Points and Travel Hobby Fears
With Halloween approaching, I’ve indulged in one of my annual routines – viewing several of my favorite horror movies. The Changeling, Hereditary, Dead Silence, The Fog, Midsommar, Rosemary’s Baby, Drag Me To Hell, The Thing, I could go on and on. But these days, it’s not just films that frighten me. And these other things are unwelcome scares. These items scare me most in our points and travel hobby.
The Basic Economy Boogeyman
I’m pleasantly surprised how I’ve adjusted to the vast majority of airlines moving from a standard award chart to variable pricing. Most of the time, I end up better off with the variable rates, paying much less than the 12.5k one-way miles which many airlines stuck to historically for domestic fares. But part of my deal with the airline devil is that I often must commit to basic economy fares.
Said carriers get their hooks into me with that enticing mileage rate, most always well under four figures of miles one-way. I’m particularly fond of those rates on non-stop itineraries where a ridiculously short transfer isn’t involved. Also, I’m a light packer and only book basic economy for solo travel. Nonetheless, I get antsy as I review all the warnings during bookings and click “Accept” after the multiple warnings. I know this is all by design, with the airline trying to scare me into paying more in miles for a non-basic economy fare. But regardless, it’s unsettling.
Jump to the airport when I prepare to fly on my basic economy ticket. I’m fully cognizant of the luggage limitations I’ve selected. I usually have a backpack or a small, underseat roll-on bag. But I still have a phobia of my bag being slightly too big. Of course, nothing has ever happened. Regardless, my bag being swiped for a big baggage fee due to my lowly fare is always in the back of my mind.
The Horrifying Wyndham Rewards Expiration Policy
I love hotel points, especially niche currencies, perhaps to my own detriment. Choice, Radisson, Sonesta, Wyndham, I’ll take ’em all. And I continue to accept a big risk with that last one. First, Wyndham Rewards points expire with 18 months of inactivity. No big deal there – I get 15k points annually with the renewal of my legacy Wyndham 2x everywhere card. Second, points expire four years from the date they post to a Wyndham Rewards account. Ewww.
Not only does Wyndham pressure members to actively redeem, they put all responsibility on us to track when the points posted in order have the full picture. Wyndham has a chintzy little notice in a member’s online account notifying when the next points expire, but nothing beyond that. (Yes, transferring to Caesars Rewards may help with expiration issues.)
But instead of holding off for that rare aspirational Wyndham stay that I’m unsure will happen, I sometimes redeem earlier at ho-hum properties to get the points used. A redemption tragedy!
Chase Pay Yourself Back Uncertainty
As a cashout fan, I’ve loved getting 50% more value out of Ultimate Rewards for doing something I was already enjoying at one cent per point. Indeed, Chase’s Pay Yourself Back feature started out with a bang, including grocery stores as one of the first redemption categories. Over time, Chase has whittled away at the categories, where the biggest current highlight for most Reserve cardholders is dining.
On top of this, Chase has continued a trend of only extending Pay Yourself Back three months at a time. Consequently, I’m reassessing my Chase earning and redemption strategy way more often than I’d like. I’m fine with the dining category, but I’d appreciate a bit more confidence in the feature by Chase extending the policy longer term. I have no reason to expect this happy ending, though.
Hilton Elite Food & Beverage Credit Suspense
I’ve learned to accept the Hilton program’s daily elite food and beverage credit for what it is. But part of “what it is” is tremendously inconsistent and unpredictable from property to property. I’ve learned to treat this benefit on a purely case by case basis, since so many properties interpret and enforce it differently. To manage my own expectations, I’ve taken on more work to confirm the exact benefits in advance and at check-in. Regardless, a smooth, sensible experience with the food and beverage credit is not guaranteed. And in my experience, going line by line through a folio with an inexperienced front desk agent at checkout can be a horror show.
The Most Dreaded Amex Pop Up
My wife is currently in Amex pop up purgatory. Long story short, she hasn’t been eligible for several new card welcome offers in months based on her prior behavior with Amex. Ironically, one could say that status is more calming than not being in the pop up inferno. At least someone in pop up jail knows they’re there and will eventually get out, most likely. Me? I’m not there and inevitably wonder how each of my Amex actions contribute to my inevitable pop up destination. This paralysis by analysis can be horrifying. But ongoing Amex juice makes it a net win. That’s what I’m telling myself, at least.
Taking a step back, the points and travel hobby items aren’t a horror show. They add up to something more like Vanilla Sky (maybe I’ll get into that in a future article). But the more I think about it, these “fears” are worth embracing. They make our game more interesting, and fun, to play. And if we’re not having fun with all this silliness, why bother doing it? And so, dear reader, as Halloween approaches, what’s in your points and travel nightmares this year?