Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
lemonPepper
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by lemonPepper » Wed Aug 03, 2016 11:12 pm

OP, you should read about the behavioral aspects of miles/points in this awesome post.

http://moneymetagame.com/fi/is-anyone-a ... l-hacking/

guitarguy
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by guitarguy » Thu Aug 04, 2016 7:04 am

lemonPepper wrote:OP, you should read about the behavioral aspects of miles/points in this awesome post.

http://moneymetagame.com/fi/is-anyone-a ... l-hacking/
Good post...I think it's a little off topic discussing the definition of "saving money" and pushing the retirement account angle. For those of us that are already on a good track in that aspect, to me the issues are pretty unrelated.

To me there are 2 ways to think about travel hacking, using points/miles, etc:

1. Save $ on trips you would take anyway. This is where we generally live with our travel hacking. Wife and I go on a few trips a year, to see family, to go to a new city for a long weekend, etc. If we can cash in some points and fly there for free, or nab a free night or 2 in a hotel, we consider that saving money because we would've went on the trip anyway. Whether than money that we didn't spend ends up in a retirement account (which, by the way, is nothing but saving for future spending still :wink: ), goes towards groceries for next month, buys a birthday gift for a niece/nephew, whatever...is irrelevant to me. At the end of the day, after taking our annual trip, we have more money left than we would've otherwise. Period.

2. Use points/miles to book an extravagant vacation or trip you normally wouldn't be able to, or wouldn't choose to, afford. This isn't saving money at all, but instead it's getting an awesome life experience you wouldn't otherwise have been able to. We have yet to book a trip like this, but hopefully we will someday.

SRenaeP
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by SRenaeP » Thu Aug 04, 2016 7:19 am

guitarguy wrote:
lemonPepper wrote:OP, you should read about the behavioral aspects of miles/points in this awesome post.

http://moneymetagame.com/fi/is-anyone-a ... l-hacking/
Good post...I think it's a little off topic discussing the definition of "saving money" and pushing the retirement account angle. For those of us that are already on a good track in that aspect, to me the issues are pretty unrelated.

To me there are 2 ways to think about travel hacking, using points/miles, etc:

1. Save $ on trips you would take anyway. This is where we generally live with our travel hacking. Wife and I go on a few trips a year, to see family, to go to a new city for a long weekend, etc. If we can cash in some points and fly there for free, or nab a free night or 2 in a hotel, we consider that saving money because we would've went on the trip anyway. Whether than money that we didn't spend ends up in a retirement account (which, by the way, is nothing but saving for future spending still :wink: ), goes towards groceries for next month, buys a birthday gift for a niece/nephew, whatever...is irrelevant to me. At the end of the day, after taking our annual trip, we have more money left than we would've otherwise. Period.

2. Use points/miles to book an extravagant vacation or trip you normally wouldn't be able to, or wouldn't choose to, afford. This isn't saving money at all, but instead it's getting an awesome life experience you wouldn't otherwise have been able to. We have yet to book a trip like this, but hopefully we will someday.
#1 is primarily how we use points/miles. DH and I travel a lot (at least 6 trips a year including at least once internationally). We use travel hacking to help defray the cost of trips we would have taken anyway. In addition, we sometimes 'upgrade' and stay at places we wouldn't have been willing to pay for out of pocket (Grand Hyatt, JW Marriott, Le Meridien).

-Steph

Lindrobe
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by Lindrobe » Thu Aug 04, 2016 7:50 am

guitarguy wrote:2. Use points/miles to book an extravagant vacation or trip you normally wouldn't be able to, or wouldn't choose to, afford. This isn't saving money at all, but instead it's getting an awesome life experience you wouldn't otherwise have been able to. We have yet to book a trip like this, but hopefully we will someday.
This is what we do. We went to Cabo last year on Hilton points and stayed in a fabulous resort for $0. Paid $700 for two direct flights from O'Hare, plus food costs and rental car. This year we are going to Costa Rica. We are staying at a resort where rooms run $370/per night with all taxes and fees. We are staying for $0. Total trip will again just be the cost of our food, airfare, and rental car. If we had to pay for the hotel room at $370/night, we would pay almost $2,600 for the week. The points make our vacation so much more affordable.

bradshaw1965
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by bradshaw1965 » Thu Aug 04, 2016 7:59 am

I'd agree that there is a subset of people who are looking for the dopamine hit of booking the biggest points per mile or most outrageous travel and will go out of their way to maximize that effort. For those folks it's a hobby and I'd focus on using that lens rather then taking their "amazing savings" at face value.

sco
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by sco » Thu Aug 04, 2016 10:58 am

I hate paying for hotels and airline tickets. I have paid for 3 different week long stays in hotels, this is in 16 years of vacations. Several years had two vacations. In that time I have actually purchased about 10 individual plane tickets, when the price was so low points didn't make sense.

