Does Your Partner Support Your Points Addiction?

Posts from me are going to be a bit lighter over the next week as I continue my dad’s round the world surprise birthday trip. As you may (or may not) know, I also have a points consulting service, whereby we help people redeem their airline miles. I have several colleagues working with me, and they’re some of the most knowledgeable and passionate people I know in this hobby. They’ve offered to pitch in and write a few posts to give me a bit more time off while I’m traveling, so hopefully you’ll enjoy the additional unique perspectives. This post is from my friend Tiffany, whom you’ve heard from before.


Blogging is really hard!

Jotting down random stories when we’re traveling together is one thing, but I have no idea how Ben cranks out 50+ posts a week. Just writing a handful while he’s gone is tough!

He also said I could write about “whatever I wanted,” which is an awful lot of responsibility. I mean, I would love to have a discussion about why it’s so darn difficult to find a travel handbag for women who actually travel, but if Ben saw that headline on his blog he might stop drinking Champagne with me.

So I’m trying to exercise a bit of editorial restraint.

One thing I thought might be interesting to talk about is how to engage your significant other in miles and points. It’s something Ben never really talks about, and Travis’ wife is as much (if not more) of a travel geek than he is. I know a lot of us have trailing or reluctant spouses though, and it’s an area where my perspective is a bit different than theirs.

Everyone’s situation is unique, so I don’t know that there are any right or wrong approaches. There are a few things I have learned the hard way that I thought might be interesting to share though, and I would really love to hear how other miles enthusiasts have gotten their significant others on board!

Don’t sell mileage runs as vacations

I’ve screwed this one up spectacularly in the past.

I’m a big fan of using great fares to take weekends away, and my husband is even willing to add an extra segment to a work trip. But that’s very different than saying “hey, do you want to go to Argentina with Ben and I?”

Because I know, and you know, that if Ben is involved, the routing to Bueños Aires looks like this:

Spouse-miles-points-2

Whereas a normal person is expecting more of this:

Spouse-miles-points-3
(Nevermind that’s not even a route. Normal people don’t know that.)

So we take the long weekends, and chase the fun fares, but if you’re going to fly 25k miles in four days make sure everyone knows that ahead of time. Otherwise you’ll end up with the response my husband gives when people ask about that trip to Argentina.

We took 12 flights to have breakfast on a nice patio and see the second, third, fourth, and fifth comings. So, ummm, fine? I guess?

Tierra-Santa
(We could have planned the ground activities better, to be fair)

Keep the credit cards simple

I mean, they’re not really simple. There’s nothing straightforward about having four dozen active credit cards in one household, but you know what I mean.

In our case, we’ve been playing the game for long enough that my husband is pretty motivated to help. But we still boil it down to 2-3 cards in his wallet at a time, at the very most.

And he does a great job with bonus categories for the most part, and tries to pay attention to what I’m doing. I mean, I got vanilla-flavored plastic for Valentines Day.

But having to call a bank is apparently equivalent to having an appendectomy without anesthesia, so I’m really super conservative about what cards he applies for, and how often. I’m also not going to drag him all over town looking for certain gift cards or ways to dispose of them. Our time together is just too precious.

Bribery can also work. Or the “hey, I just put a credit card in your wallet. It gets double points on gas and at Newegg, and we need to spend $3000 on it in the next three months, have a party” approach.

Now, my husband is an extraordinarily frugal person, and a crazy shopping spree generally results in like 200 feet of ethernet cables or something similarly “practical.” This obviously won’t work for everyone.

No cutting corners on travel together

For people with ostensibly flexible schedules, we don’t see each other that often. We both have tendencies towards being workaholics, and while we both travel a ton, we don’t really vacation.

At one point in time we had three days in London where I had booked three different hotels. There was a promo, I needed the stay credits, availability was tight, etc.

We’ve all been there, I’m sure.

