11 Responses

  1. Gary
    Gary at |

    Seth, you’re mostly right, and certainly as it applies to choice of airline to fly.

    But that’s not the claim that Chris Elliott is making, and not what I was responding to in my own post yesterday.

    Absolutely most customers — who will not achieve elite status — should buy based on price, within a certain band, which is to say that I do think for many people flying JetBlue New York – Florida is a better decision than flying Spirit (and when factoring in fees may not even be a more expensive one, even accounting for differences in initial fare).

    But when you make your decision on price, still sign up for the program and put your mileage number in the reservation.

    And don’t ignore opportunities for miles or cash back (whichever happens to be more rewarding) for online purchases.

    And sign up for hotel programs, several even provide benefits at the base level like free internet. Or will help you avoid the worst room in the house.

    Not everyone is in a position to leverage the programs in the same ways, and most shouldn’t go out of their way to spend lots extra to be more invested in the programs. But that doesn’t make the programs worthless, with a tiny bit of attention most people will eventually realzie some value from them. Of course those people shouldn’t make big decisions on the basis of that future value, but neither should they ignore collecting the points and pre-emptively give up that value either.

    Playing the points game can be much more lucrative for many more people than currently play it, e.g. just going for monster credit card signup bonuses like 100,000 point offerings when those come around.

    That doesn’t even mean putting all spend on a points card. I recently recommended a good cash back card to someone based on their personal reward goals, they wanted coach flights to Europe in peak season and didn’t want to be flexible on dates or routing.

    But the points game — contra Chris Elliott, just signing up for programs and giving the account number when there’s something being offered, though not spending more out of pocket to collect those points — does make sense for more travelers than play the game currently.

  2. Gary
    Gary at |

    And for what it’s worth, I hope my position on this is sufficiently nuanced for you to re-consider your claim that anyone who says the points game makes sense is either evil or stupid… 😛

  3. Rapid Travel Chai
    Rapid Travel Chai at |

    I agree, for a number of my infrequent traveler friends and relatives the programs are frustrating and feel like a burden added on already stressful travel. They are happy spending their time in other endeavors that have better rewards for them.

  4. Chirag
    Chirag at |

    I belong to the category where my travel is less than 25000 miles (2-3 trips a year, on personal dime). I only recently got into this mileage game and I definitely think loyalty programs are rewarding (especially with credit cards). I have managed to accrue considerable number of points with my Sapphire card without changing my spending patterns. These points that I can redeem for cash are definitely more than what I would achieved with other credit cards.

    I do however agree that I am not going to get Elite status or tons of miles with airlines or hotels, but just having a mileage account [adding it to awardwallet] makes a lot of sense to me. I travel once a year to India [in coach] and always enter my mileage number (even though I book my flights from all over the place {orbitz, travelocity}) and have managed to accrue enough miles for a domestic coach ticket (for something I was going to do anyways). I will admit, I was lucky that I was flying CO and these miles did not expire, but I still got something out of it!

  5. Explore
    Explore at |

    Agree, even without including the time needed to monitor the programs. I would add that it makes sense to fly foreign airlines on fares that earn no miles, but do provide much better economy class service and even seat pitch. Prime example: Singapore Airlines.

  6. Chirag
    Chirag at |

    Hi Seth,
    I also have the chase freedom card (5% cashback) so combined with sapphire, its given me great value [especially using the UR mall].

    I agree with you regarding economics (I always choose the cheapest flight), it just so happened that it was CO [or one of their partners] for my destinations. My point is that, it doesn’t hurt to have a mileage account to put in whenever you book your tickets.

  7. Gary
    Gary at |


    It is a chicken or egg argument – there will be no conclusion at all.

    But bottom line – it all depends on the people if they know how the game is played or not.

  8. al613
    al613 at |

    it’s like all marketing games – many play, few win 🙂

    cc gives you 0% rate or 100k miles to start, but if you are paying interest in the end, they will make more off you then they give you. And what percentage of americans do pay interest?

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