Why I lie to my friends and family about miles and points

Jul 20, 2021

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You know those emails with all-caps subject lines that say, “I MAKE $17,800 PER WEEK FROM HOME — AND YOU CAN TOO!” — or — “THE PRINCE OF NIGERIA HAS CHOSEN YOU FOR A MULTIMILLION DOLLAR INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY”?

No one reads those. No one opens them. When you’re presented with an almost unbelievable offer for seemingly minimal effort, deafening alarm bells chime between the ears.

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As a miles-and-points addict, the stories I regale about previous trips are met with equal skepticism. One of my first award flights was to the Philippines for 40,000 United Airlines MileagePlus miles plus $5.60 in taxes and fees. When I told a friend that I flew to Asia for under $6 out-of-pocket, he was the opposite of impressed. He actually asked if my methods were legal.

Earning and burning miles and points with the best travel credit cards are as close as you can get to a free lunch. So for the good of my loved ones, to help them achieve their travel goals, I lie — in the opposite direction. I underrate the value of miles and points to something more believable, so they’ll actually open the cards.

If you’re new to the world of credit card rewards, I’ll show you what I mean.

Related: TPG beginner’s guide: Everything you need to know about points, miles, airlines and credit cards

Miles and points can mean thousands in business and first-class tickets. Don’t tell your friends, though. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/The Points Guy)

Miles and points sweet spots are so good that they sound like a spam email

Somewhere out there, someone has legitimately won a prize for being the 1 millionth website visitor. But they’ll never claim their prize because of all the spam emails that have preceded it.

Such is the life of a miles and points enthusiast. It’s difficult not to share this not-so-secret world of travel rewards with everyone you encounter. After all, travel rewards cards, when used responsibly and strategically, can unlock some unbelievable travel experiences for the memory bank. 

Related: A bucket list trip at 19: How I spent 570,000 points on an epic trip around the world

But in my experience, this information is received with overwhelming skepticism. The payoff-to-effort ratio is so drastic that I’ve learned to downplay everything because it really can sound like a scam.

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Example: The no-annual-fee  Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card comes with $750 (75,000 Chase points) after spending $7,500 within the first three months of account opening.

What I tell people the 75,000-point bonus is worth:

  1. “If you open this card, it’s the same as Chase cutting you a $750 check.”
  2. “Open this card and you’ll get a guaranteed two months of free groceries with this bonus. I’ll show you how to use Chase Pay Yourself Back to do it.”
  3. “Remember that family trip you were hoping to take to visit grandma? Open this card and you can book three round-trip flights to her house for free.”

Chase Pay Yourself Back is good through Sept. 30, 2021.

What the 75,000-point bonus is actually worth:

  1. $2,500+ by transferring points to Hyatt and using them toward a three-night stay at hotels, including Park Hyatt Sydney, Alila Ventana Big Sur, Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, etc. (See how.)
  2. $2,800 by transferring points to United Airlines and using them toward a one-way lie-flat business class ticket to Europe on United Airlines. (See how.)
  3. $11,000+ by transferring points to Virgin Atlantic toward a round-trip, first-class flight to Japan on ANA. (See how.)
The Park Hyatt Sydney. (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

Note: You must also have either a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve or  Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card to transfer Chase points to travel partners.

I wouldn’t dream of telling a friend or family member that they’ll get $11,000 in travel by opening the no-annual-fee Ink Business Cash. It would undermine all credibility and earn me the label of snake oil salesman.

Don’t get me wrong — people who aren’t entrenched in travel rewards usually gravitate toward more “practical” things, such as free groceries or cash back. But they mentally check out of the conversation when I try to tell them that one single credit-card bonus can give them thousands of dollars in free travel if they want it.

So when they ask me the payoff for opening a card, I lie.

Bottom line

The miles and points world is so lucrative because most people are skeptical of its potential. Most people don’t even bother to open airline or hotel loyalty accounts, which are completely free! And in a world brimming with spam and scam, it’s easy to understand why the prospect of receiving thousands of free dollars to travel the world is a little farfetched.

If you’re interested in learning about free travel, subscribe to our newsletter and read our credit card beginner’s guide. Don’t worry, we’ll guide you through the entire process and you’ll be a miles-and-points pro in no time. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.

Featured photo by AnnaTamila/Shutterstock

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

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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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.