Is Travel Hacking A Hobby Or An Addiction
I have been thinking about this question for a while now, is travel hacking a hobby or an addiction? Websters defines addiction as a compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance. Now miles & points are not a substance per say but they are a thing that can be habit forming. I think of the high we get when we see an approval for a credit card application or when the huge bonuses post to our accounts is habit forming.
Think of all of the crazy things we do for miles and points. Waiting in line at Walmart, gift card reselling, flying on planes just for status etc. We look like a pack of insane people to the outside world. But is our insatiable love of miles and points as innocent as it seems? Do we make illogical decisions in the name of miles and points? I think that we do, but I think that it is okay.
PREVIOUS MMMT: Why I am considering changing all of my credit card due dates.
What Led Me Here?
After a year of writing for Miles to Memories I have had a chance to interact with many readers, other writers, and hobby enthusiasts. Over that time I have noticed a trend of craziness that leads me to believe that us in “the hobby” are indeed addicted to miles and points. I think of addiction as a need for something that leads to illogical decision making.
I’ll give you a few examples. I know people who have millions of miles and points. When you have balances of this amount that means that your earning is outpacing your need for the miles and points. But they will risk their banking relationships for the next 50, 70, or 100,000 mile bonus. These relationships are what is allowing you to get these miles and points so why risk that for a bonus that would add less than 5% to your overall gain? The risk reward just isn’t there in my opinion. Do you really need that extra 50,000 miles? Or is your addiction to the sign up bonus leading to this decision?
Another example is that people will spend thousands of dollars doing a mileage or mattress run in the name of status. Will they ever recoup that money spent to get that status? Sure, free breakfast is great but is it really worth the $30 price tag that hotels put on it? Or is it actually worth the $5 you would have spent on a breakfast sandwich down the street?
Status chasing is even crazier for people that have millions of points & miles. Do you need the upgrades when you already have enough miles to book into the cabins you want to book into anyway?
PREVIOUS MMMT: 4 reasons why I loathe all inclusive vacations.
The one thing I have noticed with travel hacking is that it seems like you are either all in with this stuff or not in at all. Once you get a taste you are hooked for good.
Don’t get me wrong I am not saying all of these things are wrong or that it doesn’t make sense when the parameters are right.
Having said that I do implore you take a step back from time to time and kind of think about the problem from the outside. Really evaluate it before diving into every deal or offer. I think you will find that sometimes it doesn’t make sense and it is better to let the deal die. Don’t let that addiction get the best of you. Although there are a lot worse things to be addicted to :).
Share your thoughts in the comments, are you addicted to miles & points like I am?
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.
Yes, for many, like me for example, this is more than a hobby but an addiction. I enjoy it more than my regular job. I calculated that if I spent zero time on this hobby and focused on my business instead, I would make more than the cost of outright buying the International First and Business Class airfares that I get from collecting miles and points. The 40K a year that I save in premium air travel annually from this hobby is much less than what I would have earned if I had spent my time working instead. I enjoy collecting miles and points much more than making money.
Very true I think many look at it as a hobby and if you are replacing time that you would have been watching tv etc. then it is a net positive.
Opportunity cost is the answer to the tipping point. The book “Your Money or Your Life” should answer that question. If you like your job and would rather work a few more hours to pay for a trip then spend a few hours travel hacking, and travel is important to you, then you should work instead of hack. As a doc I get paid well to do something I love so it is becoming less and less worth it to me as it gets harder to get points and my retirement account gets closer to being funded. Bill Gates and a Walmart greeter obviously have different answers to this question as well.
Something that goes along with that is if you have the opportunity to make more money. If you own your own practice you can always take on more patients etc. but not everyone can simply take on more hours with ease. But like you said it comes down to the personal situation.
Just another side comment….I routinely read of people getting shut down, often by large banks with a huge footprint. My understanding is that these are lifetime bans. Not such a big deal for old dogs who have their life accumulations all nailed down – but a lifetime ban in your 20s and 30s? when the trend shows nothing but increased consolidation in the banking sector? we can’t predict the future, but I wouldn’t want to be shut out of options that impact farther than just vacation funding.. Also, call me paranoid, but we all swim in seas of data collection….often for our livelihoods. Just wouldn’t want that on my head. As the old saying goes….pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered.
The people that get shut down are earning enough points and miles that they probably don’t even really need to be earning more. But I do think they are more cautious with their favorite banks. Most of the bans are not lifetime either but I also try to stay under the radar and don’t tend to push anywhere near where I would need to go for a shut down. To each their own though some don’t think you are going hard enough if you don’t have a shut down or two and these are the people that tend to find out the new and interesting ways to earn miles and points.
We earn and we burn. I’ve never really let it get to an addiction although the old bluebird- Simon malls trick helped us do a bit of damage some time ago. We learned that happiness lies in accomplishing things in the here and now. Even travel hacking can become unhealthy if you let it. Use the points to alleviate stress, not add to it.
Thanks for reading and the comment. I agree 100% with you – too much of anything tends to be unhealthy.
This has been on my mind lately…like where is the tipping point? Seriously considering hanging out at airfarewatchdog.com (or similar) and hotels.com and just calling it a day.