We often use miles for a free First class ticket, when we would have paid too much for coach as an alternative. I don't bother domestically, but for longer trips First is nice.

For example, in 2010 we flew to Hawaii, for 12 days. 2 islands. So outbound to HNL, back from OGG with a island hop around day 7. Fare was $900 each in coach, and there are 4 of us. So $3600 we would have been out just to get there and back. First class seats were in the 1500-2000 range, and highly desired.

Instead I booked it 11 months out with miles and spent 350k ish American airline miles for First class. I knew a couple years ahead and it was no issue getting that many miles and booking the seats. Was I going to pay for First class on that route? No. But I certainly enjoyed the red eye back in lay flat seats, and it made the 8 hour flight tolerable for everyone involved.

Oh, and all the hotel nights were free. So we got 4 people to/from HI, two different islands and two NICE hotels. Total Spend was under $5k for the 2 week trip. Spend was almost entirely Food and Excursions.

I like to spend money on things we will remember, and 6 years later my kids still talk about some of the snorkeling trips and the Helicopter around Maui..

BW1985
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by BW1985 » Thu Aug 04, 2016 11:16 am

For me the credit card game helps get me thinking about it & justify going. We haven't traveled much even though we can afford to so. I want to go, I'm just too frugal sometimes.
"Squirrels figured out how to save eons ago. They buried acorns. Some, they dug up, for food. Others, they let to sprout, in new oak trees. We could learn from squirrels." -john94549

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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by 4nursebee » Thu Aug 04, 2016 11:46 am

Thus far we do not have any credit cards. Perhaps this could be a hobby we would look into.

We join hotel schemes and have noted little benefit. Typically travel is not that well planned.

I'm not impressed with the hotel stuff. If it were simpler I would stay more dedicated to a particular chain.
4nursebee

Jack FFR1846
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Thu Aug 04, 2016 11:54 am

Wal*Mart people aren't going to do a SAR unless you're being stupid about it. Plenty of people (me included) use 2 $500 gift cards to get a $999.30 money order which gets deposited in our bank or credit union immediately.

Unless they are disagreeable by nature, why would an $8 per hour employee go out of their way to make their own life difficult?
Bogle: Smart Beta is stupid

killjoy2012
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by killjoy2012 » Thu Aug 04, 2016 12:13 pm

As has been stated, the "is it worth it" answer is very situational. Some people have tons of time to kill, others do not. The law of diminishing returns applies. New CC sign up bonuses, as stated, is the low hanging fruit. The medium hanging fruit, in my mind, is buying gift cards w/ an advantaged CC/situation for stores/spending that you'd do regardless. Example: Most people need to buy stuff off Amazon, or Target, or Home Depot/Lowes, or their local gas station. Why put that spend on a low point/% CC when you could buy those associated store GCs in scenarios that'll earn you a lot of points/benefits?

The high hanging fruit gets into schemes where IMO you have liquidation problems, even more so now with the death of redbird. Money orders are an answer unless you want something you can do frequently. There's alternatives, but all require more work and have their own set of issues, and time-sink. e.g. Even if Walmart is happy to issue you a $999 money order every day, you're kidding yourself if you don't think your own bank is not going to see that volume of MO depoits as normal.

sco
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by sco » Thu Aug 04, 2016 12:54 pm

Jack FFR1846 wrote:Wal*Mart people aren't going to do a SAR unless you're being stupid about it. Plenty of people (me included) use 2 $500 gift cards to get a $999.30 money order which gets deposited in our bank or credit union immediately.

Unless they are disagreeable by nature, why would an $8 per hour employee go out of their way to make their own life difficult?
You are still able to buy Money orders with Walmart Gift Cards at your location?

BW1985
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by BW1985 » Thu Aug 04, 2016 1:26 pm

Jack FFR1846 wrote:Wal*Mart people aren't going to do a SAR unless you're being stupid about it. Plenty of people (me included) use 2 $500 gift cards to get a $999.30 money order which gets deposited in our bank or credit union immediately.

Unless they are disagreeable by nature, why would an $8 per hour employee go out of their way to make their own life difficult?
What's a SAR?
"Squirrels figured out how to save eons ago. They buried acorns. Some, they dug up, for food. Others, they let to sprout, in new oak trees. We could learn from squirrels." -john94549

michaeljc70
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by michaeljc70 » Thu Aug 04, 2016 1:28 pm

I do open the airline credit cards for miles. I've typically received 50k miles which I've used for tickets worth upward of $1k. It is not hard. Open up credit card online, use it like I'd use any credit card normally, collect points, close account. Repeat. They have cracked down on the repeat part somewhat.

