Why The Game (aka The Hobby) is Far From Dead

Well, guys and gals, I must have been living under a rock lately. The Hobby got a new   moniker: The Game. And I’m digging it!

You might have noticed all the predictions of doom and gloom to the miles and points universe. There is also a lot of finger pointing as to who caused this catastrophe. Some bloggers are saying that the other guys (the evil bloggers) were selfish and leaked the deals  that should have been only discussed during private events.

To be honest, there is merit to some of the accusations. I don’t know the details but apparently, some have published posts on fragile deals even though they promised not to do so after learning about them at seminars. If true, that’s extremely selfish and even sleazy.

But publishing posts (with hat tip) on things that are floating on the interwebs for everyone to discover? Not so much. I hear  talk about what it means to be a good steward of the hobby. If there is a manual with universal rules on what you should and should not publish, can someone send it over to me? Personally, I blame Chase Sapphire Preferred (aka my arch nemesis) for offering sign-up bonus so generous, even a monkey could figure out it’s a no-brainer.

Sure, the publicity, the interviews etc, probably did speed up the process, but I think some sort of tightening was inevitable. In fact, I’m surprised it took banks so long to wake up and smell the losses. To say bloggers were selfish for talking  about it in public after you yourself learned about the hobby from a blog, is kind of selfish.

All of us in The Hobby err.., The Game are a little  selfish. It’s true. Unless you are miles and points “Robin Hood” who uses sign-up bonuses and earnings from M/S to treat the poor to nice vacations, well, you are selfish. I admit, I’m selfish. Even though I  try not to be stingy with miles and points when there is a  clear need, majority of my windfall is burned on my own family as well as my parents.

Because that’s what it is: A windfall. The banks don’t exist so people get to fly in Singapore suites for close to nothing. That’s not why they give out these juicy bonuses. They are selfish too, they just got burned for far too long, by far too many people.

So, here are a few bullet points with practical information:

1) If you are just starting out, ignore all the noise

There are plenty of bonus opportunities and it will take you years to go through all of them. I repeat, these developments have very little effect on your life. If you have a spouse, you can sign up for just 3 to 4 cards every 12 months, and get a  nice yearly vacation out of it. No, you won’t be flying in Singapore suites, but who cares? A nice, deeply discounted trip to Caribbean or Hawaii is pretty sweet even if you have to fly there in economy.

I recommend you look at Chase cards first because you can get the bonus again after 24 months. Have a specific need that isn’t covered by Chase? I doubt it, but look at other banks and see if something strikes your fancy. Check my page of Best credit card deals for family

If you are a single parent, obviously, your churning ability will be cut in half. Still, there are plenty of opportunities if you know where to look. Feel free to shoot me an email after checking out my Free Consulting Service page. Yes, it really is free.

2) If you’ve been in this hobby for a few years and are running out of options, stay calm 

You may have to settle for lower bonus and consider obscure banks, but opportunities are still there. I wrote a post on getting a TD Cash Visa that comes with $200 sign-up bonus. While not spectacular, between my husband’s and mine applications, we’ll get $400 in free money, all in exchange for spending $3,000 total. If you factor in 1% we’ll earn on minimum spend itself, that’s a return of 14%, not too shabby.

In the same post, I’ve mentioned TD Aeroplan Visa that offers 25,000 miles in Air Canada program, annual fee waived. That amount will take care of 2 one-way saver tickets to Alaska on United Airlines, Star partner. Both spouses get this offer, and you can get a family of four to visit Denali National park, which I highly recommend. Use other miles to fly back.

Some offers you can get again few months after canceling the card, such as Bank of America. While co-branded Alaska Airlines card doesn’t offer rich  sign-up bonus to begin with, you can get it few times per year. Then redeem the miles on Delta, American or wait for it, Alaska Air flights!

Is it more work? You bet! But you are still getting a nice return on your time and effort. Forget the good old days and focus on what you have to work with right now. Perhaps consider getting a Spirit credit card and use those miles instead of Southwest Rapid Rewards points. Yes, there are fees, but if  you can’t get any more Chase cards, it’s something to consider.

Bottom line: There is still plenty of low-hanging fruit.

3) If you are getting tired of miles and points rigamarole, consider slowing down

Look for deals, good cash back opportunities and maximize rewards on your everyday spending. Also, look into bank account  bonuses, where there is no credit pull involved. Follow TheFlightDeal for cheap fares and you may not need to rely on miles all that much, especially if you have flexibility on destinations.

Cash is king and always has been. I’ve said it from day one of starting my blog and many thought I was a complete fool. Well, with award chart devaluations, primarily focusing on cash doesn’t look so stupid now, does it?

