Should You Consider Attending a Miles and Points Convention?

If you’ve been around our hobby for  a few months, you’ve probably come across an announcement ( or two) on convention-type events. Several major ones are FTU, Chicago Seminars and TravelCon. And the list keeps on growing.

In fact, if you head on over to this page of my blog, you’ll see all the details on the latest FamilyTravel4RealLife seminar organized by Dia from TheDealMommy blog (make sure to read Kathy L comment on it after the post).

Does it mean that I think all the other miles and points conferences are worthless? Not at all. Dia’s project aligns closely with my goals, so I’m happy to promote it (at no cost).

Whether something is worth money and effort is not up to me to decide. Ultimately, the market will make that determination. As I’ve pointed out, there is plenty of competition, so monopoly isn’t an issue in our neck of the woods. It appears every weird hobby has a convention associated with it, and The Hobby is no exception.

That said, I wanted to share my thoughts on this matter and hopefully, help you decide if it’s worth spending your hard-earned money, miles or points on this type of an event. I want to be clear, I don’t have an agenda or bias. And frankly, my blog isn’t that much of an influencer to sway hobbyists one way or the other.

Two years ago, I had a chance to attend FTU seminar in Tampa (located 1.5 hours from my home). I wrote two posts on the subject:

Is FTU for You? Part 1

Is FTU for You? Part 2

I strongly recommend you read them, but if you are too lazy, let me summarize. Miles and points conventions are big business. Yes, they are advertised as non-profit. It is my firm belief that they are anything but. How come?

The point is to give a platform to movers and shakers of our hobby, with some smaller bloggers sprinkled in-between (just for kicks). It’s a promotional event intended to further other people’s business. Yes, there is a social aspect to it. Who says you can’t mix business with pleasure?

But at its core, these seminars are intended  to make money for big name bloggers…in the long run. It goes something like this. Readers get to meet blogger in person. They get to chat with him/her. They feel personal connection. They come home and read their blog. They apply for a credit card via their site which allows blogger to make commission. They recommend the site to their family and friends. And the cycle continues.

Does it make this whole thing icky and repulsive? Should you be shocked and offended? No, not really. Remember, bloggers are people too. They take time off  their regular jobs, they leave loved ones behind, including small kids. I imagine the first few seminars are fun and exciting, but they probably get old real quick. I am willing to bet my stash of IHG points that many would rather be home watching TV with their spouse than talk to yet another eager hobbyist/fan IRL.

But doing a dedicated session at a seminar is literally an offer they can’t refuse. In order to be considered an influencer in their niche, they have no choice but to agree. Also, from what I’ve understood, presenters get reimbursed for their airfare and hotel expenses. Aside from being away from their family, it’s a win/win proposition.

I do have to say that the sessions I’ve attended were well done, so no problem there. Bloggers do put a lot of work into their presentations. The beginner’s session was mainly focused on economy seats and ways average folks can stretch their miles and points. If I said it was meant for 1-percenters it would be  a lie. I don’t intend to further my blog based on half-truths and slander. Just wanted to make that clear and to stress again that I have no bad motives behind this post.

Now let’s talk about you, the reader. What do you have to gain from one of these events? But first, let’s talk about  what you have to lose. Well, a whole lot of money, actually. Look at the announcement of new FTU Signature event scheduled at the end of April. The ticket that includes a special session on manufactured spending costs $249 per person, $199 without. Yes, that’s a lot of money. No, it does not include hotel or airfare. Back when I attended FTU the cost was $99 per person. Hmm…

Of course, the organizers are entitled to set prices as they please. Once again, the market will decide if this exorbitant cost is palatable to hobbyists. Something tells me they’ll have no problem filling the venue. But it does make me question the whole non-profit aspect. How much of the ticket price goes to cover organizers’ salaries? Again, something for you, the reader to think about.

If your main purpose in attending a seminar is to learn, then I have bad news for you. Most of the info can be found for free on the web already. In fact, many bloggers will put up a slideshow in  a blog post which will contain the same exact presentation. What about special manufactured spending secrets? You can also find them online for  free if you know where to look.

I recommend Saverocity forums and Flyertalk m/s thread It may take you awhile to gain trust but eventually, people will be willing to share underground tricks. In fact, the likelihood of you stumbling upon something really juicy is much greater online than in a conversation with a random hobbyist at a  convention.

