“Use Your Points Sooner Rather Than Later – They’ll Never Be Worth More Than They Are Today”

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Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!

Miles & Points Interview:  The Real Deal

Tim writes The Real Deal to help consumers make sense of travel rewards programs and get value from them.  He is also the Editor-at-Large of SmarterTravel.com.  You can find him on Twitter, too!

The Real Deal

Tim at His Home Airport in Los Angeles

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

I’ve spent my 40-year work life managing travel and writing about it.  It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.

For the first 20 years of my professional life, I was miles-deprived.  As a marketing manager for Singapore Airlines and All Nippon Airways, all my air travel was either free or at a reduced rate.  So my extensive personal and business travel went unrewarded.  Not that it wasn’t rewarding in other ways, of course.

Why did you start your blog?  What’s special about it?

In 1997, after developing and managing loyalty programs for 15 years, I founded the website FrequentFlier.com to help consumers make sense of the increasingly complicated travel rewards programs and get value from them.  That site was acquired in 2012 by Internet Brands, owner of FlyerTalk and other travel properties.  Over the years, my writing has appeared in many publications, including USA Today, Budget Travel, and OAG Frequent Flyer.

In 2005, Randy Petersen and I co-wrote “Mileage Pro – The Insider’s Guide to Frequent Flyer Programs,” outdated now but at the time the definitive book on the subject.

The Real Deal

‘Mileage Pro – The Insider’s Guide to Frequent Flyer Programs’ co-authored in 2005 with Randy Petersen

What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?

My travel writing has always been aimed primarily at the average traveler, who has better things to do with his or her time than obsess over miles & points strategies and tactics.  For them – and they’re the majority of travelers – the key to maximizing earnings is focus.

Did you remember to register for the current promotion before making your latest hotel stay?  Did you allow your miles to expire through inactivity?  Did you make that big purchase with the credit card offering 5 points per $1, or the card offering just 1 point per $1?  Did you do your online Christmas shopping through an airline or hotel mileage mall?

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

It was my honeymoon flight to Tokyo.  I was working in Public Relations for Singapore Airlines, and had to escort a group of Asian journalists on a tour of the Boeing facilities in Seattle, followed by a delivery flight of a brand-new Boeing 747 to Singapore, via Tokyo.

The Real Deal

On a Boeing 747 Delivery Flight, From Boeing Field to Singapore Via Tokyo

The company allowed me to take my wife, and we enjoyed the most comfortable flight ever on the almost-empty plane.  The airport experience was memorable as well.  Boeing neglected to inform the Narita Airport authorities there would be passengers disembarking in Tokyo; they were not amused.

What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?

It was my family and friends’ interest in mileage programs that spurred me to begin writing about them, as I had an insider’s perspective.  For the most part, they have appreciated the expert advice.  Or so they tell me.

What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?

Perhaps the most important observation regarding travel-rewards programs is cautionary in nature: these programs have been continuously devalued since their inception, and the trend isn’t likely to reverse itself.  That has important implications for redeeming points: cash-in your points sooner rather than later, as they’ll never be worth more than they are today.

And it raises the more fundamental issue: is it worth engaging in these programs at all?  For many, the answer is “No.”

The Real Deal

Tim Has Been Working ~40 Years Developing and Maximizing Loyalty Programs

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

Readers might be surprised to discover I’m not a travel hacker.

I don’t sign-up for the same credit cards multiple times.  I don’t engage in creative ways to spend money to earn no cost – or low-cost – miles.  I don’t pursue mistake fares.

My approach, and the approach I recommend for my readers, is to make travel rewards a part of my travel planning, but not the primary focus.  Or even the secondary or tertiary focus.

Any parting words?

Comfort, convenience, and value come first.  Yes, there are more important things than miles and points.

Tim – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!

If you’d like to be considered for our interview series, please send me a note!

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7 responses to ““Use Your Points Sooner Rather Than Later – They’ll Never Be Worth More Than They Are Today”

  1. I really liked this interview. Most people can’t take off for 3 weeks on a 9 stop trip across Europe evan if it doesn’t cost much. And I don’t think most people are constantly thinking about how to “game” the system for a extra 2 miles. But when you have 20,000 miles and 3 nights hotel most people can take 3 days in miami. Saving up points for that big trip you might take one day means missing that great getaway you know you can take today!

  2. Best interview – love his reality based approach. Will start to follow him – thanks for the introduction!

  3. Really liked this interview, very practical no nonsense. Isn’t out searching for a deal and than trying to work it into reality, which sometimes can be stressful instead of fun. Reminded me of a couponer who buys something because they are saving money than the item sits on the shelf for later use and never gets used. He gave very solid good advice!

  4. I’m glad I kept my UR points because CSR gave 1.50x on portal travel and the same goes for my MR points because my points are now worth 2 cents on airline when redeemed w/ bus plat, plus I also get reward miles when redeeming.

    So not always true to use them sooner than later.

    There are exceptions to every rule.

  5. Interesting interview though he might have been too far on the other end of not travel hacking at all. I feel there is a balance in the middle where you don’t obsess over it, but you definitely integrate the opportunities into your life.

  6. Lol nonsense. Points can go up in value over time. Example Amex MR points now that redemption on platinum biz get 50% back. Also don’t forget points can go up in value after mergers or new travel partners being added kinda like what’s going on with SPG, Virginia and Alaska.

  7. I followed this title as most travel blogs say and booked a 25k redemption from BOS–>DUB and now just saw they offer a 26k redemption from EWR–>DUB -__- (I’m from North NJ). I know this is a rare occurrence but just sucks that’s how it worked out lol