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Cash v. Points – Your Choice

a plane parked at an airportFor all of us who are mileage junkies, getting the best value for the hard earned miles/points is of premium importance. I am of that camp too. But, when it comes to spending money, I work much harder to make a living than I do to earn miles. So, when I posted my recent article describing how to redeem American Express Membership Rewards points for airline tickets, the backlash I got was surprising. I gave my own example of how I redeemed 35,000 Membership Rewards Points for a $350 airline ticket. I was slaughtered by some of my readers who left comments! I was told that this was sacrilege and I was doing a disservice to my readers. Wow!

My Money – My Points. I choose how I spend them. I decide which I value more. I worked hard to make the $350 (I make good money, but it is still hard earned). I filled out a credit card application form and spent a few thousand dollars that I would have spent anyways, to get the points. Which should I be able to part with more easily? My choice!

Yes, I did not get the best value for my points. But I earn miles and points to redeem them when I need them, not to have them sit around waiting for the best deal to come around. I do that with my money though. I have to fly when I have to. I cannot take a cheaper flight – none available. I cannot redeem airline miles – no award seats available. I chose to redeem my points, even if it was a bad redemption rate. You should decide based on what you need too. Decide what you believe is the best value for YOU! Not what some blogger tells you is the best value.

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(Note to self: Remember to put on your flak jacket this time)

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  1. Hi, unroadwarrior
    First let me say that your blog is a source of valuable information! No doubt about that.
    I had read the post you are talking about and also the comments. Of course people are free to spend their points or money in any fashion they choose to.
    I think the main problem pointed out was that an article, which intended to inform people not versed with the points world, should not have made the inadvisable recommendation to use 35k MR points instead of $350.
    Of course as information, what you did is fine (and no one can obviously challenge that), but from the point of educating, it did miss the mark. (I assume that the point of that article was to educate).

  2. Agree with Rick. No vitriol here. your miles, your choice…always!
    You can use your own MR’s in any way that suits you, of course.
    However, and there’s always a however.
    By not expecting the cyber-world to disagree even when you admit it’s a less than optimal use of MR’s is pollyannish.
    The article appears to presume that 35K MR’s = $350. As a perceived expert, you surely know that.
    Most peole read these blogs for point optimization, from both an earning and burning standpoint.
    Keep up the good work.

  3. @Geoff, @Rick, thanks for the comments.
    I am not expecting people to not disagree with me. I want people to. I just want to make a point to readers who read those comments to say that do not be swayed by others who say this is a bad deal. If you think it is a good deal for you – at that time and place and price – redeem the miles. The comments, which were mostly against my redemption would make a novice think that under no circumstances should they redeem at $0.01 a MR. It is their decision, with all facts and options in mind.

  4. I agree with you Unroadwarrior. In my opinion, points are there to be used when it is needed…to save money. Money is money, points are a whole other beast. I work too hard for my money and try to keep as much of it as I can. This is one reason why I don’t do mileage runs, etc. Anyway, I was just writing to support you. Great job on the blog!

  5. I say spend the miles on what makes you happy and stop sweating over the “getting 2.4 cents per mile” or whatever. Some people’s dreams are first class to Paris and a week at the Hyatt, other people’s dreams may be a few days at Disney with the kids. If you have more miles than cash and redeeming them on a relatively cheaper trip makes you happy then that’s what you should do.

  6. The problem is that you fail to understand the most basic concept in the mile/point world… That miles and points have a real value. And in the case of your post you got ripped off. It would be like if a travel blog suggested that you should go buy 1 euro for 3 US dollars when the exchange rate is actually eur1 for $1.3x. Just as real currencies have a value so do miles and points. Can they be devalued? Sure they can, but so can dollars and euros and yen (which they currently are as we speaks as the central banks print as fast as they can).

    So given that membership reward points have a value you shouldn’t be advertising a way to get below that value without warning people that they can get much much better value in many many different way. This is why myself and many others jumped on you. Obviously you can spend/waste your points how you’d like. But given that your write a blog that others read it’s important that you tell people that there are ways to get multiples of what you did for the points instead of suggesting that this was somehow a good thing. In this case you should have used $ because the points were worth more than the US dollars you spent right now.

  7. @Paul, @Tara, @Leslie, thanks for sharing. This was just the kind of conversation I was hoping to drive from this post. I hope all my readers read these comments too, to get all the perspectives.

  8. I have personally used miles & points in ways that were rather less than the absolute best value…but they were the best value for me +at the time.+ All my miles & points have been generated through paid flights, stays and promos. I have been sent on company-paid travel exactly three times in the past 30 years. Only in the last six months have I finally managed to acquire a branded card.

    I have used 25k or even 40k (Delta, I’m looking at you) for domestic coach flights, on multiple airlines multiple times, for flights that were selling for $350 or less. Because I didn’t have the cash to buy those fares, and couldn’t risk availability going away if I waited to see if the price would go down and it didn’t.

    A few months ago I relocated from Seattle to Atlanta, and used hotel points for the 5 nights it took me to drive it. Because moving is expensive and using those points saved me several hundred dollars.

    Sure, I look for the best value…but the best value +for me, at the time,+ may not be the best absolute value. It’s all subjective.

    *Yet. Credit scores are finally recuperating from poor decisions when I was younger.

  9. I had enjoyed your post. While it might not be a case of best value, it did give an example of a different option. Lets face it, sometimes your first choice isn’t an option.
    Occasionally I wonder if some of the Miles and points fanatics are taking their trips because they can or because they want to. If its because you can, it’s a bad value either way.

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