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Have you ever tried to give someone advice because you’ve experienced that situation personally or you know many people that have been in the same situation so your experience may hold some weight?
Well, you may want to bookmark this page, because I will only say “I told you so” in my head. 😉
THE GLASS CEILING
A long time ago, airlines awarded you with actual miles flown. For example, if you flew 1000 miles, your frequent flyer account would reflect this with a 1000 mile credit.
Additionally, if you had some form of status with the airline, you may have received a multiplier (e.g. 100% bonus miles or 2000 miles total). This model awarded you for “loyalty.” However, the airlines eliminated that model.
Instead, many airlines have moved to a revenue-based model. In this (far more complicated) model, the number of miles that you are awarded are based on factors such as how much money you spend on that airline annually, status with the airline, fare class of your ticket, etc.). In other words, it takes a lot of math so no one even knows if they have received the correct number of miles.
Given this background, the two most common ways for accumulating miles at this moment are:
- apply for a credit card, meet the minimum spend, and obtain the welcome bonus and/or;
- gasp….actually flying “butt-in-seat”
#1 is easy and simple.
#2 is also easy and simple (albeit a bit more painful).
MEETING MINIMUM SPEND
Obtaining welcome bonuses on credit cards are amazing! Obviously, if you’re a big spender then you can rack up hundreds of thousands of miles very quickly. However, for the majority of us (me included), we have to do the math.
For example, before I apply for a card that has, say, a minimum spend of $2,000 in 3 months, I ask myself “do I have $2,000 worth of expenses over the next 3 months?” Or even simpler “do I have $667 ($2000 ÷ 3 months) of expenses per month for the next three months?”
Often, if you are doing the math of everyday expenses (e.g. cell phone bill, gas, electricity bill, water bill, apartment rent / house mortgage if they’ll let you pay with credit card, kids daycare, etc.), it’s possible to come very close to that number if not exceed it altogether.
QUANTITY VS QUALITY EXAMPLE
Once you obtain that welcome bonus on your credit card, the next step is determining where you want to redeem your miles and this is actually where it becomes complicated.
Although there are a lot examples, I’m going to use a simple illustration.
Let’s say that you take my advice after reading THIS and THIS, apply and meet the minimum spend for the card that I recommend as the best starter card – Chase Sapphire Preferred.
At the moment, the welcome bonus is 60,000 miles after spending $4,000 in 3 months.
If you are able to meet that minimum spend, you will have 64,000 miles at the minimum in your account.
Although I took advantage of second discount and only paid 26,000 miles, the original cost of my Air France business class flight from Toronto to Stockholm (via Paris) cost 32,000 miles one-way.
Flying Blue (the loyalty program of KLM/Air France) is a transfer partner of Chase. Therefore, by meeting the minimum spend on Chase Sapphire Preferred, I could’ve redeemed all 64,000 miles for a roundtrip business class flight on Air France.
Alternatively, when flights are extremely expensive, I use THIS TRICK and redeem miles between Atlanta (ATL) – Chicago (ORD) or New York (JFK). I can fly between Atlanta and Chicago for 7,500 miles one-way.
So here is the conundrum…I have 64,000 miles from obtaining the welcome bonus from the Chase Sapphire Preferred, do I redeem them for TWO one-way business class flights between Toronto and Stockholm (via Paris) or EIGHT one-way economy flights between Atlanta and Chicago?
That is an extremely simplified version of the the choices you will have to make but I write this post to illustrate the challenges that could be ahead, particularly if you’re new to this hobby.
Ultimately, we all have different travel goals so the only “right” answer is the choice you make.
It’s worth noting that if you choose one or the other, you won’t have enough miles for the other choice…unless you obtain another welcome bonus.
Quantity vs Quality…which one do you choose?
I choose quantity all the time because I don’t mind flying economy. However because I live between major hubs, Philadelphia,New York, DC, I tend to only use points if the ticket cost more than $600 round trip. To this day between points and dollars I’ve been to 23 countries/territories paying at the most $465 round trip for an airline ticket. I’m still learning thanks to your blog!
Redeeming points for a certain dollar amount…I love it! You’re far more advance than you think. We’ll dig into this very topic soon. Let’s keep rockin’ it and add country 24 and 25 this year and spend even less money. Stay tuned on how. 😉