One More Thing On Saving Miles

I missed one of my main points when I suggested earlier this week it might be good to save your miles as opposed to the conventional wisdom of “earn and burn”.

When The Business Travel Merry-Go-Round Stops And It’s Time To Hop Off

Business travel is a bit of a vicious cycle.  Something of the ultimate hamster wheel, if you will.  We spend all year flying different places and staying at different hotels with the intent of earning elite status for the following year.  Then, the saddest day in travel happens each year on January 1st, and everything resets to zero.

For someone like me who’s going to log over 150,000 miles in the air this year mostly for business, I certainly don’t get to use my benefits as much as I’d like to.  It’s one of the reasons I focus so heavily on lifetime status.  I actually want to use those benefits when I’m old and gray.  Okay, I’m already old and gray, so when I’m older and grayer and actually have time to enjoy them.

However, my current retirement budget doesn’t necessarily have a big line item for purchasing business class tickets to Europe and paying $500-$1,000 for a night at premium hotels.  I’ll certainly have less opportunities to generate miles and points from credit card spend, something my business life affords me.

That makes my current plan one of watch and, to some degree, hope.  I keep a large balance of miles to spend for the future in the hopes that the program rules won’t change drastically (and quickly) enough that I couldn’t find good uses for most of my stash.  The big risk here is a pivot to more revenue-based programs like Southwest where the points necessary for a given redemption vary based on the current fare of the ticket you’re trying to acquire.

If it were a rapid shift my strategy would surely be a poor one.  But, I likely think that the legacy airlines will still allow me time to burn old miles on an old award chart and/or give enough notice to pivot.

And, I largely think this strategy is much safer in relation to hotel points and some of the flex currencies that have good transfer relationships with hotels (yes, I’m looking at you Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest).  Those programs are generally already revenue based for earning.  Based on conversations with people I know in the hotel industry I think they’re largely okay with that strategy for the near-term.

There you have it.  Nothing earth-shattering here, though a strategy that’s a bit against the grain.  Which leaves only one more question.

What are you doing with your miles and points?

About the Author

My goal in life is to fill my family’s passports with stamps, creating buckets of memories along the way. You’ll find me writing about realistic ways for normal people to travel the world, whether you’re on a budget or enjoy luxury. I also enjoy taking us on the occasional detour to explore the inner workings of the travel industry.

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  1. Good luck…I understand why you’re doing it and I don’t think it is completely wrong. I just don’t have the confidence that the game will look sufficiently the same in 10 or 20 years for that to be something I’m comfortable “investing” in. Then again, my earning is personal as is my spend. Were the points “free” from business activity I might feel a bit different, though I’d probably also be heavier into cash-back cards or similar for my CC-based earning. As it is I’m burning the points faster than I can earn them anyways. 😮

    1. Seth, I think 20 years is too long to rely on most things staying the same. In this case, I think the landscape will also look drastically different in 10 years. So, we’re largely in agreement that I probably can’t take the current strategy into retirement. It may require tweaks, it may require massive pivots. But, for now, since I am generating a bunch of points from business activity, I still plan to play the role of the squirrel stocking up for winter. 🙂

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