Don’t Fall Into This Trap Of The Miles/Points Game

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money

There has been a lot of talk lately about blogs which sell credit cards and the morality of that. We live in an economy driven by consumerism and it can be difficult to not only wade through marketing messages, but to resist to urge to buy buy BUY!

It is true that swiping a credit card feels mentally different than pulling out cash and paying. It takes discipline to both build a good credit history and to ensure you don’t overspend.

A Story That Is Constantly Repeated

I talk to a lot of people who are new to the points & miles hobby and they often get lost in the marketing messages. I’m not sure if I was lost in them as a newbie, but I certainly was influenced by them far more than I am today.

Getting that first big sign up bonus can be intoxicating. The feeling intensifies when you use that bonus to earn a trip. A free trip. Or a seemingly free one.

Then you read about 10 other credit card bonuses that sound great and you are suddenly doing an “app-o-rama” where you apply for 7 or 8 credit cards in one day.

Of course some of the banks don’t approve you immediately for the cards so you call up their reconsideration lines and sweet talk the banks. You are getting good at this whole thing. You are turning into an “expert”.

That feeling only lasts for a little while, because you have suddenly realized that you need to spend $30,000 in the next 3 months in order to get those “free” sign up bonuses.

Luckily there is a whole world of manufactured spend out there. You get a Bluebird or Serve card and jump on board every new way to buy gift cards that emerges. You are once again an “expert”.

Suddenly you feel this overwhelming hunger to earn more & more points. Who cares if you can fly around the world twelve times with the miles you have, there are NEVER ENOUGH.

Thankfully the marketing machine is out once again promoting buy miles promotions. Oh what a great deal it is to buy miles at 1.7 cents each. You can get a business class ticket for $1,000 instead of $5,000. #Winning

Now you have invested thousands of dollars into your hobby of traveling for free. You brag to all of your friends about how many miles you have and where they can take you, but neglect to mention the money you have now spent.

Eventually you look at the credit card bills and realize that these “strategies” have cost you. You have spent thousands of dollars to buy miles/points and to manufacture spend to get those credit card bonuses. If you haven’t been careful, then your credit score may have dropped along the way.

Self Responsiblity and Knowing Your Limits

This post is not about condemning credit card affiliates. In fact, I believe they serve a purpose. They are more regulated in their sales methods then just about every other industry. The truth is we need to understand ourselves and learn when we are watching a commercial.

This hobby is complicated. It isn’t for everyone. It takes time to study and discipline to win. There is a reason that the banks have huge sign up bonuses. Most people don’t have the discipline. They fall into the trap.

The story above is not my own. I do take a great deal of time study and learn and have excercised a phenomenal amount of discipline. I offset my costs by using cash back credit cards to pay myself back. My travel isn’t quite free, but it is 95% free. With a little more effort I could probably get to free, but I am not sure if it is worth it.

If you are new, learn how your credit score is calculated. That is so important. Credit isn’t just about paying your bills on time. There is so much more that goes into the calculation and making a mistake can cost you when applying for a mortgage or car loan.

I wrote a guide to the basics awhile ago. My advice back then still applies today. SLOW DOWN and take time to learn what you are doing. If you aren’t ready to apply or it isn’t the right time, then let that bonus go away. It probably will come back.

It is also very important to have goals in mind for what you want to accomplish. I receive emails almost everyday from people with random miles in dozens of programs that are useless. Those points may have been free, but if they aren’t of any use then what is the point?

I keep a whole category of posts on this site for beginners. In these posts I break down loyalty programs, explain my actual redemptions and share information that I feel is important for someone who is new.

Conclusion

Miles to Memories is about helping others acheive their travel dreams. I don’t currently have credit card affiliate links, however I am not against them. If I do ever have links then I promise to maintain editorial control. I have been in sales for a long time and have no problem turning down income in order to maintain my moral boundaries.

To conlcude this long post, this is a fun & rewarding hobby. I love it. It always keeps me on my feet and I put a lot of time and effort into keeping up with everything. I also love to travel, having done so with and without miles & points for a decade.

With so many blogs and so much information out there it is important to be careful. Know your limits and don’t get caught up in the marketing messages. Those message are useful to teach you about strategies or new offers, but every offer & every program isn’t for you even if it feels like it. Happy Sunday!


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18 COMMENTS

  1. I totally agree with you on this one. It is awesome to get the bonus but never forget you have to reach a target and pay the bank back unless you want to pay a silly % of interest.

