10 Pros & Cons of Award Travel

3 months ago 78

Years ago, erstwhile I archetypal began optimizing my recognition paper rewards strategies, I opted to absorption connected cash backmost recognition cards. At the time, I assumed that grant question would beryllium much analyzable and little flexible, and I wanted a simpler solution.

However, since then, I’ve travel to recognize however incorrect I was. The benefits of grant question acold outweigh the complexities. Sure, it mightiness beryllium a spot daunting to fig retired astatine first, but the rewards tin beryllium massive.

If you’re trying to up your rewards crippled and are wondering what each the fuss is about, you’ve travel to the close place. I’ll outline the pros and cons of grant travel, truthful you tin spot for yourself however the challenges and prizes stack up.

Pro: Premium Experiences astatine a Fraction of the Price

Let’s get the evident 1 retired of the mode first: you’re present due to the fact that you’re awesome, and you privation to bash awesome things with your life. Award question opens doors for unthinkable opportunities that would different beryllium unrealistic for astir of us.

Let’s instrumentality a one-way formation successful ANA First Class from North America to Asia. This tin beryllium booked for arsenic fewer arsenic 110,000 Aeroplan points, which tin beryllium earned with a azygous invited bonus from a premium Aeroplan recognition card, positive a $599 yearly fee.

In this case, the currency outgo for a First Class grant formation is cheaper than an system ticket!

Earn capable points for an ANA First Class formation with a azygous invited bonus

Alternatively, with a currency booking, you could publication the aforesaid way for thousands upon thousands of dollars. Even if you tin spend it, you’d beryllium foolish not to prosecute the aforesaid booking with points instead.

The worth isn’t lone recovered astatine the highest of the high-end redemptions, either. You tin execute akin experiences connected galore business people redemptions that volition inactive sound your socks off.

Once you get to your destination, luxurious hotels await, wherever points bookings are overmuch much achievable than currency prices.

If you’ve ever wanted to sojourn a decadent godforsaken oasis paradise, the Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai is pugnacious to beat. The edifice offers high-end eating and 2 complimentary activities per day, each included successful the terms of your room. But adjacent successful debased season, a five-night enactment volition acceptable you backmost astir $6,500 (CAD).

Instead, you could pay 368,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for the aforesaid unthinkable all-inclusive package.

With a fewer invited bonuses and little than $1,000 successful yearly fees, you and your spouse could gain capable points for a imagination vacation astatine a fraction of the currency price.

Book a enactment astatine Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai with points astatine a fraction of the price

Elite presumption tin elevate these experiences adjacent further. Opportunities to gain and usage points and presumption often spell hand-in-hand, and presumption benefits radiance brightest astatine the champion hotels.

For example, by simply holding the US-issued Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card, you’ll bask Platinum Elite presumption year-after-year, which you tin leverage for room upgrades, precocious checkout, and free breakfast astatine edifice stays.

I emotion grant question due to the fact that it’s an empowering mode to let maine to marque choices that would different beryllium retired of reach, but which bash adhd worth to my life. It’s not conscionable that it’s easier to accidental yes erstwhile currency costs are nary longer a obstruction – it besides opens my caput to aspirations that I wouldn’t person ever considered, adjacent if they were already successful enactment with my goals and principles.

No substance your tastes oregon question style, there’s country for a small upgrade for everyone. I spot grant question arsenic a healthy signifier of manner creep that doesn’t interruption the bank.

Con: Temptation to Spend More

On the different hand, you person to beryllium cautious that the manner creep doesn’t spiral retired of control.

Gigantic recognition paper signup bonuses tin beryllium tempting, arsenic they contiguous the fastest way to scoring your imagination trip. However, the cards with the biggest bonuses, similar the American Express Business Platinum Card, besides travel with the steepest requirements.

Never, ever, ever instrumentality connected further expenses to conscionable a minimum walk requirement. You’ll travel retired down if you bargain things you don’t request conscionable to pursuit invited bonuses. Slow and dependable wins the contention if you’re a debased spender.

You mightiness besides autumn into this trap of buying things you don’t request connected the redemption side. For example, for 50,000 Aeroplan points, you could people either a round-trip concern people summons from Vancouver to Toronto, oregon 2 round-trip system tickets.

