Basil K has been in travel hacking for many years with top-tier experience in various programs including holding Platinum status for the last twelve years. He asked to make several contributions to the blog over the next couple months and I’m thrilled to have him lend his perspective and knowledge.
By Basil K
Often, when discussing frequent flyer miles and points, it’s the large headline numbers that grab our attention. Whether it’s the 125,000 miles for a first class Star Alliance award to Europe, or the millions of miles that “Pudding Guy” earned from Healthy Choice, we are drawn to those amounts and how we can achieve them for the award of our choice. It’s important because that’s how we determine the value of miles if we’re going on a mileage run, or participating in a promo. Divide the value of the award by the number of miles required, and that’s your average value per mile. Simple? Not quite. The reason for this is that in the world of frequent flyers, sometimes the tail wags the dog. That last block of miles you need might be worth a lot more to you than the average. Let me give you a couple of examples.
Let’s say that you want to use Starwood points to book a room for five nights in Paris. You’ve identified the Westin Vendome at 20,000 miles per night. With SPG’s program, that would cost you 80,000 points. If you have 79,000 points in your account, you can only get 3 nights, not 5. At that moment in time 1,000 SPG points is worth two nights of lodging to you. It’s keeping you from getting two room nights at 20,000 nights each. Buying those points to top up your account, even at 4 or 5 cents per point, will be well worth it. Alternatively, if you have a family member who can costlessly combine points with you to get that award, it’s well worth making sure you keep track of those “orphan” accounts of family members with small but meaningful point balances. My favorite example of how valuable a “marginal mileage run” can be is illustrated by my situation last year with Continental/United Airlines. I was flying quite a bit over the fall and I needed to figure out whether I should be happy with CO Platinum status, or try to fly 100,000 miles to make 1K. The difference was 6 system-wide upgrades – or so I thought. In fact, those marginal 25,000 miles of flying were worth far more than that, for the following reason: last year I tripped 1 million lifetime miles on Continental. Therefore, getting those incremental miles from Platinum to 1K did the following:
- Lifetime minimum Gold status for me
- Matching lifetime status for my wife
- 1K status for me for 2012 with the 6 SWUs
- 1K status for my wife for 2012 with another 6 SWUs!
What’s amazing is that I finished the year with 104,000 miles for the year, barely making it across the threshold. The key trip for me was a discretionary trip I made to SFO for a conference that I decided to book because I had a $300 voucher from CO due to a bad lounge experience in Paris over the summer. Without that trip, I could have been a 99,000 miler – and missed out on many of the goodies above.
The bottom line here is that you need to think about the margin, whether you are targeting a specific number of miles needed, planning a mileage run to achieve/maintain status, or are trying to figure out whether or not it’s worth it to fill out those e-rewards surveys so that you can transfer 500 points to top off an account.
Sometimes in life, the tail really does wag the dog!
I hope you’ve enjoyed Basil’s contribution. If you’re interested in contributing please shoot me an email and let me know what you’d like to write about. Would love to get someone else’s perspective.
Deal of the Day
For today’s Deal of the Day American Airlines AAdvantage® has provided 2,500 AAdvantage® miles for the best deals, fares, promotions, anything related to American Airlines, their oneworld partners or AAdvantage® partners. Add it to the comments section of this post or this afternoon’s Deal of the Day post (with your first name, last initial, and home airport) to be eligible to win.