So, should you go? Only you can answer that question. It’s your money and time. I think from the tone of my post you can probably tell how I feel. I will not be going back. That said, I don’t regret attending  either. My husband and I got a fun getaway out of it. I didn’t have to buy airfare and used my hotel stay to hit a  promotion. I did get to deduct $99 on my taxes as a business expense due to having a miles and points blog. I also got two posts out of it (well, three if you count this one). Not too shabby!

Readers, I know many of you have been to these seminars. Did you find them beneficial? Please, share your experience and don’t be afraid to contradict what I said.

12 thoughts on “Should You Consider Attending a Miles and Points Convention?

  1. I attended my first convention a few weeks ago, #FY4TL in DC. I was intrigued, specifically, about the topics of Dan #pointswithacrew and Haley #bachfancy because their topics were specific to me – family travel. Dan, father of a crew, spoke on realistic, flying coach, just-like-me travel. Haley spoke on my passion – Disney.

    While I did come away feeling like I have personal connections and IF I was going to sign up for cards using links, it would be there’s, there was absolutely no mention of any of that from the speakers. Never once did I feel that was intended by anyone. In fact, everyone in the room contributed info that others didn’t know.

    There was info divulged that has not been presented in any post-conference slides that I’ve seen – and I’ve already bought my ticket for April in Orlando.

    I am not nor have I ever considered reselling, but after the info presented by Trevor and sitting by his wife @ lunch, I have already put into play some small reselling gigs and am really fired up to learn more.

    I’ve never dreamed of going to Asia, but after Rich spoke, I’ve looked at some places outside my comfort zone.

    Every person in the room brought something to the meeting. Honestly, I don’t know who among us would be considered “pampers” and who is not.

    The tips and tricks I learned at my first convention taught me enough to sign on for the next one.

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    • @Kathy I really appreciate your feedback. Actually, I’ve heard nothing but positive things about FT4RL It is a different beast from large FTU-type conventions, no question. That’s one of the reasons I have no problem with promoting it. Plus, it’s waaay cheaper! This post was intended to give my opinion on well-known conferences since I have first-hand experience in that area. That isn’t to say that they are worse than FT4RL, IMO it’s like comparing apples to oranges. I think it really depends on what you want to get out of the experience.
      The fact that you are planning to attend another seminar is an amazing testament to Dia and all of her efforts. It shows that FT4RL really filled the gap, which is terrific. As far as credit cards go, that isn’t something bloggers usually discuss in sessions (I didn’t encounter it at FTU either). But you are absolutely right, if readers feel they got good value from their experience, it’s only natural to want to support those speakers. There is nothing wrong with that and I definitely encourage you to support them if you plan to apply anyway. That’s how many of us make money.
      Again, thank you so much for your comment. I will make sure to update the post and encourage readers to check it out.

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    • It should be “theirs”. Sorry, I’m such a stickler! You can correct me too I’m not a native English speaker so I’m probably full of weird expressions 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Regarding frequent flyer seminars, I only attended the Chicago Seminar in 2014. I learnt about it one month after my first application to a miles earning credit card. The reason why I signed up is that I was full of questions, I live in Minneapolis so Chicago is a 1/2 hour flight that cost me $100 AND the seminar cost only $99 and I used some Barclay Arrival points for the hotel. They also offered lunch and snacks, drinks one of the nights so I barely spent money on food. I see those FFU or whatever they are called cost $250 or so. There’s no way I’m paying that money for a seminar, also, if it was somewhere farther than Chicago, then you’re talking about more miles or money for the ticket so, no, I’m not going.

    Now, with regards to the experience, I have a lot of good things to say. The venue was full, around 400 people. Even if in the 6 months that elapsed from the time I signed up to the time I went to the seminar I had read a lot of blogs, I still learned a lot form the seminar. It was also great to hang out with other crazy hobbyists in the lobby. There was this extra bonus thing for me that was the feeling of “I’m not the only crazy person that is considering coming to this type of event”. Probably, like it happens to many of us that have kids, it was great to get some “me” time although at the end of the weekend I was crying missing my daughter, you know, paradoxes of motherhood. Another thing that I got form the seminar was getting a few contacts from people in my area. They had us wear a name tag that had the code of the airport that we fly the most out of so I went around staring at people’s name tags and asking anyone with a MSP to give me their e-mail, now I’ve formed a group here in town that meets once a month at a cafe to talk about the latest news, what they’re doing, etc. This group is valuable in the sense that you can talk about local things like what banks have branches around, which clerks are nicer when you buy gift cards, and it helps me feeling connected other way than the virtual world.

