Why I Don’t Tell Friends & Family About The Miles & Points Travel Hobby

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Why I Don't Tell Friends & Family About The Miles & Points Travel Hobby

Why I Don’t Tell Friends & Family About The Miles & Points Travel Hobby

I no longer tell friends & family about the miles and points travel hobby. I used to try. It’s just not worth the effort any longer. I’ve given up on trying to explain this hobby to people, and I lead a more peaceful, less frustrated life now. Here’s why I no longer tell people I know about the miles and points travel life.

What I Used To Do

When this was all brand new to me, I tried to tell everyone! I’d post pictures of our awesome trips and write things like “We paid only $17 for this trip! If you’re interested in finding out how, let me know!” Guess how many people ever asked. It’s a number between 0 and 2. Take a wild guess on whether there was a 2nd conversation after the first inquiry.

Don’t get me wrong. Lots of people have asked me “How do you travel so much?” It’s usually accompanied by something like “are you rich?” or thinking I work for an airline, etc. Formerly, I tried to start explaining the details of this hobby in response to this question. After a blank expression and turning off their ears in the middle of what I was saying, the response always was the same. “OK” and walking away.

I’ve realized that people want an answer that’s 1 sentence at the most. They don’t actually want to understand, they just want a headline-length response. If it’s too long for a tweet, it’s too long for their interest.

Example 1 – My Family

I made some real effort to get my parents into this hobby. To be fair, after lots and lots of effort, they did finally open some credit cards and took a trip to visit my wife and I in South America. However, that took TONS of effort. Through the process, they always forgot to use my referral links. I managed to get 15,000 Hilton points out of the entire process.

They also didn’t follow my advice pretty much…ever. My dad busted 5/24 with a department store credit card and a Costco card. My mom accidentally busted 5/24 by opening a credit card she didn’t know she was opening. And my parents still ask me quite regularly if we are drowning in credit card debt from doing all of this. (We aren’t!)

My sister once asked my parents how my wife and I keep flying business class and staying in fancy places while my wife is in school / I’m the only one working. My parents mentioned something about my use of credit card points to her. I sent her a text message with a short explanation and offered to tell her more, if she was interested. She replied that she didn’t want to ruin her credit. Since then, she’s mentioned to my parents that she thinks this is probably illegal and wonders if the police will show up to arrest me for opening all these credit cards.

Example 2 – My Friend

I tried really hard to get a friend of mine into this hobby. He has a good-paying job, but he and his wife have 2 young kids. I figured that earning some miles and points would help them travel, since traveling with kids adds extra expenses. I wrote some basic info in an email, told him it’s actually not bad for your credit, etc. He wrote back saying, “I make good money. We can afford to travel more once the kids can walk on their own.” We’ve never talked about it since. It’s not worth chasing people who don’t care.

My current approach to family & friends regarding miles & points

What I Do Now

Nowadays, I don’t tell anyone about this hobby. If people ask me, I give a really short response. “I use points I earn from opening new credit cards, and then I travel for free using those.” If the person says literally anything other than “Wow, tell me more!” I don’t say another word. Any response other than that means the person won’t do the work required to get into this hobby and actually open a credit card to get started. That’s especially true if you have any hope of this person using your referral link for the application!

That’s how I got into the hobby. I saw a friend doing tons of travel and asked him what the story was. He mentioned that he opens credit cards, gets the points, and then opens another. I asked for more info, and that was that. After doing this for a few years, I’ve realized that this is a hobby for those who find it on their own and then seek out a Facebook group for more info. 99% of the time, evangelizing this hobby isn’t worth the effort. Twisting people’s arms just creates awkwardness and usually goes nowhere, so why risk the arguments?

It’s not worth beating someone over the head for 6 months to get 1 credit card referral bonus. If they’re not interested on their own, you’re not going to make them interested. Plus, trying even harder to sell it makes this hobby sound like a cult. It also makes it sound like maybe it is illegal if you try to oversell it. You just come off like a snake oil salesman. High-pressure sales turn people off, to be honest.

Final Thoughts

Getting into the miles & points travel hobby has really changed my life and my wife’s. We’ve done things we never dreamed of. This hobby is awesome and fun and interesting. However, most people aren’t genuinely interested once they find out it takes the slightest bit of work. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not worth my effort to try to force people to be interested if they aren’t. Referral bonuses can be awesome, but I won’t put months of work into chasing one. I’d rather spend my time without those headaches. If people are really interested, they’ll show it. If not, I don’t tell my friends and family about this hobby.

What about you? I’m sure I’m not alone on this.

Ryan S
Travel hacker in 2-player mode, intent on visiting every country in the world, and can say "hello" or "how much does this cost?" in a bunch of different languages.

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135 COMMENTS

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135 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve managed to get a couple of co-workers to get involved in the points/miles game although in a modest way. My take is that for a lot of people, getting a credit card involves running up a balance and taking a long time to pay it off. Many already have a few credit cards that they have done this with and they don’t want anymore(can’t afford it), which I understand. The first thing I say when it comes to applying for credit cards is that if you can’t pay the balance in full every month you shouldn’t do partake in this hobby. I’ve even written down a technique for MS that’s fairly easy and given it out to 1 potential travel hobbyist to no avail, other than for him to show it to his son who was interested. One other thing, many act like I must be rich in order to travel like I do and therefore why don’t I just get them an airplane ticket, and/or hotel room for free. Nope!

    • I have to say, I understand and appreciate everyone who chimes in and says if you can’t pay your credit card off every month then you should have one. To that I say, for us in this hobby, we should be thankful that folks do exactly what we’re preaching against because I’d be willing to bet that if lenders stopped making money on interest and late payments then these perks that we enjoy would be watered down even more or non-existent.

