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It’s Starting to Feel Like Tom Vu Out There in Blog World: If You Don’t Get Credit Cards, You A Loser!


Don’t listen to your friends, they’re losers!

I read a handful of blogs each day. I was about to write that I read a handful of travel blogs each day, but really I read a handful of credit card blogs each day, and those credit card blogs will sometimes talk about using the points from those cards to go on a plane and sit in business class. I’ve been reading these blogs for years, and over time they’re starting to morph together into a stream of mantras repeated over and over until the next credit card deal comes along: “I OPENED 7 CREDIT CARDS AND I GOT A FLIGHT WORTH $37,275!…LOOK AT ME, I’M ON VACATION!”

Which made me think about Tom Vu. Tom Vu, you may remember, ran infomercials in the 1980s and 1990s touting a plan for buying and selling real estate. But his M.O. was to make you feel like crap when you saw the amazing (“amazing”) lifestyle he led, filled with beautiful women (“beautiful women”) and gigantic houses with waterfalls in the front yard.

As he said, “I hope you enjoy seeing my waterfall as much as I do. I built this water fountain right in front of my estate, so I feel good about it. I feel successful every time I come home. Speaking of waterfall, that remind me of a secret that made me to become very wealthy…” And so forth.

He would then tell you that if you weren’t interested in that lifestyle, in taking risks on real estate, that you were “a loser.” Or perhaps it was your friends telling you not to go to his seminars who were, in fact, losers. “I had to keep telling these people every time, I kept saying, ‘You a loser! Get out of my way! I make it somehow!’” The key point: If you were satisfied with your non-slutty wife and waterfall-less house you were a loser. (And please, get out of his way.)

After reading the 372nd blog post about someone getting points through credit card signups and now they fly business class and if you don’t fly business class you a loser, I was feeling just a bit beaten down. 275 ways to use 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points. If you miss this added bonus you a loser. It’s exhausting.

So for all of us losers, I wanted to share a few thoughts:

- You are not a loser for flying coach on points. At some point this game will be up, and manufacturing points will slow to a drizzle (already happening), and you will be able to take more trips than if you flew in business class. It’s OK to make that tradeoff. Really, it is.

- If you fly coach on an award ticket and still want to feel really special, Carmel Car charges about $50 for a Mercedes to take you to LaGuardia. Zabar’s will sell you good caviar for $99, and you get a bottle of Dom Perignon for $169.99. I look forward to seeing 300 pictures of that.

- It’s not sexy, but for 90% of you a cash back card is your best bet. Sure – you should feel free to get cards for their signup bonuses. But putting $40,000 on the Hilton credit card to earn Diamond status is, for almost everyone, completely nuts. Get the Fidelity Amex (no annual fee) or the Barclays Arrival ($89 annual fee), and enjoy your 2% cash back. You’re probably better off with that. More on that here.

- You are not a loser for thinking that for many people, AirBnB is a better option for you when traveling to a city internationally than the $1,000/night Hyatt that you got for free. In many cases you should save those free nights for when there are no better options. A $150/night 1-bedroom apartment in Paris is probably a better choice for you if you don’t care about a small, schmancy room at the Hyatt. Save the Hyatt nights for when you don’t have a $150 alternate option, that’s a much, much better value.

- You are not a loser for trading down to coach to take your family along. Teaching kids about how wonderful travel is far outweighs the benefits of sitting up front. Sure, people would rather see a photo of a plate of business class chicken than a photo of your kid playing on an ipad in coach. Their loss. Or not.

- You can probably get 8-10 cards per churn. But you are not a loser if you’re only comfortable getting 1 or 2 cards a year. The Internet makes it easy for people who take things to the extreme to make it seem like they are normal and you are a loser for not taking part. Sleeping comfortably and not worrying about credit cards and manufacturing spend makes you sane, not a loser.

Traveling – whether it’s in first class on Singapore Airlines or in coach on Icelandair, is amazing. Whatever choices you make about how to spend whatever points you choose to generate are completely OK. I promise – if you haven’t flown business class internationally you really, truly are not missing that much. As I keep writing – a shitty version of a bed, even if it’s on an airplane, is still a shitty version of a bed. It’s better than coach, absolutely. But if you’ve ever sat on a couch, you’ve been more comfortable. Be thrilled that we live in an age – the only age in the history of humans – where we can pretty much roam around the world for next to nothing. That’s fantastic.

I’m not sure why it’s been bothering me so much lately – maybe because for years it felt like the good content outweighed the you-a-loser content. But the scales seem to have tipped the other way lately, and I think it’s good to remember that, devaluations and all, we have it really good. And for those of us who are open to coach and alternate lodging, it’s almost as good as it’s ever been…

See you in the back of the bus…losers…

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16 Comments.

  1. Great post! Coach lands first, every time.

  2. Hey wait a minute. I’d prefer if you add a link to the 60000 point Ink offer. I get disoriented if I’m reading a blog without one. Besides, what can you do with all those points? I forget…

    Such hysterical hypocrisy… The same bloggers who bemoan small transfer bonuses from Amex MR to airlines hype a limited time 20% increased bonus for signing up for an Ink card.

