When you’re earning hundreds of thousands of miles every month, some friends and family expect you to share the wealth if you’re traveling together. It can get awkward – especially when I have to sacrifice hotel quality and airline cabin because of someone else’s budget. I know people who have no problem flying first while their friends are in coach. And I know people who have booked hotels during group trips with friends…and still had to pitch in $5 to cover resort fees.
It can be tough to manage expectations while also being fair. So what’s the best course of action? Do you subsidize travel for family and friends using your miles?
The Way I Do It
For me, the answer is a bit complicated. I have no problem covering travel for immediate family members using miles. My parents have their own rewards credit cards…that I obtained for them and met the spending requirement for. As an authorized user, I regularly churn gift cards using these cards. I’m happy to do this for my parents and there’s no question I’ll cover their travel any time. Same goes for my siblings – they may not do much to help with earning points and miles, but they’re family and as an older sister I’m happy to do nice things for them. I’ve also on occasionally booked travel for family members living abroad. The area where it gets dicey is when you’re all traveling together.
A year and a half ago, my family decided to travel to Mecca for Umrah. There were five of us, plus my grandmother, aunt, and cousin decided to come along. It got a little tricky, trying to find reasonably priced fares that coincided with our award flights. It worked out in the end and I did manage to fly my grandmother in business class, but then we got to Dubai…around New Year’s Eve. Hotels were expensive and I had a bunch of Hilton points and free nights.
Booking the Conrad Dubai made the most sense for us – for everyone else, it meant paying $500 per night. The options were
1.) we stay at different hotels, which seemed like a douchebag move or
2.) I subsidize their hotel stay with my points.
I ended up going with the second option. I never told them I used my points, but rather that I scored a great deal for them. It worked out for everyone.
The Way I Won’t Do It
When my cousin and I planned a trip to Europe a couple of years ago, she had a budget. It basically meant we’d be staying at a lot of non-chain hotels that weren’t that nice. Plus, I’d have to pay my share out of pocket since I didn’t have points to cover non-chain hotels.
In that instance, I sort of drew a line. I didn’t want to spend 25,000 points per night at hotels that were out of her budget. Subsidizing the stay by asking her to pitch in a low cash rate didn’t make sense for me.
When it came to redeeming airline miles, I thought about subsidizing her flight so we could both fly in business. But then I did the math on what it cost me to acquire those miles and again, it didn’t make sense. Especially since she could afford her own airfare.
Ultimately, the trip got derailed due to other circumstances, but I started to create boundaries in terms of when I would and would not subsidize travel for friends and family.
What It All Boils Down To
Whether I decide to cover or subsidize flights for others comes down to fairness for me. If we’re in Dubai on New Year’s Eve and hotels are $500 per night, sure – I’ll cover it with my Hilton points and say the rate was $250 per night.
That’s totally fair, considering they got a better hotel in a great location with breakfast/lounge access included. Of course, I wouldn’t take anything from my grandmother, but my cousin and aunt were already saving a ton of cash and getting a superior travel experience because of my status and points.
But when it comes to gratuitous “upgrades” and booking travel for people who can afford it, there’s no need to come out of pocket. Even if you are earning hundreds of thousands of miles every month.
When I started collecting points and miles seven years ago, I wanted to tell everyone about it. Whether they wanted to hear it or not. It made no sense to me why people wouldn’t look into churning credit cards or gift cards to fund their travel.
It wasn’t until I actually started redeeming miles that friends and family took it seriously. Suddenly, they wanted in on it – but it seemed like a lot of work, so they didn’t follow through.
I teach this stuff on my blog weekly, so I feel like since I’ve made the information accessible, I’ve done my duty. People who don’t want to be bothered to learn about reward travel and put effort into it shouldn’t expect to have their travel subsidized by friends and family who do earn miles to cover theirs. That’s my take on it. Especially, if they can afford it but are being cheap.
What do you all think? Would you subsidize travel for family and friends using miles?