I always say miles & points are NOT investments. Instead of saving them, plan for a travel goal and use your miles for Big Travel!
But team member Harlan likes to keep enough rewards for at least 1 award flight and a couple of free hotel nights. I asked him to tell you why.
Harlan: The more you travel, the more you open yourself to the unexpected. But sometimes, you can see it coming – a bad travel experience.
I once arrived at a resort hotel to find malnourished horses and unkept grounds. And, while sitting in the lobby, I booked 2 nights at a better hotel down the street.
Another time, I took an earlier flight to avoid incoming weather and treated myself to a free night at an airport hotel.
In both cases, I didn’t pay any extra cash because I had enough miles & points to cover the expenses. Now, saving a few points for a rainy day is something I recommend to everyone!
Miles & Points Can Prevent Travel Delays & Disappointments
We’ve written about how having a stash of miles & points can help during tough time, like unexpectedly losing a loved one, or just any time you need to drop everything and go.
I agree with that thinking, and go a step further to say miles & points are valuable to avoid a bad travel experience.
I’ll share 2 times having enough points prevented my travels from souring when I saw it coming!
1. Avoid Hotel Complications
A few years ago, I booked an independent resort in Fiji for a couple of nights. But when I got there, the grounds were a mess. There were downed trees, debris on the walking paths, and the tennis courts were covered in standing water. It was clear the place wasn’t well maintained.
The place also advertised free horseback rides. And at the end of a short trail, I found a couple of horses tied to a tree, who looked so sad and skinny that it broke my heart to see them.
Those weren’t the only things, though. The hotel told me they’d already sold my room to someone else. But they would prepare an inferior room for me if I was willing to wait a few hours for housekeeping to clean it…even though I arrived after standard check-in hours.
I agreed. But as I sat in the lobby, I started searching for other hotels in the area on my phone.
I’d just earned a supply of Club Carlson points. And saw the Radisson Blu Resort Fiji Denarau Island had free award nights open. In that moment, I decided to book it. Then I called a cab to get us out of there!
Sometimes the hotel you book isn’t what you expected, even if you carefully comb reviews, compare prices, or go on a personal recommendation. Most of us book hotels sight-unseen based on the reviews of others. And in this case, I wasn’t prepared for how bad the reality would be.
Sure, I probably would’ve been fine at the place I booked. But having enough points for a couple free hotel nights made it so I wouldn’t have to find out. And gave me the flexibility to switch at the last minute!
Now, I always make sure I have enough points for at least 1 award night in each of my hotel loyalty accounts. I want the freedom to get out of an uncomfortable situation. Especially when my time in a new place is already very limited – I want to enjoy it as much as possible! Not deal with poor customer service in a place I don’t like anyway.
2. Avoid Travel Delays
Another time, I was set to travel to Europe on an award flight I’d booked months in advance from Dallas to Brussels via New York. The day before my flight, airlines started handing out travel waivers in advance of bad weather set to cause airport disruptions. But there was no way I was gonna miss this flight!
I wasn’t worried about the flight from New York to Brussels, but rather the Dallas to New York segment. In this case, I got out of Dallas a day early before the bad weather rolled in. And got myself a room at the Sheraton JFK Airport Hotel to beat the rounds of cancellations and delays. My flight to Europe left on time, and so did I!
If you see inbound inclement weather, like a winter storm, hurricane, or tornado threat, get out as soon as you can! You can use miles or points to book an award flight. And then use hotel points for a free room on the other side!
How Many Miles & Points Should You Stash?
It depends on where you usually travel. But my general guidelines are to keep enough for 1 low-level round-trip domestic award flight with your preferred airline (usually 25,000 miles). And enough for 1 free night at a mid-tier hotel room with your favorite chain.
I’ve heard of people collecting hundreds of thousands of miles or points in their accounts. And that’s just too much. Use them! Because they can and will lose value over time.
If you have a nice stash of flexible bank points, that’s even better! Because you have your pick of several airlines and hotel chains.
Team member Harlan recommends keeping enough miles or points in your loyalty accounts to cover a round-trip domestic award flight, or a free night or 2 at your favorite hotel chain. Because you can catch and avoid a negative travel experience before it happens!
Harlan left a disorganized hotel in Fiji and got out of bad weather to catch a connecting flight to Europe using his backup supply of miles & points. While I always say miles & points are NOT investments, there is value in preparing for an emergency, especially with flexible bank points (like Chase Ultimate Rewards points)!
Have you ever used miles or points to prevent a bad travel experience?