      I don’t think it’s my job or lot in life to set someones financial compass straight. They are free to do what they want and if running up balances and paying interest and late fees allows me to do what I do with points and miles then so be it.

      On the MS front…many folks are just easily intimated by most things one would have to do to MS. Some are already uneasy about hobby as a whole and then asking them to do some things that are just absolutely necessary for this hobby to be fruitful is just one step too far past their comfort level.

      I will admit, when I first started I thought for sure an alarm was going to go off just for buying a $500 gift card at the grocery store. It comes easy to us because we’ve be doing it for so long but others just aren’t there and some will never get there….and that’s okay too.

  2. Thank you, Ryan…
    They used to have a saying in the Harley crowd: “If I have to explain it, you won’t understand.”

  3. Great article, glad I noticed it. It remined me of what my best friend Uncle once told me, “I don’t chase.” If he offers a job to someone, offers assistance or advice, if that person isn’t the one to come to him on his schedule and his terms to follow up to set up that work, or to sit down and ask questions, my Uncle doesn’t bother with the situation – he just drops it and moves on – he doesn’t chase. I’ve started doing that too with respect to helping with these points strategies. Co-workers said how much they too would want to do it, but then I never get a recontact after I give them an outline of the fundamentals; I used to reach out, but now I never do. I still mention that you too can do this, but if they never follow up, the conversation is forgotten about on my end. Over time, I too have learned to mention less and less, I’ll probably eventually get around to just saying, yes we worked hard and have done well with our money, so yes, we’re flying first class b/c we can. Probably for the best.

  4. I could literally add “Why I don’t explain stuff to my boss”. He’s the same way. Asks questions about decisions I make, and try to explain and he’s too busy checking Facebook. He clearly checks out on every call. Useless individual. So glad I quit that company. One of the most idiotic people I’ve met but definitely had the attention span of a fly and needed 1 sentence answers.

  5. I tried before to get everyone on board. Nobody listened just one friend and today we are planning a RTW on business and first class and all we remember and joke about is that at first she thought the airline miles belong to the person buying the tkt (her employer) and not to the one actually flying…now she is a pro! And will do her own RTW probably on 2022. I am leaving Feb 2021 for 35 days with free flights and free luxury hotels – 7 cities and 6 countries if covid19 helps me out!

  6. I know exactly what you mean, all of our friends,family and work associates are jealous of how often we travel and the exotic vacations we take, when I try to tell them they can do it too and that I will gladly show them how, they look at me with pretty much an incoherent stare as if to say, “well,that all seems like too much work , so I say to them if someone gave you a shovel and said diga hole for 4 hours and afterward you can go here or there without paying the 3 or 4 thousand dollars ,would you do it? and almost all of them say yes, so then I reply well then why wouldnt you do something that takes much less effort and certainly no backbreaking physical work to do to get the same vacation?

  7. I defintiely don’t waste my time anymore with people who are not interested. I do however spend time with those who ask questions about the hobby and have had friends/family dabble into it as well. Even get to go on some friends travel hacking trips too!

  8. Nothing better than the family member or friend that dips their toe in the water with one Hilton (no AF) card and wonder why 75k points won’t get them a weeks say in Times Square during the week between Christmas and New Year. After all, 75k points is a lot.

    I just giggle and carry on. And what’s even worse is they will then go and bash this hobby because they felt that 75k should have gotten then more than just one night during the busiest time of the year.

    • “I learned 1% of what I needed to know and decided it’s stupid.” Sure. Thanks for not cluttering up the award space, so it’s easier for me to book 🙂

  9. Funny thing I have help so many people get awards, the best cards whatever. I barely ever got a referral bonus form anyway. This is a great topic becuase it is really on point.

  10. I agree with you. Some people ask me about it. I give them the basic framework. In my opinion the average person with decent credit at the very least with no heavy lifting can get a nice vacation every year. THat is wirhout applying for a ton of cards etc. Minimal effort. Now if they want business class and top hotels all the way there may be some time effort. Bottom line, I am told thats too much work. They want it all with zero effort, that includes booking it all. Overall I always think its a finite amount of people cashing in awards. THe wealthier highest income people I know, all wan tto use miles and points. They want to use them more than what we would call middle to upper middle class. So it seems to me.

    • If you want the vacation handed to you, only a travel agent can do that. I think the ‘work’ aspect turns people off.

  11. I’ve been in this hobby for 10yrs.

    This is the best blog post I ever read.

    I indeed, sent it to my family, who have benefitted from my stressing out working in their
    interest, to gain them free travel , but expressing little gratitude on their part in return since no money changed hands

    thanks

  12. I am a small potatoes points collector. I have one annual fee hotel credit card. Having cut back on family travel (elderly parents don’t seem too happy on the road, relatives we used to visit now deceased or super cranky), I can usually earn a few budget/ modest hotel nights a year from personal hotel stays if promotions are runnng. I love not having to do a day trip which involves eight hours of driving time. My points redemption night is a real treat.
    For my mom, I told her to keep her annual fee hotel credit card so she can visit someone once a year and get a night covered.
    When I told a frequent flying friend of several good deals/specials/bonus offers for places/companies I know she goes/uses regularly, her response was: “my husband takes care of travel.” I think that sums it up: travel arrangements are work, a chore, and people aren’t necessarily interested.
    Travel is a joy for me. It is personal. Last year on Smithsonian museum free day, I had registered for “admit two” to the small Atascadero Zoo in California. It was a day trip, a long drive on a hot day, and totally worth seeing for the first time the red pandas, duikers, other animals, AND with time to catch, unplanned, the last tour of the historic city hall. I went alone, as friends with jobs would rather work on a Saturday than visit a zoo —“they are for children . . ..” The non working friend did not want to take a day off from volunteer work. It was a memorable trip. Duikers are so cute.