    Now if and how much money they make, I’m not sure about it. The Chicago Seminars claim to donate all profits to charity but what do they consider profits? Are they flying the speakers in first class and putting them in the best rooms? I don’t know. They also had these raffles going where you can get prizes such as miles and other travel benefits and the money is supposed to go to charities.

    That family travel convention sounds great. I’ll attend when they have it in Minneapolis or Chicago ;), Leanna, you can stay at my house 😉 😉

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    • @Leticia Thank you so much for chiming in! You are a perfect example of how when you do your homework ahead of time and know what to expect, this type of an event can give you a great return on your money. I love it how you went around looking for people from your area and now have this small group of like-minded folks meeting together. You don’t need to fly anywhere now because you formed your own networking group. Mission accomplished!

      I also love that you’ve mentioned how this can be a nice getaway for a busy parent. Very true, and I should have added that point. It can be a sanity saver and a break from a routine. Plus, like you said, as long as you keep the costs down, it’s not a huge drain on a family’s budget. That’s the biggest issue I have: cost. With that price of $249 per person, one can easily drop a cool grand for the weekend when you factor in flights and hotel. I would much rather take my family on a short cruise to Bahamas. Of course, to each his own.

      I haven’t been to Chicago Seminars, but from what I’ve understood, the organizers do try to keep the costs down. I don’t know the specifics, but the main venue takes place in Holiday Inn, not a fancy expensive resort. I do think $99 is reasonable when you factor in food and rental costs. I’m not sure how much of it (if any) goes to salaries, but I can’t imagine it’s an excessive amount. And I don’t have any problem with folks getting paid for their time.

      I can’t speak on bloggers’ reimbursed costs either. Once again, I doubt there is first-class flight involved when you factor in the price of $99 per ticket. I hate to speculate on these things. This is a murky area and the organizers would be the ones to answer those questions. I definitely don’t think there is anything wrong with reimbursing presenters’ expenses as long as they are not staying in lavish suites or fly in fancy cabins.

      Bottom line: It’s all about expectations. Once you understand the logistics behind these events, you can plan accordingly. I absolutely didn’t mean to suggest that bloggers/speakers are money-hungry, self-centered individuals. I’m sure most truly enjoy interacting with readers and other fellow bloggers. Still, at its core it’s a big business. As long as readers are aware of that fact, there won’t be any disappointment after they drop a good chunk of their savings to attend one of these events. The reason I wanted to put this post together is due to huge rise in admission costs on certain venues. Thank you again for giving your perspective.
      P.S. Be careful, I might take you up on that offer to stay at your house. I’m cheap!:)

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  3. Orlando? What is this Orlando you speak of? Why would I want to go to such a place?

    We’ll have to see what the calendar looks like then. We are supposed to be in Orlando in May with some friends, so I’ll have to see if that earler date can work for a nice long family trap (likely take advantage of the Easter break to get some days off). Very happy to see the location is so stinkin’ family friendly. I hear many people like this Orlando you speak of.

    I wonder how this coincides with Spring breaks? The new school district we are in has Spring Break the last week of March so I couldn’t use that. But we typically take a late Spring Break as a family since my wife is a Tax Accountant and doesn’t have time for us until mid April. It will be interesting to see what we can pull off.

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  4. @Cheapblackdad Looks like autocorrect is messing with you again, my friend: “a nice long family trap” Though, IMO Orlando is definitely that! Anyway, I do hope you make it for Dia’s seminar. People rave about it and apparently, there are some Disney hacking secrets that will be discussed. I bet that got your attention. Plus, you’ll be the only black dude in the room, I guarantee it. You’ll be the star of the party in more ways than one. 🙂
    I was going back and forth, and it looks like I probably won’t make it. Some timing issues and other boring reasons getting in the way. I talked to Dia and she understood. It’s definitely not the money since we live in the state. Plus, the cost of admission is quite reasonable. But hopefully, I can send some readers her way.

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