My New York Times Travel Show Talk

by on March 5, 2012 · 28 comments

in General TPG Business, Travel Industry

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Yesterday afternoon, I had a blast talking to a crowded room of miles and points enthusiasts  at the New York Times Travel Show. You know I can (and often do) talk about points all day long, but I had to condense my speech into 45 minutes, so I boiled it down to the basics of earning and redeeming points, as well as the best credit cards out there for doing so.

For those of you that are more advanced, you’ll find a lot of familiar information in here, but feel free to pass it along to your friends who are just getting started. You newbies should find some great information in here, which I’ll also be posting in the Beginners Guide section.

Team TPG at the New York Times Travel Show. Brian, Danielle, Ryan, Oscar and Eric.

My next big engagements will be at the The Freddie Awards on Thursday, April 26, 2012, at the Renaissance Newark Airport, and the following weekend at Frequent Traveler University, from Friday-Sunday, April 27-29, 2012, where there will be workshops on miles and points by the top experts and many chances to meet representatives from airline and hotel programs.

In the meantime, have a look at the presentation and stay tuned for future speaking engagements!


Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Maxim

    Great presentation, Brian. Way to go. You were greeted like a rock star after the talk.

    However, it was geared towards complete newbies (we all were there at some point). It was disappointing though that the mob of newbies mobbed Brian after the presentation and wouldn’t let ask any decent questions. I saw several people with great questions, who gave up waiting and walked away.

  • PSL

    Even though this faithful reader knew most of what you covered, I still learned some new stuff such as how to make sure I get my SPG points for my future Blue Fin brunches! It was great meeting you!

  • Angelina Aucello

    Congrats =) I was there! I wanted to say Hi, but you seemed bombarded (a good thing LOL).

  • Jim Levites

    I was there. Very much enjoyed the talk. WAY TOO SHORT! and it was cleared you were rushed trying to get so much info in such a short time.

  • Jmansour

    brian great job! i was there and loved it! although it was geared more to beginners I did pick up some new tips.. The Q and A afterwards was great becuase it wasnt rushed.. I just wish some of the elder folks couldve been more on top of it and they were very unfamaliar with all of this..

  • Karen

    Any chance we can get a printout of this presentation? I will be at FTU in april

  • tivoboy

    Dude, you really need to shop for extra long or have the jackets custom made! ;-) (BTW, I’m 6’6″ so speak from experience)

  • Sal

    All those people look like dwarfs up next to you.

  • Wolfgang

    Why isn’t the Citibank ThankYou Premier Card benefit of receiving 1 point for every mile flown listed as a favorite cc, given that you receive a bonus of 1 point for every mile flown when booking any airline ticket?
    So if you book, say, JFK-NRT flight, you receive not only 1 point per dollar spent on the ticket, but a bonus of 13,000 points for the 13,000 miles flown.
    If the ticket cost $2k, you end up with 15,000 points…compare that to the vaunted Amex Premier Gold benefit of triple points when booking air…you would get 3 x $2,000 or 6,000 points…versus 15,000 on the TY Premier Card.
    Granted, an Amex MR point is more valuable than a TY point. But 15,000 TY points is closing in a free domestic ticket while 6,000 MRT points is nowhere close. What am I missing and why haven’t you focused on the TY Premier card?

  • James

    Yeah when I saw that picture I was like, “Who’s that freakishly tall man on the left of the Team TPG photo?” :)

  • thepointsguy

    Now you know why I need business class!

  • thepointsguy

    44L usually works, but it depends on the fit. I actually have no custom made clothes, but think I might get some suits when I go to Asia

  • thepointsguy

    Thanks for coming! See you at FTU?

  • thepointsguy

    Thank you! Great meeting you as well and thanks for your kind offer

  • tivoboy

    Try an XL sometime, it’s nice covers all the backside. ;-)

  • Markcheng1203

    Anyone Able to watch this on an iPhone?

  • Maxim

    Let P equal price of the ticket, D equal the round trip distance, Va equal the value of MR point and Vt equal the value of TY point.

    Then Amex PR would earn 3P MR points, while Citi TYP would earn P+D points. Accordingly, the value of the trip charged on Amex card will be 3P*Va, and (P+D)*Vt for Citi TY card.

