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I view my miles & points balances as just another set of currencies I have at my disposal to pay for trips. I don’t view them in quite the same way as I view cash (cash is clearly a lot more versatile and less prone to devaluation) but, because of the time and effort I put in to building up my miles and points balances, I’m anything but flippant when it comes to using them….and here’s where I encounter a contradiction.
The general consensus is that miles and points balances should be treated as “earn and burn” instruments because they inevitably devalue (at a considerably faster rate than most major currencies) and that makes holding on to them a bad idea.
I happen to agree with this consensus but I still sometimes find parting with my miles and points quite difficult and I’m starting to wonder if it’s just me?
Parting With Hotel Points
No matter what type of trip I’m booking I’ll always check to see if there are any great rates I can take advantage of before using my various hotel points balances but I’m much more likely to use points on trips that I take with Joanna than I am on any solo trips I take.
When I’m traveling with Joanna I like to see if we can stay at some of the higher-end properties at our destinations (nothing flash but also nothing that’s clearly only a 3 star either) whilst also making the most of my hotel statuses.
This usually means staying at properties where the post tax cost/night is in excess of $300 and that’s usually a signal that points will be used to make the booking (like at the JW Marriott Hong Kong, JW Marriott Singapore etc…).
I don’t see the point of paying $300/night+ for a room when I can hand over a stack of points instead.
However, when I’m traveling alone I take the view that I really don’t need to stay anywhere particularly upscale (clean, convenient and nice is good enough for these trips) so I do my best to avoid using points if I can possibly help it – I’d far rather save the points for upscale properties that Joanna and I can both enjoy when we’re traveling together.
When I can pay 60,000 points for a room for Joanna and I at a great property (for example) I don’t see the point of spending 60,000 when I’m on my own – it just seems a waste.
Things don’t always work out the way I want them to and sometimes a location can be so expensive that using cash is an economically bad idea even though I’m traveling alone (NYC is a good example of such a destination).
In situations like this I’ll reluctantly part with some points…..but it will almost always be at one of the cheaper properties I can find.
I don’t think I’ve ever used points to say at a top-tier property when traveling alone.
Parting With Airline Miles
My use of airline miles is at odds with my use of hotel points as I’m more than happy to use airline miles on solo trip and for very nice cabins….but you won’t find me booking First Class cabins very often.
I’ve flown in JAL, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Etihad and Qatar Airways First Class when paying with points but in each case there was a very specific reason for booking the First Class cabin.
Most of my First Class redemptions came in the immediate aftermath of the announcement by American Airlines that it was about to decimate its award chart (I thought I’d put my AAdvantage Miles to good use before they were worth a lot less) and the Singapore Airlines First Class redemptions were for a surprise trip for Joanna so, as a rule, I don’t generally book First Class awards.
I take the view that most Business Class cabins are more than good enough for my needs so I don’t see the point in spending my hard-earned miles on First Class redemptions that usually cost a lot more – I’d much rather save the miles for a future Business Class trip than book the most premium of cabins.
There are times where booking a First Class award is unavoidable (when I need to get back from somewhere and only First Class awards are available) and, in some cases, these are the hardest awards for me to book.
Take the example of a trip Joanna and I are taking to Australia later in the year….
We’re starting the trip in Europe and flying out to Sydney using Singapore Airlines and its KrisFlyer miles (at pre-devaluation rates) and that’s a pair of award bookings I’m happy to make – we should have a comfortable journey and I’ll get to review two different Singapore Airlines Business Class cabins too.
On the way back things look very different.
As things stand the only awards we’ve found for our return journey are on Qatar Airways and only awards that book us into First Class between Perth and Doha and then Business Class from Doha to Europe.
There’s a double dagger to heart here 🙂
- I’ve flown in Qatar Airways First Class before and, frankly, I was a little underwhelmed. Having flown in the airline’s excellent Business Class cabin more times than I can remember I don’t see the point in splashing out miles on Qatar Airways First Class when the A380 Business Class cabin is more than good enough.
- Even though the second leg of our journey is only booked into Business Class the cost of the whole itinerary still prices up as a First Class award so we’re paying First Class miles for a First & Business Class trip.
Right now we’re each paying 115,000 AAdvantage miles to fly back from Australia when a regular Business Class award would only cost 85,000 miles – between us, we’re using 60,000 miles that ordinarily we wouldn’t be spending.
That’s enough miles for a oneway Business Class award to Europe, South America or parts of Asia and parting with those miles would really, really hurt.
Fortunately American Airlines award rules mean that we’ll be able to downgrade our Perth – Doha leg to Business Class if award availability opens up closer to our departure date, so there’s a chance we’ll be getting those 60,000 miles back (here’s hoping!).
I know that keeping miles and points for any length of time is a monumentally bad idea but sometimes I really have a tough time spending my balances when possibly I should….and I’m starting to wonder just how sensible this rigidity is.
Am I alone in this or does anyone else find it hard to pull the trigger on an award booking when cash or using fewer points are viable alternatives?