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9 thoughts on “Why The Game (aka The Hobby) is Far From Dead

    • Chris, I actually have this card already. I haven’t applied for other Discover offers because sign-up bonus isn’t that enticing. That’s my main consideration at the moment: how much I can get upfront after meeting minimum spend.

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  1. Amen, sister! This is timely. I’ve spent the past two months reacquainting myself with our Hobby. I don’t like what I am seeing from the broader community. A few things I have discovered about myself and the Hobby.

    1. If it all ended today, right now, at this moment, I’d be perfectly fine. I’d shrug, and then go work on one of my other hobbies. A lot of the complaining reminds me of something that always causes such interesting human reactions: free food. I always say “If someone else is cooking it or paying for it, I can’t complain about the meal.” I’m always so disappointed when people complain about the free food at meetings at work. Dude, we are eating free food while people across the globe are struggling to feed their families! Don’t complain! I’ve taken more trips in the past 2.5 years than many of the people in the community I grew up in take in a lifetime.
    2. I’m just as frustrated with some of the lost opportunities as others, but it feels like many others honestly can’t imagine a life without the Game. Don’t people have friends, families? Cool hobbies other than this? Lawns to mow, communities to engage in? My life is so full of wonderful people and things, I really do not need much more than that. This free(ish) travel stuff? It’s the gravy on my Thanksgiving stuffing. I’d like the gravy, but as long as it’s cornbread stuffing, it really doesn’t need the gravy. Ran out of whip cream? That’s fine, the sweet potato pie doesn’t need it. One’s life and relationships should be good enough that one doesn’t need free travel so badly that when one loses it one mourns as if having lost a dear friend.
    3. People in this Game can be mean! See TPG’s AMA on Reddit! Yiiikes!
    4. The Bloggers giveth, and the bloggers taketh away. So many great bloggers got many of us going. It’s only right that they and open forums like Flyer Talk and, even more so, Reddit Churning, are killing it. The very sources that gave us the Hobby are killing it.
    5. I’m a believer in being “good stewards” of the hobby. I used to be a strong proponent of sharing as much as possible. No more. The things I don’t know? No need to tell me! Got a cool points earning trick that feels like it could be shut down? Don’t share it!
    6. I am so, so glad I never started chasing points via MS, or abuses like what folks were doing to Citi cards or the Alaska Airlines cards. The wave of shut downs, bans, and law enforcement confrontations has proven that a risk averse strategy is the most sustainable.
    7. I have learned that travel is valuable enough to be paid for. Our household is fortunate to have two full time earners. I plan on stretching our points by paying cash quite a bit more, and consciously saving for trips along with our other saving goals.

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    • @Cheapblackdad I love this so much! I hope it’s OK if I publish your comment in a separate post later on? Not everyone reads comments, and I would like more people to see it.
      I totally agree with you. There is lot of complaining going on. It’s true, overall trend is quite negative. But I wouldn’t say this hobby is dead. I think it’s dead for those who want to fly in first class 5 times per year. That does not describe me. My family gets plenty of almost free travel and I believe will continue to do so with the right amount of planning. I absolutely detest greed and hoarding, and do my best to avoid those two things. It can really damage your soul when you take and take just for the sake of taking. At least in my opinion, and I’m not passing judgement on those who do things differently.
      As far as sharing deals, that’s a more complicated subject. Our whole hobby revolves around finding loopholes and tricks. It’s what people expect to see in our posts. If I don’t publish that info, I might as well shut this whole thing down. Obviously, many never read blogs and simply find information by searching forums. I was one of those people for years. But with two small kids and a busy schedule, I simply don’t have time to do it anymore. Many folks are in the same boat, and that’s how blogs gained popularity. They serve a purpose: to provide busy individuals with a breakdown of latest news. I can tell you this. My cousin in law reads this blog. If I sent her to Flyertalk, she would be completely lost. As a result of following my site, they got tons of free travel and lots more to come. There are many families in the same boat. Obviously, I could provide my relative with a quick breakdown and explanation via email, but I could never do it for hundreds of readers who come to my site each day. Hence, writing one post for everyone makes the most logical sense.
      The same goes for publicity. What readers forget is that blogs are our businesses. We put a lot of effort and energy into them. So of course, we want our businesses to grow. How do you grow a business ? By finding new customers. Obviously, I don’t view my readers as just potential applicants. It’s more along the lines: one hand washes the other. But we all want to grow revenue, and my blog desperately needs it. It’s bringing some money thanks to folks like you, but it’s a comparatively small amount considering how many hours I put into it. So of course, finding a broader audience is the goal. Ironically, the broader the audience, the more chance that it will bring negative developments to this hobby. It’s a complicated situation. I definitely think some deals should stay off blogs, but it’s my personal opinion. I try not to impose it on others. Thankfully, I don’t write about any hidden deals, so it’s not an issue.