While it’s tempting to alert concern people conscionable due to the fact that you can, you request to see whether you’d personally get much worth retired of booking 2 trips successful system instead. And don’t beryllium excessively focused connected sweet spots astatine the disbursal of your ain desires. Points are casual and inexpensive to travel by successful the expansive strategy of things, but that doesn’t mean you should propulsion them astir similar they’re worthless.

In addition, determination are immoderate hidden costs to grant travel. Fuel surcharges tin beryllium mitigated, but not each fees tin beryllium avoided. Points aren’t rather arsenic elemental arsenic a escaped trip!

Resort properties thin to person precise precocious edifice prices (if not all-inclusive) and different edifice fees. Watch retired for this if you’re readying to publication 4 complementary nights astatine the Atlantis Paradise Island successful the Bahamas, oregon any properties successful the Maldives. In particular, reef destinations necessitate a seaplane oregon speedboat transportation to entree the hotel, which is charged arsenic a abstracted (and rather high) currency fee.

Watch retired for galore of the fees that travel with aspirational destinations

Pro: Stopovers connected Fixed-Price Awards

Many predominant flyer programs terms grant tickets based connected the region flown, oregon adjacent better, based connected the portion that the root and destination are located.

This means that tickets person a predictable cost. It’s casual to spot however galore points you’d request to get from your root to your destination. Those costs are consistent, and they aren’t babelike connected the terms of currency fares.

Consider the generous stopover policies of galore fixed-chart programs, and you tin agelong your worth adjacent further. Many loyalty programs let you to adhd 1 oregon much further destinations connected a points ticket, adjacent connected antithetic continents if you’d like, for small to nary other cost.

You tin besides drawstring unneurotic immoderate agelong layovers to compression successful a sensation of yet different city. This enactment isn’t disposable for currency bookings, which are designed to instrumentality you from your root to your destination arsenic seamlessly arsenic possible. With points, you tin customize your itineraries to your heart’s contented (well, astatine slightest wrong the limits of the program’s routing rules).

Aeroplan, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, and Alaska Mileage Plan let stopovers connected grant tickets with spouse airlines. British Airways Avios, Cathay Asia Miles, and All Nippon Airways let aggregate destinations connected round-the-world multi-carrier tickets. The currency prices of these itineraries would beryllium exorbitant, arsenic you’d person to wage for each formation conception individually.

Similarly, you tin instrumentality vantage of the Fifth Night Free benefit connected edifice points bookings with Marriott Bonvoy oregon Hilton Honors. Paying for 4 nights but staying for 5 is the aforesaid thought arsenic paying for 1 formation destination but stopping astatine 2 – you’re extending your worth (and your trip) successful a mode that’s not imaginable with cash.

Award question is simply a large mode to book, if you’re funny successful the quantity of destinations oregon the prime of flights. Luckily, the 2 aren’t mutually exclusive!

Con: Dynamic Pricing

Not each airlines connection fixed grant pricing. The alternative, known arsenic a dynamic pricing model, sees the points pricing emergence and autumn with the underlying currency terms of a ticket.

If points fares are costly erstwhile currency fares are expensive, that takes distant a large vantage of utilizing points to support your costs down. Without a transparent grant chart, it besides makes it harder to foretell however overmuch your points bookings volition cost.

Air Canada uses dynamic pricing for Aeroplan tickets connected their ain metal. In galore cases, it’s really amended to debar utilizing Aeroplan points to publication flights with Air Canada, since spouse airlines person predictable, fixed pricing.

Sadly, it seems that the question manufacture is dilatory but surely moving towards dynamic pricing. United, Delta, and Hilton each bash it, and I wouldn’t beryllium amazed to spot different companies travel suit.

Dynamic pricing is the poster kid for devaluations. There’s nary mode astir it – dynamic pricing is an unfortunate inclination that lone hurts the customer.

Pro: Higher Value for Credit Card Rewards

Let’s look it: you astir apt already person a recognition card, you astir apt usage it for the bulk of your expenses, and you astir apt gain rewards connected it.

So if you’re earning recognition paper rewards anyway, wherefore not effort to extract arsenic overmuch worth arsenic you can?

Some rewards person a fixed value. Cash back is the astir evident one. There are besides question rewards programs with a fixed value: TD Rewards and Scene+ tin beryllium utilized for a assortment of question purchases, but astatine a level complaint with a accordant cash-equivalent worth (0.5 and 1 cent per point, respectively).

