Are Frequent Flyer Miles Worth It? How to Convince Your Spouse

If you're reading this, you're probably already convinced that frequent flyer miles are worth it, but perhaps wondering how to convince your spouse, partner or friend of this so they can also earn frequent flyer miles and points for travel. My husband was initially skeptical, and still isn't keen on having too many credit cards, so I'll focus on his concerns, as well as other objections that I've gotten when speaking to friends and family.


1. I'll Never Earn Enough Miles in a Single Program to Make it Worthwhile

This is the position that many people who don't travel much and aren't yet into frequent flyer miles find themselves in–they have frequent flyer accounts with a few airlines, but not very many miles in any single account.

What is often news to them is just how many miles can be earned through credit card signups and spend–hundreds of thousands of miles per year without going overboard with credit card applications.


2. Will Opening So Many New Credit Cards Hurt My Credit Score?

Logically, then, the next question may be about credit score. Many people assume that a new credit card application can produce a major dent in your credit score, when it's typically just a 2-5 point drop (FICO is 850, and a credit score of 720 or more is good enough to apply for new credit cards) and that drop often falls off after 90 days or so. Plus, only 10% of your credit score is calculated from new credit card requests; your payment history (30%) and your credit utiilization and outstanding debt (30%) are more important in determining your credit score. See Understand How Your Credit Score Works to Maximize Credit Card Rewards.

3. I Still Dislike the Hassle of Managing So Many Credit Cards

This was (still is) a factor for my husband, who understandably dislikes having a bunch of different credit cards to manage. The three things I would suggest are:

1. Bonus categories: Either keep the activation sticker on or put a new small sticker and write the categories that are bonused. So for example, for the Sapphire Preferred, write “2x: all travel, dining” Just remember to change the sticker quarterly for the Chase Freedom Visa though, since the bonus categories change each quarter.

2. Automatic payment: Put all your cards on autopay, so that you don't inadvertently get stuck with late fees

3. Change the payment due date to first or last date of the month: Even if you set up autopay, it can be convenient to have all your cards have the same payment due date so you can pick a single day a few days before they're due to review all the charges. You still want to review your charges, in case there was a duplicate or unrecognized charge somewhere.

If this ends up being the main sticking point, consider one of our suggestions in Credit Card and Miles and Points Strategy for the Reluctant Spouse or Travel Partner

4. I Don't Want a Credit Card With an Annual Fee

While this wasn't as much a concern for my husband, as long as I could demonstrate the value of the miles or points we were getting, I know that for many people there's a psychological resistance to paying a fee for any card, when it's possible to have a no annual fee card. A couple things may help:

  • Many cards waive the annual fee for the first year; so if it really turns out you can't make the value work for you, you could cancel before the fee becomes due (although best of course to hold the card for as close to the full year as possible, to help average age of accounts for your credit score)
  • Figure out how you would most likely use the miles earned from that card, so that you can make the reward as tangible as possible: e.g. a roundtrip business class ticket to Asia in June, so you price it and demonstrate the value

5. Having So Many Credit Cards May Tempt Me to Spend More

Again, this wasn't an issue for my husband, but it seems to be an issue for some people, especially those that tend to be impulse buyers or heavy shoppers. In that case, it's probably best to respect that they know what is best for keeping them financially prudent, and not encourage them to open a lot of new accounts.

6. Isn't a Cash Back Card Still Better?

The reality is, a cash back card may well be better for some people, if they're the type who rarely travel and only make domestic trips, booked far in advance for low fares. In other words, if they would consistently be redeeming their miles or points at 1 cent per dollar, then it only makes sense for them to go with a 2% cash back credit card.

If they do or would enjoy international travel, especially in business or first class, however, you can make a strong case for them to be maximizing frequent flyer miles and points. Their value for the points in fact increases, the more they would be willing to pay for the revenue ticket. 

7. The Miles Will Expire Before I Have the Chance to Use Them

Fortunately this fear is usually not hard to dispel, since minor activity such as an iTunes purchase through an airline's online shopping mall or a purchase using an airline cobranded credit card is enough to keep most airline miles from expiring. And services such as AwardWallet can help you track mile expiration dates.

8. The Airlines Keep Raising the Number of Miles Required

It's true that frequent flyer and loyalty programs are always at risk of devaluation, and we've seen quite a few just over the past year. But usually there are a few months of notice, and so the main thing it impacts is strategy:

  • Figure out your miles and points goals, so you can earn enough via credit card applications, spend, and flying within several months;
  • Don't hoard miles indefinitely; make sure to redeem regularly for trips you value, since program devaluation is a constant

9. There Won't Be Any Availability for the Destination or the Dates I Want

There aren't actually a lot of programs that have outright blackout dates (although Korean Air comes to mind) but it is true that it either might cost more (eg American AAdvantage AAnytime awards vs. SAAver awards) or there might be limited availability on certain airlines for certain classes at certain times of year. For example, Lufthansa and Swiss no longer release first class award availability in advance (See How to Deal with No More Lufthansa Advance First Class Availability) and when they do release some close to the departure date there may only be 1 seat available. That said, it still is possible to find amazing awards on airlines such as Cathay Pacific, Asiana, Thai, V Australia and even Singapore Airlines. See The 15 Best First and Business Class Airline Awards in 2012

10. I Don't Even Like Traveling!

This is a hard one, and one that afflicts many that have been burned by a horrible Coach class experience, probably on a U.S. carrier. It may take them having a fantastic experience in business or first class on a great international airline to change their mind. That certainly helped my husband, who at 6 ft. 5″ is finds  any Economy seat really uncomfortable for any length of time. He still wishes that teleportation existed, but in its absence, he's come to realize just how valuable frequent flyer miles are in enabling us to visit friends in far-flung places and explore the world, without enduring a lot of pain and discomfort in getting there.

Have you encountered any of these objections when trying to convince your spouse, partner or friend that frequent flyer miles are worth the effort? Got any others to share?

Related Posts

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Which Frequent Flyer Miles for Which Destination?

Bye Bye Cathay Pacific First Class Awards with AAdvantage Miles?

Earn Frequent Flyer Miles and Points as a Non-U.S. Resident?

Top 10 Frequent Flyer Airline Mile Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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