But the look on my travel partners face as we walked with our bags across a crowded Leicester Square on the third day….well. Just not worth it, ultimately. At least not for us.

So when we do have time away, we go all out.

And to be clear, by “all out” I mean by the standards of miles and points people, not the aforementioned normal people.

We spend well over a hundred nights a year each in hotels, rarely together, so when we do have time I’m not going to worry about if it’s the best use of a suite upgrade, or whether I’m getting the most optimal value for my points.

Andaz-Liverpool
Now when we go to London we just stay at the Andaz, and everyone is happier

At the end of the day, the points are for using, afterall.

Remember why I play the game in the first place

Travel is a huge part of our life. We’ve been essentially nomadic since about April of 2010.

Miles and points enable our entire lifestyle — it makes it possible for me to accompany him on last-minute work trips when even a coach ticket would otherwise be thousands of dollars, gives him flight and hotel upgrades that make his required travel much less onerous, and lets us do some really cool things along the way.

So for us, my points “hobby” makes what would otherwise be a pretty crummy work travel situation part of a really amazing life.

And when he says things like “I’d really like to take my mom to Japan. Can we do that?”

The answer is “of course.”

Spouse-miles-points-1

Being able to surprise your in-laws with the Governors Suite at the Park Hyatt Tokyo is just icing on the cake.

What about you? How does your partner feel about miles and points? What have you learned along the way?  

Comments

  1. This post is spot-on. I used to pursue my points addiction in secret, worried about what my wife would say about things like taking more circuitous routes than needed just for the miles, or paying annual fees on credit cards.

    Then I took her on her first flight in business class, and her utter delight emboldened me to “go public” with the whole points thing. She knows that my obsession, and the time and money I spend on it, results in better travel for her. She even came around to calling banks for me with just single groan, emitted more for the sake of policy than anything else.

    Now really her only complaint is that although our daughter has traveled all over the world, I’ve spoiled it for her in the future because she has never – not once since she was an infant – had to travel in long-haul economy.

    Despite her acquiescence to my hobby, it only goes so far. Getting her to use different credit cards for different purchases, however, is a level of minutia that she refuses to participate in. “Just give me the card you want me to use and take the others away, OK?”

  2. Love the post. Especially the part “But having to call a bank is apparently equivalent to having an appendectomy without anesthesia”. My wife can totally relate.

  3. @ snic — Hahaha, great point! I have noticed the more premium cabins we fly, the fewer groans I get. And love that you’ve been able to share this with your daughter as well — that’s even better!

  4. Good topic!
    Unfortunately, my wife is not really interested in miles or points…still often pays cash even though I told her 1000x times to always use the credit, when possible.
    My whole family is most of the time annoyed, when I come up with this topic and want to convince them how cool this is and that we all have to invest more money into miles and flying, hehe.

    But in the end, they also like traveling in business class instead of economy 🙂

  5. @ Tiffany, what a great post, and nice to know there are more of us out there who have somewhat reluctant spouses to consider. It does help greatly when you can apply for twice the number of cards, but you do have to present it correctly! The first and business class flights and free night certs at hotels always help with my presentation on why we must apply for this card…. 😉

  6. To echo the above comments, this post is spot on!

    Although I think I’ve successfully converted my wife to our hobby by this point it did take more than a few years. Indeed, she’s even trying to convert OTHER people into now!

    Support group idea sounds golden.

    Cheers!

  7. @ Thomas — What is this “cash” you speak of? 😉

    I’ve long since given up on converting the rest of my family. Hopefully your wife will come around eventually!

  8. It may be hard to write, but the posts from you and your colleagues of PointsPros are really entertaining. I would strongly recommend Ben to have a weekly post from you (maybe on a rotating basis) or have a column like “booking of the week” with a hard, funny or extravagant booking made on PointsPros.
    My wife wishes I didn’t travel at all alone and she doesn’t enjoy long flights, but at least she has started flying on business class and seeing the advantages of it. But all my friends and family thinks that I’m crazy when I travel four days on premium cabins to spend, sometimes, two days on the destination.

