’t have otherwise. Gratitude and being content is something I have to constantly work on.
But let me tell you, sometimes it seems that miles and points hobby turns normal folks into jaded and cranky malcontents. Have you seen some of the comments on the major blogs? People are constantly angry about dead deals, bloggers writing about deals and missing out on what they perceive is rightfully theirs’.
Obviously, I’m not saying everyone is that way. But as I’ve once told one of my readers, this hobby is supposed to be fun, but you’ll never know it if you read comments on some of the blogs.
Can you resist getting caught up in all the negativity, and avoid spending countless hours of your day being angry about stuff that don’t matter?
If you decide to participate in this hobby, you have to accept the fact that your currencies will devalue. That’s not an “if”, but “when”. Granted, it usually doesn’t happen overnight, though sometimes it does. Not long ago, I wrote a post about applying for Best Western credit card
Thankfully, I was denied. Why do I say that? Well, the cost of the property I was looking at went up from 32k point to 70k points per night. It happened with zero notice. This isn’t always going to be the case, but you have to be prepared for your desired redemption or benefit to no longer be there when you finally receive the bonus. It stinks, but that’s the way it is.
You can mitigate this risk somewhat by dealing with reputable banks or programs, but even then it’s not a guarantee.
Will you be OK if your original plans fall through?
Why I don’t plan to give up on miles and points hobby (yet)
The simple reason is I enjoy it. It’s fun for me to strategize and try to squeeze outsized value out of my miles and points. I truly believe that unless you enjoy the process (not just the end result), the juice simply won’t be worth the squeeze.
That Hilton redemption I’ve mentioned earlier would have cost me $3k if I paid cash. Obviously, I would never shell out that type of money on a hotel, but it’s nice to have your cake and eat it too. I feel like I win far more often than I lose when it comes to maximizing miles and points. Now if I can just limit the time I spend on this whole thing (a work in progress).
I also get to have experiences that I would never be able to afford otherwise. Last year, me and my husband got to enjoy an incredible adventure in the South Pacific courtesy of this hobby. There is no way I could justify $10k price tag for all the hotels and flights we got to enjoy. That would require draining most of our emergency fund. There were many other trips that were only made possible because of miles and points.
We are an ordinary family who gets to enjoy extraordinary experiences. And for that, I will always be grateful.
Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
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.