I’m in the middle of booking a trip for our family to Hawaii, and I realize that each time I go to book a trip I become somewhat paralyzed by points — by the idea that I’m somehow not getting a mythical “optimal” value for the points that I have. I always spend a ton of time debating whether I should burn miles for a trip because I’m afraid I won’t have enough for some insane trip (yeah right) that I’m taking later. Part of that comes from writing about miles and points and knowing that there are some awards that offer greater value than others, and part is by the constant drumbeat on lots of other blogs (and perhaps occasionally on this one) that you’re basically a complete moron if you’re not using your miles and points for international first class air travel.
Let me say this for the umpteenth time: there is no bad use of the miles you have. Of course, there are some award redemptions that get more “value” than others (we can argue about how you define “value” — although a business class ticket to Europe costs $5,000 I wouldn’t say that it provides 7x more value than a $700 coach ticket, which is why for many people redeeming points for 2 coach tickets to Europe offers far more value than 1 business class ticket, especially if that means bringing your spouse along or not).
The only terrible use of miles is storing them up and not redeeming them. How many of us (my hand is raised) were stockpiling Hilton points for some hypothetical future trip because they were so easy to acquire? Great call – until Hilton devalued those points by 2-3x on redemptions on top hotels. That brilliant strategy doesn’t seem so smart now that I’m sitting on several hundred thousand Hilton points – I was probably better off burning them off little by little at 3-star properties and enjoying the free nights rather than stockpiling for a trip that, it now turns out, I won’t take.
All of those posts out there about the “value” of points in various programs are doing all of us a disservice. It makes us all feel like unless we’re getting that much supposed “value” out of the points that using them is a bad idea. That is nonsense. First (and most importantly) it’s your money — and if you don’t have to spend your money, that’s a good thing.
Secondly, the “value” of the points varies by person. If I am never going to use the miles to fly to Bangkok in First Class, then the miles don’t have any value for that. I can’t sell the miles (really) to someone else to use for a first class trip to Bangkok. So their value really depends on how I’m realistically going to use the miles. And only YOU know that.
So yes, using those hotel points for the overwater bungalow in the Maldives is an amazing use of those points…but only if you’re ever going to go there. If you’re not, 20 free nights at the Hampton Inn might generate a ton of value for you because you don’t have to pay cash out of pocket.
I just thought I’d take this morning to re-iterate: use those points. Don’t worry about wringing every last penny of supposed value out of them. Take a trip you’re happy with and keep the cash in your pocket to spend on food once you’re there (get the hell out of the hotel concierge lounge and go eat a meal!)