Why miles and points really matter

Sep 25, 2019

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If there’s a moment in life more clarifying than a funeral, I haven’t found it. (Yes, you’re still reading The Points Guy. Stay with me here.)

An old friend died a few weeks ago. I’ll call him Steve. Steve was married to my best friend since my teens. I’ll call her Lori. Lori and Steve were fixtures in my life for a number of years when I was the age that I still consider myself to be — until I look in the mirror. I hadn’t seen him in a while, but our joint memories ran deep. When he died of a heart attack, his loss was both a shock and a wake-up call.

Lori and I still share a close relationship, but our lives took divergent paths. She had her kids in her twenties; I in my thirties. I have a teen and tween; she is a grandma. I just visited my 46th country, she stayed much closer to home.

But through it all, we talked about taking a trip together. Life intervened and the trip didn’t come to pass, until Steve’s funeral brought everything into new focus.

While watching a slideshow of Steve’s life story, one image struck me. It was a photo of a log cabin in the woods. It was his retirement dream, a dream he’ll never get to fulfill. That thought made me immensely sad, but it also steeled my resolve: Lori and I needed to take that trip. Now.

I told her so at the funeral, and she said, “Sure,” but I don’t think she really thought it would happen. We’d said that many times before. She said what she always says, “I have to pay for X event and with Y happening, I just can’t right now. We’ll do it someday.”

Not this time. I refused to think that I might attend Lori’s funeral, or she mine, regretting that we’d never taken that trip. Lori and I both have milestone birthdays next year. I won’t say which one, but will confess that my workout playlist features Bell Biv Devoe and Color Me Badd.

Here’s where miles and points come in. Like most of us, I couldn’t pay for a dream trip on a moment’s notice. The miles-and-points coffers, on the other hand, are relatively plentiful.

Because of my burgeoning collection of miles and points, I had the confidence to tell her on the spot, “Pick a place and a date. We’re going. Period.” It took a few weeks, but she committed to a date and then a place: Italy.

The Positano coastline in Italy. (Photo by Lina Harb / EyeEm / Getty Images)
The Positano coastline in Italy. (Photo by Lina Harb / EyeEm / Getty Images)

Enter Delta SkyMiles. I’d like to tell you where the 119,000 SkyMiles in my account came from, but I really have no idea. I’ve had the account since 1999 and Delta SkyMiles never expire, so who knows. Some of them could even be from Northwest Airlines, which merged with Delta in 2010, for all I know. I could find account activity earning a whopping 75 miles during a Cinco de Mayo trip last year and about 8,000 for various Airbnb trips. I think I transferred some from American Express during a bonus promotion in 2011 with the thought of a rainy day.

The point, though, is universal: I had resources I could draw upon because of earning throughout the years. When the Delta Vacations promo that allowed you to cash in Delta miles at 2 cents per mile came along, I had enough to book two tickets to Rome and a week in a four-star hotel with 7,000 miles left over.

I broke down in tears while texting Lori to go apply for her passport.

That, my friends, is why miles and points matter.

Featured image by Shutterstock

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