  9. @ LindaK — Thanks, and presenting it correctly is a big part of it! I don’t actually try and sell my husband on which cards we should get or why nowadays.

    Our compromise is I have carte blanche to pick up 6-8 cards a year for him, as long as he doesn’t have to hear about any of the details or perks, and knows in advance if a bank is going to be calling him for info verification.

    Sorta like planning a wedding — he wants to know that there will be tables and chairs, doesn’t care about how that happens or what they look like.

  10. By accident we accumulated over 175k in points a while ago and was able to use them for upgrades on a trip to Europe. The build up happened when we tied a Citi AA card to the mortgage then we moved out of the country and cut up all the cards, not realizing what we were doing until we moved back and wanted to take a trip to S. America. Checked with AA and they said the miles we had were expired due to lack of activity. Thankfully I was able to get 2 Citi Exec AA cards and get the miles we needed for the flights in Biz Class. My partner now realizes how relatively easy this is and has now 2 cards, I have like 10. I tried to get him to understand which card to use when and what our goals are for travel. When he found my little box with spent OneVanilla cards he actually thought I had put us in debt that much. He got over it when the champagne started to flow while we sat in 1-D & 1-E.

  11. @ Carlos — Thanks so much, we do really appreciate it! We’ll see what we can do going forward.

    And good point. Sometimes I think the amount of flying we do in this hobby is harder to explain than the credit cards!

  12. Great post! Glad I’m not the only one going through this. I try to limit vacation mileage runs when I’m with others. My partner isn’t as interested in miles and points as I am but does appreciate when we’re in the forward cabin. I don’t try to force anything anymore but am surprised when they do use certain credit cards for category bonuses. Same goes for my mom and bro. They all stick to the same few cards.

    I also dragged my mom and bro on a MR vacation once. Didn’t hit me at the time that there are people who don’t enjoy being on a plane and in airports for such long periods. My friends, on the other hand, I’m not worried about dragging them through that agony. They usually accept it as being the only option. That sounds evil but they’re not that picky and I’m ok with that.
    I guess I just try not to overdue it. It might drive em over the edge of rebellion ie refuse to fly with you

  13. Tiffany, thanks for this great post. My husband will go along on a big international trip about once a year but beyond that I can tell his willingness to compromise is strained: he HATES the stress of airports, flying, and getting from Point A to Point B. We went to Asia last year on miles and flew Cathay First: he loved it… but, he was still terrified every time he felt turbulence. I dined across from his seat on his ottoman (which as you know, is a tight fit) and he insisted that I buckle my seat belt or else I could not join him, because he was worried we would hit clear air turbulence and I would be donezo. After the Wing lounge experience, though, I did get him on board with nice airline lounges– his previous experiences were with domestic Delta Skyclubs so his opinion was rather low.

    But in any event, after that big trip that stressed him out, he saw how much flying and traveling meant to me and gave me carte blanche to go on any trip I wanted. And so when that first West Coast business class fare sale hit, I booked a trip to Madrid on Air France in J in April and convinced a friend to come along. And last month when the even BETTER business class fare sale hit, I booked a trip to London on Virgin Upper Class to visit a friend. And feel no guilt about it. And my husband can watch whatever trashy tv show he wants when I’m gone without my judgment.

    I say all this long-winded stuff just to point out that as much as we love travel, some people hate the experience, and are scared / uncomfortable even in Cathay First. (Let’s all remember, sleeping on an international first bed is still just a mediocre substitute for sleeping on a real bed in a decent hotel.) And very often these two types of people end up together, anyway.

  14. Great post! Advanced planning really helps with my partner. He does not have unlimited vacation time, so the fact that I am grabbing award tickets 330 days out is actually a bonus for him. And he’s great with customer service reps! (Whereas I suck at it) He’s always getting fees waived for us that really shoudn’t be waived.