It’s occurred to me recently that lots of the hype around using cards is because well…affiliate fees and all that.
I’d be willing to pay a subscription fee for travel hacks in general, less emphasis on credit cards, more emphasis on really good deals via promotions, sales, etc.
There are private FB groups etc. that you can pay to be a part of. Most focus on reselling though.
Consider sharing your points and miles with family and friends, especially those that can’t easily accumulate points. Sharing has its own kind of high when you help make someone’s vacation dreams come true. In the past year I’ve given away 10 round trip flights, and a big handful of free hotel nights. Nearby low-income elderly neighbors want to visit Scotland before they die and I’m making that happen.
That is awesome Reggie! I do end up booking a lot of flights for friends and family. I am not one that has millions of miles in the bank – I wish I did and then I could do it even more 🙂
That’s pretty cool, only shared the love with friends on occasion who needed a hotel after a delayed/missed flight. It’s definitely gratifying in its own way.
I just try and be smart with the hobby. Pick up all the points I can, use them as I need. Had a week in Palm Springs (first visit) in March, including 1st class air and resort stay using points. Used another point system for my rental car in PSP. Next up we are planning our first trip to Hawaii in 15 months. Gotta continue to save…
Hawaii can be an expensive one – enjoy!
I enjoy reading what people do to get where they want to go in the style they want to go using points. I don’t chase the 50/500/1000 point opportunities, but go for the bigger one. Spending all the time chasing the “small” points could drive one crazy. Having said that, my family does think I’m nuts with all the time I devote to this hobby, but a) they get to turn left and b) it may be addicting but it ain’t porn and doesn’t hurt anyone. Kudos to those who earn and burn. In the last 16 months, I’ve used points to take two trips to Japan in econ, Biz and F, plus a trip to Hungary, Denver, Portland, British Columbia…
Limiting the deals you go after is a good idea.
During my corporate career I travelled alot and earned lots of airline miles in the old butt in the seat way. I gave family members trips and sold alot of miles. Enough to buy a car one year. Then AA finds out and threatens to end my account. I stayed at a SPG hotel for 2 years and lost everyone of those points because I just did not pay attention to this stuff that much. It has only been the last couple of years that I have worked hard on earning miles and points. When Staples had the Visa Debit recently I went a little nuts and bought all cards 3 Staples had. Liquidating all those cards at $200 ea. was just nuts. My bank shut me down. Now I just do a little MS to wipe out some of my Arrival Plus charges and now look for sign up bonuses that will help with the next trip. I found that if it consumes you, it is an addiction. If about an hour a day, then a hobby. That is where I am now.
Thanks for sharing Byron although the part about losing SPG points made me cry a little. I agree that finding the balance is key. I find myself slipping into obsession a little too often sometimes.
This question came up for my wife and I again just recently. I was scheduled for a major surgery and in preparation I tried to get all my hobby-related affairs in order for her in the unlikely event I didn’t wake up. Despite the fact that I thought I had been slowing way down in the hobby, it took me the better part of three weeks trying to tie up loose ends. That involved such things as liquidating all gift cards, emptying all and closing some prepaid accounts, zeroing out all credit card accounts, taking payouts from cashback portals and gift card selling companies, etc etc. Then trying to put into words how she should go about using the millions of miles we have accumulated, which cards she might want to keep open as we have free nights coming. Despite all my best efforts, there still were things left undone that I am dealing with as I recuperate(Citi checking bonus non-payment, Wyndham not crediting recent Masterpass stays, recently assessed annual fees).
Maybe in order to determine whether a hobby has become an addiction it would behoove others to do what I did just to see how much time is and has been involved in getting to this point. As for me, I am taking a well deserved break to ponder whether my pursuit of points and miles and the life imbalance it created could have possibly had anything to do with me winding up under the knife.
Bob I talked about this very thing a few months back when I suggested we should all take steps to set up our significant others with a road map should anything happen to us. I am also currently trimming down my card portfolios and trying to streamline things. It can be quite overwhelming at times!
I am glad the surgery went well and thanks for the great comment.
Im addicted to Miles and Points! Ok with it though because my daughter and I travel for nearly free.
Same Here 🙂
Agree! I got into it from reading some stuff online and found that, with our good credit, my wife and I could get approved for nearly any card(until 5/24 at least). We bought some miles as well when there were big bonuses and we have enjoyed many premium cabin flights on top airlines.
We have quite a few points/miles piled up and are also financially able to pay for travel when necessary. I suppose that there is a bit of a buzz involved and, when it appeared that there were no new cards with bonus to be opened, I felt the same way as one does when something ends.
Maybe I’d be better off not subscribing to blogs or following tweets about points/miles until I use up the points/miles we have.
I once actually used to earn miles by flying and points from staying in hotels, but of course that is slow going and just a small benefit financially.
Maybe I should just get a new hobby to replace this or treat it as a short term thing?
I think it is still a viable hobby but it is a lot tougher than it used to be. If you have enough miles for the time being maybe focus on cashback and bank bonuses. You could also focus on cards with yearly spending bonuses like a free night after 15K in spend etc.