“Mom, Are We Rich?” … and Other Unintended Consequences of Miles and Points

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“Mom, Are We Rich?” … and Other Unintended Consequences of Miles and Points

Jasmin“Mom, Are We Rich?” … and Other Unintended Consequences of Miles and PointsMillion Mile Secrets Team

We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

Jasmin:   My 11-year-old daughter got off the school bus with a scowl on her face.  Cautiously, I inquired about how her day went.  She responded:

Mom, are we rich?

Huh?  I’m used to all manner of random questions, but this was new.

“No, honey, not at all,” I said, laughing and pointing to our rusty, trusty, over-a-decade-old minivan in the driveway.  “What makes you think that?”

She sighed.  “One of the girls at school said we must be very rich because we’re always going on fun trips.  I don’t think she meant it nicely.

Mom Are We Rich And Other Unintended Consequences Of Miles And Points
The Kids Are Normally All Smiles When They Talk About Travel. But a Comment From a Classmate Bothered My Daughter

I tried to keep my response lighthearted, explaining that a lot of folks don’t know about miles and points and how you can use them to travel for free.  But when my oldest chimed in with a similar complaint, I knew it was time for a talk.

Travel Is Only for the Wealthy (and Other Myths)

Link:   Why Travel Is the Best Gift You Can Give Your Kids

My 7th-grader overheard the conversation and, upset, shared something that had happened after we got back from Asia.  A classmate had made snide remarks about my daughter to another friend, accusing her of “showing off” about her trip and joking, too, about how we must be rich.  (Yeah, middle school sucks.)

It’s not fair, Mom!  I was just telling them about some of the stuff we did.  I didn’t mean it to sound like I was bragging about having lots of money.”  Being the oldest, she’s more familiar with our family finances, so the suggestion we must be secretly wealthy really rubbed her the wrong way.

Mom Are We Rich And Other Unintended Consequences Of Miles And Points
To Some, This Might Look Like “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.” But We’re Neither of Those Things

We talked for a while about how perception is reality.  And how, if someone’s not a travel enthusiast, they might jump to wrong conclusions about how we get to go away so much.  Don’t worry about what people think.  Just tell them Mommy does miles and points and that we travel for cheap because of it.  That seemed to satisfy them.

But then I got to thinking.  What does the miles and points hobby look like to someone on the outside looking in?  If little kids made snap judgments about how and why we travel, were grown-ups taking a dim view of our lifestyle as well?

There Must Be Something Shady Happening Here

Like many parents, my Facebook page is filled with photos of happy and proud moments with my kids.  There are a lot of vacation snapshots, including international Business Class trips and stays in 5-star hotels.

I guess it could look weird – I mean, most families don’t travel near as often as we do.  And a single mom of 3 kids jetting away several times a year doesn’t quite compute.  But I’d never thought too much about it.

Those close to me know all about my obsession with award travel (and some have jumped in to the hobby themselves).  When family and friends ask how we get to travel so much, I’ll typically go full nerd and gush about the strategies involved, like signing-up for rewards credit cards and making the most of everyday spending to collect miles and points.

Often, I’ll get concerned questions or a raised eyebrow implying they think something sketchier is going on:

Mom Are We Rich And Other Unintended Consequences Of Miles And Points
The Horrified Look I Normally Get When Friends and Family Find Out How Many Credit Cards I Have

Unlike the kids, I couldn’t care less if people think we’re rich.  But then I recalled a conversation about our travel that got me feeling defensive, too.

There’s No Way You’re Doing This on Your Own

At a family party in the Philippines earlier this year, I was chatting with my cousin about how our trip was going so far.  You know, how was Abu Dhabi, where’d you stay, what were the flights like, what’s next on the itinerary, that sort of thing.

I mentioned we were excited about flying Business Class home on Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific, with stops in Tokyo and Vancouver.  And how we were doing it for nearly free thanks to miles and points.

Another relative overheard the exchange.  “Oh!  I thought your mom paid for your trip.

She didn’t mean any harm, but boy did that ever grind my gears.  My inside voice was angry.  “What, you think because I’m a single parent on one income that I can’t afford to travel?  I can do this by myself, thank you very much!

Mom Are We Rich And Other Unintended Consequences Of Miles And Points
This Hobby Has Allowed the Kids and Me to Travel With My Mom. She’s Now a Miles and Points Convert!

Clearly, the comment touched a nerve.  🙂

I’m not a psychologist, but I found it interesting that the kids were offended at the accusation of being rich.  And meanwhile, I got cranky when someone suggested the opposite.  In either case, maybe it felt like a subtle dig – like you’re getting to do something you don’t deserve.

The idea rolled around in my head for a while.  Then I recalled a quote I’d seen, which I shared with the kids:

What others think about you is none of your business.

And really, it’s true.  Who cares what people think about our travels?  It doesn’t matter.  What’s important is that we’re making memories, diving into new experiences, and learning about the world – at a fraction of the normal cost.

