Points and Miles Goals
The “Is Award Travel Free?” debate never ends. Throughout the points and miles news cycle, many describe where they fall on this topic. Indeed, critically thinking about our rewards is a worthy endeavor. Recently, Nick at Frequent Miler extensively discussed his views on what he termed “the joy and myth of free travel.” I certainly appreciate how he tackles the topic, and I generally agree with his notion that rewards enable reduced price, rather than free, travel. But I tend to avoid the “Is Award Travel Free?” debate. I find it an unnecessary distraction that saps my most increasingly precious currency – time. Instead, I focus on the importance of points and miles goals, and everything else takes care of itself. Today, I share my philosophy (again) of how I do bigger and better things with rewards currencies. But first, I’d like to reiterate one reality I feel the masses haven’t sufficiently acknowledged.
Remember, We’ve All Been Conditioned
As I’ve previously described, most all of us have naturally thought of rewards and loyalty in terms of travel. The first frequent flyer program was created over 40 years ago. In the mid-eighties, credit cards got involved and began hooking consumers. Then came the internet and people talking about all this stuff for money. Many consumers enjoy this content, including this writer. And throughout it all, people have predominantly redeemed on travel. Such redemptions are the standard.
A Not-That-New Paradigm
Given this perceived reality, many quickly dismiss everyday reward redemptions unrelated to travel as less optimal, short-sighted, lame, etc. Many question if another’s redemption doesn’t neatly fit within their own travel redemption norms. “If you’re not redeeming for travel, you’re doing it wrong,” basically. My response is that I’m playing a different game, one that is bigger than just travel.
I’ve primarily focused on everyday rewards redemptions for quite some time, and I wrote further on this paradigm shift almost two years ago. It boils down to this: consider all credit cards, loyalty memberships, rewards currencies, and elite status as means to obtain “Rewards” rather than unnecessarily-limiting “Travel Rewards.”
Again, I say enough with the Travel Industrial Complex. Why have we focused rewards almost exclusively on travel – a comparatively miniscule portion of our lives? Why not leverage our rewards in a way that applies to the majority, or hopefully all, of our respective lifetimes? How about enriching yourself continuously, perhaps even daily, with redemptions, rather than dreaming of that award trip that’s booked far in the future?
So then, how am I reconciling these views while maximizing my points and miles currencies?
It’s About Goals, People
Set and periodically revalidate your goals, then optimally earn and redeem to accomplish them. That’s all! By doing so, you’re more immediately, positively enriching your life, whether a goal is travel-related or not.
By listing your goals – actually writing them down – you may surprise yourself. Here are just a few items which may not end up on your list:
- Staying at the Alila Ventana Big Sur
- Redeeming miles for a toddler to fly in a premium class
- Allowing a hotel chain to dictate where you travel
- Ceding control of your credit card rewards strategy to one bank
By setting your own goals customized for your situation, deliberating over “Is Award Travel Free?” and related minutiae is completely unnecessary. Overanalyzing that topic turns into a needless time-suck. Instead, redeem rewards currencies to help meet your higher-priority life goals, which may or may not include travel. Oh, and there’s another benefit.
Move Past Cent Per Point Valuations
By focusing on redemptions related to your priority goals, the importance of cent per point (cpp) valuations largely melts away. If I get less perceived cent per point value, so what? Accomplishing my goals with points and miles is priceless. Some cent per point value doesn’t even compare in the grand scheme of things.
Of course, if there are multiple pathways to meet the same goal, one can determine the most efficient ways of redeeming to reach it. But if a goal hinges on a specific redemption with less cpp value, no big deal!
I could write a much longer article, but you probably understand my view by now. Focus on your goals, then earn and redeem rewards accordingly. Nothing else really matters. Understand that we all have different goals, and what I may perceive as a terrible redemption in my situation may be perfect in someone else’s. We can each be correct for our respective circumstances. What have been your recent points and miles goals and how have you earned and redeemed to reach them?
Capital One Venture X Business earns 2X miles on everyday purchases plus up to 10X in bonus categories. You also get access to Capital One lounges plus an annual travel credit & anniversary bonus. Right now you earn bonus_miles_full.
Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.