Have I Gone Crazy? Why I Just Cashed Out All My Points

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Cashed Out All My Points

Have I Gone Crazy? Why I Just Cashed Out All My Points

A week or so ago I shared an article in around the web about a guy that regretted paying off his mortgage early.  I figured it would be something about mortgage interest rates being so low and that he could have used that money elsewhere. But it was more about his loss of motivation to continue to earn at a high level because that large payment wasn’t required any longer. They also had some lifestyle creep, which Benjy likes to caution about.  The article came off kind of tone deaf but it did get me thinking about my miles and points situation. I, along with many of you, am sitting on larger balances of miles and points then I have ever had.  I also find myself unmotivated and bored with the hobby overall. That got me to thinking, should I spark my hunger for points by burning my balances to the ground?

How I Got To This Point

Most of us are not traveling much these days, if at all.  And if you are cash prices are pretty insane which has made points less valuable / useful overall. I am personally sitting on larger stashes of points than usual for a few reasons:

  • Cancellations from 2020 travel.
    • I usually plan about a year out so I had a ton of cancellations and points coming back to my accounts.
  • No future bookings.
    • I usually plan a year out but I have nothing on the books right now which means I haven’t been using many points either.
  • I am home all the time
    • Over this past year I have spent more time at home than I have since the kids were really young. That isn’t a bad thing per se but it has allowed me to increase my points earning since I have had more time on my hands to do it.

Because of those three things I have balances that are 2-3 times larger than I ever had in the past. In all honestly, I am usually on the just in time method of accruing.  I am always earning points focused on a specific future trip. My balances are usually pretty small since I am truly burning them as I am earning them. So having stockpiles of points is a new sensation that I am not used to and it doesn’t necessarily agree with me.

Cashed Out All My Points

My Reasoning For Cashing Out My Points

Here are the reasons that I decided to cash out my points.

Airline & Hotel Balances

When I talk about cashing out my points I am talking about the transferrable currencies (Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards and ThankYou Points). The rest of my airline and hotel point balances remain untouched.  That plays a role in this as well.  I have enough points in those programs, and free nights, to cover my travel for a year or more. If I am set on points for future travel why should I let these other points collect dust and potentially lose value (we know the value is never going up).

Future Travel Is Still Hazy

I do plan on travel to pick up this year but it still won’t be to the levels of years past, at least for me.  Throw in the fact that I don’t plan to travel much, if at all, over the summer. We will be spending a lot of time this summer getting the cottage set up for rentals and using it ourselves so I just won’t have the time to get away much, or the desire to really.  That means I have a good 6 or 7 months of earning before my points would really be needed.  A lot of damage can be done in that time frame.

My Desire Is Waning

I have fallen into the desire, or motivation, trap the mortgage writer spoke of. Because I had larger balances than ever before I found myself unmotivated to chase things down. I found myself coming up with reasons not to chase deals instead of knocking them out quickly. This could be bank bonuses, Amex Offers or anything in-between.  I had lost my fire to rack up these easy wins. If I burn my balances to the ground then I will have that built in motivation to build it back up.  After cashing out, there will be a reason for doing what I am doing once again.  I won’t simply be going through the motions just because I can anymore.

I Have A Use For The Money

Lastly, I have an actual use for the money I would be earning. This isn’t to say there are not other good reasons like investing.  If you chased out your points last year and invested them then I think you are doing pretty well right now 😉.

For my situation we have outgrown our house but our area has also lost any value it had with the recent housing price boom. That leaves us with the choice of leaving an area we love or doing an addition to the house to get the space we need.  Either one will take money so this will help that endeavor.  We have some larger repairs we need to do as well so this money will go to good use. I think knowing it is going into something we will use on a daily basis lessons the blow some, for me at least.

Cashed Out All My Points

A Counter Point

We discussed this very thing in a livestream in our Diamond Lounge and Shawn brought up a counter point.  Isn’t getting to a large balance the point? Then you can relax and take it easier. That is a fair question, no doubt.

My response to that would be, we have no idea how long this opportunity will last so I want to get as much of it while I can. And if I am unmotivated then I never will push it as far as I can.  Plus I actually do enjoy going through the motions when I have a reason to do so.  I have already felt the desire come back and my motivation has been restored.  That alone made it worth it for me.

Why I Cashed Out All Of My Points – Final Thoughts

As I type this, the combined balances in my transferrable points programs is under 50,000 points total.  You read that right, between Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards and ThankYou Points I have a total that is less than 50,000 points between mine and my wife’s account.  We are already on the mend though with 60,000 ThankYou point and 60,000 Membership Reward bonus offers we are currently working on.  For Ultimate Rewards I will focus somewhat on Hyatt point earning since that is where most of them go anyway.  We should be getting an easy 10K coming in the next few weeks from their recent promo and I will have my wife grab a 50K welcome offer when they return.

