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4 Reasons you Should Always Book Travel With Points!

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4 Reasons you Should Never Pay Cash for Travel!

4 Reasons you Should Never Pay Cash for Travel!

There is a saying a sucker is born every day.  While that is true it may be a little harsh for this instance.  But I do believe that cash should (almost) never be used to book travel.  I know that this may not be a popular sentiment with everyone’s point valuations and what not. I think with proper diversification you should rarely have the need to pay with cash.

Shawn did a nice piece a while back discussing why you should never pay with cash for anything.  It is definitely worth a read and it ties in nicely with this piece.

4 Reasons to Book Travel with Points

Points are Constantly Decreasing in Value

Rarely do you see an article coming out where a rewards program is becoming more valuable.  Wyndham Rewards may be one of the few examples of this happening recently. For the most part the longer you hold onto your miles or points the more likely you are to have it lose value.

Why hoard these miles and points waiting for the perfect redemption when they could be worth significantly less tomorrow?  By the time you are ready to pull the trigger the redemption may not even be available any longer.  We are no strangers to great redemptions disappearing during the middle of the night!

4 Reasons you Should Never Pay Cash for Travel!

Make Your Money Work for You!

There is a very well known saying – make your money work for you.  It means that you should invest and save your money and let it gain value while you sit back and do nothing.

This goes hand in hand with number one on the list.  While miles and points almost never increase in value, money can.  If you invest the money you would have spent on travel it can turn into more money.  That is a beautiful thing!

Think of all of the people Wall Street that are paid huge salaries, what do they really do?  They take $1 and pump it up and make it worth $2.  They don’t create anything or provide any service to make lives better etc. they turn money into more money!  You just can’t do that with points.  There are no dividend paying point currencies that I know of.

Miles and Points are Easier to Accrue

Cash sign up bonuses are available and some are for a nice chunk of change…like the Bank of America Premium Rewards card’s $500 bonus.  Even with a few good ones out there cash bonuses are less abundant than points and miles bonuses and they are usually for smaller amounts.

$500 cash bonuses are about as good as it gets, besides that $1000 offer from Capital One. Travel rewards credit cards offer multiple sign up bonuses for more than 50,000 miles or points.  American Express has several themselves and they are only one credit card provider.

Needless to say there are countless large miles and points bonuses on the market.  They are more plentiful and they are offered by more banks than cash bonuses are.  Since they are more plentiful, and have larger bonuses, that makes them easier to accrue and replace than cash.

4 Reasons you Should Never Pay Cash for Travel!

Flexible Points Make Bad Redemptions Impossible

The increase of flexible points currencies on the market makes bad redemptions a thing of the past.  Add in travel purchase eraser cards, like the Capital One Venture card, and you can handle all types of travel costs. With those two options you should never be stuck redeeming points at a bad value.

If that $200 Hyatt hotel is asking for 15,000 points then book it through the Ultimate rewards portal instead for 13,333 using the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.  If the Delta flight you want is only $250 but they want 20,000 Delta Skymiles use your American Express Business Platinum cards points option for 18,518 Membership Reward points instead of transferring 20,000 of them to Delta Skymiles. Say the hotel you have your eye on is an independent hotel, you can book it through the ThankYou portal with you Citi Premier card at 1.25 cents per point.

I think you get the idea. If you are diversified enough then you can use points for almost any redemption.  The one lone exception is Airbnb (which you can use a Barclay Arrival+ or a Capital One card for).

You should be able to get at least 1.25 cents for every redemption out there when using flexible points.  That is worth more than the 1 cent per point value that most offer for cash redemptions, if they offer that option at all.


I am a person who always uses points to book my travel.  I use miles, points, bank portals, flexible points, and travel eraser credit cards to make that possible.  Like they say CASH IS KING.

I can’t use miles and points to pay for my kids college. I can use them to save the money I would have spent on travel.  That allows me to invest or save the money I would have otherwise spent, and lets my money go to work for me!


What do you think?  Are there times when cash should be used or do you think there is a point that will fill any need?




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Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. Very eye opening article for me. I don’t always book my travel with points. I have valuations in mind when using points. If I am getting a better valuation using points, I would definitely use points otherwise pay with money.

    • That is true Valerie – using traditional hotel points is usually not a good deal in Vegas. But you could still book those using points through a travel portal at 1.5 cents or 1.25 cents a piece or use the Cap One Venture card etc. You would miss out on status earning booking via the portal. There are still ways to take advantage of the cheap rate without spending cash if you want to.

  2. I struggle with making sure I’m maximizing my redemptions after taking into account the cost the earn them (MS costs). I also stay in AirBnBs a lot and I found the Arrival to be a pain in the ass with the $100 minimum. I’m minimizing Airbnb costs by trying to find discounted gift cards or buying at Staples with Ink.
    But the thought of “what if I don’t have enough points for X trip in the future” always scares me and makes me hoard.