  13. There is another downside of spreading the word on points and mile. There are some people that think you have plenty of points and miles and can spare some for their travel.

    • I’ve never had people ask to use my points, but this has come up in comments from a few people on this article. The audacity of asking to take a free trip from my points is…shocking.

    • Omg yes, I’ve had people ask me to donate points for their trips or whatever and I’m like do you know how hard it is for me to accumulate 100000 chase points without manufactured spending or a big business? I used to get excited and write long emails to people who asked me about this hobby, most of them never responded, most of them didn’t do anything. Some people have said I need to get a real hobby or a life, LOL. Now I just don’t care. If they want to learn, I just send them links to blogs.

  14. Have you had this demographic yet – I have some family members who know what I do but they think it’s “too much work/too complicated” and so don’t want to put in the leg work or make the effort to do a little research but will still ask me:

    1) Hey what’s the best credit card I should get now?
    2) Hey what’s the latest MS technique? (yes they ask about this despite not wanting to put in the leg work!)
    3) How are you doing so much blah blah?

    and of course the DREAMER – “hey I want to go to Bora Bora and stay in one of those fancy overwater bungalow thingies and fly in First Class with the shower on board and stuff, which credit card should I open?” which I want to f**king scream every time I hear that question because they’re pretty much saying “which 1 single credit card can I open where the bonus alone is enough to cover my flights & hotels and I get to live in the lap of luxury for free”, IT DOESN’T EXIST PEOPLE!! YOU NEED TO PUT SOME GODDAMN LEG WORK INTO THIS, but seriously, this ‘lifestyle’ isn’t for everyone…

    It seems people just want a “magic formula” or just want to be told all the “secrets” for just getting the best deals, points, etc. without ever doing anything themselves

    • If there was a magic button to make this stuff happen automatically, tons more people would be involved. I think a lot of the people who seem interested at first bounce as soon as they see that it takes work every month, not ‘1 and done’ type of thing.

  15. Greetings from Australia- just starting the journey and realise that the US card system is so different to here.

  16. Ryan I wholeheartedly agree with you. I no longer bother. I was never one for mentioning it anyway because I know my family. Any of this would be met with absolute stern criticism or the few that may be interest will want to do all these things that my wife and I do BUT won’t be willing to DO ANY of the leg work.

    They will listen to anything I have to tell them but right after I finish just ask me to do it themselves rather than trying and asking if they get stuck.

    No longer do I waste my time. I let them continue to think that my credit is ruined and that the credit police are lurking around my house to get me. My family is hopeless…they scrutinize everything. These folks need to be convinced that water is indeed wet.

  17. Hi,
    Interesting Article. In fact, I ve also started to collect Miles. However in Switzerland is not so easy like in the USA to get a good Amount of points. The best shot was woth Amex 100k welcome bonus, but thats all. Just some points with Diners, however pretty far to get a vert good amount of points. If someone has a good strategy to collect points in Switzerland, I will be glad to hear about it.

  18. Great article and loved all the comments. I got into this through Shawn posting about Staples deals back in 2013. Would love to know more about all the business class flights you all take. We have a family of 4 and have used the points to fly family to us or us to them. Was able to get biz class for my Pastor’s mission trip last year for the same price as economy. He loved it and told everyone how I “worked some deals.” Guess how many referrals I got? 0 Yep, most people just want a cheap easy deal. I’ve had some friends be super excited about it but nothing has come from it.

    • The idea of it and then the ‘doing’ don’t usually connect when they find out there’s effort involved. Like your story, having you do the work sounds awesome. Doing it myself? Nah.

  19. Ryan, the bottom line is that most people are not that clever with saving money. They’d rather take the path of least resistance, which generally means accepting the offer of some slick salesperson to “take care of everything” for more money. I started doing income taxes back in 1980, and I quickly discovered that people who made way more than I did had saved up far less than I did. It takes work to get the best deals, and most people are just too lazy to do that work, when there are so many out there willing to exploit their lack of initiative.

    • I don’t disagree with that. Laziness in the fact of something that requires effort is the main issue underlying the fact that people don’t want to play this game.

  20. This had me cracking up!! Similar stories with my friends and family eyyeya their loss!
    I’m just glad I took the time to listen and now can travel for free and have great credit also!

  21. I tried to explain on a small scale to a friend who lives paycheck to paycheck and her credit score is like mid-high 600’s…So enough to still get cc’s. And I know this is totally diff from collecting points. But she had to get like $500+ of work done on her car. So I told her to apply for a cc that was giving 150 cash back after spending 500. Perfect for her or so I thought. But she decided to open a cc at the place she got the car fixed. Couldn’t believe it but then again I could…

    • Probably because the auto shop credit cards offer a no interest intro period and maybe even a small discount. My friends who are in awe of what we do w cc rewards still wont do it because they know they will carry a balance. It kills me when i see them pay in cash, but at least that helps them from going bankrupt from debt.

      • Yeah, if people are going to carry balances, a 21% APR on a Chase card is a bad idea. People must pay off their balances in this hobby.

  22. I agree, I’ve told several friends and family over the past 6 years. They’ve seen extravagant trips I’ve explained at length and to date I have one friend who actually did it. While he’s doing very well and enjoys it as much as me, I don’t bother anymore.