    Solve for D => D = P*(3Va-Vt)/Vt.

    Thus if D is less than P*(3Va-Vt)/Vt, you would be better off using Amex PR card and Citi TY otherwise.

    Let’s use real numbers. P (JFK-NRT) = $2000, D = 13,500 miles. IMHO, Va is $0.03 (conservatively) and Vt = $0.01.

    We get 13,500 < 16,000 [$2000 * (3*$0.01 - $0.01)/$0.01]

    So, given my point valuations and assumed ticket price, one would be better off using Amex PR.

    I hope this helps.


  • Maxim

    I made a small typo that does NOT change the math.

    It should read 13,500 < 16,000 [$2000 * (3*$0.03 - $0.01)/$0.01]

  • Wolfgang

    TY points are worth $.01 when redeemed for certificates or merchandise.
    But when used to book travel, their value varies.
    The typical domestic ticket requires about 25,000 points.
    Assuming an average domestic ticket cost of $400, the value of 1 point would be $.016.
    So when booking a JFK-NRT ticket for $2k and using the TY card, the result of receiving 15,000 TY points X $0.016 produces $240 of value.
    If Amex MR is worth $0.03/point, then $2k x 3 x $0.03 produces $180 of value.
    Still doesn’t explain why Brian doesn’t even mention the TY points card benefit of bonus points for actual mileage flown…unless you value MR points above $0.04 each, its a no-brainer when booking long-haul travel to use the TY card…especially as you can book travel on TY points using any airline.

  • Maxim

    You are I might have different utility curves. Which is OK.

    It’s generally believed that using 25,000 miles for domestic travel is poor value, while the largest bang for the buck is obtained from business/first class travel on international routes. This is what I focus on, but I also understand that others might not be interested in international travel.

    Let’s go back to our assumptions. TY point is $0.01 if redeemed for various gift cards, including hotel cards. One can also redeem them for $0.013 if used for travel. You seem to infer that 25,000 TY points can be redeemed for any domestic RT ticket (I’m unaware of this, so a link would be appreciated) and let’s suppose one will only redeem them for expensive tickets (~$400) so we get $0.016 value.

    So far so good?

    Using $0.016 TY point valuation in my formula above, one would want to use Citi TY card if distance (D) is at least P*(3*0.03-0.016)/0.016 = 4.625P

    Since, 13,500 miles is indeed greater than 2000*4.625=9250 then yes, you should use Citi TY card.

    But is it always the best choice? Not necessarily.

    Back in February I flew from JFK to Santiago in business class on LAN for 80,000 BA miles. Amex was running 50% transfer promotion over the summer 2011 so it took me 53,333 MR points to get 80,000 BA miles. Before the flight I checked the price of JFK-SCL RT and it was pricing at $5,000-8,000 depending on the day. Let’s use $6,000, which prices 1 MR at $0.112.

    Plug in the values in the formula and to get the better value from Citi TY card the distance of JFK-SCL RT must be at least 6,000*(3*11.2-1.6)/1.6 = 120,000 miles. In reality, JFK-SCL RT is only 10,000 miles.

    So, as I said in the beginning, we all have different utility curves. While, I’m not expecting to get $0.112 for 1 MR every time, I value them highly and will use them creatively to get the best benefit.

    TY points have less flexibility, but CAN be great of value if one can find long haul flights cheaply (economy?)


  • Maxim

    But you raise a great question about the best redemption for TY points.

    I used to think that CitiForward card was the best value for dining spending (5x TY points), but now consider Chase Sapphire to be superior even if it only generates 2.14 UR points.

  • newfie49

    When will there be a presentation in ATL?

  • erik

    Nice overview! On the point of never buying direct from a retailer’s website, what about They seem to be a major exception to the various shopping portals — with only the relatively smaller Hawaiian Airlines shopping portal participating as far as I know.

  • Maxim

    CitiForward gives you 5x ThankYou points for shopping on Amazon. +1 Hawaiian Mile. Not too shabby.

  • Alex

    Who is that Oscar fellow? He sure is handsome!

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