    I wonder if I can use those 10000 extra points for a jar of caviar…

  3. sheldon cooper

    yeah, these blogs are strange beasts. there are the ones that are completely in-your-face about the first-class trips and the faux-luxury lifestyle (TPG) and there are those that are sold on the idea but maintain an “oh my gosh” tone (MP, Lucky) in order to sound relatable to their readers but are clearly in Tom Vu-land already!

  4. Right on.

    Flying with family of five to Europe at the end of the month…in coach. Business class seats were available for the return flight Brussels-Chicago but for five of us, it would have been an additional 100,000 United miles. My kids are spoiled enough with the travel they get to do without being spoiled by business class before they’ve even gotten through grade school!

    But the 15 year old IS nearly 6′, so instead I bought the Economy Plus subscription (for me plus up to 8 flying with me) from United for about $1000. For the Europe trip alone, the five of us are flying 20 segments and we flew or booked at least 18 more segments (I’ve lost track!) during the year of the subscription.

    Coach E+ definitely would be considered a “loser” option by some, but this was a great deal for our family.

  5. I hate the relentless peddling of the credit card offers too. If you concentrate your firepower on that self serving hypocrisy, it may be more effective. To argue that First/Business class somehow is not that desirable, which tends to be a personal preference, in my opinion only dilutes your main argument that so many respectable blogs have surrendered to the referral schemes, which I wholeheartedly agree with and very much appreciate your courage to bring it up.

  6. I tried airbnb the first time in Hamburg and it was a great deal. $45 a nice with free wifi and a very upscale bedroom/bathroom. I think I’m hooked! Thanks for keeping all of us “grounded” Jared!

  7. Beautiful! While I get a lot of ideas from the various blogs, if I see one more photo of some smirking nerd stretched out in first class or hanging around some fancy hotel lobby, I’m gonna puke!

  8. The post long overdue! This relentless pursuit of first-class flights is really getting old. I blame the earn’n’burn mentality, which really teaches wrong things to 99% of people. Whatever devaluations you can think of, they have barely touched the coach.

    One thing about Airbnb, though: it sucks! It’s often expensive and overhyped.Use VRBO, use homeaway, use local vacation rental real esstate, even Tripadvisor or Craigslist–unless you wan’t to be reimbursed by Barclay, Airbnb is rarely a good deal.

  9. Best post ever. I do fligh a lot couch. And I always take my family (4) with me. :-) and happy with it

  10. Great post. Ultimately, everyone should do what makes them happy AND what makes them comfortable as far as spend/churning. Want to earn hundreds of thousands of points a year and fly first class? Great, go do that! Want to take the family on vacation to Orlando? Great, go do that! Just want cash back? Great, go do that!

    Personally, I do like being able to fly in business or first on a 10+ hour flight, and I know how to make those miles worth far more than any cash back could get me. Then when I get there, I’ll be very happy staying at a small local hotel or AirBnB spot for $50 per night.

  11. Good post. You’re not related to George over at TBB, are you? I don’t mind some credit card posts, because I see them as similar to TV ads that I choose to ignore and can’t fault someone for trying to make a buck. However, I do object to those posts that seem like manufactured stories or contain misleading content (“This is the best deal” – umm…no it’s not). BTW, I agree with Andy that Airbnb is a great brand but overrated. There are better vacation rental web sites out there. A good one for Europe is http://www.homelidays.co.uk (I think they may have been recently purchased by homeaway).

  12. The problem is that there’s too much money to be made with these credit card referrals. I presume it won’t last forever, since it seems odd to me for credit card companies to pay bloggers who are basically “hacking” the game. We would definitely have better frequent flyer blogs if there was less money to be made. Also, the bloggers would be more “in touch” with their readers if they weren’t rolling in the dough. I’ve seen several “deals” described in the blog lately that have struck me as completely unrealistic even for experts in the “manufactured spending” game.

  13. Yeah, I think this hobby reached critical mass and is imploding on itself. I will no longer read any Boarding Area blog except WanderingAramean and Frequent Miler. I will not click thru BA to get to them. I think Ben’s stunt last week has heightened the downward spiral.

  14. I agree 90% with everything that you say, Jared (I , too, am not a huge fan of airbnb, though, preferring some of the other sites mentioned by Andy and Erik, above).

    I would also love to have a little more transparency on the credit card income generated by these links, which no one seems to want to share, as it’s apparently a violation of the terms of the affiliate program. It’d be great if someone could shed some light, so at least it’s clear what we’re providing the blogger when we use their links.

  15. ShoNuffHarlem

    NEVER GO TO LAGUARADIA AND AVOID CARMEL THEY HAVE GOTTEN HORRIBLE IN MY OPINION (used to be great)! I would burn 50,000 points to avoid both of those, ha!

    Love Tom Vu, amazing that someone else other than me remembered him!

  16. Blasphemy! And for not telling us why we need to visit Bora-Bora and stay in an over-water bungalow if we ever expect to be known as a truly savvy traveler: Double-Blasphemy!!
    (And sooo refreshing. :smile: )

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