Why I lie to my friends and family about miles and points

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You know those emails with all-caps subject lines like “I MAKE $17,800 PER WEEK FROM HOME — AND YOU CAN TOO!” — or — “CONGRATULATIONS! THE PRINCE OF NIGERIA HAS CHOSEN YOU FOR A MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY!”

Nobody reads those. Nobody opens them. When you’re presented an impossibly high dollar amount for seemingly no effort, deafening alarm bells chime between the ears.

As a miles and points addict, the stories I regale about previous trips are met with equal skepticism. One of my first award flights was to the Philippines for 40,000 United Airlines miles. When I first told a friend that I flew to Asia for $5.60 each way, they were the opposite of impressed — they actually asked if my methods were legal. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Earning and burning miles and points with the best travel credit cards are as close as you can get to a free lunch, though. So for the good of my loved ones, to help them achieve their travel goals, I lie — in the opposite direction. I underrate the value of miles and points to something more believable, so they’ll actually open the cards.

If you’re new to the hobby, I’ll show you what I mean.

Miles and points can mean $10,000+ first class tickets for free. Wait, come back!! (Photo by Maxene Huiyu/Shutterstock)

Miles and points sweet spots are so good that they sound like a spam email

Somewhere out there, a scientist has successfully developed a brain-enhancement pill, but nobody will ever give it a shot because of all the spam emails that have preceded it.

Such is the life of a miles and points hobbyist. We can’t help but proselytize to everyone we encounter about how they can get tens of thousands of dollars in free travel just by earning the welcome bonuses from the best travel credit cards. In my experience, this information is received with overwhelming skepticism. The payoff to effort ratio is so astronomical that I’ve learned to downplay everything, because it really can sound like a scam.

Example: The Ink Business Cash® Credit Card comes with $750 (75,000 Chase points) after spending $7,500 in the first three months of account opening.

What I tell people the 75,000-point bonus is worth:

  1. “If you open this card, it’s basically the same as Chase cutting you a $750 check!”
  2. “Open this card and you’ll get a guaranteed two months of free groceries with this bonus. I’ll show you how to use Chase Pay Yourself Back to do it.”
  3. “Remember that family trip you were hoping to take to grandma’s? Open this card and you can book three round-trip flights to her house for free.”

What the 75,000-point bonus is actually worth:

  1. $2,500+ by transferring points to Hyatt and using them toward a three-night stay at hotels like Park Hyatt Sydney, Alila Ventana Big Sur, Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, etc. (learn how here)
  2. $2,800 by transferring points to United Airlines and using them toward a one-way lie-flat business class ticket to Europe on United Airlines (learn how here)
  3. $11,000+ by transferring points to Virgin Atlantic towards a round-trip first-class flight to Japan on ANA (learn how here)

Note: You must also have either a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card to transfer Chase points to travel partners.

I wouldn’t dream of telling a friend or family member that they’ll get $11,000 in travel by opening the no annual fee Ink Business Cash. It would undermine all credibility and earn me the label of snake oil salesman.

Don’t get me wrong — people who aren’t entrenched in the free travel hobby usually gravitate towards more “practical” things, like free groceries or cash. But they mentally check-out of the conversation when I try to tell them that one single credit card bonus can give them thousands of dollars in free travel, if they want it.

So when they ask me the payoff for opening a card, I lie.

Bottom line

The miles and points world is so dang lucrative because not a lot of people know how to play the game. Most people don’t even bother to open airline loyalty accounts! And in a world brimming with spam and scam, it’s easy to understand why the prospect of receiving thousands of free dollars to travel the world is a little farfetched.

To all you millions of rigid skeptics, thank you. Your reluctance to dive into this hobby drives airlines and hotels to keep publishing remarkable piece-of-cake deals that the rest of us will enjoy for eternity!

If you are interested in learning about free travel, subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll hold your hand through the entire process. You’ll be a miles and points pro in no time — trust me, it’s worth the effort.

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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