    Same as you it has become pointless. I found out by one day 7 years ago wondering how so many people can afford first class. I read, then rinse repeat. I tried things, followed a system, and increased my credit along the way. No use in beating a dead horse. Judging by the amount of comments, we all feel the same

  23. Ryan, I really enjoyed reading your article as well as the comments. My wife and I have been collecting points for over 20 years, and have made some nice family trips over the years. However about two years ago, sort of by chance after getting a Delta card, we went into high gear in collecting points. I started teaching a couple of relatives, but mostly friends. So airline and hotel points were earned via new cards, referrals, and spending. But everything you said, we definitely experienced while teaching and referring. I looked at it, whether negative or positive responses, that I was trying to help people. We successfully combine the award usage with our Timeshares, often extending our timeshare weeks at the frontend of a vacation or end of a vacation, or both. We also needed a huge amount of hotel stays in the Boston area for medical reasons over the past five years Due to a cancer diagnosis, and was able to fund those stays with hotel points accumulated from past years which ran about two years ago. So our recent uptick on collecting strategies came at a perfect time. So I do still tell people about how we fly or stay at hotels for free, and if that’s teaching them about one of my favorite cards or five, I let them decide on how much they want to learn.

    Thank you very much for sharing.

    • @ Ken – the timeshare point/cc point combo is unbeatable. Ideal to carve out the lower point days for ts & finish out the week(s) with the higher cc points. Makes ts points stretch incredibly far! But ironically enough, you’ll rarely get the cc points ppl to cross over or understand the complexities & nuances of ts well enough to see the power of their combined forces! Usually the naysayers focus on high HOA fees (like premium cc AFs) or lack of availability (Hilton FN cert blackouts/Marriott Peak pricing anyone?!). This entire post also belongs to those folks.

      • I can relate. I’m super scared of any ongoing expenses like timeshare, HOA, and subscriptions. Maybe I feel like I can get out of high cc AF any time? So I’m not as strapped in for the ride. But I would love to be better educated about the correct hack of timeshare. My limited education on timeshare has taught me that it’s better to rent on secondary market or use some sort of point system than to own one directly, especially if I’m not fixated on visiting the same destination regularly. Where would you go to dive deeper?

        • Do what you are comfortable with that’s a win for you. Most of our timeshares were bout for ten cents on the dollar over 20 years ago so we are happy with them.

        • T ~ The Hyatt/Wyndham/Marriott/Hilton TSs for sure (that I know of) offer Legacy programs, allowing you to sell back a ts to them anytime you want. Not necessarily a “deal” at all if you overpaid to begin with. So buying correctly in the first place is one hurdle, like Ken rightfully points out.

          I understand many ppl want the “one & done” vacay & are not interested in buying for a lifetime. And that is where ts pays off, is over decades. So in that instance not a great fit. But I also have a Wyndham ts from decades ago I pay less in annual HOA that I do on one of my premium cc AFs! And that used to be a flip case before CC AFs started drastically increasing. The CSR just increased 22%, for example, my ts covenants each ban that high an HOA spike.

          As for choice, ts today is points based, so you use your points wherever/however you wish. You aren’t tied into one ts program or set location. The possibilities truly are endless. And the last minute deals are sooo much cheaper than similar cc offers.

          Where to go for info? Yes is a problem because bloggers dont really cover both with the same intensity. http://www.thetineshareguru.com is good on the ts side, though. Ts is like a reverse mortgage. Started how confusing, misleading, & non-consumer friendly & the perception just stuck. But used to its fullest, ts allows at least as much flexibility & choice per point as cc usage but I find more.

          • I normally attend 4-6 TS presentations a year just for the free gifts & tell them how I use CC points to travel for free. On 2 occasions I was finally able to convince the sales rep to log in to an actual life account (funny thing is most salesreps don’t actually own the TS they have an owner come log in to their account or they use a demo account) to show me prices & availability. Both occasions 2 different brands availability was horrible had to book months in advance at any of the limited places & room type I may consider travel, but best yet they always harp so much on the “last min deals” I had them each bring up random hotels (Hilton, Marriot, SPG), 100% of the time I pulled up the same hotel for same dates on the brand’s app and each time I was able to book it at the cash rate cheaper directly through the brands then the TS last min offer booking pages (even before they tack on extra fees for booking through the site). I really could only just show them the prices on my phone and laugh saying tell me again how I can benefit by owing a TS? Not to mention they want me to pay tens of thousands just to be an owner and use a last min booking portal that charges me more then booking it directly through the brands itself and better yet I even found it way cheaper through many other 3rd party apps (booking.com, Hotels.com, Hoteltonight, etc) I literally left with sales rep jaw dropped wide open and he learned a lesson never to show the TS live booking sites to customers again. Normally at the TS briefings they only show you some static prices and presentation but rarely ever go live unless you convince them to.

          • To play devil’s advocate, sure, you can swap locations, but you cannot REALLY go wherever you wish. Each program has its partners, and you can’t just choose some place in the middle of South Sudan because you want to go there.

      • I am one of those anti-timeshare people 🙂 because they don’t offer me the flexibility and locations I want in travel.

        • Ryan, most of the Timeshare’s were bought used for ten cents on the dollar over 20 years ago. We traded four times and had gorgeous vacations in Hawaii and flew for free on AA with points. We learned how to use, rent or gift them over the years very successfully.

          But I agree with you that with today’s CC climate, and what I know now, I would do it differently today. But I don’t regret what we did then, we have had many great vacations.

          Does that make sense?

          • It does make sense, just not for me. Most of the places I plan to travel don’t have timeshares I could trade to.