I also reminded the kids that these are #firstworldproblems.  We are lucky.  But I’ll share more about that in future posts.

Bottom Line

My kids got upset when classmates made assumptions about them because of how much we travel.  It took me aback.  But I realized I had my own pain points around this, too.

It must seem a bit strange to folks outside of the miles and points hobby.  What’s the catch, the secret, that “something you’re not telling us?”

For me, I’ll just continue to give my miles and points “elevator pitch” to friends and family who ask.  I’ll send them to the Beginner’s Guide and suggest the best cards to get started with.  And let them know that if this frazzled, overloaded, scatterbrained mom can pull off free travel for her family, they most certainly can do it too.

While writing this post, I remembered feeling like I’d won the lottery after discovering the opportunities miles and points could bring to my family.  Many of you have related similar sentiments in the success stories you’ve shared with us.

So, I’m going to reframe my answer to my daughter:   Yes, kiddo, maybe we are “rich.”  Just not in the way your friends think! 😉

What about you guys?  Have people made assumptions about you because you travel with miles and points?  I’d love it if you shared your experiences in the comments.

Come back each Wednesday for a new installment in our Family Travel series!

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I think it’s also a matter of priorities we have chosen. I just don’t spend as much on “things” as most people do. My car and my home are surely well below average in value for someone of my middle class income.

And it’s also true that if you use miles and points you can go to Europe or Asia as (or more) cheaply as a typical person going to Disney World or Vegas.

I travel a lot, and when people ask, I always say it’s mostly with miles and points. They sort of shake their head in awe, but nobody really wants to take the effort to learn how. I’ll give advice for a particular situation, but haven’t really attracted anyone else to the hobby.

Hi, The only question that continually goes through my mind is this: How do you get enough points to travel for free or nearly free? I’m going to Scotland in the fall and just to upgrade our seats would eat up nearly all of the 450,000 points we’ve saved. Those took us years to accumulate. I’m always baffled by the number of points people seem to acquire. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Yeah. These stories are always vague on specifics and just show a lot of bling. They remind me of those early morning infomercials that show how you can get rich selling houses etc, but don’t give much details…and the people in it are driving fancy sports cars and sipping champagne on the beach. This woman has 3 kids and traveled to Asia. Just that part of the trip would cost approx 560,000 AA miles to fly with Cathay and Japan. That takes years to accumulate, plus, it’s even more difficult to do now that Citibank limits you to 1 AA card every 2 years which they didn’t have that restriction in the past. Credit card companies are much more restrictive now (Chase has the 5/24 policy). I think unless you are yourself a big spender and can rack up a lot of points just by everyday spending, trips like this woman took are more and more difficult to accomplish now for most people and will take years to accomplish.

Author

Hi Joanne and M – I did save up miles for this trip for a couple of years – we usually fly coach 🙂

You can check out this post to see how I earned the miles:

https://millionmilesecrets.com/2018/02/07/persistence-pays-off-business-class-award-flights-for-a-family-of-4-worth-over-18000-from-asia-to-the-us/

Thanks for commenting!

Ha – this is a great article because my kids ask this all the time. I have had to tell my kids that it is fine to mention where we went, but please don’t talk about the 5 star hotels we stayed in for free or the fact that most of our costs were covered as well.

With friends I am open and honest because I think they were starting to wonder how two civil servants traveled so often and so nicely with three kids!
We still have friends who simply don’t get it and their loss.
But I am quick to remind the kids they are lucky Daddy finally figured this out but it doesn’t mean we are rich!

great article!

Author

Hi Scott, thanks. It is kind of like putting a puzzle together – I like the way you framed it to your kids.

Here is how I handled this same situation with my 10 year old. Yes honey, we are rich. I am so sorry. I am not proud of it. I had wanted to be poor, but ivy league education just came too easy to me and I couldn’t help myself and answered lots of test questions right. I knew I made a mistake when job offers from wall street started to pour in asking me to solve equations others couldn’t. And then I couldn’t help myself because it was really fun to work 120 hours a week for 2 decades.

Author

Hi Rob – Well that’s one way of handling it! 😉

People are all different when I talk about how I pay for trips. Sometimes they believe its legit, sometimes they are suspicious. Others think I’m hurting myself financially in the long run. I don’t believe that but most people dont have the motivation to dig into the details to figure out the truth about points/credit cards/credit, etc.

Which is fine. Everyone has limited time so they can’t do everything. Plus I’ve found some people dont like to travel a lot and the travel bug only bites them once in a while.

The method of getting others to take advantage of these deals that works best to me is this: wait until they have some trip they want to do, then quickly tell them how to do it with points and stress how little time and money it will take them. Worked on my sister. She was sick of not being able to afford to go away, now she can!

Author

Hi Jon – I like your strategy – and that’s great you’ve gotten your sister onboard.

This hobby isn’t everyone’s thing, and that’s ok!

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