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The miles and points game is full of unwritten rules that help guide us away from doing something stunningly stupid, that help us make the most of the opportunities we’re presented with and that, on the whole, help us to travel in a lot more comfort and luxury than the people who know nothing of the game we play. Right now, however, I’m breaking what could be classified as the most important unwritten rule of them all.
If the miles & points game had been around in the time of Moses, we would have eleven commandments instead of just ten and the eleventh commandment would read “thou shalt not stockpile miles or points”. That would be a great commandment to have, and most miles and points fans would do well to assume that such a commandment exists because it would probably save them from a lot of misery and anger the next time a big devaluation sweeps through town.
Unfortunately, this is one of those times where I have to hold up my hands and admit that I’m not practicing what I preach as I’m stockpiling not one but two currencies right now. What’s more, I intend to keep stockpiling them going forward. “Do as I say and not as I do” is probably an apt phrase to use about now.
What & Why I’m Stockpiling
The currencies that I’m stockpiling are Chase Ultimate Rewards points and World of Hyatt points, and the reason for my stockpiling frenzy lies in a trip that Joanna and I plan to take in a couple of years’ time.
In 2023, Joanna and I would like to take a couple of months out of the year to do what would be the biggest and longest trip that we’ve ever taken, and we’d like to do it in comfort and style while spending as little cash as possible on flights and accommodation.
We have a pretty decent cash budget for the trip but as I’m deeply immersed in the miles & points world it would seem to make sense to save as much of that cash as possible for experiences, excursions, dining, and other such frivolities and to use miles & points for everything else.
Avios and a British Airways companion voucher will play a big role in securing us the Business Class flights that we’d like to book and as our Avios balance is healthy enough to survive a British Airways devaluation (we’re bound to have one of those between now and 2023), and as we usually earn more Avios than we spend, I’m not particularly concerned about having enough miles/points for our airfares.
What I am keen to avoid is being left short of points to book the accommodation for our 2-month trip.
I’m stockpiling World of Hyatt points because both Joanna and I are big fans of Hyatt and because there are a good number of Hyatt properties in the regions, cities, and towns that we’d like to visit. I’m stockpiling Chase Ultimate Rewards Points because they transfer over to Hyatt in a ratio of 1:1. They also transfer over to a variety of airlines in a ratio of 1:1 so if we find ourselves with more Hyatt points than we need there will still be scope to put the excess points to good use on any other airfares that we decide we’d like to book.
In reality, stockpiling a currency like Ultimate Rewards points isn’t a particularly heinous crime in the miles and points world because it’s so versatile (it can be transferred to a wide number of other programs) and it would take a series of unfortunate and cataclysmic devaluations across multiple loyalty programs before the value of the currency took a major hit. Stockpiling a hotel loyalty program’s currency, however, is a whole other story.
A lot of hotel loyalty programs devalue year after year (IHG devalued recently, as did Marriott Bonvoy and Radisson Rewards) so holding on to a large balance of points in a hotel loyalty program in the hope of using those points in the distant future to book awards at their current rates is, at best, misguided. So why am I stockpiling World of Hyatt Points?
The truth is that I’m taking a gamble. I wouldn’t dream of intentionally building up a substantial balance of Marriott Bonvoy Points or IHG Rewards Points with a view to using them for the trip in 2023 because I have absolutely no idea just how badly those programs will devalue between now and then. I have no doubt that they’ll devalue, and I’m reasonably sure that the devaluations won’t be pretty, but I have very little idea how much Marriott/IHG award redemptions will cost in one or two years’ time.
With Hyatt, however, I think things may be a little different.
Hyatt will be devaluing its program in July when it introduces peak and off-peak pricing but because Hyatt hasn’t got a history of devaluations (if memory serves me correctly, this will be the first serious Hyatt devaluation in 7 years) it’s possible that the program won’t take another big hit before I can start booking some of the properties for our trip (in around a year’s time) or even before the trip itself.
Sure, past performance is not a guarantee of future performance so I could get burned for putting my faith in Hyatt if it chooses to break with the past and to show the same lack of regard for its members as Marriott, IHG, Radisson and, to a degree, Hilton, all often do…but I’ll take that risk.
As I’m comfortable paying the rates that Hyatt will be charging following the July devaluation and as I’m comfortable gambling that Hyatt won’t do anything too terrible between now and 2023, I think that it makes sense to add to my World of Hyatt balance as opportunities arise and to build up a war chest of points for the 2023 trip.
Just to be clear, I’m not actively going out of my way to gather every single Hyatt point I can (e.g. by using my World of Hyatt credit card where other cards offer a better earning rate or by buying Hyatt points in all of the sales) but I’m continuing to top up my account in the normal course of things and I’m burning all of my other hotel currencies ahead of my Hyatt points.
What’s core to the strategy that I’ve decided to employ is the fact that I’m well aware of the risks that I’m taking, and I’m prepared for consequences should my gamble fail. I know that there are no guarantees, I know that I could come out of this looking more than a little foolish, and I know that I’m opening myself up to a chorus of “you should have known better” (or worse!) if Hyatt suddenly starts charging 50,000 points per night for its nicer properties. That’s ok. I can live with that.
While the unwritten rules to the miles and points game are there to guide us away from bad decisions, they’re also not all hard and fast rules that we have to follow all of the time. Sometimes it’s ok to take a risk and to go against one of the rules, but it’s only ok if you’ve thought things through and you understand exactly what the consequences of that decision will be.
I’ve thought this through and I know what I’m opening myself up to and that’s why I’m comfortable breaking the one rule that I keep advising others to follow. Hypocritical? Possibly. But as no one will get burned by following my advice I’m not going to lose any sleep over that.