        • Just like with the Hyatt/Marriott/Hilton inventory charts, you also gotta put in some work to find exactly what you want, when you want, at a good “price” with timeshare. I’m pretty picky with where I stay & the rooms I want, so I assure you it can be done at a reasonable cost. I was relating all the comments in this post about ppl not pursuing the cc points game for various reasons is quite similar to ts! But ts owners who do both comment amongst themselves how ppl miss out, just like cc enthusiasts here!

          Assuming a quality (flexible) ts is purchased at a good price to begin with (just like a premium cc/loyalty program), putting in the time to understand both truly opens up the full realm of travel possibilities. And that may actually be too much choice, effort, or trouble for many ppl, too.

          • @Pam I agree with you there are benfits with TS. With all of the TS experience I have analyzing their sales pitches & crunching the #s each year I consider a TS a easier methods to save but not best deal. For people that love to have AMEX concierge plan and book all of your travel TS maybe a great deal. TS are most better then doing nothing, but far from level of saving and hands down flexibility that CC points can offer but CC require more time & work. It like using a coupon from your Sunday newspaper, easy & routine compared to a person who does Extreme Couponing, spending lots of time to search and plan for best deals. Or like putting money in a standard bank account (nothing) to buying a CD (TS) to investing in mutual Funds (CC) more reward, with some risk. All depends on your comfort levels and how much time you have to invest in the sport of your choice.

      • We absolutely use the annual FNA’s and the Hilton free weekend awards to put together vacations. That’s exactly what we are doing on our next trip to Aruba.

        • Awesome Ken! We book our Westin Nanea (Kaanapali Beach) ts for the cheapest 4 nights of the week (Sun-Wed) then finish out with off-peak pricing Cat 8 Bonvoy points. The ts dollar-per-point conversion is much cheaper than for Bonvoy points. Then maybe repeat another week with the point savings.

          Last summer we used Hilton GVC points at the Crane in Barbados (oldest Caribbean resort, gorgeous) again on the cheapest (non-weekend) ts point nights & again finished up with HH points for the more expensive nights. Only downside is no 5th night free/status benefits with HH points at ts.

          Westin Cabo/Cancun – have done the same with combining ts & Bonvoy points. Wyndhams great to pair up also. Florida in Bonnet Creek (Club Wyndham & Wyndham Grand) & Las Vegas (Club Wyndham Desert Blue using both ts & cc points). I don’t own Hyatt ts cos haven’t eeked out a deal I like on Kaanapali, but I have spoken with owners who successly pair WOH points in the same way.

          • I used to sell TS, in general the biggest market are older generations as TS are great for seniors that want easy set routine and do not want to waste time and energy hunting for deals. If your the type that knows your going to travel popular set locations evey year within your TS branding Hawaii, Disney, Vegas etc. Then TS are great as you can get great deals booking out 1 year in advance. If you like love to travel to new places that are not popular location, with short planning and want lots of flexibility then TS do not work at all for this style traveler.

  24. Great article for your audience. I’ve had two friends that are both still working that have joined the party. They are starting slowly, but they have both experienced truly free travel and they are onboard. Besides that, most of my friends and family act like I’m doing something illegal or, as stated above, that my credit must be affected. I’ve been in since 2016 and my husband and I have flown business the last few years. He is now totally onboard as he doesn’t want to fly coach outside the US. Tomorrow, he will have to call Chase to verify his identity for a CSP app and then we should be good to go. He would never have done that a few years ago. We are very blessed to have retired early, with hard work and some luck. I’ve jumped off the “recruiting” train as it just doesn’t work. If people are interested, they hear about our travels and they ask questions. I have an email that I’ve saved explaining the first steps that I can adjust based on the current bonus situation. This article and the comments help me realize that I am not alone in my exasperation at the lack of follow through by 90% of the folks that I’ve talked to about it. Even if they aren’t that interested in travel, the cash back aspect is very useful right now. It is truly a hobby of mine, along with others, and I enjoy it!

    • People seriously think it’s illegal! And ruins your credit. When you tell them it doesn’t, they are so confused. Like, “Why would a cc company give you all that…it doesn’t make sense, they would go out of business giving all that away”, as if you are wrong and somehow mistaken and not really getting free travel you think you’re getting, or flat out lying. It’s a no win.

      • I’d say the vast majority of people in the US don’t know how your credit score is built. When I first heard of this hobby, I also asked if it was bad for your credit. We’ve had a steady diet of anti-credit card fed to us for a long time, and people think the best way to have good credit is to have NO credit cards, rather than to have credit cards and use them responsibly. The banks make money from the people who don’t use the cards smartly, so we are a small fraction of those profiting. For most customers, the banks profit. They’ll take a 10:1 ratio any day, but most people aren’t willing to look past their gut reactions.

  25. Excellent article! I love when people think I am too fancy or entitled, but then they won’t do the work because it is beneath them. My other favorite thing is when people want me to plan their trips or flights as if I have all the time in the world for people who can’t bother to read the blogs.

  26. Most people think that it’s a shady business or that I’m just very rich because of all the great flights and hotels. I also think that they are very jealous and so misconstrue ideas about the hobby. I just wish I had discovered it sooner but am ever so grateful that I have !

  27. Oddly, I rarely tell anyone that I’ve accumulated a few million miles and spent a couple million and still have a million left. Stayed in really nice hotels for free, and flown business class EVERY time to Asia for the last ten years for free. And I have good friends, they make a lot of money, and they fly nowhere near as much and fly economy..cause business class is too expensive…..but in general, I just see that people are like cattle, most people dont think about saving, they just spend their hard earned money as quick as they make it, and they still dont have savings…..they go from paycheck to paycheck, and never save enough to retire early and enjoy a better lifestyle through discipline in how they spend their money. If I was going to try to educate people on how to get points and get free flights and hotels, I might as well start teaching them how to run their financial life, and how to make money by saving money…..but that’s not going to happen. No, to each his own, they do what they do, I do what I do, and I’m all good with that! Most people just dont think the way we do, how easy it is to get miles and fly for free and stay for free……oh well!

