The True Value Of Miles & Points – They Are Worth More Than You Think

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The True Value Of Miles & Points

I have had a few instances in the last few months where miles and points made a big difference.  It got me to thinking, what is the true value of miles & points?  I know there are plenty of charts out there telling you what the value is for each type of point.  This isn’t that.  As you know I almost always use points when traveling so I look at it from a different perspective then most in this space.  The true value of miles and points, to me at least, is freedom (imagine Mel Gibson yelling that as you read this).

What Are You Talking About Willis?

Freedom? Or more like Freeeeeeeeeeeeeedom (with a Scottish accent).  That is what miles and points are worth to me.

The freedom to take a last minute trip, to help out family in need, to make adjustments on the fly. Miles and points give you the freedom to experience things that would otherwise be impossible.  I’ll give you some examples.

Last Minute Bookings

Just last week I was in a situation where I had to make a decision on whether or not I wanted to make a long drive home.  I wasn’t really in the mood, I was exhausted, and driving probably wouldn’t have been the safest choice. I ended up booking a room at a Hyatt Place for 5,000 points and got a good night’s sleep before leaving in the morning.  Most of us think, so what no big deal.

Without World of Hyatt points or Ultimate Rewards points etc. I would have had to shell out $150 for that room.  That $150 price tag is going to change your decision making process and most people can’t just plop down $150 when they feel like it.  Since I was able to use points it was an easy decision but if I had to pay cash I probably would have made the drive and risked my safety.

Helping When In Need

I have had miles and points become a very important part of dealing with two separate tragedies. My Grandmother passed away a little over a month ago while she was on vacation in Florida.  That made a difficult time even more difficult.  I was able to book a flight for my Aunt and myself using miles.  I used British Airways Avios to avoid American Airlines’ last minute booking fees.  Without miles, and the knowledge of how to avoid excess fees, I would have been looking at $500 last minute tickets.  That would have made it impossible to get down there for a day or two to be with my family in a time of need.

A similar situation happened when my wife’s Grandmother passed away a few years back.  The flights for the funeral were $1,000 (very tiny airport) but I was able to book them for 25,000 Skymiles.  It made it possible for her to say goodbye and be there for her family.

Making Experiences Possible

I will end this on a positive note.  This hobby has made experiences possible for me that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.  When my favorite college football team made the College Football Playoffs I was able to go to the game.  That only happened since I didn’t have to pay outrageous prices for flights or hotels.

I locked in the flights early, before they even made the playoff. I booked flights to both possible destinations on Southwest.  Since I knew I could cancel the flights without penalty I wanted to book “just in case” flights and lock in reasonable rates.  The whole experience cost me $200 for the game ticket, taxes and fees.  Others spent thousands of dollars for the same trip.  If I had to pay regular market rates I would not have been able to go on the trip.

Conclusion

We, in this hobby, like to get caught up on redemption rates, valuations, or aspirational  travel.  That is probably because of our social media driven society and wanting to one up others on our feed.

The true value lies beyond the cents per point valuations, miles and points are worth so much more than that. I cherish this hobby because of the freedom that miles and points affords me.  Some of the best redemptions I have had were getting family together or seeing things I would have never been able to if I was paying rack rates.  Getting a great value for my Membership Rewards etc. points never once entered the equation.

Don’t get hung up on getting the most you can, get caught up on doing what you want when you want to.  That is the true value of this hobby, at least it is for me.

Share your thoughts below.

 


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33 COMMENTS

  1. Just recently we were meeting our son and his wife in a central town. I had booked their flights using points through a United alliance. For some odd reason the Alliance had cancelled the flight. My son and his wife were standing at the United counter and the cost for one way tickets were nearly $800. I quickly got on UA, and booked 2 tickets for 20K points and they were on their way. My wife would have been devastated not to see her son. How do you put a value on that? You can’t.

  2. Correct….. it’s not all about seeing how you can take advantage of the card issuing company all the time. At times it is just nice to be able to take care of a problem, or a situation that was unplanned for. The miles/points make that all possible.

  3. No doubt last minute bookings where consumers are between a rock and a hard place can be the most valuable use of points and miles. Hopefully I will never be in that position, but having a stash of miles and points is nice insurance.

    • It is sad how much last minute bookings get taken advantage of. In any other industry they would lower prices to try to get the empty seats sold – not in the hotel and airline industry (at least most of the time).

      • Always try Iberia for short hop. We can go PHX to LAX, SBA, SAN, LAS, etc for 11k Iberiavios. They tack on a slightly higher fee (like $9 RT), but if you’re transferring from MR you’d be paying an extra $9 to save 4000 points.

          • Yeah, it doesn’t make any sense b/c their award chart says those flights shouldn’t be that avios cheap, but they are. Supposed to be 5.5k one way for flights under 300 miles or so I believe. /shrug

  4. I was able to book my daughter and then 3 year old grandson, exhausted from a trans-Atlantic flight, and stuck overnight at DTW, into the Westin just down the corridor. They would have had to take a shuttle to the truly awful motel where Delta would have put them up.

    Brought adult kids home for Christmas multiple times.

    I’m currently on my sixth trip to see my sister, who’s very ill, in 15 months. She lives a 3+ hour flight away.

    I’ve paid for some of the hotel costs. But all the flights were free.

