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

Feb. 18, 2019
8 min read
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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 big? Really 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)

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.

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.

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Patience is a Virtue

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.

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, 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

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.

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All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.

Featured image by The stunning overwater villas at the Park Hyatt Maldives (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more