    • Excellent Frank….. we had very similar experiences to both this points/mile hobby and our investing hobby. Many listen and almost everyone does nothing. So the wife and I retired young and travel while the very people I tried to assist are still working even today.

  28. Although as far as real interest goes my experience has been similar, I do have a few friends and family members who seem to think I’m a deal magician. They don’t understand what I actually do so often call me with questions like “We want to get takeout. Do you know of any deals?” This happens almost regardless of the situation.
    (To be fair, I have been guilty, on more than one previous occasion, of telling them after the fact “you could have done so much better by just having done xyz”…so now I try to keep my mouth shut.)

    • I know the feeling of friends and fam thinking i’m a magical deal guru. They will say, “Hey can you find me one of your awesome vacation deals?” But then then they add, “Our travel dates are . Also, we want to go to and finally <We want to stay at because thats what we want. Let me know what great deals you can get for us!”
      Omg! Seriously??

  29. GREAT ARTICLE!! Your summary of your credit card journey sounds similar to the wife and I. We started with the Chase Sapphire Reserve when it offered 100k sign up bonus. Others followed. We noted it is no longer worth the effort to try to recruit others. They just stare at you with that daze and they blow it off.
    Only one friend ended up signing up for two cards. He has done nothing since. Same thing happened during our getting to retirement journey. They all listened, nodded their heads in agreement to my brilliance discussing mutual funds and real estate. Only one person listened. The major difference, we retired at age 47 and the head nodder’s are all still working today….as they should.

  30. I use points to travel for many years but I am very leery of opening cards after cards and rarely do apply for new ones. Why? I can only say I am terrified of ruining my excellent credit score and I bet you many think the exact same way (even it you say it doesn’t affect your score) and it’s the reason they don’t do it either. I wish I had the balls to do it but…. call me chicken s**t. Haha!

    • Opening new cards will decrease your score 3-5 points maybe for the inquiry in the short term. Long term? Your score goes up due to managing more credit. (assuming you use it smartly) Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • In my experience having new cards increases my credit limit an decrease my utilization ratio. The long term effect is higher score! But honestly high score doesn’t mean much unless I need to borrow money (aka car loan, mortgage or refi). What’s the point of a pretty 800 number. It’s not like anyone admires me for being in the 800 club.

  31. I first got into this hobby as an “amateur”, more than two decades ago. I simply got a United credit card that allowed me to get something for free, in exchange for the money spent on that card. I used those points to travel to Hawaii and to Europe, in economy. I found that even convincing friends to try that very simple thing (open and use a single rewards card) was impossible.

  32. YES. Basically change your name to mine and that’s the exact same story.
    It’s really very similar to religion/spirituality. When you first discover a new way of life, you can’t imagine ever going back to how it used to be and you can’t help but want to shout it from the mountains. But then quickly you realize people are very suspicious of your intentions when you try to share the good news of free travels. It’s too good to be true. They just want something out of you. It’s okay to dabble a little but don’t let it take over your life. Soon enough you discover a community of likeminded believers who you can talk to about this new found lifestyle and instead of getting bogged down with comments like I can’t afford to stay at a Park Hyatt or we don’t have time with our young kids, you can get to the good stuff like whether you should do ANA or JAL J or F to Asia or your favorite Andaz properties.

  33. It took me a minute to explain how all this works. After 4 years into this hobby she still questions me lol.

  34. I have two friends who got really involved after I told them about it, but no one else. I have also stopped telling people about points and miles. A waste of time trying to help people get a better life. Whether it is points and miles or any other topic that will improve people’s lives, most people for whatever reason have little interest or drive to improve their lives. Many are very comfortable with their lives and finances, no matter how mediocre it is. What also blows me a way is people who have terrible low paying jobs but don’t want to put in the effort to get something better.

    • I was telling one friend about points and miles and travel. Her response was, “well, where would I go?” I asked what would she like to see? She had a blank look. No idea at all.

    • Jacob, you are sooo correct. Seems lots of people live a mediocre lifestyle and revel in it. Of course they really don’t want to hear about my various trips a year to worldwide locations. I tell them anyway 🙂
      Then they tend to counter with the drive in the car to visit some relative a few states over and they stayed at the Comfort Inn along the way and had a great time. Branson seems to come up often…….

    • I agree many people have bad feelings about MS, but you don’t have to MS to take part in this hobby. Most people are uninterested without even knowing MS exists.

  35. I’ve experienced the same from my family members… like the saying goes… you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.

    Oh well.. more award availability for the rest of us 🙂

  36. Counter point: I don’t think it IS worth it for most people.

    I have a business that spends millions of dollars a year on credit cards.
    I am retired and travel the world full time, in ‘paid’ J (thank you UR/MR).
    I net hundreds of thousands of points a month with 4x shipping, 1.5x Biz plat, 3x Online advertising.

    My personal card? Citi Double Cash.
    There is zero chance I would bother with points unless I was spending at least $100k a year on a card.
    It’s just not worth the hassle.

    Card for this, SUB for that, minimum spend here, 3% here with this.
    Yeah, no thanks.

    So, I don’t talk to most people about it.
    A few ask me, and I share.

    I have a presentation I have given a few times to business groups where the owners can benefit.
    But, otherwise, I keep silent on it.