In summary, I've received something worth $1k in value for 30 minutes of my time.

sco
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by sco » Thu Aug 04, 2016 4:52 pm

BW1985 wrote:
Jack FFR1846 wrote:Wal*Mart people aren't going to do a SAR unless you're being stupid about it. Plenty of people (me included) use 2 $500 gift cards to get a $999.30 money order which gets deposited in our bank or credit union immediately.

Unless they are disagreeable by nature, why would an $8 per hour employee go out of their way to make their own life difficult?
What's a SAR?
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suspici ... ity_report

OSUmountaineer
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by OSUmountaineer » Thu Aug 04, 2016 6:39 pm

I do some moderate to heavy manufactured spending and heavy churning. Stats below. My SO hates flying due to anxiety but loves to travel, and 'tolerates' flying in business or first class. I love flying and travelling. This hobby has actually provided us a common ground so that I can get what I want while making her more comfortable. And of course I love the front of the plane but would never pay for it.

Cash back has been great as well. I estimate about an hr a day for the last few years has paid for a Subaru Forrester and money in the bank for a future house down payment (45k or so tax-free cash back).

Last year we went to Japan, flew biz class, stayed in 5 star hotels in addition to traditional Japanese Ryokan's. 15 days cost the 2 of us about $1200 total out of pocket.

Just spent 4 days in Cabo. Flew first and stayed at the all inclusive Hyatt. Over 4 days we spent $52 (for the airport shuttle) in Mexico, and $30 on Ubers to/from the airport.

Before that we went to Turkey. Same story (but less than $1000 out of pocket, total, for 15 days). This year will be South Korea and Thailand. I imagine we will spend short of $800 without really trying. Anytime we fly domestically, it's with an Alaska Air companion pass, which have saved thousands of dollars in airfare we would have spent anyway.

48 cards open in 2 years for me, 28 for my SO. Tracking is really quite easy, just takes a spreadsheet. Once I hit a minimum spend, it's on to the next card. Legitimate spend is a rounding error in points, so I don't worry much about that.

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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by Loik098 » Thu Aug 04, 2016 9:11 pm

Jack FFR1846 wrote:Wal*Mart people aren't going to do a SAR unless you're being stupid about it. Plenty of people (me included) use 2 $500 gift cards to get a $999.30 money order which gets deposited in our bank or credit union immediately.

Unless they are disagreeable by nature, why would an $8 per hour employee go out of their way to make their own life difficult?
Why? Because in many locations, service desk employees have been trained not to accept gift cards for money order purchases and fear if they do not follow these restrictions (including the completion of SARs for high dollar users, typically kept in a binder behind the counter) that they will lose their job....making their own life difficult. Besides, smart MSers know not to cause a scene at the store anyway, so it's not like saying no makes the employee's job substantially more difficult.

Consider yourself lucky that you live near Walmarts that still allow MO purchases with gift cards. Also, I'd tread lightly on overusing 1-2 bank accounts (esp if it's your main bank or if it's the bank that services your credit card) for a ton of $999.30 MO deposits; that's a good way to get your account closed. $999.30 is a pretty obvious number.

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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by flyingaway » Thu Aug 04, 2016 11:23 pm

Considering it as a hobby is fine. Otherwise I would spend the time and efforts to get a better-paying job or to study for a better-paying degree.

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SitraAchra
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by SitraAchra » Sat Aug 06, 2016 4:06 pm

lemonPepper wrote:OP, you should read about the behavioral aspects of miles/points in this awesome post.

http://moneymetagame.com/fi/is-anyone-a ... l-hacking/
That really is a great article. My favorite part was the ad from the newspaper in 1969 which is a seemingly unique perspective that is very Boglehead-esque. I had to post it since I liked it so much!

Image

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celia
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by celia » Sat Aug 06, 2016 4:36 pm

<Waste of Time or Worth it?>

I think it depends on how often you travel and your travel patterns.

Our vacations (and past trips to take kids to college where everyone went someplace different) were usually to different places, so we were often using different airlines. The closest any of us got to free airfare was one son who had accumulated almost 20,000 miles flying home 3 times a year for 4 years. But as soon as he graduated, the airline changed the program to need 25,000 miles for the minimum award. (And he didn't fly that route any more.)

Since we had so many family members flying on multiple airlines, I used to keep a spreadsheet to track their airline frequent flyer number and remaining miles. It didn't influence bookings but when making a reservation, I used the spreadsheet to plug in their frequent flyer number on that airline.

I spend down those miles from each airline on free magazines which we would have paid money for.
A dollar in Roth is worth more than a dollar in a taxable account. A dollar in taxable is worth more than a dollar in a tax-deferred account.