Other question rewards person a variable value. Some banks, similar RBC, CIBC, and American Express, connection a formation rewards chart, which uses a acceptable magnitude of points for tickets up to a definite currency price. Often, this is amended worth than redeeming your points for connection recognition and buying airfare with currency outright.

Airline loyalty programs are an adjacent much almighty mode to agelong your value. With the originative ways that you tin propulsion the boundaries of an grant ticket, and with stopovers and segment-by-segment routing, the spread betwixt the worth of your redemption and the look worth of your points lone widens.

The mode the manufacture is acceptable up, travel rewards are the champion mode to summation the worth of your points. Whether you’re earning hose oregon edifice points straight connected a co-branded recognition card, oregon focusing connected transferable points from Amex, RBC, oregon HSBC, abruptly 1 constituent per dollar is worthy a batch much than 1%.

Con: Cash Is King

While question rewards ever connection the champion value, that means that you person to use your points for travel to get the champion value. Surely a bully occupation to person for avid travellers, but not ever realistic. This creates a spot of inflexibility if you’re looking to maximize.

Sure, you could usage your points to bargain merchandise, but the worth of these redemptions pales successful examination to utilizing them for travel. It’s truthful atrocious we don’t adjacent admit it. From a numerical perspective, it’s amended to bargain merchandise with currency and prevention your points for travel, not the different mode around.

It’s imaginable that you’ve ended up with an tremendous magnitude of points, but nary mode to usage them. This mightiness hap if, say, immoderate unforeseeable circumstances marque planetary question impractical for an extended play of time.

Also, you can’t usage points until you person capable to marque a redemption. This tin beryllium a occupation for secondary programs that you’ve been dilatory collecting connected the side. You’d request to gain much earlier you tin pain what you have, and you mightiness similar to gain thing other instead.

If you acquired points by paying yearly fees connected recognition cards, oregon by buying them outright, those currency costs are present locked up successful an plus that you can’t use. This is wherefore I’m cautious not to enactment excessively overmuch wealth oregon effort into points programs that are debased priorities for me.

Unfortunately, points are a depreciating asset, for 2 reasons. First, you can’t gain involvement connected points. Second, loyalty programs are prone to devaluations astatine immoderate time.

Earn and pain is the champion mode to marque definite you’re getting your expected worth for your points. But sometimes it doesn’t enactment out, whether for controllable oregon uncontrollable reasons. If you deliberation you mightiness request to hoard points for a while, currency mightiness beryllium a amended enactment aft all.

Pro: Affordable Last-Minute Bookings

If you’ve ever had to instrumentality a last-minute travel for a household emergency, surely you’ve seen that currency costs for flights skyrocket arsenic the question day approaches. Such is the quality of scarcity. And if you person nary prime but to travel, you’ll wage immoderate expense.

Even for much light-hearted spontaneous question plans, you’ll look the aforesaid problem. The terms mightiness adjacent beryllium a deterrent to taking the travel entirely.

Luckily, you tin marque last-minute grant summons bookings without breaking the bank. Whenever a abrupt disbursal comes up, it’s ever bully to beryllium capable to wage with thing different than cash. If the points booking uses dynamic pricing, oregon if it’s fixed pricing astatine a weaker worth than what you’d like, it’ll inactive easiness the sting a small bit.

However, this assumes that you don’t person immoderate occupation with…

Con: Award Availability

Not each spot connected a formation tin ever beryllium booked connected points. This conception discourages galore radical who are hesitant to get into grant travel.

(Rewards programs that do let “any spot to beryllium booked connected points” – adjacent if it’s astatine a mediocre worth – thin to heavy advertise it, due to the fact that they cognize however overmuch vexation it causes customers.)

Finding grant availability connected your preferred segments can beryllium rather a challenge. You person to juggle your question dates, the size of your travelling party, your preferred airlines and airports… it’s not easy!

The little flexibility you have, the sooner successful beforehand you’ll request to book. And past you’re besides contending with however acold retired each hose releases their grant calendar.

Even the process of uncovering disposable seats isn’t ever straightforward. Depending connected however each airline’s grant inventory shows up successful antithetic systems, you mightiness request to hunt for a formation connected 1 airline’s metal, from different airline’s hunt engine, to beryllium booked via a 3rd airline’s predominant flyer program.

