Conferring with the enemy (Part 3): The waiting (for miles to post) game

Photo courtesy of brian donovan

All posts in this series:

 

Let’s recap:

I don’t like debt. I don’t like credit cards. While having both may seem like a normal way of life, they will keep you from becoming wealthy, and in some cases can totally wreck your life.

But:

I love travel, and especially the game of travel hacking. And these days, the most lucrative way of earning frequent flyer miles is by the use of credit cards. (It’s much more lucrative than flying, ironically.)

So because of this, I routinely give up the opportunity to earn thousands (if not tens of thousands) of frequent flyer miles. And this is due to one rule I follow: don’t put ordinary spending on a credit card.

Some credit cards offer sign up bonuses. And if you have a plan for what to do with those frequent flyer miles, and have budgeted for how to achieve the “minimum spend”, and then put the card away, then I won’t yell at you. (Though if you’re carrying debt in other places, you may want to ask yourself now is the right time for this kind of game.)

This year I decided to do just this. Apply for a single credit card, get the minimum spend, use the miles for a specific trip, and then put the card away (for good, most likely).

Spend achieved

So I had finally achieved the minimum spend of $2,000 on my credit card. I had kept very active track of this number, and as soon as I had hit the threshold, I sent a message asking the company to confirm it. They did:

Just making sure.

Just making sure.

Now there was nothing to do but sit back and wait for the points to roll in. Which could be in any number of weeks.

And all the meanwhile, the departure date was growing closer, and award availability was dwindling. It occurred to me during this thing that I should have started this process at least a few months sooner.

Devaluation alert

And then British Airways announced a massive devaluation of its points. While a few types of award tickets were going down in price, some were going up by 3x!

To this, we can learn a valuable lesson: Don’t trust frequent flyer mile programs. Don’t wait too long to plan your adventures when they rely on frequent flyer miles, because the party could end at any time.

Now, remember my plan: Boston to Dublin on Aer Lingus (a partner of British Airways), which just squeaks in at being 25,000 miles round trip.

Thanks as always to Great Circle Mapper

Thanks as always to Great Circle Mapper

I looked at the new award chart after the British Airways devaluation, nervous if this sort-of-loophole was going to go away.

And the answer is that prices did increase, but only if you were flying business class. Whew.

It used to be 25,000 for coach, 50,000 for business class (which is astoundingly good). Now it was 25,000 for coach, and 75,000 for business class, which is still a great deal, but no longer astoudingly so. Score another point for the benefits of international coach for award travel, especially if you’re an infrequent flyer.

From this we can glean yet another lesson: Deals that seem too good don’t last. Moreover, the better the deal, the less likely it will last. I still hear people wax rhapsodically about the old US Mint trick (buying coins with a credit card and then depositing the coins in your account to pay off the credit card), but who actually thought that someone wouldn’t eventually notice?

So I dodged a bullet here, at least this time. And a good thing too, because my miles didn’t post until after the devaluation went into effect.

Miles posted

But at least they posted. I was hoping not to have to add another post in my travel hacking blunders series.

Success!

Success!

So now that I had the miles, time to redeem them. Easy?

Of course not. Stay tuned for what happened next.

But enough about me. Have you ever had a travel plan experience where the rules changed on you mid-way through?

Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey

I'm the founder and author of Unlikely Radical, a site to help people succeed with money, achieve their goals, and live intentionally.

I offer a free phone consultation to anyone who is interested in changing their financial narrative. Are you ready? Click here for details.
Mike Pumphrey
Posted on May 25, 2015