Last week, I wrote about my upcoming travel and I had a comment that made me think a bit. The comment was actually similar comments thrown around in the internet and the Facebook groups I am in. The longer I play this game, the more I realize everyone has different goals and value points differently.
Different Goals, Different Values
Anytime someone ask for help looking for ways to book their travel, I try my best (though I’m not always successful) to book the way they want to book. I am usually honest with them about the cost of miles it will take or the amount of work involved as well.
There is a trade off in some cases. You can spend more points and save yourself time, or you can spend a little more time and save yourself some points. I’ll try to educate them about ways to better use their points, but ultimately it is their decision.
One aspect I love about the points and miles game, everyone has different goals. Some want to pamper themselves with caviar and first class cabins, then you have people would would probably tie themselves to the wing of a plane just to see the world.
Whatever your preferred cabin of travel is, there is really no wrong way to use YOUR points.
Sure, there could be better values for those points, but in the big scheme of the world if you are happy with your redemption, who really cares if others won’t approve.
For example, I have absolutely no interest in using my points for a trip to Disney, but I know there are many people who have a goal to visit Disney.
Since everyone has different goals, everyone values points or miles just a little bit differently. Some options are better for some people. What may be a great point currency for you, might be terrible for others.
For example, many people love the Southwest program. There is a lot to like about the program, but Southwest doesn’t fly from my airport. So, while they are great for some, they serve absolutely no value in my situation.
At the same time, I believe there is more to travel currency than a cent per point value. There is something to be said for non-stop or a flight with one connection. I’ve definitely put up with 2 or 3 stops at times, but I would much rather fewer stops. This leads to fewer potential issues or delays and most importantly, more time on the ground.
Math Of A Redemption:
While people like to obsess and gloat about point redemption values, there are other parts of a redemption that are unaccounted value.
The cent per point value is only a piece of the puzzle. It also is easily skewed and inflated. Other parts that aren’t amounted for in the cent per point value:
- Times of flights
- Number of connections
- Airline flown
- Connecting airports
I’m sure there are other factors, but these are the ones that comes to my mind.
These might end up costing your more miles, but if it makes your travel smoother, then it is worth the price, right? After all, it is your travel.
The Hierarchy Of Points:
Since we all have different goals, and we all value our points differently. This means it will affect which points are burnt first and which ones we hold onto forever, right? I have a hierarchy of which currencies which helps me determine which points are used first.
This is how my ranking of points and miles go (top is the most valuable, bottom is least valuable):
- My actual cash in the bank
- Flexible points
- Cash Back/ Cash like equivalents
- Airline/Hotel Specific Points
Let me explain the reason for my rankings.
Actual Cash In My Bank
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of credit card rewards, but at the end of the day they aren’t going to pay my bills. I’m a pretty frugal traveler, so blowing my own money to save points isn’t really my style.
This I usually my last resort when it comes to booking travel. It isn’t that I am opposed to paying for my travel, but with the many options I have access too, why spend my actual money?
I don’t live by the ideal I need a certain value to redeem my points. I do live by the idea that I can always earn more points.
As far as point currency, these points are I try to use last, because I find these more valuable than other points. These tend to also be what I tell many people who want to earn points to invest in vs airline/hotel specific points (at least when someone is starting in the point game).
Primarily, my flexible currency I am involved in is Membership Rewards. They have plenty of partners for me to take advantage of, more options from my airport, and I don’t have to keep a card with an annual fee to use their transfer partners. It actually works out quite well with my cash back strategy.
Also, as the name hints at, these points are flexible since there are many partners to work with and save me points on a flight.
I use these points for economy seats and while I feel this is generally frowned upon, in the big picture I spend less money out of pocket. I’ll rough it in the cattle class and see more of the world.
Cash Back/ Cash Like Equivalents
Cash back is my primary currency of choice I earn on a daily basis. I do open point earning credit cards for their bonuses, because lets be honest. While I like cash back rewards, point cards just offer better bonuses.
Ticket prices across the world have been quite low making cash back a preferable option and cash back provides a better all around value for my travel habits. If you’re flying aspirational awards, this definitely isn’t for you.
If possible, I try to reposition to New York, since New York is cheaper than flying from Bangor. Occasionally, I can find a point redemption that makes it better to book from Bangor than repositioning.
Airline/Hotel Specific Points
This ranks at the bottom of my list on my hierarchy of travel currency.
Why is that?
It’s not because they aren’t valuable, because these are. While these can offer a great value, the likelihood of devaluation are greater when compared to other currencies on my list. Airline/Hotel specific points are putting your eggs in one basket and I would rather not do that. I’ll burn these for what many would consider sub-optimal value before burning more flexible currency.
These are usually the first to go if the cost is the same or in the same ball park as other higher up the list. I’d personally rather burn 5,000 extra American Airline miles and hold onto my Membership Rewards for a future redemption since they offer transfer bonuses, etc.
I’m pretty active in reading questions from people about their travel award options. I feel these allow me to see other angle of peoples travel goals and help me improve my award booking knowledge.
While some want a nice trip, but I really believe most are happy with sitting in coach if it saves them money and allows them to see another part of the world. Feel free to correct me if all of you only fly business class.
What I have noticed is people want to see the world for as little as possible. This could be by themselves or taking their families somewhere for a week vacation. I have really made this group of people my target audience if you will.
Advice I feel I frequently see, is mentioning “better” redemption options. This makes very little sense to me, because it makes it sounds like that person didn’t receive value for their booking.
The idea of travel hacking or points and miles, is to save money on your travel goals, right? If someone is asking for recommendation on places they can go with their miles, let them know options sure. But if someone is looking for options to fly to Cape Town, it doesn’t help them to say they could visit place X for this many miles.
Everyone has a different idea of a great redemption.
The points game is so great and the possibilities are endless. Each person values their points differently and everyone has different goals when it comes to traveling. There are many ways to redeem your points and as long as you are happy with your redemption that is really all that matters.
Remember, you can always earn more points.