This is a guest by reader Michael H. I think it was perfect for the “spirit” of my blog. Be careful newbies out there! And thanks to Michael H. for stepping up!
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I am a chump. You could also call me a mark, a sucker, or a pigeon.
I didn’t earn this title by cashing money orders for a Nigerian prince. I didn’t wire money to a “friend” whose wallet was stolen abroad. Instead, I entered the world of credit card signup bonuses and “travel hacking.”
My descent into financial foolishness began innocently enough. As a 50-something dude with a few common aches and pains, my tolerance for long-haul flights in economy class was getting low. I wanted to treat my wife to a premium cabin ride across the Pond or the Pacific. There just HAD to be a way to get there other than “paying retail.” So onto the internet I went. Faster than you can say “Aeroplan,” the search engines took me to the answer: All I needed to do was get a few Chase cards and an AMEX Platinum.
If I would just follow this sage advice, I too could be sipping Krug upfront with the thought leaders. For free! The cards were on the way faster than you could say “Avios.” Minimum spend requirements? No problem. I just bought a “few” things I told myself I’d buy anyway. This included a new travel wardrobe and a new camera for the glorious trips we’d soon be taking.
Within a year, I had a nice stash of about 300,000 points and a couple of hotel certificates. I had flexible dates and was open to many destinations. I should be able to book a premium cabin faster than you could say “Rimowa.” Or so I thought. Until reality slapped me in the face.
I found an award from the East Coast to London! All I would have to do first is fly from NY to Des Moines to LA to “position.” Then fly on to Ulaanbaatar for a 10-hour layover. This 50-hour award itinerary had so many positives. I could spend the layover in a lounge with unlimited yak meat and Mongolian vodka. Score! I could also use the time to blog about the quality of the nut mix, just like the entitled millennial blogger who pushes one credit card at a time. What luck!
Okay, I just made that itinerary up.
You probably know the feeling anyway. It’s like realizing you’re holding 10,000 shares of Enron stock. Those certificates may be worth something to a collector, but you can’t liquidate them to buy the groceries.
Sure, my points are worth a treasure trove of economy rides in middle seats at off hours during off seasons. They may even buy domestic first class to Cleveland and a night at a Fairfield Inn. But unless I amass a boatload more points or want to experience the Ohio Riviera, they are effectively worth zero to me.
What have I learned after paying those hefty annual card fees and buying more stuff than I need to meet the “spend?” I’ve learned that:
- Most credit card pumping blogs are almost as credible as the folks who sell timeshares.
- The laws of supply and demand haven’t been repealed. If card pumping blogs can’t survive without thousands of new conversions, there are thousands of card churners out there with millions of points. All of them have one thing in common: Competing for the same shrinking award availability. You may out-hack all of them, hit the jackpot, and get that first class direct flight to your dream destination. Then again, you might win at Powerball.
- The “hobby” can still take you many great places. You can sometimes go where you want, when you want, at the redemption rate you want. Just not in the same trip. Pick any one out of the three.
These insights may seem obvious. The thought leaders will tell you I’m dead wrong. Another credit card or 10 might be all I need to book the Etihad Residence easily. Bigfoot may also be roaming around Area 51.
Who am I to offer advice anyway? I’m not a thought leader and I’m not in on those billion mile secrets. I am a chump. You could also call me a mark, a sucker, or a pigeon.
P.S. Please be gentle with me, I am doing this for freeeeee.
And I leave you with this…
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Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.