    Your post is making me think I should rejigger our July 4th weekend plans though. When he said he was up for heading to Seattle for the long weekend, I thought “Oh great, there are 3 Hyatt’s downtown!” All three might be a bit too much…. except I really need all those unique hotels to make it to 75 and get my free night… 🙂

  15. @ Cheryl — Excellent points! During the crazy West Coast business class fares I asked my husband if he wanted to go to Amsterdam for Christmas. He looked at me cautiously as he queried “…from where?”

  16. @ Nick — Awww, thank you! It would definitely be more complicated with a spouse that didn’t love flying. Wonderful that you’ve found a way to make it work in your relationship anyways, that’s huge.

    But really, you paid for Air France business class?!? ;p

  17. @ Lauren — Hah, thanks! That’s so awesome that he’ll call for you!

    In terms of Seattle, walking between the Grand Hyatt and Olive 8 isn’t bad (they share a pool anyways), but three does sound like a lot for one weekend. Just make sure it isn’t a surprise!

  18. This is one of the most important topics in our hobby. We are masters of many tricks and techniques, but this is one of the hardest to master. I agree with your takes, it’s a good balance. For the last point, why we play the game in the first place, I started it so I can see my partner more often, who lives on the other side of the globe. It is deeply comforting to know that I can fly there on a moment’s notice and not be out a month’s salary for the ticket. It has done wonders for our long distance relationship.

  19. @Tiffany, yes, I did pay (well, KLM on the outbound, AF on the return), and happy to do it! I’m a sucker for style over substance. Give me French wines and food and a handsome young flight attendant, a decent IFE system and a Xanax so I can sleep on a (slightly) angled lie flat and I’ll do just fine. Really, would much rather have the charming service and stylish wine and an OK seat than a Very Good seat with middling service and food (looking in your direction, American Airlines).

  20. Initially my partner just didn’t get the whole concept and why it was such a big deal. Now that he has enjoyed lots of great flights and stayed in some wonderful hotels all on points he gets it. I think if I booked an economy flight to Europe he would be the one saying…”didn’t you have enough points to upgrade us?”

  21. @ Nick — I jest! And Air France is totally reasonable for a day flight for all the reasons you mentioned. I just don’t like their blankets for overnights. (Yes, I’m a princess, I know.)

  22. The handbag question really is a thing. I’d love to hear more about this. What looks nice enough so I don’t look like I’m slumming it but can take a beating being shoved under an airline seat? Can it hold a DSLR? Does it have a flap so I can get into it and close it quickly? Inside zip pocket for my passport?

    I found a bag I thought fit the bill at Nordstrom several months ago but the strap started fraying. I know I can take it back and get my money back but I don’t want to go down the travel bag rabbit hole again.

    People think I’m crazy. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

  23. @ Nat — You’re totally not crazy!!! It’s ridiculous how hard it is to find something serviceable/not ugly!

    Best thing I’ve found so far (and I spend a large part of my life trying to solve this conundrum) is the Kate Spade Saturday small weekender. It’s still not ideal (still a little casual, and is a smidge too small), but is working well enough.

  24. Agree that you should be a regular contributor. And I would LOVE that entry about travel purses. Could probably contribute to that one myself. Sometimes I feel like Goldilocks trying to find the “just right” balance. I am working my way through e-bags inventory 😉

  25. I am the travel addict and my husband is not. This post rings home for us. I know if we don’t fly in premium seats, my 6’2″ hubs won’t go overseas. He is a great team player though and as long as I tell him which card to be using, he gladly plays the cc game. He checks with me before major purchases (he has a business) to see which card is best. I have also learned premium champagne and caviar is a great incentive!

