You either love them or hate them – they either work for you or they don’t.
I know several people who very successfully and diligently collect points and are able to use them for flights – sometimes even business class. Gosh, I have even had some limited success in this field and what a joy when you are able to go online and obtain a ticket for nothing!
But let’s face it – there is no such thing as a free lunch. So who is winning here?
The banks – most credit cards that give points charge very high interest. So you spend spend spend, accumulate points point points and end up paying for those points with the very high interest charges.
The airlines – so you are a frequent flyer and you are collecting points. It makes sense to therefore fly on flights where you can add to your points…..even if it means going a little out of your way or adding a connection or two. The airlines are buying your loyalty with points that you can supposedly use to get “free” flights. However getting your free flights might not be that easy – but more about that later.
The corporate traveller – yes those road warriors. No-one envies them. Another flight, another city, another night in an anonymous hotel far away from friends and family. It is a lonely life. So they deserve the points they get on the flights booked by the company don’t they? Yes of course they do. But there is a trap here – there is always a trap!
You see once you start collecting those points you get hooked, so you travel some more, and then you get your status with that airline upgraded. Now they really have you! There is something quite nice about boarding before everyone else. It’s called elite status (or words to that effect).
You get used to this and then if your travel starts to slow down it creates worry. How will you keep your Double Titanium status if you don’t do at least 100 flights a year. The stress becomes unbearable while you plot ways to add a few more miles. You become quite desperate. Maybe you should fly to Edmonton or Fort St John for the weekend. Hey wait, here’s a flight to Grande Prairie. There is no limit to the list of places you can go to in order to keep that Elite frequent flyer status.
And then there is the pain and agony of redeeming you points for a flight. Not so easy as click and point. Depending upon the destination or the route the allotment of “reward seats” on each flight might be extremely limited and pretty much disappear almost a year prior to travel. Sometimes you might be required to book a one way because the return date is not yet in the system but if you wait for that the reward flight will be gone. Once you add stopovers and multiple segments into the mix you definitely need to phone in and be prepared for a lengthy wait. Don’t be impatient. Put the phone on speaker and clean out your kitchen cupboards but preferably do this at midnight or 6 am when the call loads are lowest. Clean kitchen cupboards, business class flight to Sydney for nothing – double whammy!
So STOP….take a deep breath. Celebrate the times that you do earn a free ticket or an upgrade using points. Forget about the points that have expired (oh wait – have they stopped that now?)
And what about the losers you might ask? Yes those are the ones who fall for the high interest points earning cards and don’t pay off the balance each month before that crippling interest kicks in. Better off not to earn points and just buy the ticket you want on the airline you want to the destination you really want to go to.
I agree with this article whole heartedly Leslie, however, as a bank employee I feel it necessary to explain that unless you pay for a LOW INTEREST credit card, ALL credit cards charge UNPAID balances at 19.99 % interest, travel visa or not. Our responsibility at the banks is to explain that Visa cards ARE NOT FREE MONEY and should be paid off on their due dates in full to AVOID paying any interest. Our societies NEED to have everything and anything that they want whether they can afford it or not is not the banks fault….that owness lies 100% on the card holders! I have a travel visa, don’t pay the $120 annual fee because I have the bank account at TD that offers it free, PAY THE BALANCE IN FULL EVERY MONTH (which means I don’t buy things that I can’t afford- duh) which means I NEVER pay interest and have had the blessing of cruising, all-inclusives and personal vacations booked ALL ON THE DIME OF MY VISA COMPANY ! I totally discourage many people from accepting Visa cards if they are not in a position to understand how to use them properly. I agree with you that ONLY THE BANKS AND VISA benefits from those who don’t pay them off but we aren’t holding a gun to their head telling them to buy that leather jacket, fancy clothing or big screen TV….they are just accustomed to getting what they want, when they want it and therein lies the bigger problem I think …. Just saying xo…. I love ya girl!
Well said Sydney. So good to have knowledgeable opinion on this matter from someone within the banking industry. Thank you for your explanation about how this works and you are right – the bigger problem is that in society today credit cards are used as you say for getting what you want, when you want. Never mind the points – when people are clocking up debt on credit cards then nobody wins! Lesley
Lesley, once upon a time, I collected points, both on my credit card and with the individual airlines. Although I did (and continue to) pay off my balance each month, that darn card cost me an annual fee and when I quit flying for business, it became uneconomic. I did cash in my Aeroplan points once on a trip to Honduras. That only took 36 hours each way with two or three stop-overs in lovely spots like Tegucigalpa and San Salvador. After that, I let my Aeroplan points expire. Using credit card points was easier, with more direct flights and choice of airlines. But now, my primary card is one which has no annual fee and spits me back a couple of cents on every dollar. And those pennies don’t expire. Better deal for me.
Sounds like you have a good plan in place Eric and yes – those pennies don’t go away. Good job!
I use my air miles card for groceries. Get points at Sobeys AND on my credit card. And here’s a novel idea…I pay the balance every month so the high interest isn’t a worry! I’ve flown myself, hubby and daughter to Victoria, BC to watch the national women’s rugby team( had no tricky connections) and have occasionally redeemed for merchandise… so still a fan.
Roxanne – I love to hear stories like this. It is called good management and you have it down pat. Way to go! Lesley