Here’s When Hoarding Your Points and Miles Could Make Sense

Feb 18, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

It’s a struggle as old as the points and miles game itself: should you use your points for a given redemption, or hold for something grander in the future? We’ve argued before that it’s not wise to stockpile points without a goal in mind.

Instead, you’re better off cashing your points and miles in for a desired trip, flight or hotel stay as soon as you have enough. Given that airlines and hoteliers have devalued their currencies with little to no notice, holding miles unnecessarily could leave you wishing you would have sprung for a trip while values were higher.

But, what if you dream bigReally big? What if you’re okay stockpiling points for years, knowing that valuations will change, in hopes of cashing in for that once-in-a-lifetime adventure? I’m in that camp, and I think it’s perfectly OK if you are as well. In fact, I routinely coach those new to the points and miles world to practice patience, and to consider saving their points for a trip that they would never pay cash for — even if money was no object.

The Importance of Goals

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

What’s not wise is to aimlessly collect points and miles for years with no idea of how or when you’ll use them. You wouldn’t save cash for years without directing it to an investment or at least having a long-term reason for maintaining liquidity, and you should think of your various points and miles collections similarly.

When the Chase Sapphire Reserve® launched with a now-legendary-but-dead 100,000-point welcome bonus, I wasn’t tempted to use them right away. Instead, I calculated my annual spend on the card and plotted a trajectory of roughly how many points I’d earn over the next couple of years.

At the same time, I eyed my growing balance of Delta SkyMiles — accumulated through hundreds of thousands of flight miles thanks to my job — and did likewise.

park hyatt hadahaa maldives overwater bungalow walkway
Worth saving points for years to walk down this for a week? Totally.

I then sat down with my wife and asked: “What’s a trip that would be atop our bucket list that we would never pay cash for, but would love to go on if it were free?” The answer was a business class trip from the United States to the Maldives, with as many days as we could afford in an overwater bungalow. Conservatively, a trip like that (for two) would cost around $20,000 if flying on Delta and its SkyTeam partners and staying in a top-tier property like Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa.

You can’t execute on a trip like that with just one credit card welcome bonus, but if you stack a few together over the course of two years and add in everyday spend, impossible dreams suddenly seem feasible.

Patience is a Virtue

park-hyatt-hadahaa-maldives-pool-villa-paradise
This Park Hyatt Hadahaa Maldives pool villa was a free upgrade on my award stay thanks to my top-tier Hyatt status

While Delta has unfortunately done away with its public award charts, there was a time where you could exchange 120,000 SkyMiles for a round-trip business class award from the United States to the Maldives — assuming you could find availability, of course. It took me over 3 years to earn 240,000 total SkyMiles by flying, but I could’ve shortened that by applying for a Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card or Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express.

During that span, I had many opportunities to cash out SkyMiles for shorter, less exotic trips. Instead, I bit the bullet and paid cash for every single trip, using those paid tickets to maintain my Diamond Medallion status while also building upon a pile of points that was slowly but surely getting us ever closer to our Indian Ocean paradise.

Korean Air A380 Atlanta 2014
This stellar business class seat aboard a Korean Air A380 took me to Seoul, where I continued to the Maldives

Once I had the miles, I needed even more patience. I called Delta’s reservation line and could only find business class award availability through SkyTeam partner Korean Air some 10 months out. In other words, even when I found the right dates to exchange miles for confirmed tickets, I had to wait nearly a year to actually fly.

That 10-month window wasn’t wasted, though. Thanks to my frequent work travel, I managed to secure Diamond elite status with Hilton. As a TPG reader, I knew that one of the best redemptions in the Maldives was the Park Hyatt — a chain where I had no status, and thus, no points balance. I also knew that you could transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio.

With award nights at the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa running 25,000 points per night, I’d need 175,000 Ultimate Rewards points for a weeklong stay. (By the way, this property is soon moving up a category and will therefore demand 30,000 points per night.)

Park Hyatt Maldives overwater villa (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)
Park Hyatt Maldives overwater villa, achieved with a base level award booking and a paid uncharge upon arrival

I managed to spend my way to those added 75,000 Chase points over three years, and during the 10 month window between booking both the flight and hotel using points, I plotted a plan to status match from Hilton to Hyatt a few weeks prior to our stay. I knew top-tier Hyatt status would make me eligible for a room upgrade, provide free breakfast for myself and my wife (valued at over $100 per day in the Maldives) and free snacks during an evening manager’s reception.

Status matching to Hyatt is once per lifetime, and I knew I’d never maintain that status after the trip, but I calculated it to be worth having for that single week in one of the most remote, expensive places on Earth.

Bottom Line

hadahaa-sunset park hyatt maldives
A sunset I would’ve never experienced without saving points and miles for over 3 years

While we could’ve embarked on many more trips while we were patiently saving for years, the wow factor of a free week in the Maldives was worth it for us. A long weekend in Miami or visiting family in California, while certainly a factor in one’s budget, is typically doable by dutifully saving cash. Saving enough to purchase a four-door sedan, then diverting those funds for a a single week of frolicking, isn’t just more difficult — it’s probably a terrible financial decision even if you can swing it.

After a decade of earning and burning, my most satisfying redemptions are those in which I know I would never execute on without points. While I wouldn’t judge someone for dropping 10,000 miles for a quick visit to Austin from Los Angeles, it’s extremely difficult to ever save enough for the most aspirational of holidays without a high degree of self-control.

I’m OK with risking devaluations for the hope of a trip that simply wouldn’t be possible without points and miles. Case in point: I saved SkyMiles for another three years to book yet another business class ticket to the Maldives for later this year. Delayed gratification never felt so good.

Want to see the latest flight deals as soon as they’re published? Follow The Points Guy on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to text message alerts from our deals feed, @tpg_alerts.

All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
0% on purchases for 12 months
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.

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.