    By my math, even if you were spending $5k a month on a card with a bonus, and were earning 120,000UR points a year… I can’t justify that. I’d tell anyone to put it on a 2% cash back and not ever think about it.


    If you have a business, hell yeah, go crazy.
    But, I don’t talk about it publicly, since most people don’t have that type of spend.

    • I disagree. I think even casual people with small personal budgets can benefit from this hobby. The scale would be different, but the overall approach is no different. Open a card, spend on it, earn the bonus. Repeat.

      • The presumption is, perhaps, that a person’s time is free?
        Again, I’d like to see the math.

        Average household spend on a card is $1500/month?
        Less, more?

        So, you can get 3x cards a year with a SUB?
        And you can earn 200,000 points a year ? (3x @ 60,000SUB + $20k organic spend)

        And you have 200,000 points, at 1.5cents each. So $3000 in value.
        If you spent 10 hours thinking about it, it’s a good return.
        But, to do it right, you’re reading articles, following news. It’s probably more like a few hours a week. At least 1-3 hours a week to do it right.

        So, call it 100 hours… that’s $30/hr max, that you get in points that have variable value? That you then have to use on a vacation, where you will fly, hotels, rental cars, food. Most people get two weeks of vacation. They aren’t booking 4x F seats, it’s Y for the family.


        $20k @ 2% CB is $400, of cash. Instead of $3000 for 100 hours of work.
        I don’t know

        I think most people will take the cash.
        And I think most people would be right.

        I’m happy to see other math that could justify it for an average family.
        Maybe I am wrong, but, I would never recommend this to anyone I know, anyone close to me, a friend or anyone unless they were a) retired b) addicted to travel b) owned a business

        I’m curious what you think I might be missing?

        • Do you always count the hours invested in a hobby and demand a pay rate on those? That’s the first part that I don’t understand.

          Secondly, lots of people get much better ROI on their points than your estimates.

          In your end figures, the comparisons make sense. I just think you’re making some huge assumptions to get to those figures, and I disagree with the premise of those assumptions.

          • Fair enough, so I’d like to see your work, that’s all.
            I’ve gotten something like .19/AS point on Emirates First. But, most people aren’t doing that.

            The article was ‘Do you tell your friends about the hobby?’
            My answer is: No (even though I benefit massively from it)

            My reasoning is: I don’t think it’s worth the time for most people.
            I think they are better off with a cash back card and to focus on other things in life.

            I shared my work. You can disagree, and maybe you are right.
            But, it’s hard to discuss if you just say ‘you’re wrong’

            Yes, I certainly count the hours it takes to do something as part of it’s value. How could you not?

          • Howard – my underlying point is not that this hobby is reserved only for people with massive amounts of business spend per month. My evidence is 99% of this hobby not being those people. They still find value in it because of the experiences, which can’t be quantified.

        • I agree with both Ryan and Howard and see just how nuanced this “hobby” is.
          There are so many assumptions to be made:
          1. Travel is a very important aspect of life, not just a wishful thinking but a prioritized goal for the bucket list.
          2. Work vs free time balance. Some people who make $15/hr may need a dramatic life change (education, degree, internship) to get to the next level of increased wage; they can benefit greatly with a few SUBs rather than trying to work 3 extra shifts and overtime pay. But yes at some point, maybe if you’re making $100/hr, then you would really need to consider whether that 30 min drive to WM for a few hundred dollar extra spend is worth it.
          But ultimately I don’t think it’s negligible every little knowledge that you gain fekn this hobby. Knowing some parts of this hobby (airline stopover and cancellation policy, hotel status and benefits, TSA precheck, Schwab no fee ATM around the world, etc) can only help.
          But I think you guys can both agree that this hobby is not for everyone but if someone shows true interest, why would you teach them a few tricks to get them started.

    • I couldn’t even get my mother-in-law to switch to the 2 percent free cash back credit card! Too much work to switch…

  37. I discovered points/miles by pure chance. An online search about opening a new card lead me to FTG’s beginner guides, which lead me to FTG in general, which lead me to the Boarding Area… I’ve done some amazing things such as taking a sister to Japan in business class for her first foreign trip, and tetris-ing two weeks in Europe for two out of six airline and three hotel programs. But the majority of my friends and family aren’t interested in the level of engagement it requires. Another sister is a senior finance person with a large corporation and is savvy with the miles/points & statuses she earns from her travel, but even she isn’t into the extra work to maximize things.

    I have a standard spiel: “I put more time and effort into it than most, but not as much as some. Casual effort such as funneling your online shopping through a portal will eventually earn you a flight. Booking your hotel stays through Hotels.com will eventually earn you a free hotel night without automatically locking you in to a particular brand. At a higher level opening new cards for bonuses can cause a short-term, small dip in your credit score, but it’s not long-lasting unless you run up the balance without paying it off, and that requires attention to detail with your personal finances. With more time & effort you can find opportunities and loopholes for outsize earnings and value, learn about transferable points, and so on.

    “You don’t have to be wealthy. *I* certainly wasn’t, and still am not. But you have to commit to it to earn the higher level rewards. The more you commit, the more you get back. I enjoy the challenge, but many people do not. So, would you like to learn more?”

      • The most common response is “how much time does it take?” My answer is, you have to learn about it first which can take some time, and once you have that down only as much as you want to spend on it. I also remind them there isn’t an “enter your info here and it comes to you automatically” solution, you do have to put in *some* time and effort. The majority aren’t interested in investing significant time, a few learned how to use portals and similar easy-to-grasp things, a few others wound up learning how to find paid flight/hotel deals on their own without getting into points/miles, and only two have gotten into the hobby themselves.

