KonMari Your Miles and Points
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Do your points bring you joy?
That may seem like an odd question, but if you're a fan of Marie Kondo's "Tidying Up," you know what I mean. Thrift stores are bursting at the seams thanks to the wave of folks cleaning out their closets of everything but those items that bring them joy. The KonMari method is here to save all of us from clutter.
As miles and points collectors (focus on the word "collector"), TPG Family contributors have their share of clutter. Many of our virtual closets are bursting at the seams with points that no longer match our lifestyles.
Sometimes it sneaks up on you as your family grows. Hotel points that were the perfect fit for a couple may no longer work now that you have a larger brood. Or maybe you opened up an airline credit card with a specific destination in mind but life intervened and you still haven't booked that trip. Or booking partners changed. Or award prices jumped, or whatever.
Flying Blue Was Sent Packing
Angelina Aucello of Angelina Travels cleaned out her points closet and sent Flying Blue to the trash heap. She told me, "My Air France miles do not bring me joy. Aside from SkyTeam being my family’s least-traveled airline alliance, I absolutely despise the fact that Air France Flying Blue Miles expire after 24 months. I recently redeemed the last of my Air France miles to book a JFK to NAS trip for a relative just because they would have gone to dust if I hadn’t otherwise. In today’s competitive loyalty world, it’s discouraging to feel the stress and pressure of expiring miles with no recourse in keeping them alive in other ways (shopping portals, transfers, etc.) besides only being limited to taking a qualifying flight with Air France or another SkyTeam partner (or with activity on the Air France credit card, which many of us do not have). In the future, I will stick to crediting my SkyTeam miles to Delta, where SkyMiles don’t expire."
I totally agree with her here. While many hotel points (looking at you, IHG) officially expire after 12 months, by booking and canceling a reservation, you can extend their shelf life. I lost 6,000 Air Canada miles a couple of years ago because its miles expire after 12 months. I know I should have been able to save them with a transfer from American Express, but they slipped away before I even realized they were in jeopardy. There's no joy in losing miles.
Ignore Hotel Chains That Don't Align With Your Travel Patterns
Dan Miller of Points With a Crew feels his pain with the scraps. He said, "The points that bring me the least amount of joy are the random hotel points in programs like La Quinta, Best Western, Radisson, Choice. It always feels like I 'should' keep them, but I never want to spend them." I feel Dan's pain. While we're not supposed to turn away "free" points, I have stopped worrying about sweepstakes or other offers that give a small amount of points in a chain that offers no easy way to earn more. At least Best Western and Choice are American Express Membership Rewards transfer partners, so they can be topped up as needed.
Spend 'Em As You Earn 'Em
TPG Family contributor Juan Ruiz prizes his ability to earn and burn, keeping his miles and points closet neat and tidy. According to Ruiz, "I go deep into flexible point currencies like Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards. I go deep into American Airlines miles via credit card sign ups because I live near MIA and it’s an AA hub. But I diversify my points portfolio with airline miles, hotel points and flexible points. Redemptions are the fruit of my labor, so I don't have any clutter."
I'm getting more interested in flexible currencies, too. In addition to American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, I'm a fan of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®. You can redeem Arrival miles on any travel purchase over $100. This flexibility helps keep me tidy.
TPG Family editor Summer Hull isn't purposefully clearing out any loyalty account balances at the moment, but is finding more joy in flexible points that can easily be used as cash to offset travel charges. Her husband recently got the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, and they used those points to cover a chunk of the cost of last-minute flights to the British Virgin Islands when using traditional airline miles didn't make sense.
They are also booking more and more hotels stays via Hotels.com for times when elite perks/points don't matter nearly as much as the 20% return from using the card to book Hotels.com stays. This comes from earning 10 miles per dollar on those charges with the card through Jan. 31, 2020 and making progress toward earning a free Hotels.com night after 10 paid nights. There is joy in freedom from the binds of traditional loyalty programs.
I recently performed KonMari on my miles and points balances. I came to the conclusion that there's a hotel point currency that hasn't given me joy in a very long time: Radisson Rewards.
I had to dig into my blog archive to find my last stay at a Radisson property. It was 2015 -- four years ago. Back in the heydays of 2012 and 2013, the old Club Carlson card was an absolute steal as it offered the last night free on any award booking (so BoGo on two-night award stays). Club Carlson points were also ridiculously easy to earn: on one notable stay at the (former) Radisson Martinique, I earned 88 points per dollar. Between family rooms in Europe and New York City for the weekend, the Club Carlson program offered outsize value. At one point, I had more than 500k points in the program.
However, things changed, both for me and for the program. We stopped traveling to destinations where Radisson shined, and at the same time the program decimated its benefits. I got rid of the card two years ago, yet as of last week I was still sitting on a balance of 98,146 Radisson Rewards points. I've tried to use them over the years but I could never find a property that was a) somewhere we would actually want to stay and b) a value over 0.5 cents/point.
I'm happy to announce that my current balance in Radisson Rewards is now just 146 points. Using KonMari as inspiration, I scoured the Radisson hotel directory until I found one that fit the bill. This summer, I'll spend three nights at the Radisson Blu at Disneyland Paris with my daughter. Two nights will be free and the third will be 10k points plus $121. Cash rates were around $220, so at 44,000 a night I've just made my goal.
Will I ever stay at a Radisson again? Who knows? But I am done collecting Radisson Rewards points. Next time I'll book through Hotels.com and get my one free night after 10 paid to use at any hotel.
Not every program will fit your needs. Even points that used to be your go-tos might now be as obsolete as a flip phone. By taking time to tidy up your balances, you can focus your energies on the currencies that will get you where you want to go not only now, but in the future.