No, Thanks! The Points and Miles Plays I Happily Avoid
I love our hobby for so many reasons, a major one being the endless options to earn points and miles for big rewards. We are regularly drowning (in a good way) with new offers for more points, miles, and cash back. As consumers, we are in the fun position of focusing on the best ones. Indeed, I prefer having too many offers and not enough time over the opposite. Time is my most valuable asset, and using it on mediocre offers takes away my focus from earning big on superior ones. Therefore, I find it integral to avoid substandard points and miles plays. Here are just a few I choose to abstain from.
Questionable Amex Offers
Periodically, I receive Amex offers that I interpret as follows:
“Receive X dollars back on your X dollars subscription to Y service that you have 0% interest in.”
These offers essentially provide free spend for extra money and/or bonus points. The Motley Fool subscription offers are one of the more recent versions I can recall. These plays work out great when everything goes as a consumer plans. But often, it doesn’t. Long story short, some were stuck with Motley Fool subscriptions where Amex takes back the credit (via another charge) or portal rewards didn’t track. Perhaps many still got the Amex offer to track, but they were still out the time and effort. In that case, the Amex Offer should accurately read as follows in those situations (at best):
“Waste Z minutes of your time to end up exactly where you are now.”
I avoid this situation by only chasing Amex Offers where I actually obtain value from the product or service. Worst case, if a portal, or even the Amex Offer, doesn’t work out as I expect, I at least have consumed the good or service and can hold my head high. With Motley Fool (and many others), there’s no freaking way I would have spent one second consuming the product or service.
Mileage and Mattress Runs
Speaking of time, I no longer waste it on mileage and mattress runs. Sure, this can be primarily attributed to my overall apathy toward domestic airline elite status. Also, I don’t want any one promotion or status to unnecessarily influence or control my travel behavior. Do I want to travel to an undesirable location to find a Hyatt under $50? No. Do I want to fly across country (or internationally) simply to obtain elite status on a domestic airline? Hell, no. In my view, I will always lose by spending my most precious time resource to obtain access to continually degrading elite status benefits. I don’t need a free snack box of prepackaged items, more unnecessary bottled water, or an extra second of a half-smile from a flight attendant. Instead, I’ll spend extra time at my local beach or with my family and friends, thank you very much.
Many in our hobby do well with buying groups. I’ve never dipped my toes in those waters. I’m perfectly content with other miles and points plays taking my time. The ones I’m involved in don’t entail ceding so much control. Specifically, I’m not comfortable buying hundreds or thousands of dollars of merch and shipping it to an address which is not my own. Many people are, apparently. Of course, circumstances have made buying groups the primary means to earn large amounts of points and miles for some enthusiasts. Bravo and godspeed to all of you. I don’t have the nerve for it.
Similarly, coin deals are an easy option for driving up spend. The deals seem to come in waves. These relatively safe reselling opportunities turn out great for many. But I’ve heard several horror stories where people either get stuck with said shiny items, or their credit card company doesn’t reward points on the spend. Perhaps these horror stories are a small sample of the overall group. Regardless, it’s enough to scare me off.
Reselling – A Points and Miles Play I May Eventually Adopt
This is a fairly safe and predictable play for many out there. For me, it’s not so much a risk concern for me as much as a time consideration. I simply don’t have enough time in the day to experiment with reselling. Also, I enjoy other hobby activities more; reselling doesn’t sound fun to me. Perhaps I’ll try out reselling in the future when my primary strategies dry up. But not yet.
Bank Rules, Mostly
Many are annoyed by bank rules for credit card applications and welcome offers. I’m not, because I largely don’t care about them. I simply move to other banks without such draconian policies. Also, many rules, particularly Amex’s, aren’t as stringent as one is led to believe. Without much concern for these rules, one can unearth plenty of rewards to stay busy.
Regarding the “mostly” up there, I’ll start paying attention to a bank rule when I end up finding myself unintentionally close to certain card eligibilility requirements. For instance, thanks to our relatively quiet 2020 card application year, we were pleasantly surprised that Bank of America was back in play for us. I don’t find myself meeting stringent application requirements often, but when I do I shamelessly partake.
Paperless Bonus Points
On several of my different card accounts, I’m periodically offered the opportunity for free, easy, and insignificant amounts of points for switching to paperless statements. I hesitate, but only for a second. Ultimately, I remember what would be the alternate reality:
“For an extra 500 one-time points, it’s now slightly more possible that you forget to pay your monthly bill, consequently and negatively affecting your credit report for longer than you think.”
You see, I need that tactile reminder that I have bills to pay. Many of you don’t need that. I also don’t want to look at a screen to check when my bill payments are due. Different strokes for different folks!
I’m totally “get off my lawn” about cryptocurrency. Yes, this is not a purely points- and miles-related topic, but it does apply. For instance, Cash app recently started rewarding Bitcoin for certain purchases. Given my ignorance to such a currency, I tap out. Sure, I could take the time to learn and perhaps become more comfortable with such a transaction. But I”m simply not interested.
Points and Miles Plays I Avoid – Conclusion
I often preach the importance of an open mind related to points and miles. But here, I’m possibly contradicting this trait. Nonetheless, I think it’s important we are aware of our own strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots in the hobby. We can consequently make more educated moves for our future benefit. On the flip side, I might take up a few of the above plays, but I’m not there yet. What points and miles plays do you leave on the table? Why?