Points and Miles Hoarding
Almost two and a half years ago, I reflected on two opposite principles – immediately redeeming/cashing out points versus hoarding them. At the time, I described how my strategy is a balance of the two: cashing out all bank points and smartly hoarding airline miles and hotel points. News flash – this strategy hasn’t changed all that much. Anyway, the correct answer for each individual is different. What’s optimal for one person probably isn’t for another. The key is to think first – don’t just collect a ton of different currencies without a plan. And we’re in quite a different travel landscape now than back in early 2021. I figure the time’s right to talk more about the case for points and miles hoarding. Here are just a few ways we can benefit from high balances.
One’s ability to do more with bigger points totals may seem obvious, but I feel we don’t appreciate this freedom enough. In a world of dynamic redemption schemes, I greatly value the convenience of more points on-hand. Not too long ago, Marriott and IHG enabled points top offs on free night certificates, greatly expanding what hobbyists can accomplish with more points. But I recently leveraged the flexibility of a healthy Hilton Honors balance for a different reason.
My siblings and I are huge U2 fans. I argue that I’m the biggest – I’ve seen the band live more than the other two combined and I’m the youngest. For quite some time, we’ve hoped to see them at The Sphere in Vegas this fall. Dates were just recently announced. At the time, my brother worked on tickets, and I covered hotel reservations. Indeed, I was concerned about hotel availability, especially at reasonable award rates. I went ahead and made 12 total reservations for six different dates. That way, we’d be good regardless of the show date. Long story short, we got tickets, and I cancelled ten of those reservations. I wouldn’t have been able to make contingency plans without a healthy Hilton Honors balance.
This may sound antithetical to many out there. After all, by choosing to pad points and miles totals at a pace beyond the rate one can consume them, individuals are inevitably subjecting themselves to cents per point devaluations. This may be true, but certain hobbyists obtain what they consider a greater value in return.
Years ago, I heard Randy Petersen refer to his points and miles stash as a “Travel IRA.” I’m paraphrasing, but he basically enjoyed the peace of mind knowing that he had more than enough airline miles and hotel points to indefinitely cover his travel. I feel the same, and I highly value that aspect.
In calculating and reaching my financial independence number, I knew that I should prepare for inflation’s impact. Similarly, I’m smartly collecting currencies to mitigate higher award prices in the future.
Aspirational Travel Exists
People get into our hobby for a variety of reasons. Some want to visit opulent hotel properties or fly in premium classes. In our current life season, my family and I don’t overly focus on these, but we still enjoy these experiences from time to time.
There’s no getting around the fact that one must build up significant loyalty balances to realize their dreams, travel-related or otherwise. The common wisdom is to do so in bank points currencies more so than with specific loyalty programs. This mitigates devaluation a bit, since bank points have more redemption options across a wider variety of programs beyond my favorite method (cashout). Still, some may find accumulating in a specific loyalty program a wise decision, based on a variety of factors, including: faster accumulation from a wider variety of activities, more valuable credit card welcome offers, pooling points, etc.
Saving points for that next big trip is an honorable goal, and the process of doing so is part of the fun! That’s worth the hoarding risk to many.
I feel that some consider points and miles hoarding shameful. Perhaps it’s because they do something differently and want to validate their own decisions. Whatever the reason, I don’t think there’s any absolute right or wrong here. There’s nuance to so much in our hobby, and individuals should focus on the angles that impact them most, tactically and strategically. Coming full circle, the true shame is when an individual mindlessly hoards points and miles without thinking through the entire process to consumption. To that end, define and revalidate your goals periodically, ensuring they map to the currencies you are pursuing. Correct your course and go get ’em!
Why do you hoard points and miles?
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