I have over 2.1 million points and miles — and I’m in no rush to redeem them

Dec 8, 2020

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This past weekend, I took a break from shopping online and watching holiday movies to play a fun game called, “How many points and miles do I have?” I had solid ideas of my individual balances, as I log in to check all of them on a regular basis. However, I was curious to know the cumulative total held by my household — which consists of me, my wife and my six-year-old daughter.

Even I was surprised by the result.

When I added up all of our loyalty account balances (excluding those under 15,000), I found that we’re currently sitting on just over 2.1 million points and miles.

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Perhaps even more incredible is the fact that these balances together represent nearly $30,000 in value based on our most recent valuations. And even this tally doesn’t include another 500,000+ points and miles that I used to book trips in early- to mid-2021 — ones that appear to be less and less likely to happen with each passing day.

Now, I’m not normally one to hoard my points and miles — and we specifically recommend against it. But with the coronavirus pandemic still raging around the globe, the opportunities to utilize loyalty programs to book (almost) free travel are incredibly limited compared to a normal year.

Some of my colleagues have jumped on non-travel redemptions — including Scott Mayerowitz burning over 320,000 Chase points on meals and groceries and Richard Kerr using Ultimate Rewards points to effectively buy an iPad. In both instances, they utilized Chase’s Pay Yourself Back feature, though there are many other ways to redeem points and miles, outside of flights and hotels.

I’m not biting.

Related: Ultimate guide to maximizing your holiday purchases

When I first started collecting points and miles nearly two decades ago, I viewed them as a great way to keep money in my pocket. Since then — and after a lot of learning — I’ve come to view them very differently. Instead of a cash-savings mechanism, I generally treat them as a way to book trips that I wouldn’t be able to afford without them.

Over the years, this has allowed me to enjoy rewards like Cathay Pacific first class to Bali, Delta One to Australia, and spacious hotel rooms at resorts like the Hilton Seychelles Labriz, St. Regis Bal Harbour and Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme. I’ve been able to travel in comfort to dozens of countries — bringing my daughter along to 20 of them. No amount of groceries, dinners or electronics will be enough for me to give those experiences up.

A picture of Nick Ewen's vow renewal in the Seychelles
My wife and I renewed our vows during a magical award stay in the Seychelles. (Photo by Nick Ewen/The Points Guy)

 

Sure, there’s a risk that one (or more) of the programs in which I have large balances will implement a large-scale devaluation. However, our points and miles are spread across 13 different currencies — two credit card issuers, five hotel programs and five airlines. My largest balance (by far) is with American Express Membership Rewards, which means I can transfer those points to nearly two-dozen loyalty programs.

In short, my points and miles are highly-diversified, and with nearly half of them sitting in transferable point programs, I am confident that, should one or even two airlines decide to completely change award charts, I would largely be insulated from any fallout.

Moreover, these travel providers have a major incentive to not devalue their respective loyalty programs as we gradually emerge from the pandemic. We’ve seen multiple examples of just how valuable these assets are in 2020 — most notably when one major airline’s program was valued at between $18 and $30 billion (and yes, that’s billion … with a b). Many credit-card issuers have pre-purchased millions of dollars worth of points and miles from the airlines and hotels, and a sudden devaluation could prove harmful to that lucrative relationship.

(That hasn’t stopped some programs from implementing negative changes during the pandemic — but airlines and hotel chains will need loyal customers as travel gradually picks back up over the months and years to come, so they should tread lightly here.)

In fact, we’ve even seen the opposite of devaluations over the last several weeks: programs launching limited-time sales, discounts or rebates for awards. American temporarily brought back 5,000-mile Economy Web Special awards and then published a great deal on transcontinental, premium-class award flights. Hyatt is currently offering a 15% to 25% rebate on award stays through Feb. 28, 2021 — and Marriott recently dropped the award rate at virtually all of its 7,000+ properties to off-peak levels for stays through next February booked by Dec. 14.

I expect these deals to continue as companies attempt to woo travelers back in the waning days of the pandemic.

It’s also worth noting that right now is also a fantastic time to be earning more points and miles. The various offers are too numerous to list out — but they include bonus Amex points at Amazon, extra Chase points at PayPal and a slew of limited-time offers on top travel rewards cards.

Related: 9 cards currently offering sign-up bonuses of 100,000 points or more

In short, I am supremely confident that my 2.1 million+ points and miles (and counting) will still provide immense value when international travel begins to return in earnest — hopefully at some point in 2021.

So enjoy your “free” non-travel rewards. For this TPG editor, I’m perfectly content to sit on my loyalty program balances until I can start putting them toward future trips.

Featured photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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