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    • Cheap Black Dad,
      I agree with everything you said! Some of the comments and complaints are insane when you really think about the core of the issue – people were getting free stuff, and now they’re getting less free stuff! You would think it was the end of the world.

      I am also glad I never MS’d on a large scale. I occasionally did/and still do load my Bluebird card with gift cards at Walmart, but only a few thousand every 4 or 5 months or so. If that gets shut down, I couldn’t care less.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I guess I haven’t been reading blogs enough, as I haven’t seen all of that meanness you guys talk about. That’s too bad. Well, in my case I was very happy to be able to see my family back in South America more often. When I had to pay it from my own pocket I’d go, sometimes every 3.5 years which is kind of sad, especially when you have little kids. With regards to other trips, I can survive. We love camping, have a hybrid car with good mileage and great off time during the summer so we can always go on epic road trips. Like Leanna said, if I can go on a nice trip, nothing too fancy, once a year or once every couple of years, that’s good for me.

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    • @Leticia I’m so glad you haven’t been following all the fighting and finger pointing. Please, keep it that way! It’s just not worth the energy to go out looking for scapegoat (s) who supposedly killed The Game. Honestly, I don’t get involved in it myself, but was just making an observation.
      Deals come and go, and I truly believe there are many opportunities still out there. The key is to have reasonable goals. I know I’ll have to work harder at accumulating miles, but it’s OK. We currently have enough for about 3 years’ worth of trips. Why would I need more? Like you, my main goal is to see family in Europe. I think we’ll still be able to do it, plus, there are some discount carriers like Norwegian that are flying non-stop to/from Florida. Prices are cheap, so I’ll just watch for specials. But I may not even need to do that with the right churning strategy. I still have Amex Delta and Platinum cards I can sign up for, so maybe it’s time. For South America flights, your best bet right now is probably to focus on Alaska Airlines co-branded cards.

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  3. I’d say that I’m probably in the same camp as Cheapblackdad. Participating in the Game/Hobby/whatever only enhanced my travel experiences. I was traveling regularly before the game and I will continue to do so if it dies. For me, it’s just been a way to vacation a little more luxuriously, visit some more exotic places, and/or do so at a reduced cost. If the signup bonuses disappeared, I’d still figure out ways to take trips to Europe since reasonably-priced economy fares pop up often enough and Norwegian/WOW competition helps. Asia would be a little more difficult because I’d probably have to resign myself to sitting in the back for 12+ hours (thanks to miles, I’ve successfully avoided it. Over 10 years ago I took a 15+ hour economy flight from ATL-NRT. I survived, but vowed never to do it again). There are good airfare deals to Asia if you look for them, witness the $500-ish fares to Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore that were available in the past week or so. Switching from miles to cash, maybe your strategy shifts – go for cash signup bonuses, use high cash-back cards, take less trips, maybe knock a star or two off your hotel, or sacrifice something else to save $$$ for your trip (and maybe you augment your income driving for Uber, cutting lawns, or whatever). If you have true passion for travel, you will find a way to continue to feed that passion. In any case, I tell people to enjoy the ride while it lasts – there are people in Canada, UK, Australia, and other countries that would love to have many of the low signup bonuses that we deem “not worthy”.

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    • @Erik I think I’ve got the most reasonable readers in The Game/Hobby! I’m so grateful for that. If you read some of the complaints on the inter webs, you would think people will be living under a bridge in a few months due to recent developments. I do know some have made a career taking advantage of M/S opportunities and were doing quite well financially (some still do). In essence, they turned it into a business of sorts, a means to support a family. Now, with all the methods drying up, some have to go back to normal jobs. Unfortunately, that’s how things go in business, especially something as fragile as M/S. I wouldn’t risk my family’s financial security based on shady M/S opportunities that are alive today, but may die tomorrow.
      Small affiliate bloggers like myself will take a huge hit in April when Chase new rules for co-brands will kick in. I don’t lose sleep over it, my blog was never intended as a means to support the family. Thank goodness! The same goes for sign-up bonuses. I’m very grateful for all the miles and points I’ve collected so far. We’ve taken some very nice trips, and more are coming up later this year. This has been a very fun and profitable hobby which allowed me to indulge in my love for travel. And I intend to continue looking for lucrative opportunities, whether it’s promos or sign-up bonuses.
      Yeah, I was looking at Norwegian fares, and they are quite reasonable. There are plenty of options for budget travel. Alas, Singapore suites may be out of reach for most. Oh well, my bed is probably way better anyway. But I agree, flying 15 hours in coach sucks. We should have gone to Japan before all the award chart devaluations. But once again, it’s something to look forward to in the future. Planning is half the fun.

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