Value is what every point accruer has in mind. What’s my cents per point? What luxury hotel can I book? What new first class product can I try? Stop it, you don’t need to maximize everything you come in touch with, guys!
I’ve thought long and hard about the value of points, and there is certainly one time when you should redeem poorly in the “traditional” value categories: traveling to see family and friends, or on the spur of the moment. More frequently than ever, I’m stuck asking myself, why not go visit a friend this weekend for his birthday? Why not go and surprise everyone and see their faces light up, when they realize….I actually made it across the country.
This sort of value isn’t easily understood, or calculated, but it allows you to make someone’s day, someone’s weekend, someone’s month! For example, I’ve got a great group of college friends who are reuniting in San Francisco this weekend. A boys trip. I thought to myself, well, why couldn’t I make it out there? It’s a long way from the East Coast, but hanging out with my best friends for a couple days is invaluable. It’s hard to get a group of guys together on the spur of the moment, so I figure let’s at least look into flight options with points.
Since virtually all of my travel requires a connection, I have a lot of options across the American, Delta and United. Let’s break down the available flight options, between cash and points for this route over my preferred dates:
- Round Trip Economy: ~$922 …!
- American Airlines w/Points: 12.5K outbound, 25K inbound
- Delta: 16.5K outbound, 46.5 inbound
- United: 32.5K outbound, 32.5 inbound
Despite all of the hate over American AAdvantage, this clearly is the best value in terms of miles, not to mention I have a huge stash of points that I don’t foresee using any time soon. The route wouldn’t be a full saver round trip award, but that’s okay. I might be able to supplement some cash credit from Hurricane Florence to pay cash instead of miles on the inbound, which would only add a couple hundred dollars to the overall cost. Not a bad deal if you ask me for a $922 economy flight, but not the best redemption either (i.e. 70K American AAdvantage miles for Cathay Pacific business class to Thailand).
My point is, don’t feel like you can’t spend your miles. The whole point of the game is to prudently acquire miles that you foresee using, and use them on experiences that either minimize your cash outlay, or allow you to take on experiences that you never had imagined you could do before. In fact, burning miles can just be repurposed as “investing to see your friends / family.” If you look at it in a different light, you won’t be upset about your low cents per point redemption, and all you’ll remember are the good times you had with your pals.