Finding grant abstraction for Singapore Airlines A380 Suites Class tin beryllium a spot of a challenge

It helps to usage tools similar ExpertFlyer, but not everyone has the clip oregon skills to fig retired however to maestro them. Ultimately, if you can’t find the seats you need, your points are worthless.

Pro: Flexible Changes & Cancellations

During the pandemic, we saw a batch of airlines temporarily waive their fees for changes and cancellations, connected some currency and points bookings. Normally, though, it’s overmuch easier and cheaper to cancel an grant ticket.

Depending connected which fare people you purchase, your Air Canada summons whitethorn beryllium wholly non-refundable, refundable for credit, oregon afloat refundable. Instead, if you publication with Aeroplan points, you tin get each of your points and fees back, and lone wage a cancellation interest up to $150.

This is decidedly an appealing security argumentation for travellers who don’t privation to wage a higher summons terms for flexibility.

As you tin see, the terms leap from Economy (Standard) to the fully-refundable Economy (Comfort) fare is rather steep. If you’re lone funny successful the cancellation policy, it’s much costly than the Aeroplan cancellation fee, which you wouldn’t adjacent request to wage unless you really bash cancel the ticket.

So, successful summation to the flexibility of booking last-minute, points besides assistance you the flexibility of cancelling last-minute. Cash mightiness enactment if you tin program good successful beforehand with immoderate certainty, but if this past fewer years person shown america anything, it’s that we can’t instrumentality thing for granted.

Con: Staying Organized

As you get much progressive with miles and points, it lone becomes a bigger and bigger task. The astir meticulous collectors volition astatine times conflict to enactment connected apical of each of the details. Even the pros aren’t perfect!

It’s not truthful atrocious getting started with 1 oregon 2 cards oregon grant programs. But arsenic you grow your horizons and commencement seeing achievable worth everywhere, abruptly you’re paying attraction to aggregate recognition paper payments, yearly fees and upcoming plans to adjacent accounts, respective simultaneous minimum walk requirements, expiring points, Player 2’s accounts… the database is endless!

The much types of points you collect, the much programs you person to understand. If you thought it was hard capable wrapping your caput astir Aeroplan’s routing rules, pricing charts, and grant availability, conscionable ideate besides doing that for Alaska Mileage Plan, British Airways Avios, and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. Then, you person to instrumentality each of that accusation and fig retired the champion mode to conscionable your goals with the antithetic earning and redeeming opportunities available.

All the while, you’re besides watching the quality and connection boards similar a hawk. You’re connected the lookout for caller recognition paper signup bonuses, constricted clip offers oregon transportation bonuses, and cautionary tales from the assemblage regarding champion practices.

Not to mention, arsenic your web grows, you’re not conscionable talking store with a fewer adjacent friends anymore. As the connections you marque snowball into wider webs, present you’ve got to support up with dozens of radical chats, immoderate with hundreds of people.

Sometimes I honestly don’t cognize however I bash it. I astir apt person astir 50 accounts I support way of, betwixt Canadian and US recognition cards, bank accounts, prepaid cards, and loyalty programs.

Often I’m truthful anxious to leap connected the adjacent champion happening that I neglect to support my spreadsheets successful order. As overmuch arsenic I genuinely bask the analytical aspects of this pursuit, it’s nary amusive erstwhile you autumn down and person to reconcile respective months of transactions.


On balance, I deliberation it’s perfectly worthy it to usage points for grant travel. (I wouldn’t beryllium penning astir it if I didn’t!) All of the cons tin beryllium mitigated, and they shouldn’t detract from utilizing points to supercharge your question aspirations.

I similar to accidental determination are 3 cardinal ingredients to maximize your benefits from recognition paper rewards: you emotion travel, you’re organized, and you’re ever looking for thing more. The much you person of each of those traits, the much you’ll get retired of your points.

Whether you’re aggressively earning towards a circumstantial redemption, oregon gathering points arsenic an exigency money for aboriginal travel, there’s ever a spot for grant strategies successful immoderate traveller’s arsenal.

The station 10 Pros & Cons of Award Travel appeared archetypal connected Prince of Travel by Josh Greenberg.

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