The Battle of Frequent Miler and Free-quent Flyer: Who Is Right?

How is that for a click-bait title?

So, if you are an obsessed miles and points hobbyist, you’ve probably read these two posts:

The earn and burn fallacy. Shall we give hoarding and cherry picking a try instead?  by Frequent Miler

“Don’t save your money. Spend it as fast as you can.”  Can you imagine anyone giving that advice?  And, if they did, would you listen to them?  No way (a quote from the beginning of  the post). Basically, devaluations happen, but opportunities will always present themselves. I do like the term “opportunistic hoarding.” Was it perhaps inspired by my post “The opportunist, the hoarder and the survivalist”?

And here is the rebuttal from The Free-quent Flyer (with a The):

What Frequent Miler gets wrong about earning and burning

“Keep an emergency stockpile if you must, but don’t second guess yourself when redeeming any and all excess points you earn — that’s literally what they’re there for!” (also  a quote from the article). For the record: I do not agree with the name-calling in the post, though it’s made in passing. I still feel it’s a good read, which is why I’m linking to it.

So, who is right?

Actually, both are. Say what? Well, if I’m being honest, I think Free-quent Flyer won this battle, but only when it comes to my family situation. You see, the biggest determination here IMO is how much money you have  in your savings account. Those who have hundreds of thousands of dollars either invested in stocks or mutual funds can afford to be picky about their CPM/CPP (cent per mile/point).

For the rest of us mere mortals, using loyalty currency becomes much more of  a no-brainer. I’m not talking about taking trips like there is no tomorrow, but rather  regular vacations you would plan anyway, with an occasional impulse weekend getaway thrown in here and there (just because you can).

We are relatively low on savings at the moment, and have some significant bills coming up within the next few months. If I needed to buy airline tickets right now and could redeem my miles for as little as 1 CPM, I would. With my AAdvantage miles, I would be shooting for 1.1 CPM just because that’s how much I paid for them back in the day. So, getting this return would allow me to at least break even. I’ll be honest, if  I could go back in time, I probably would pass on this very speculative purchase.

However, if I had a lot of money saved up and no major (cash) expenses coming up in a near future, I would be much more picky about my CPM. Because Frequent Miler is right: There will always be sweet spots  in airline and hotel programs. So if you are rolling in dough (kind of), by all means, pay cash and wait for an opportunity to let your miles and points  live up to their full potential.

But I’m burning my stash on mediocre redemptions.


P.S. Please, read the comment from Erik, he makes some good points.

4 thoughts on “The Battle of Frequent Miler and Free-quent Flyer: Who Is Right?

  1. I agree, I think they both make good points. One big factor that I think they both overlooked is the value of time. Specifically, the value of time doing MS to make more miles and points. Reading blogs, you would get the impression that time is a free resource. It’s not – it is perhaps the most valuable resource on the planet because you have a finite amount of time in your life. Employers assign a value to your time but there are also incalculable time values such as spending time with your kids, loved ones, significant other, friends, relaxing, etc. I think everyone has a personal ROI where they determine if spending several hours per week doing MS activities is worth the time spent vs. the alternative uses of time (including, for some people, working to make more $$$). Besides the time spent buying/liquidating GCs, don’t forget the time spent on money organization, searching for award tickets, hotel nights, signing up for new cards, calling retention lines, etc. It adds up. If you can assign a dollar value to your time and multiply it by the time spent, you might be surprised at how much that “free” time is worth. Once you know that, are your really getting good value from the additional miles/points you are earning/burning? Everyone will reach a different conclusion.


    • Erik, absolutely! The post was kind of a last minute idea and I was writing it late at night. As a result, there was an opportunity cost of sleep, hehe. Anyway, after I hit publish, I thought heck, I should have talked about value of time. But it was late, so I went to sleep instead.
      I actually agree with the point Frequent Miler is making. Sometimes there are lucrative opportunities that come up, and it’s a shame not to take advantage of them. Even if you don’t have concrete plans for miles and points, it makes sense to hoard them….sometimes.
      As you correctly pointed out, there is time investment. If something requires elaborate efforts and hoops to jump through, I will probably pass. On the other hand, churning bonuses is relatively easy, so I do it. But thats another area where one should be careful. Focus on miles only, and you will have more than you can spend for the foreseeable future. The same goes for hotel points. Cash on the other hand can be spent on anything, so that’s where my energy is channeled towards at the moment. But for those who already have a lot of cash maybe this isn’t the best course. Or maybe we are all overthinking this hobby and should get some sleep so we have the energy to play with our kids the next day….


  2. I don’t think I’ll ever be a hoarder, because using miles for 5 people burns up those miles pretty quickly and since I’ve just been doing this hobby for a few years I’ve never accumulated a big stash of miles. 🙂 I guess I’m more of an earner/burner type. We’ve gone on 3 vacations this year thanks to miles and points, and if I had to pay cash we probably would have just gone on just one trip (or maybe none). I have kind of a “seize the day” mentality right now because my oldest will enter middle school next year, and then high school a few years later. I know we won’t be able to pull my kids out of school for a week next year or even go on some weekend trips during the subsequent years when they start school activities like sports or marching band. As far as the value of time spent on this hobby, reading the blogs is actually a de-stresser for me and a welcome escape from my daily grind.


    • Shoesinks, you are absolutely correct. With 5 people, miles and points go pretty fast indeed. Your strategy sounds about right: earn the points, burn them, earn some more. That’s how I do things also. Right now we have enough for around 3 years’ worth of trips, so I’m focusing on cash and travel rebates instead. Otherwise, miles would be a priority. I do plan to sign up for AAdvantage Citi card sometime in 2016 because that currency is quite valuable to me.
      As far as reading blogs being a di-stresser, well, it depends on which ones you are following. I’m hoping mine falls in that category. I do stir things up now and again, but it’s all in good fun and not meant to offend. I’m hoping Greg at Frequent Miler blog doesn’t take it personally. I actually do think he made some very good points in his post. IMO it’s beneficial for readers when there is a healthy debate going in our little universe. Diversity is good as long as it doesn’t turn nasty.


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