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…