Lately, a lot of really great economy class flights have been popping up to Europe, Asia, and everywhere in between. While a $457 flight from the West Coast to Switzerland sounds amazing to most people, I kind of cringe at the idea of spending 12 hours in economy class. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve done it before, but even at ~$500 roundtrip, I feel like I can do better. I’m not talking about redeeming miles, but putting that $500 towards gift card fees to generate enough miles for a business class ticket.
I’ve written about how to off-set manufactured spending fees before. While manufactured spending isn’t quite as lucrative now as it was a year or two ago, it’s still possible to eliminate most of the fees. Even if you take the lazy approach and churn $115,000 worth of Visa gift cards at a rate of $8.60 per $1,000 you can “upgrade” to business class for $989. If you’re buying $300 Visa gift cards at Staples (without any rebates), you’ll pay about $702 using a Chase Ink Plus card.
Two years ago, I was able to off-set my gift card fees and rake in a pretty nice profit while earning miles through those 5% cash back cards from Simon Mall. In that instance, generating $115,000 would not only have resulted in enough miles for a roundtrip business class ticket to Europe, but I would have actually earned cash during the process. These days, I’m taking the lazy approach to MS (i.e. I’m not off-setting all of my fees), but I could still generate enough miles to travel to Europe at a lower cost than what some people are paying to fly economy class.
The point of this hobby for me is to upgrade my travel experience. I can afford to fly economy class, but at this point, it seems like a waste of cash. Especially, since it results in an uncomfortable flight at roughly the same cost as it would take me to generate enough miles for a flatbed seat. “But what about all the time you’re spending buying and liquidating those cards?” It doesn’t take me that much time. It takes me about 10 hours to earn 80,000 miles – so that 15 hours + ~$500 spent seems well worth it for a better seat.
Is this coming off as un-relatable to you all? Or have you also hit a point in your MS routine where cheap international flights just don’t get you as hyped up as the prospect of churning $115,000 worth of gift cards for a better experience? It took many years of suspicious cashiers and getting rejected before I got to a point where I finally found MS-friendly places to liquidate gift cards. Now that MS has become so much less stressful, I enjoy it and look forward to it. I know which stores to go to and when the lines are shortest so that I have to spend as little time there as possible. And even if I do have to stick around a while, it’s not so bad because I get along great with the store employees.
Anyway, not to veer too far off my main point, but I can’t muster up any enthusiasm for these cheap economy class fares. Not because I’m a total snob, but because the same money is better spent elsewhere. That being said, I want to hear from you all: Have you gotten your MS costs down to a point where paying for economy class travel just doesn’t make sense anymore?