  38. I was telling a friend about a biz airline card for easy miles since she was low. She has a side ebay business in addtn to her FT job. She was approved, & when I followed up with her on her miles posting she said she closed the acct before earning them. She freaked about the warning about putting personal spend on a business acct language on all the biz apps. She said was unethical, sigh…

  39. I talked to a co-worker who is into extreme couponing. She initially had asked me about the trips I’ve taken. Explained how I opened cards for points/miles and MS for cash back. She seemed really excited and I figured as a couponer she would be a convert. Weeks later she said her and her husband were concerned about the effect on credit scores, the amount of work involved, etc and decided not to do it. Oh well, I tried. ‍♂️

  40. I feel the same for me its a healthy hobby with great benefits and keeps best part it keeps my brain working. I try to explain it to many down to the lowest basic levels but most are not organized or discipline enough to try it. I don’t want friends or family in this category to start it dig themselves in to an hole then blame me for financial troubles, so best not to teach them. I do on the other hand go to timeshare briefing and blow their minds away. I the points game story everytime explaining how I can travel for free with points as my exit strategy plan so I can walk away with my timeshare goodies. Sometimes they truly act as they are interested and I turn the tables start to sell them other time they still try to sell me claiming they are also point collectors doing same as me (ya right) and they will say points are great to compliment a timeshare yada yada… Either way I always walk because no timeshare can compete with free to near free travel. Im always ready to show my point stashes and show amazing hotels I stayed at for free.

  41. I have found basically the same experience. I’m relatively new to it, and my redemptions have been mostly domestic for family travel. I would like my wife to fully participate in “two player” mode, but it’s been a slow process at best. My twin sons, however, were enthralled when we first went to a lounge before a flight. They will probably be more interested as they get older. Friends and family are generally not interested. My biggest obstacle has been that I refuse to go on Facebook and so miss out on much discussion and camaraderie from the travel points community.

  42. I completely agree! I have had very similar experiences to you and just stopped mentioning it or even sharing about it on my personal social media for awhile. Many people don’t know how I travel and don’t even understand what this site is or what we do for a living. Leaves more for the rest of us. Like you I am always willing to help someone who is new and genuinely interested. It’s better to save the time and energy for those people!

  43. I completely identify with your write up. We discovered points & miles from a session on credit scores at a local financial advisory firm. Another participant got into a heated argument about credit cards and the impact they have on your score and eventually dropped the bomb of traveling for free. I followed her out the door while everyone else in that session thought she was crazy.

  44. I guess I’d make the world’s worst Jehova’s Witness since I haven’t convinced a single person to get more than tepidly involved in miles and points. If I wanted to be snarky I could observe that none of these people mind personally *benefiting* from my collecting miles and points, they just don’t want to do the work themselves. At this point I’m pretty much like you: I started off enthusiastically, then because dispirited, and now I’ll talk if someone wants to listen. I’ve redirected my enthusiasm toward something more people can get behind: improving their credit score. In many ways it’s more gratifying, since people have a greater emotional investment, and will go further as a result.
    On a separate note, any pointers on finding two first class saver seats to Asia for next May? I’m running into some serious scarcity, between Cathay now only releasing one seat to partners, Emirates wanting your firstborn child on the occasions where they do offer space and the fake JAL mess. Any ideas or insight would be appreciated.

    • Christian – I think the scarcity is also because seats are hard to find right now for borders that are ‘probably’ going to be open then but nothing confirmed. Until a country says it’s open, I think seats on those routes are just massively difficult. Just my experience from looking recently.

  45. Agreed. I too used to think that discovering the miles and points game would feel like discovering fire for the first time for a caveman. The truth is pretty much what you said.

  46. I, too, gave up after helping my retired brother with an MBA in finance and years in the credit industry say it was too much trouble. He initially did get involved, then redeemed points for him and his wife to travel from NYC to Hawaii….in economy. Their next trip was to Vienna in economy with purchased tickets on a really poor routing. Did I mention he lives on the upper east side of manhattan and has considerable annual spend, or that they have no children to worry about? I have redeemed nearly 2,000,000 miles over the years for premium travel all over the world and still have just over 2,000,000. That’s after raising four children, all college educated, on less than a princely income. The award hobby has been well worth the effort to me.

  47. Same here. I just keep it to myself now, and fly a few times a year to visit mom back home in Biz. Everyone asks how I do it. I say just miles and points. They don’t ask any further. I don’t offer.

  48. Ditto. I’ve tried to get my whole family onboard. The only time they followed up was two of my siblings did get the chase southwest credit card two years ago when it offered 40k and a free companion pass (they both have kids). It was easy to do and easy to understand. But free business class to Europe? Too much work . . .

  49. If someone is not naturally frugal and organized, this hobby will seem like too much work. It is like a very high paying part time job with great benefits, flexible schedule and great bonuses.

  50. I absolutely agree. My husband and I are retired. We’ve been points and miles nerds for 20+ years. I got into the hobby even more seriously about 10 years ago when banks were giving huge bonuses after the economic collapse. I learned the ins and outs on Flyer Talk and a few blogs. I’ve had a few friends and family ask to learn. They usually give up after the first time they can’t get the flight they want on the the exact airline on the exact day. It IS a lot to learn and can be very complicated. I love the challenge and that it always changes. It keeps my brain working with puzzles to solve.

  51. I have 1 friend who actually followed up and opened a travel credit card (Chase Sapphire Reserve with 100K points) and is into the hobby. He used the points to travel to Romania & Hungary. I don’t offer up details of the hobby to anyone, unless they ask – which is rare or never. Not worth it. Most people just assume they’ll ruin their credit, their eyes glaze over, then I stop. 🙂

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