Why It Pays To Pay Attention To Miles And Points

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you probably already have a love of travel.  But, do you pay enough attention to miles and points?

My wife’s best friend is the classic example of someone who’s “too busy” to spend time thinking about miles and points.  She’s super smart, makes a good living and enjoys travel with her family.  After me pestering her for a number of years, she finally signed up for one mileage credit card that I recommended to her (Chase Sapphire) so she could start earning the right points for her type of travel.  I had hoped that her and her husband would both sign up for Sapphire (and throw in an Ink Bold or two for good measure), since those cards were the perfect fit for her travel patterns.  Alas, that wasn’t meant to be.

She got the one card somewhat begrudgingly but started spending on it and earned some points (yay!).  Then, this normal business woman booked what I would consider to be the death gauntlet of trips.  I didn’t find out about everything at once, but after all the facts were entered into evidence, she had booked a 4 day trip to Hawaii from Virginia.  Her return flight was connecting through LAX and was a red-eye.  Okay, not exactly horrible, but the whole thing was in coach.  Not my idea of fun.

Then I came to find out that less than 12 hours after she landed back in Virginia she was scheduled on a red-eye flight to Frankfurt, again in coach.  That’s a pretty brutal week of travel if you ask me.  It’s not that I mind red-eyes (okay, I kind of hate them), but red-eyes in coach is like being strapped down to a chair with a thumbtack stuck in your thigh and being forced to watch Jerry Springer all night.  Grazie, no.

This is where the wonderful world of miles and points came into play.  First, I used Expert Flyer to run a search on upgrade inventory on her United flights back from Hawaii.  When that inventory popped up, I was able to use some Regional Premier Upgrades (RPUs) that I had accrued as a United 1K to upgrade her family to First Class.  First Class domestic on United isn’t anything to write home about (unfortunately, this wasn’t a BusinessFirst flight) but it beats coach on a red-eye.

A second Expert Flyer alert told me that BusinessFirst had popped up on her IAD-Frankfurt flight.  She had already redeemed 60,000 MileagePlus miles to get her coach round-trip to Europe which she booked out of her own account which doesn’t have status with United.  That meant she’d have to pay a change fee to have the award reissued in a different class of service.  I called the 1K desk and a very helpful agent was willing to waive the change fee and re-ticket her for an extra $10 in taxes and 20,000 additional miles.

Problem solved. A cushy lie-flat bed for her red-eye, and hopefully a couple of winks of sleep on the way back from Hawaii in a slightly more comfortable seat there.

This all transpired over the past couple days and based on the e-mail replies from her where she expressed her supreme joy at not being stuck in coach flying from Hawaii to Europe with a brief stopover in Virginia.  And, I think it finally clicked for her how easy it was to do because she had some extra miles sitting there waiting.  Sure, there were a few steps involved to make it all happen.  Collectively, though, I think I spent a grand total of 2 hours working on this over a couple of weeks for her, and I probably could have cut that time in half or better if she and I had talked before she made the initial reservations.

Spending on the right credit cards and a little bit of time to pick the right flights was all it took.  She now seems eager to jump a bit deeper into the miles and points game when she gets back from her whirlwind trip.

Is it worth 30 minutes of your time to travel more comfortably?



  1. I was just going to say the same thing… lucky to have you for a friend. I am glad to note that she is grateful. The friend (ex-friend now) that I gifted a first class seat to was incensed because she had to pay the taxes on an international first class award flight. Needless to say, I learned a great lesson on that one!

    1. Wow, that’s a pretty bad “thanks” from a friend you gave a ticket to. No question my friend is very thankful. And after I told her she could take a shower when she gets to FRA tomorrow morning, I think she’s full hooked. 🙂

        1. m, I don’t think it’s technically the arrival lounge. But, if you use this Star Alliance Lounge Finder Link, it pulls up a business lounge at the mid-field terminal. I don’t recall if I’ve been to that lounge, but it comes up for United BusinessFirst customers and lists showers as an amenity. She continues on from there to BCN, so it may only be a connecting passenger benefit.

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