    All because of this hobby. Yes, we fly on vacations in the front of the plane. But sharing the value of points with family is the best use of all, isn’t it?

  5. My son was in Spain when his grandmother passed. He called asking how he could get to the service and we figured it out with miles and points. Maybe this wasn’t an amazing redemption value but my son and I were glad that he could just get on the next plane and be there.

  6. This is a glass half-full story. There are downsides to this hobby too. For one, you need to spend a lot of time to learn the ropes and then follow the deals, apply for cards, manage spending, etc. This time could be spent on other things, for example, grow your career, start a new business, or find better ways to invest your money. It is not clear time spent on this hobby is a better investment than the alternatives.
    Second, as the game is getting more and more popular, it is getting harder and harder to play it. Talk about finding award availability, “Standard Awards” or fuel surcharges. A few years ago manufactured spending was actually easy (Bluebird + Vanilla).
    When friends ask me if they should play the miles game, I suggest they keep it simple and spend their time elsewhere.

    • Very good points. I have always thought of this as a hobby that I spent vs watching tv etc. so for me the calculations didn’t mean a ton. But there are costs involved for sure, depending on your personal situation.

  7. In August I broke my foot near the end of a cruise in the Baltics. Knew I could not see Stockholm for my planned 2 days post cruise. Was able to cancel my 2 hotel nights, on points. Originally had an award economy flight home 2 days later connecting in Heathrow with a terminal change. Was able to change to business class on the nonstop from Stockholm to Newark when the cruise ended and 2 saver seats opened up the day of disembarkation from the cruise. All thanks to miles and points I was able to fly home in comfort with my leg in that cast! Just sorry I missed seeing Stockholm, but miles and points mean I can go another time.

      • Forgot to mention it was my birthday that day. Didn’t get to spend it having dinner in Stockholm but it sure did make the travel easier. And we got a great woman who met our flight in Newark – took us, with me in the wheelchair, all the way from the jet bridge, thru baggage claim, onto the AirTran all the way to Hertz! Guess I’ll always remember that birthday 😉

  8. Speaking of college football, I was able to get over 5 cents/point using Hyatt points to book two rooms for two nights for myself, my wife and my college roommate and his wife at State College, PA for a game. We never would have gone without points. Lost the game but had a great time.

    BTW- was it by chance the Hyatt Place in Lansing you stayed at?

    • No I have stayed there before this was one just outside of Cleveland. Probably my favorite Hyatt Place – surrounded by an outdoor mall.

      • The 5k Hyatt place redemptions are really one of the last sweet spot hotel redemptions available. My parents wanted to come out to Phoenix this coming March, aka Spring Training season. The nearby Hyatt Place is charging $300+ or 5k Hyatt points per night. We have the CSR/Freedom combo & pretty much just use both for bonus spend (so 3 or 5 pts/dollar) transferring to Hyatt points equals a crazy good return per dollar spent on those cards.

        • I think the Cat 2 at 8,000 usually offer really good value too but the 5K Hyatt Places are pretty great. I probably spend half of my Hyatt nights in Hyatt hotels. The 7,500 a night Marriott’s used to be good as well when SPG was earning 3X.

  9. This post melts my soul. It is all about freedom! (screaming it dave ramsey style) I have quite a few of these moments (most of your long time readers probably do). Used lufthansa miles (17,500 x 2) on united for my sister and nephew to fly a last-minute one-way AUS-BNA in first class. Tickets were $1,200 each. I went on a last minute Mediterranean cruise with my mother last year (multiple amex offers for NCL and AA/UA points). I went on a golf trip with my brother-in-law to maui. I booked a one-way trip because nothing was available for the return at the saver level. I didn’t book the return until 3 days into the trip (lie flat on united using singapore). I would have never done that if I didn’t have points in every major US carrier and quite a few foreign carriers. I know that some experts say to earn and burn, but there is some satisfaction with a 2+ million miles/points balance. I don’t care that they are devaluing every day. When I do use them, they are extremely valuable to me. I just recently booked a first class ticket to PHX 1 day before the jimmy buffett concert. Booked the hyatt regency by the arena. Stayed 2 nights and spent a total of $190 (including the $150 concert ticket).
    Not points related, but certainly credit card benefit related:
    Did lunch at the centurion lounge in route.
    Dinner at the Admirals club on arrival.
    Used uber credits from Amex Plat for transportation.
    Used grubhub credit from Amex gold for breakfast.

    I can take lots of trips when I spend $40 out of pocket for all travel/dining. Our goal is to have enough cash to be able to spend it freely like we do our points. But, we aren’t there yet. For now, I am happy to have a hobby that allows my family to travel comfortably and affordably. Thanks for the post!

    • Awesome comment – thanks HawaiiDreaming! That Lufthansa miles booked flight offered some amazing value for your family…great redemption!

  10. This has been my sentiment for years and you have idea how often I have had to debate the value of miles to me. People seem intent on attributing a cent per mile, etc and can’t get past that. Nope! To me the value is the flexibility having miles/points brings. If I am “cash poor” but I need a ticket/room then those points are priceless.

    Thanks for writing this. Glad to see someone else with the same sentiment. Even though I love it when I can snag a high priced room or flight, I still love it when I can get a flight/room when I need it regardless of the actual cost per mile!!

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