    I personally pay them offer monthly and use a charge card only.

  2. My problem is not with the referral links. Its the fact that it seems that bloggers only post their referral links these days. So few bloggers try to come up with interesting and unique content. They just constantly push their referral links. You can log into BoardingArea on a day when a new credit card deal comes out or a deal is about to expire and literally 95% of the blog posts on BoardingArea are about the same thing. There are actually some blogs on BoardingArea that post more then 50% of their content about referral links. I don’t have an issue giving a blogger my referral click, but they have to offer me some interesting or useful content first.

  3. Nice summary.

    It seems that this hobby snowballs, which is great, up to a point. (A point, get it???) Then we need to be sure that the tail is not wagging the dog.

    It seems that a good percentage of former “newbies” have transitioned to the next phase. In the meantime, the bloggers, too, have transitioned, with less groundbreaking information for any level of reader expertise, and much more commercialism. Where to from here?

    MS is expensive unless you are either topping up a balance, getting a spend bonus, or earning cash back. It’s not worth it to me, but the allure is there, nonetheless….

    “The lure of easy money has a very strong appeal” Glen Frey– “Smugglers Blues”

  4. I have just stumbled across your blog and subscribed. This is only the 2nd post I have read (and I know it’s a couple of months old) but I wanted to take a minute to let you know how much I have enjoyed what I have read so far and the layout of your blog. I have been playing this game for 3-4 years and still consider myself a novice.

    It is very true what you have said – it’s important to know what your end goal is and not just to jump into every new deal. I always remember that this is a game – sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Thankfully, we win way, way, way more than we lose 🙂

    I have my annual travel budget and am now really trying to include all the annual fees & other related costs into that budget (even though it is NOT a fun budget line!) so that I have a truer sense of what I spending on my travel hobby.

    Thanks again for your blog – I am looking forward to reading it regularly.

  5. Great advice and spot on. I only did one app-o-rama before I figured out that applying for 7 or 8 cards every few months is absolutely unnecessary for me, my lifestyle right now and my travel needs. I enjoy the hobby so much more now since I’ve slowed down and cherry pick the offers. Plus I’m so much more educated and savy on the offers and the process that goes along with it.

  6. I enjoy your blog and appreciate your hard work. This article is right on target and ought to be read by those who are just starting or even before they start with MS. It is best to have goals rather than just doing AoRs left and right just because others are doing it. One thing I noticed, while others may bring you (in general, not just you) down for your MS strategies, as long as you know what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what others say. Many times, I find out they’re just trying to dissuade people from this hobby so they can benefit from it more. All boils down to greed for some, not really to protect MS as they like others to believe.

    Best strategy for others may not be for you, it takes a lot of reading and trying it out to find out what works for us. We read info from different sources and it is all up to us what to do with such info. Best gig/strategy is relative, it all depends on the person and what they do to make it work for them.

    Keep it Shawn!

  7. Great points – and important to consider. We got into this game a few years back. We like playing it and have saved a ton of money in travel. That said, we are approaching a tiny burnout – we haven’t been keeping as close a track of opportunities and I have even let go of some points because its been too much hassle to call and argue for them.

    One time, we applied for 6-7 credit cards (some doubles for my husband and myself). Unfortunately it was a busy time at home and it wasn’t until a couple of months later that we realised we didn’t receive one of the credit cards we applied for. I can’t even remember if we were approved for it – it wasn’t a major point bonus so I just let it go.

    The other thing I keep reminding myself – it’s a game. Sometimes (most of the time) I win, and sometimes the deal doesn’t work out as planned and I lose. Not long ago we signed up for IHG and as recommended, tried a slew of discount codes. We went, we stayed, and shortly afterwards, I found they cancelled my husband’s IHG account for suspicious activity and we lost all the points from the 2 stays that weekend. Oh well. I’ve created new IHG accounts for us now and we didn’t do the discount code thing for our last few stays.

  8. I almost fooled myself lately . Be aware of something similar . I was circulating money to meet card spend with the money ending in my bank account . For a little while my bank balance looked really good ,. Then it hit me that I still needed to pay the credit card bills that were caused by pursuing minimum spend requirements . After subtracting those amounts my account was much smaller . So don’t get ahead of your actual bank balance after accounting for payments due . I check my accounts online almost every day now ( it’s easy ) Every day or two I write a brief summary of where the money is and where it needs to go on an index card . That seems to help me organize my thoughts .
    Keep Smiling

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