The Well of Free Travel Is Far From Dry – Don’t Be Stingy With Your Points!

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Joseph:   Miles & points are supposed to make life more enjoyable!  So WHY do I continue to book inconvenient low-priced airfare to save my points??

I’m stingier with points than I am with actual cash.  I’ll do anything to save them.  And I’m learning that’s not the way to be.

It’s true that miles & points are a type of currency.  They have a variable cash equivalent.  But they are NOT cash, and they shouldn’t be treated like they are.  They are there to be depleted.

The Well Of Free Travel Is Far From Dry Dont Be Stingy With Your Points
I Purchase Seats on Rinky-Dink Airplanes Operated by Third-Rate Airlines Just to Save a Few Miles

It’s important to be smart with your points, and learn the smartest ways to use them.  But there are so many different opportunities to earn miles & points, like credit card sign-up bonuses, airline and hotel promotions, and spending category bonuses.  And the smartest way doesn’t necessarily mean the best value!

Use This Hobby to Reduce Your Stress, NOT Increase It!

Miles & points serve a bigger purpose than just traveling for cheap.

Lots of times, you can travel inexpensively without them.  But the hoops you may need to jump through aren’t always worth the effort.

I visited Saint Lucia with some friends last year, and we managed to get there with little money.  We purchased a few rock-bottom, one-way fares to reach Saint Lucia instead of using points.  Because I couldn’t find any saver level award seats.

For the dates we were traveling, the saver level award prices should have been 12,500 American Airlines miles one-way.  But the cheapest I could find (of any type of miles) was 27,500 American Airlines miles.  I’m not the kind of fella to WASTE 15,000 miles per ticket, so we paid cash instead.  I booked:

  • Cincinnati to Fort Lauderdale – ~$80
  • Fort Lauderdale to Trinidad – ~$95
  • Trinidad to Saint Lucia – ~$150

The hassle saved me ~$115 each way.  But the journey home was even more inconvenient, and included spending a night on the cold airport floor in Trinidad.

The Well Of Free Travel Is Far From Dry Dont Be Stingy With Your Points
Seats in the Trinidad Airport are a Precious Commodity. Everyone Else Can Sleep on the Pretty Floor

Recently, I was talking to another friend and he mentioned he’d like to take his young family of 6 to that gorgeous island within the year.  He asked if I had any tips for him.

About 15 seconds into my spiel for how I got Big Travel with Small Money WITHOUT points, I realized how laughable it would be for his large family to retrace my steps.  Gambling with unmarried tickets, gathering and re-checking bags at every connection, dragging 4 energetic kids from airline to airline…it’s just not a good idea.

The more I rehashed my trip, the more I remembered how burdensome the whole commute was.  And just to save a handful of miles.

My answer to him was to do as I say, not as I do: spend miles.  If he and his wife both signed-up for a couple credit cards, their family could reach the Caribbean for nearly free, and with much less difficulty.

The Well Of Free Travel Is Far From Dry Dont Be Stingy With Your Points
One of the Best Deals in My Opinion Is Off-Peak American Airlines Award to the Caribbean. My Friends and I Flew to Barbados a Couple Years Ago for Just 12,500 American Airlines Miles Each Way

I still get sucked into using miles & points for the best value, and keep them holstered for anything less.  I find myself clinging to my stash as if they’re the last I’ll ever have.

But the truth of the matter is there’s nearly an infinite amount of travel rewards to earn.  Even though banks seem to continually create more credit card application rules, they also introduce new cards with new sign-up bonuses all the time!  I’m constantly earning more, and need to learn to spend them as quickly as I generate them.

Though I do still think there is merit to learning how to travel for cheap without miles & points. 😉

Bottom Line

In a way, points are money.  But time is money; convenience is money; a good night’s sleep is money.  Sometimes it’s better to put the calculator down and simply use your rewards for things that will give you the biggest smile.

Even if that means getting a “poor” value from them.

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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