At times, it seems like everything in this hobby is going downhill. For the six years I’ve been involved in this hobby, I’ve heard countless times that “the game is over.” Early on, I remember an active FT member announcing his retirement from the hobby. Those who have been active in this hobby are quick to make doomsday proclamations and they may have a point. After all, they come from the “golden age” of travel hacking.
Back when you could buy a million dollars worth of coins from the U.S. mint and nobody would bat an eyelash. The days when credit card churning had few rules and manufactured spending was popping up as an answer to a growingly dire environment. But I’m a relative newbie, and the way I see it things are only improving.
For starters, it’s now possible to manufacture spend in larger quantities. Six years ago, I would have never imagine being able to do $100,000+ worth of manufactured spending in a month. It was strictly a Vanilla Reload/Bluebird-centric game. While that was a very lucrative (and hassle-free) way to generate points, it was limited. Nowadays, we’re not restricted to a single prepaid card. In fact, we don’t even need prepaid cards. Shopping Malls allow Visa gift card purchases of up to $10,000 per day. All you have to do is find yourself an ms-friendly money order source and your MS potential is basically limitless.
While all the negative credit card churning rules have affected the ease with which we can earn miles, it has made people more resourceful. Now people look for creative ways to generate more miles and points. This is probably better than having one consistent source anyway, since it eliminates risk and keeps this hobby from becoming mundane. Because we have to remember what it really is: A hobby. Something meant to entertain us in our spare time and make everyday life a little more interesting.
“What about massive airline and hotel devaluations?” Yes, award flights in premium cabins are more expensive today than they were six years ago. But you know what? It’s forced us to explore other ways of scoring premium travel for less. For example, I’m often finding that redeeming Arrival Miles for business class tickets or Hyatt hotel stays works out cheaper than redeeming miles. The Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard was introduced in 2012 and provided a solid alternative for those times when award availability was lacking or simply didn’t make sense.
Before this card was introduced, I remember people agonizing over what to do when they couldn’t redeem miles. Today, there are even more options for people who might need to pay for travel. Speaking of which, there are more discounted premium cabin fares now than there were 5-6 years ago. Back then, when an $1800 business class fare came around, a lot of people still wondered “Can I afford this?” Now that’s not really a question because there are flexible rewards currencies like Arrival Miles that can be redeemed for paid travel at a favorable ratio.
We may not have easy mile-earning schemes anymore and redeeming miles is more costly and difficult than before. But what makes us better off today is that there are so many work-arounds. So many alternatives and ways to deal with these negative changes. We may have lost out on easy points, but this community is as creative and ingenuous as ever. That’s why we’re better off today.
Do you agree or disagree with this sentiment? Please share in the comment section.