Disclaimer

I will say this isn’t for everyone, or most people.  Many of you may think I am crazy and that is okay.  I am the type of person that needs a goal in front of them to be their best work, not everyone is like that.  Don’t do something similar just because I did it or because it worked for me. It may not work for you or you may regret it in the long run. A lot will depend how easily you can replace the miles and points and your current situation etc.

I am simply offering you a different view point from the norm to get you to think outside your box.  Use that thought process to decide what is best for you. Only you can answer that question.

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.

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48 COMMENTS

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48 COMMENTS

  1. I also cashed out most URs. But I am sitting on a huge pile of MR points which I can’t cash out since I closed the schwab platinum a year back. Any other way to cash out amex MR? My P2 has a schwab plat but I am not aware of a way to xfer MR points between spouses.

    • The only other way would be via gift cards. If the stash is big enough to justify the fee you could always sign up again and get no bonus. If you value the credits for the Platinum at around $400 the first year (between $200 airline incidental x 2, Uber, Saks credit etc.) you would need to cash in 60K to hit the break even point vs a 1 cent cash out ($150 / .0025).

  2. I did the same thing last summer to rent an RV to drive to visit two of my kids on the other side of the county. I cashed out 250,000 URs with my Reserve in August. It did motivate me to rebuild my stash. I’m back to 260,000 URs. The challenge was fun.

  3. If I were a pro at the points game as you are Mark, I would think that’s a good move. I would imagine you’re able to earn many points much more quickly than we “fledglings”.
    As for me, as a P1, I want to have a stockpile of points at the ready once things open up. I have many trips on my radar, including a twice postponed meeting in Rotterdam 2022. I will continue to slowly add to my reserves of Amex and Chase points until that day arrives (hopefully sooner than later!) I know the devaluation is a very real thing, but unless I experience a dire need for cashing out, I will continue building up.

    Thanks for your great reporting!

    • I do think having a 2 player system helps out more than anything else so I agree with you there. If I were a P1 I would most likely be taking a different approach and would only cash out a portion of my points etc.

  4. I have been feeling very unmotivated and figured I was getting bored with the whole thing, but your article made me realize that I am bored because I have a stash and also I am not seeing any rewards with these points. At least if I could use some of them and see a value (whether it be travel or turning into cash), I would probably be motivated again. I am going to have to reassess what I have and possibly trim down. Thanks!

  5. I have been using the downtime to up my hotel points and free nights game. I always fly everywhere on points, but paid for the hotel about half the time. I now have a lot more hotel free nights in the programs I like as well as more points. Next year or so post covid should be all points for flights and hotels!

  6. Crazy? No, it’s brilliant.

    While I do have some points in a handful of programs, I cash out points all the time. Why? Because points and miles can dictate where you travel. Cash does not.

      • I’m amazed by the number of times I see people decide where they will or won’t go/stay due to the points available to them. Cash is king.

  7. I saw that article you are talking about too. It was from Financial Samurai, “the biggest downside to paying off your mortgage,” or some similar title. Calling it “tone deaf” isn’t really fair, it’s a blog about personal finance and wealth building strategies. So, yeah, it’s going to sound tone deaf to someone with no wealth. But so are most topics that aren’t about struggle or plight of some kind.

    • I have done gift cards in the past for home improvement projects or you can do a mortgage payment by calling in.

  8. I just got my annual fee for my Prestige ($550!), and I don’t value TYP (I’ve been an UR guy) – I may even dabble into the MR world, but haven’t thus far. I’m already paying for the CSR (I love that card), have the Chase Biz Ink, Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom (the rotating 5x one.. I think that’s discontinued).

    Because I’m not using the (now) 2 “fourth night stay” benefits, I see no reason to keep the card. In addition, they’ve AXED the benefits and their travel partners are mostly international and just not something that interests me. When I was a road warrior, having the unlimited 4th night free was AMAZING. But, now I was looking at product changing to the Citi Double Cash (2% straight cash back, which I like) but then read that if I PC, I am no longer eligible for any Citi bonus for 24 months. I don’t know what travel will be in 2 years, to be honest, but I’m not too sure what to do as I don’t want to PC and then shoot myself in the foot because I can’t get ANY bonus for 2 years on any Citi card.

    Others have suggested (I’ve seen some posts but none recently) about applying for the Prestige, getting the bonus, then PC’ing the Prestige to the Double Cash. Ultimately, like you, I want to have less in “points” and more in cash.