  26. Hi Tiffany, do you have more pictures of the Governor’s suite at PH Tokyo? I’m considering a stay there and would really appreciate a review and pics of that specific room. I was actually going to pay the cash rate, but now wondering if that suite is attainable on upgrades or points. I thought what you’d get is the entry level suite, but maybe I’m wrong. Cheers, Bruno

  27. @ Bruno — Not really, sadly. We gave that room to my in-laws, and I felt a little weird taking pictures of their room. That’s why the one is only mediocre, as I was trying to catch it quickly.

    All that being said, I actually think the standard Park Suites which you can get with points or a Diamond Suite Upgrade are the better rooms. They’re on the corners, have king beds, and I generally liked the layout more. The Governor’s suite did have the piano and a really cool cedar tub, but I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way for that room in particular, personally.

  28. Initially it was a similar situation to snic, where I tried to hide somewhat the full extent of this hobby from my girlfriend, as I was worried about how crazy she might think I was. She knew I was all about amassing miles, but did not know all about the entire strategy. However over time she became more and more interested in what I was doing, and it turned when she heard me call up British Airways to use Avios to get to London via Dublin on Aer Lingus for a small fee, especially when the retail cost would have been close to $1K for economy. Now we are true partners in working to get enough miles to get to Asia in first class in 2015/2016…checking blogs and Awardwallet is now a daily exercise 🙂

  29. My husband is indifferent about it until it’s time for me to take a trip and then he’s jealous and gets upset about the fact that he can’t take trips like mine. We’re working on buying a new home so we can’t credit card churn and I’m the only one who “believes” in miles/points so…yeah. Vicious cycle.

  30. Tiffany,
    So refreshing and clever!
    My wife is Brazilian and loves to travel. But what I had in mind is not always what she had in mind… Luckily we make the most of our trips to Brazil encrewing miles while visiting family. Europe on the shoulder seasons. Hawaii when we’re already in LA even for a couple days (that’s not technically a mileage run when you get sun) We do some mileage runs which she swallows hard! And that goes for me too, DFW to HKG round trip last Oct in ECONOMY! Not fun, I was not the only nut job on those flights. But she wants to be equal in this now and she has been Explat for a few years going. I’m sure she would scrap the whole thing even with 99 EQM’s. Which I could never do! Which leads me to, I run this whole side show. I book all the deals. Keep us diamond at Hyatt and Plat at SPG. I love our arrangement. I’m the kook in this and she lets me be me and thank Gawd as our system wides just cleared, I can sleep tonight!

  31. @Tiffany,

    Tiffany, This was REALLY CONFUSING AND BAAAAAAAAAAAD!!!!!!!1!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Once again, another fun read. While the writing may be hard, don’t underestimate your skill at it. I don’t think I’ve ever read a post of yours that wasn’t relevant AND made me laugh out loud. S thank you for all of them.

    @Nick

    Are you me? Am I you? “And very often these two types of people end up together, anyway.” Yup that’s the case with my partner and I. He actually loves the once-a-year big trips, and likes that holiday trips for family are never in the back of the bus, but that’s about it. I can sign him up periodically for a decent card deal, and he’s good about spending the right amounts for the bonuses (we do NOT buy things we don’t need, however), but he has no interest in the game. He also freaks out in turbulence, no matter how minor.

  32. @ Kenny — That’s awesome you’ve found a way to work together! I’m sure your Asia trip will be amazing 😀

  33. @ Dana — Oh, thank you! So fun that your wife is an EXP as well now 🙂 Congrats on the cleared upgrades too!

  34. i get 80% of my points through travel (BIS) for work. As I speak my wife is sitting next to me in AA first (old 767) returning from a week at the Andaz Maui. She leans over and says – in the future I don’t think I want these seats for my long haul travel. I wanted to reply that we can easily get main cabin extra for her but wisely kept my mouth shut!

  35. Oh, oh….I couldn’t resist showing the comment “I’d really like to take my mom to Japan. Can we do that?” to my girlfriend….I think it started the wheels turning….