    • Naomi – I absolutely agree. I view my flex points as the nest egg that I try to pull from as little as possible since I know I’m going to continue traveling for many years. I try to accrue points through co-branded cards to supplement the flex accounts.

      I just combined some UR points with the Hyatt card bonus to book a stay in Hawaii when our friends in Houston announced that they’re getting married next year. My wife said she’ll need to make at least two trips out there, so looks like I need to start hoarding United miles.

    • I think the Cap Venture card is a much better card vs the Arrival +, better terms and a better bonus at this time. Unfortunately you have to deal with Cap One but nothing is perfect haha.

      If you are MSing on the 2% card you would probably be better off with the Citi DC if you aren’t grabbing sign up bonuses for the Arrival or Venture anyways.

      As for the fear of not having enough and hoarding I would take a look at what you had at the beginning of the year versus what you have at the end. If you have more at the end or the same amount then you are hoarding too much imo.

      Also you can plan out what your trips are for the next few years and see what is needed and go from there.

      If you aren’t spending much cash on travel then you are fine hoarding but if you are hoarding and still paying cash for a lot of travel then I think you have room for improvement. That is my take at least.

  3. I know it’s a bit different than what you mentioned in your post but I sometimes struggle with using more points for first or business class or booking economy and saving the rest for inevitable future trips. Thoughts on that strategy?

    I know that I could be more aggressive with credit cards, but we’re planning on buying a house in the next year or so and feel like we should lay low for a bit.

    • That is more of a personal thing. I tend to fly economy 95% of the time in the US and carribean etc. If I find a saver flight and it is over 4 hours then I may book FC but they are hard to find these days. I also fly a lot of SW which means I don’t run into the dilemma with them.

      When I am going to Europe etc. then I usually try to get FC. But I don’t do those trips as often as others. If I was going more often I would probably do economy then.

      I would say if you are having to pay cash for trips at the end of the year since you are running low on miles from FC bookings then maybe downgrade to econ comfort on some routes etc.

  4. Great post, definitely a lot of good points. Do you think it assumes that everyone does a lot of MS? For people that don’t, getting cards and meeting the sign up bonus may not be as easy or as feasible if their window to book their desired travel is small.

    All I’m saying is that some people can’t accrue points as aggressively as others and may have to pay cash sometimes for travel.

    • Nathan – good point. If you don’t have the points then you don’t have the option. This is more based on the fact that people sit on their points waiting for perfect redemptions. If you have them then use them, if you don’t then you have to pay cash.

  5. Great article! Just made me realize that as a single person, I should cash out 2 out of my 3 million MR points by getting Charles Schwab Platinum card for 1.25 cents each. Considering that I have 1.7 million ThankYou points (with Premier and Prestige getting 1.66 cents value on 4-night bookings) and 800,000 UR points (plus hundreds of thousands of miles with Alaska and AA), I should have all my bases covered especially since I can replenish these fairly easily. Thanks again, can’t wait to invest my cash and watch it grow 🙂

    • The Charles Schwab card makes cashing out MR points enticing for sure. And with that kind of stockpile and your ability to replenish it easily I think that is a solid move.

    • UR points have a cash value of 1 cent which makes them one of the few points that you could hoard and you are guaranteed at least a min value. I think everyone should have a stash of points to take advantage of opportunities that arise when you go to book a trip. But there are people out there with over a million AA miles and are just waiting to use them because there is no saver space etc. They are doing them no good sitting in the account. Book a 20k flight if you wanna go somewhere instead of paying the $350 cash waiting to get 2 cents per miles or only using it when there are saver awards etc. That is my take on it at least.

  6. I end up spending cash on food and entertainment on trips, which is my reason for using the Discover it Cash in my mix of cards. Are their good suggestions for covering these superfluous costs on points?

    • You can charge some things to your room (food, drink, some souvenirs etc) and then use the Cap One Venture card or Barclay Arrival Plus points to wipe it off your bill. That is about the only way to cover that kind of stuff.

  7. One reason you should always pay cash for travel:

    To earn status with the airline or hotel. If done properly, this will provide many future benefits.

    • Scott if you use flexible points and book it through the portal you can still earn airline status. Most hotel programs count award stays towards status these days too.

      • Thank you for the article Mark. I enjoyed it as I do all of your posts. I will probably still spend dollars on airfare and then at some point begin to whittle down my mountain of points. (I realize that they may face devaluation but the way I do it now works for me. I get nearly every upgrade on AA and I enjoy the lounges, etc.) But I did learn a few new things here and that is what it is all about, Thanks!

        • Thanks for reading and for the comment Scott. Everyone has to do what works for them. I was just trying to give everyone some food for thought :)!

  8. thank you for this article. i made two rsvp, one with csr for 17540 and directly with the hotel for $288. both are refundable. i been debating which one i should cancel. this article help make my decision.


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