    Any thoughts? I also haven’t been churning at all, so I’m probably at 0/24, and I do have a legit LLC business that I run, if that makes sense.

    • Downgrades may or may not reset the clock – it is a case by case basis. Usually if the number stays the same then you are okay. If it does reset you would be blocked from bonuses on all ThankYou cards for 24 months but not all Citi cards (AA cards are separate etc.).

      If it has been 24 months since you last got the bonus I would grab a card and then downgrade. I would do the premier (better offer and better earning potential imo and most of the Prestige perks are covered by CSR). Once you get that rolling you could downgrade the Prestige to the DoubleCash or to the Rewards+ which would get you 10% back on your redemptions up to 10K in rebates per year.

      • great reply, but if I’m not mistaken if you PC to a non TYP card, it will always closure and reset the clock.

      • Thanks Mark and justmeha! I don’t value TYP much (my only reason for this card in the first place was really the 4th night free and AA lounge access when it had it). I’m not sure I want to bother getting another TYP card to then downgrade this when I’m really looking for cashback as opposed to TYP. The TYP travel providers haven’t been too great (hence my love for UR and checking into the AMEX profile).

        I do like the idea of the AA branded for example) do “entice” me as they are miles based as opposed to TYP.

        I know my scenario is different than what you had mentioned, but given that I don’t use TYP, I don’t even have any left in the account to ‘cash’ out anymore) be compelling enough to just bite the bullet and PC over to the DoubleCash? If I still “could” get the “AA” type cards, (and being I’m at 0/24 already… maybe 1/24), I’m wondering if it’s worth it to go through the Premiere route and then downgrade to keep a “currency”, I don’t value right now.

        Also – does this apply to business cards as well? I have an LLC which is why I ask, aside from my regular employer.

        And – Since my AF just posted, they would still refund my AF if I transferred, in theory correct? If not, I’d just suck it up and move on.. but do value the 2% CB over the TYP.

        Thanks again for the help!!

  9. I have gotten unmotivated too. Not only because of my transferrable points piling up but also because I won’t be traveling till next year. The reason I haven’t cashed in is because I am concerned about devaluations once travel picks up again, so I am hedging against that real possibility. I can see all the airlines raising their miles requirements due to a massive increase in redemptions once travel comes back to normal.

    • That is something to consider but that would also mean that cash prices would be somewhat in line with the cash out valuations meaning you would have more freedom with cash. But that is assuming non international first / biz class travel. If that is how you normally roll then I would sit on them because you will still come out ahead after devaluations imo.

    • Great point Brett. Having a second person to work with makes it a lot easier to rack up points. I would be more hesitant if I was a P1 too.

  10. I was thinking the same thing a few days ago. I have only been in points and miles game for about two years, so I never really got a good redemption. With that in mind, I’m still learning how many points I need for travel and how easy/hard it is to generate the points I need. But I agree wholly that emptying my balances would motivate me to get more, so I think I’ll try that. And if anything goes wrong I’ll just blame Mark 😉

    • Haha – no don’t blame me! 🙂

      I would say do it in smaller chunks and see how you feel about it afterwards and move on from there. Figuring out where you want to go over the next two years and how many points it should take would help the process as well.

      • That’s good advice to start out slow. But I’m a go big or go home type of player, so I’ll likely do it anyway. Hehe

        I do plan on saving some back in a “travel bank” of my own cash (so I can get to the the next MtM meetup!). The worst that can happen is my next trip get’s delayed while I get my balances back up. I think I can handle that. Great post!

        • Sounds like a plan Matty! Thanks for the kind words and hopefully we get to grab a drink at the meetup once those start rolling again 🙂

  11. I have been cashing out Chase Ultimate Rewards points here and there with the Pay yourself back feature which seems to be a good return on the points. Unfortunately it does not let you do it for all purchases.

    • Yeah I hope that stays around long term – a great program that gets you pretty close to most travel redemptions (outside of international biz and first).

      • How do you do that? Gift cards? I always thought the return was not worth it when using points, miles, etc. for other then their typical use.

        • Chase – Pay Yourself Back with the CSR which gets you 1.5 cents per point

          Amex – cash out with Schwab Platinum which gets you 1.25 cents per point

          Citi – gift cards or mortgage payment at 1 cent a piece or cash them out directly with the Prestige card.

  12. All of this makes sense to me! I look at points and miles as a bonus, so use them anyway you want. Some like to be misers with them, others more flexible. But, whatever works is good!

    Thanks for the Vegas videos too. I know Shawn does most of them, but I like them all.

  13. This is almost certainly the most rational move at this point. We are no longer free to travel (or live) as we wish, and there is no indication of when that might change.

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