I’ve been doing this miles and points hobby for a very long time, before it was cool. In fact, I stumbled on it accidentally in 2001, after I needed to top off my Northwest account for a trip to Hawaii. No blogs to show me the “way”, just good ol’ research and occasional scanning of Flyertalk website.
Boom, just like that I was hooked. To begin with, I felt like I hit a jackpot and wanted to share my knowledge with relatives and friends. A few expressed interest, but most didn’t really care. Over the years, I’ve pretty much stopped talking about credit cards IRL and saved my energy for blog posts instead. At least that way I knew that a decent percentage of my listeners would feign interest in what I had to say.
But I did make an exception when it came to my sister-in-law. She has owned an accounting business for the last 15 years, and has a decent amount of organic spending each year. It would be a shame not to leverage it for miles and points.
But even there I had limited success. She absolutely hates the idea of getting a card and then canceling it in a year. Not even a 100k points offer on Chase Sapphire Preferred in 2020 could persuade her. Speaking of, I’m seeing reports on various blogs that a 90k offer on this product will be available in Chase branches on March 19th.
I did convince her to at least apply for Chase Ink Business Preferred due to ability to generate 3X per dollar on certain categories. She is currently sitting on around 300k points and planning to finally use them for a trip to the South Pacific with her new husband. And she does have an IHG card with a $49 fee. Again, only because I told her she wouldn’t have to cancel it.
But it pains me to think how many huge sign-up offers she chose to forego over the years. Just wasn’t interested. Well, the other day, I got a phone call from her. She was super excited about a credit card offer she got in the mail and wanted to know what I think about it. It was, drum roll, Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex card. And it wasn’t the 70k miles bonus that excited her. Nope. It was the promise of free checked bags on Delta flights.
Detroit area is Delta’s kingdom
She is getting married soon and will be moving to Michigan. While several airline carriers serve Detroit airport, nothing comes remotely close to Delta. There are several nonstop flights per day to Orlando, Tampa and even Fort Myers. Since she hates connections and plans to fly to see us every two months, this will likely be her airline of choice.
My SIL is also a pack rat, and absolutely has to check luggage whenever we fly somewhere. And she really hates paying for it. So naturally, I said that this particular credit card is a good choice for her. Even if she swallows $95 fee each year, it will pay for itself after only a few trips to Florida. And of course, initially getting 70k miles doesn’t hurt either.
The new 15% discount on Delta award tickets is a pretty neat benefit, and could save one a substantial amount of miles. I’m actually going to try to convert one of my Amex cards to Delta Gold product because I plan to redeem around 100k SkyMiles in May. Saving 15k miles and getting a free checked bag for my MIL justifies a one-time $95 annual fee IMO. So, if you have a sizable stash of Delta SkyPesos, it’s an option worth investigating. Of course, I’m assuming that like me, you can’t get approved for Amex Delta product for whatever reason.
Unfortunately, I think this perk will also be a huge incentive for my SIL to put all of her everyday spending on that card. I mean, who doesn’t want to get 15% off on “free” Delta flights? It’s pretty clever marketing, no doubt.
So, is it a good idea? Nope. At least not for those who are not chasing Delta status. I personally would never collect Delta miles unless I could get at least 3X per dollar on everything. And even then it would be after I met the minimum spending requirements on new sign-up bonuses. Among all hobby currencies, I’m personally biased towards Ultimate Rewards with all things being equal. YMMV
But most normal people just don’t want to do deep analysis on maximizing points. They are too busy…living their lives. My sister-in-law is an accountant, so it’s not for lack of basic math skills.
Maybe I am the crazy one?
If it looks like I’m making fun of my SIL, that’s not the case at all. If she chooses to collect Delta miles on everyday spending, that’s her business. Many people use debit cards that earn no rewards, so something is better than nothing. I’m here to provide advice if she wants it, but ultimately, it’s not that important in the grand scheme of things.
The other day we found out that my husband’s relative (51) will be needing a heart surgery. He is in great shape and this news came out of nowhere. Just a weird heart defect that if not corrected would cause him to drop dead within a few years. It was discovered totally by accident, so he is very fortunate.
Anyway, about five years ago he got into miles and points hobby and became a bit obsessed. In fact, his wife, who happens to be my friend, started to get annoyed with the whole thing.
He used to ask me for points advice all the time, but then stopped. He is pretty smart, so I figured he got it all figured out. Turns out, he sort of lost interest in juggling credit cards. He got a few “keepers” like IHG and Hyatt cards, etc.
He has invested heavily in Chase Ultimate Rewards ecosystem and renews Sapphire Reserve each year. He also really likes Southwest and Companion Pass in particular. Since he owns a side business, his organic spending gives him enough points to earn Southwest Companion Pass each year without cycling cards.
He also tries to maximize Chase Freedom 5X categories etc. Him and his wife like to do short weekend trips and go somewhere at least once a month, all on points. Southwest network is robust enough that they are not hurting for choices. Caribbean, Central America, Hawaii, you name it. A few years ago, he also used Southwest points for a positioning flight to Iceland on now defunct WOW Air.
But it was funny to hear him almost apologize to me saying that he was a bad student. Dude, you are doing it right! Instead of obsessing over earning more miles than he can possibly spend, he is using what he got. And it’s enough, believe it or not.
Rather than constantly reading blogs and learning about new devaluations, chasing after new credit card offers or manufactured spending, he is actually traveling and enjoying points with his family.
Of course, everyone has different circumstances. Personally, I would not be able to accumulate what my family needs via just our normal spending. But my point is, this hobby is not “one size fits all.”
Nancy had a good post recently on a similar topic. There is no “best” credit card, because everyone has different needs. You can give generic advice (collect flexible points and so on), but for some people a free checked bag on Delta flights trumps all. And that’s ok.
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.