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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Sat Aug 06, 2016 6:58 pm

I do understand I'm lucky that all of my local Wal*Marts still accept Visa gift cards towards money orders. I don't do a lot of them (mostly only during Staples promos now that Stop & Shop got majorly ripped off and have stopped their promos). I also accept YMMV in MS as I remember May 5th (end of redbird) and lots of older good ways to MS (online cc purchase of US Savings bonds, buying coins from the mint for example). All but one local Sears have shut down sears gift card to purchase other gift cards.....but I still have one good location that'll do it. :D
Bogle: Smart Beta is stupid

stm
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by stm » Sun Aug 07, 2016 1:32 am

flyingaway wrote:Considering it as a hobby is fine. Otherwise I would spend the time and efforts to get a better-paying job or to study for a better-paying degree.
I don't know... MS was better than our regular job. Very sad that it's ended :|

sesq
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by sesq » Sun Aug 07, 2016 11:39 am

stm wrote:
flyingaway wrote:Considering it as a hobby is fine. Otherwise I would spend the time and efforts to get a better-paying job or to study for a better-paying degree.
I don't know... MS was better than our regular job. Very sad that it's ended :|
+1. I still have about 2.1M points and miles in the kitty to burn off. Just as well, life got busy on me anyways.

As a family man we never did the exotic redemptions (location or luxury) but I appreciated not having to pay air or hotel. I am now mostly using the 2.625% BoA card with strategic sign up bonuses (e.g. Citi Prestige this year).

lemonPepper
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by lemonPepper » Mon Aug 08, 2016 6:58 pm

I think the boglehead crowd may be more resistant to getting used to luxuries they cannot afford. The general populace will develop expensive habits because they stayed in an expensive place. But the peopel who fall for this trap are paying for the rewards reaped by more disciplined and unemotional participants.

I personally find it risky to stay in places I cannot afford on my income. It simply becomes too painful to stay at lesser places or fly economy later.

lemonPepper
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by lemonPepper » Mon Aug 08, 2016 6:58 pm

I think the boglehead crowd may be more resistant to getting used to luxuries they cannot afford. The general populace will develop expensive habits because they stayed in an expensive place. But the peopel who fall for this trap are paying for the rewards reaped by more disciplined and unemotional participants.

I personally don't want to travel with miles and points in a way I cannot afford with $$. I went to conrad maldives on a 8 day vacation. There was no charge for teh hotel (which goes for atleast $700 a night) but I still spent $5k out of pocket. Now we have a hard time enjoying hawaii and SoCal as they aren't "good enough". So I am trying to get out of that trap


another good article to read is this:

https://saverocity.com/travel/the-hamst ... red-spend/

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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by alaskantraveler » Mon Aug 08, 2016 7:10 pm

lemonPepper wrote:I think the boglehead crowd may be more resistant to getting used to luxuries they cannot afford. The general populace will develop expensive habits because they stayed in an expensive place. But the peopel who fall for this trap are paying for the rewards reaped by more disciplined and unemotional participants.

I personally find it risky to stay in places I cannot afford on my income. It simply becomes too painful to stay at lesser places or fly economy later.
I know how this goes. We have stayed at $600/night beach resorts for free, but we weren't willing to afford the food on premises so we went shopping before arriving and ate cup of noodles, and pillaged the fitness room apples for 3 days :). It was worth it!

SRenaeP
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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by SRenaeP » Mon Aug 08, 2016 8:08 pm

lemonPepper wrote:I think the boglehead crowd may be more resistant to getting used to luxuries they cannot afford. The general populace will develop expensive habits because they stayed in an expensive place. But the peopel who fall for this trap are paying for the rewards reaped by more disciplined and unemotional participants.

I personally find it risky to stay in places I cannot afford on my income. It simply becomes too painful to stay at lesser places or fly economy later.
You make a good point. However, I think of it as a nice splurge from time to time. I can afford the expensive places but choose not to spend my money that way. I typically do a combo of 'regular' and luxury on any given trip. For me, I don't want to burn all my points/miles trying to go five star all the way/all the time.

-Steph

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Re: Points/Miles Schemes - Waste of time or worth it?

Post by guitarguy » Tue Aug 09, 2016 10:03 am

alaskantraveler wrote:
lemonPepper wrote:I think the boglehead crowd may be more resistant to getting used to luxuries they cannot afford. The general populace will develop expensive habits because they stayed in an expensive place. But the peopel who fall for this trap are paying for the rewards reaped by more disciplined and unemotional participants.

I personally find it risky to stay in places I cannot afford on my income. It simply becomes too painful to stay at lesser places or fly economy later.
I know how this goes. We have stayed at $600/night beach resorts for free, but we weren't willing to afford the food on premises so we went shopping before arriving and ate cup of noodles, and pillaged the fitness room apples for 3 days :). It was worth it!
Really? If that is serious...then wow that sounds like a miserable vacation lol. Maybe it's just me...but staying in a beach resort and going back to sit in your hotel room and eat ramen noodles is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. No offense meant...really...just baffling to me.

To each their own I guess but we don't mind splurging on nice restaurants when we're on vacation. Enjoy life a bit!

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