    Actually, my GF is a very good sport about flying Southwest to leverage our Companion Pass even when it’s not the most convenient routing or timing :-). And she took the “Club Carlson Trudge” across Leicester Square with her luggage in stride (3 hotels in 6 days, natch).

  36. I laughed out loud at the 200 feet of Ethernet cable, since I have done the same! There is indeed nothing more practical than fast, wired Internet, amirite? 😉

    I agree with the others that it would be great to see a regular post from you!

  37. Good post, I’d love to see more posts for family. I am constrained for mileage runs due to baby but my experience with credit cards is pretty similar.

  38. It’s been a gradual evolution. The first “whoa, points are useful” moment was a few years ago when we were supposed to take a road trip to meet friends. Car died, I booked flights and a rental car with <48 hour notice for $15 total. BF was impressed.

    Since then, he's surprised me by saying yes when I've asked things like "want to spend Valentine's weekend in Amsterdam?" He has limited vacation time, so long weekends to European cities from the East coast have become a thing for us (Vienna for Christmas, Oslo in March). He also lets me get credit cards for him, but I typically keep his to a smaller list than mine. And a select few in his wallet. I basically say, use this card now for everything – give me the old one, we've met spending on that.

    But my favorite is when someone asks how we manage to accomplish all our travel and I just say credit card signups. He asks me later, "why don't you explain about ” and I tell him no one wants to hear all that. If they ask me, I’ll tell them, but so far nobody *really* wants to know the details.

    I guess I got lucky with a guy who likes to travel and doesn’t mind my schemes to make it happen!

  39. For many years I was a lone soldier on this front, not helped by frequent “op-upgrades” through a connection – but once that was over I decided to just flash some plastic and came out with “this is the reason you are sat there today” while sat in 1A on the way to Cape Town. Funnily enough, we never looked back!

  40. Screamed with laughter at the routing maps! This is exactly what I would book, and get into trouble en route with my husband – was this really the only way to get to X? He loves the Biz and First seats, but not the rigmarole of the whole points/ credit card shuffle.

    I am in the UK, just bought yet another travel handbag, my sister said I could fit a travel companion in it!

    Love your posts Tiffany!

  41. I’m the spouse that’s trying to be supportive in this situation. I read the blogs, make the retention calls to avoid annual fees, have given up my PayPal and Amazon logins for money transfers, waited in Walmarts during bluebird runs and even called to apply for cards (I hate making calls). However, I’ve recently been pushed into going to the bank in person to apply. I’ve drawn the line. I do enjoy traveling but think that this game can easily take on an unhealthy obsession.

    I appreciate this post and the comments as I think it’s an interesting hobby that maybe only one person is into, but both in the end get to enjoy the perks. So how can you reconcile the reluctant spouse with the time, energy and commitment this hobby takes? I think we struggle with that.

  42. @ Shariq — Ha! Too funny!! We had the something similar this morning when my husband announced “I’m not sure Alaska has great breakfast catering.” Oh really? 😉

  43. @ Phillip — It’s interesting how many of us have felt shy about sharing our tricks. Love that you’re in it together now!

  44. @ AmandaB — Hahaha, thanks!! Rigamarole is a great way to describe all this nonsense.

    And you know I have to ask – which bag did you buy?

  45. @ Micki — Holy cow!! Sounds like you’re doing a lot more than just being supportive! You’re spot on that this hobby can be a huge timesuck, so maybe you can talk a bit about if there are ways to scale back the time while still getting to do the fun stuff you’ve come to enjoy?

  46. The turning point for my wife was our trip to Beijing and Thailand in first. She also really loves that the kids fly free since we each have the companion pass now. Since the Asia trip, it has been much easier to get her to do what is necessary. But the calls to the banks are the worst.

  47. @ Johnny — Wow, so awesome that you’ve been able to pick up companion passes for both of you! Great with kids!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *