The rose-colored glasses come off (on Nick’s mind)


It’s time to take off the rose-colored glasses.

Last month, I wrote a post essentially saying that Chase Ultimate Rewards are great for Hyatt but would be very weak if and when Hyatt ever devalued (See: Chase needs to stop banking on Hyatt). I followed up with a post on easy foreign transfer partner programs and challenging foreign partners that are worth some effort. A reader who goes by the name Dugroz Reports, who I know has a Youtube channel advocating for the “Regular Joe” in miles and points, commented on my post about the challenging foreign airline programs — and I’m going to pick a fight with him (sort of). I’m going to challenge Dugroz Reports to take off his Rose-colored glasses and examine his redemption strategy.

Don’t worry, I don’t really have anything against him — he’s a regular reader / commenter with whom I’ve interacted before and I cleared this topic with him before posting it, so I’m not really picking a fight with Dugroz Reports. But I am picking a fight with an idea….and I’m sure he’ll let you know why I’m wrong in the comments below this post!

In the comments of my post about challenging foreign transfer partners that are worthwhile, reader PeterSFO started a train of thought when he mentioned:

I’d rather have 4 good airline transfer partners and 1 good hotel transfer partner than 10 good airline transfer partners and 0 good hotel transfer partner.

That comment is a close approximation of the Chase Ultimate Rewards vs Amex Membership Rewards argument. Dugroz Reports agreed with that sentiment and expanded his feelings on it a bit:

Put me also in the camp of “I’d rather have 4 good airline transfer partners and 1 good hotel transfer partner.”
I think a lot of that comes down to frequency of travel and flexibility of travel. Somewhere in here is an argument about how flexible your life and job are. Nick can more easily “drop everything” and fly to XYZ destination when a good deal comes along or cabin space opens up, even if it’s in February. As a regular old 9-5er, with a wife who teaches, and kids in school, it’s pretty much June-August for me; the peak seasons.
Hyatt offers very predictable, good (if not outsized) value year-round. And without impacting my family budget at all, I can use something like the Chase portal or Southwest, United, etc many times to fit my life. I don’t pay for hotels or airlines, so “just do paid travel” isn’t an option. It has to be points.
Having said that, I do Amex and Chase; so the axiom of “why not both?” seems to apply. 😉 But Chase in an integral part.
Loved the article, BTW.

There are a lot of good points there. There’s no doubt that a blogger like me enjoys outsized flexibility in terms of when to travel. I worked a job in a past life where we bid our vacation schedule about a year in advance, so I can certainly understand the situation that some have in terms of fixed inflexible dates and times. And that can make it a lot harder to take advantage of the sweetest sweet spots.

But one line in particular of his comment stood out to me:

I don’t pay for hotels or airlines so “just do paid travel” isn’t an option. It has to be points.

Well Dugroz Reports, if this is the case, can you please book all my hotels and flights for me this year? I’m sure you won’t mind since you don’t pay for them! 😀

Of course I’m being facetious to make a point: there certainly is a cost involved — and recognizing that Dugroz Reports’s points about flexibility are absolutely true, as much as I love Hyatt, the savings achieved through hotel points don’t compare to the savings achieved through using airline miles to top value unless you’re staying at the lowest category hotels (where points often yield more outsized value) or the very tippy tippy top of the highest-end hotels.

Many times before I have used 20K or 25K Hyatt points to stay at a hotel that otherwise would have cost $500 or $600 a night. I’d have never paid the $500 or $600 to stay at such a property and so I was thrilled to get a swanky hotel for 20 or 25K Hyatt points (and let the record show that I often still do that).

I love the Grand Hyatt Kauai and I gladly paid 25,000 points per night the last time I visited several years ago. This view didn’t get old.

But I think it is important to remember that the 20K or 25K points per night that I have transferred from Chase to Hyatt in those cases could alternatively be cashed out for $200 or $250 in cold hard cash, so in essence, I am “paying” for the hotel when I do that (an old argument I won’t rehash in full).

My point in saying that I’d rather have 10 good airline partners than 4 airlines and 1 hotel is that if we take away Hyatt, I’ll probably still be willing to spend around $150 a night for a hotel (obviously this number varies wildly from person to person, this is just my approximate number). Paying $150 per night in cash is arguably paying less than paying 25,000 Hyatt points per night if those points come from a Chase transfer. If paying cash for the hotel saves me $1,000 worth of points over what I’d have paid for the same flights with that 4 + 1 combo, it will have been a good trade. If that concept doesn’t make sense, I’ll come back to it in a second.

Like I said, I’m not swearing off Hyatt — really, the point of my post about Chase was that Hyatt is what makes Ultimate Rewards worthwhile. Hyatt is great and I’ll continue to enjoy transferring there. But without Hyatt, Ultimate Rewards would be a really weak currency. And more importantly here, if I had to choose whether to have Hyatt as a transfer partner or whether to have airline transfer partners that offer better sweet spots, I’d take the better airline partners because the amount I will save by using better airline partners is far more significant than the amount I will save with Hyatt points over my alternative options.

Let me give you a clearer comparison that illustrates why I would sooner accept 10 good airline partners and 0 good hotel partners than 4 good airline partners and 1 good hotel partner (note that I’m not really arguing that Amex has 10 good airline partners or that Chase has only 4 good ones, I’m just illustrating that a really good airline partner makes a more significant difference than a really good hotel partner).

Let’s say you want to take a trip for 2 passengers from New York to Brussels, Belgium from February 20th to the 25th (yes, it’s close-in, but it’s during President’s Week, which is a week off of school here in New York State. Planning this close-in or during off-season to Europe may not be practical, but for the purposes here it’s mathematical). United has Polaris business award availability at 62.4K miles each way per passenger on the way to Brussels and 60K miles per passenger on the way back.


For two people, that’s 244,800 points.

There is a Small Luxury Hotels of the World property in Brussels, the Juliana Hotel Brussels, that is a Category 6 Hyatt and is available for 21K points per night (against a room rate of 343 Euro through Hyatt).

Four nights there would cost 84,000 points. Assuming you would transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards to United and Hyatt to book that trip, it would cost a total of 328,800 total points. I fully understand that Dugroz Reports might not fly business class and/or he might not consider blowing that many points on a two-person trip, etc. But it illustrates the comparison I’m making. Cashed out, that’s $3,288.00 worth of Ultimate Rewards points — can we agree to call that the opportunity cost of this redemption? With the cost of taxes, that’s $3,412.70 out the door instead of in the bank (as it could be if the points were cashed out).

Instead, thanks to Amex transfer partner ANA, those same United flights to and from Brussels could be booked for 88,000 miles round trip per passenger.

That’s 176,000 points spent on the flights (plus the same $124.70 in taxes).

There is a Holiday Inn Express in the city that is listed “from 126 Euro”, but in reality the cheapest flexible rate (a fair comparison point) is 152. It comes to 624.22 Euro for those 4 nights at the flexible rate. Based on today’s exchange rate, that’s $672. If I didn’t have access to a good hotel transfer partner, that’s a price I might consider paying.

Understanding that Amex points can only be traded for cash with a Business Platinum card and Amex Business Checking account (at $0.01 per point) or the Schwab Platinum card (at $0.011 per point) but looking to keep the math simple, let’s assume Dugroz Reports would value Amex points at the same 1c per point floor value that we gave to Chase points. That redemption “cost” $1,760.00 plus $672 plus $124.70 in taxes on the flights = $2,556.70 in total between points and money.

Better yet, there is a Hotel Indigo that would cost a total of 128,000 points for 4 nights. If you bought your IHG points on sale at half a cent each (a price at which they frequently go on sale), that’s $624 worth of points — dropping your net cost down to $2,508.70.

If you had the IHG Premier card with its 4th night free benefit on awards, it would cut the award cost to 100,000 points (ironically, the 4th night is the cheapest in this case at just 28K points). That’s $500 worth of IHG points purchased on sale, bringing the net trip cost to $2,384.70.

In any of the above cases, I would argue that transferring to United and Hyatt wouldn’t really “save” Dugroz Reports money.

The reality is complex: if he earned only Amex points instead of earning any Chase points, for instance, he couldn’t cash out those Amex points at $0.01 per point to pay cash for hotels (or hotel points) unless he also had an expensive Platinum card (though that may be worth it since, even with the cost of a Platinum card, booking the Hotel Indigo or Holiday Inn Express and using ANA for the flights would still have a lower opportunity cost than the Chase to United and Hyatt transfer). Of course, nothing stops Dugroz Reports from earning cash back (like with a Chase Ink Cash card) and using that cash back to cover “paid” hotels (rather than cash from his family budget). I’d argue that transferring points to book a Hyatt hotel and then thinking that you “didn’t pay for the hotel” is looking at your redemption through rose-colored glasses.

In the examples above, Dugroz Reports may have used Hyatt points and stayed at a nicer property (I’ll just assume that the SLH property is nicer), but having access to a better airline transfer partner — even after using cash for the hotel — saves nearly a grand over being stuck with a lesser airline partner and transferring to that “good” hotel partner when you slice and dice hotel cost as shown above.

But wait — it isn’t really fair to compare apples and oranges, right? I have never stayed at the Hotel Indigo in Brussels or the Juliana Hotel Brussels (the SLH property), but based on my limited SLH and Hotel Indigo experience, I think it is probably fair to assume that the SLH property is much nicer. Dugroz Reports may argue that he really wants to stay at the Juliana Hotel and he likes his Chase points to transfer to Hyatt for the fancypants hotels (probably not an argument he would actually make if you watch his Youtube channel, but let’s imagine that he would make that argument).

Good news for Dugroz Reports: The Juliana Hotel Brussels is available for those dates for a total of $1,136 (including taxes & fees) via when signed in to a account.

One could probably book through a shopping portal and/or use discounted gift cards to pay even less — and if you value rewards, the deal above could get significantly better.

But let’s imagine you don’t use a shopping portal or get discounted gift cards or value rewards. Again valuing Amex points at a penny each, the flights and stay at that same property come at a total combined cost of $2,896 ($1,760 worth of points valued at 1c per point for the flights + $1,136 for the hotel). I’d argue that using Amex points saves $392 worth of cash / rewards.

This may seem like a cherry-picked example, and to some extent it is in the sense that I knew Brussels would have easy award availability based on recent trends in my Seatspy award searches and you will sometimes find Hyatt properties with much better award prices or during peak seasons cash prices for competing properties may be much higher. And I need to recognize again that the entire comparison is flawed in the sense that Amex points are not as easily traded for cash as Chase points and if the flights in the example were on Lufthansa, Amex wouldn’t have had a cheaper transfer partner than United (unless they were offering a transfer bonus to Avianca LifeMiles, which does happen now and then).

But the fact is that I originally wrote the meat and potatoes of this post a month ago with a different city pair and different hotels — and the difference between Amex and Chase came out similarly (in fact, the spread was even wider because in that other city there were even cheaper IHG award options, but due to availability changes in the time since I put together the initial example, I wanted to update with a current example before I published this).

If one were really considering whether to focus on only Chase points or only Amex points, there would be a lot of other factors to consider. There’s the fact that Amex offers more frequent transfer bonuses, offering chances to pay even fewer points for flights — but then there’s the fact that Amex cards are not as widely accepted (especially overseas) and that many Amex Offers for hotel chains are limited to US properties. There’s the fact that Chase’s partners likely offer more options for US domestic flights since the US-based airlines are releasing such little award availability to partners and Chase has both United and Southwest. Amex has more welcome bonuses to earn, but Chase has the Ink Cash card for great rewards at office supply stores. And for someone who primarily travels domestically, it’s hard to beat the value of a Category 1 or Category 2 Hyatt. I think Chase would likely be my program of choice for primarily domestic travel. There are lots of complexities to consider. I’m not really suggesting that you should earn Amex points instead of Chase points but rather I found it interesting to consider whether the savings of great airline partner programs outweighs the savings of the one great hotel transfer program.

The heart of my point here is that, at least for those who value premium cabin international travel, the savings possible with the best airline transfer partners can far outpace the savings of a good hotel transfer program. This example was based on 2 passengers, but the gap would widen substantially over 3 passengers (assuming the hotels allow for an occupancy of 3).

Bottom line

At the end of the day, I have no plans to choose whether to collect only Chase Ultimate Rewards points or only Amex Membership Rewards points — I’ll keep collecting both and taking advantage of the best opportunities that each has to offer. And I have no plans to stop redeeming Hyatt points to pay cash for the Holiday Inn Express. And I think that Dugroz Reports has a viewpoint that is very common: better to not pay for travel than to take away money that needs to go for more important budgetary concerns. I really picked a fight with Dugroz Reports here to reiterate that using points isn’t free and paying cash can sometimes cost you less (in the examples in this post, Dugroz Reports would be better off cashing out Chase points to “pay” for the hotels than transferring to Hyatt and either having points left over to use for another day or cashing out the difference in points and using it to cover other travel expenses like food and activities.

I refuse to choose between 10 good airline partners or 4 good airline partners and 1 good hotel partner because it isn’t necessary to do so — you can play this game and have your cake and eat it, too. And I think Hyatt is great — but I think it’s important not to overstate the value that Hyatt provides. I love it in conjunction with flight awards booked with my Amex (and Capital One and Citi) points — but I’d like it less if having it meant that I couldn’t have access to great airline transfer partner programs to pair with it.

3.5 13 votes
Post Rating
Want to learn more about miles and points? Subscribe to email updates or check out our podcast on your favorite podcast platform.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dugroz Reports

Occasionally, my pants are rather fancy … 🙂

If I were forced to choose between only Chase or only AMEX, I’d still pick Chase based on my “Hamburger Joe” life of only intermittent travel, and mostly domestic. Paying 5,000 points per night to stay at something like the Hyatt Place in Normal, IL is going to come in handy way more often than something like using ANA to book round-trip business class to Europe.

HOWEVER … I feel like the big takeaway is that the “why not both?” mindset is the winner. And yes, I am willing to cash out points at 1 cent each to cover fees or make some other epic redemption possible!!!

Great discussion! Thanks Nick!


Anyone who has to say that much in order to prove a point has already lost the argument imho


I always enjoy these thought exercises about miles/points. Value is subjective with all things. That said, I do like the cents per point/mile expression of value, but I think this is only a fair valuation if it is assumed that the person would have otherwise paid cash for the thing if miles/points wasn’t an option.

That mode of calculation pretty much eliminates me from being able to assign a value to business class seats because I’d almost never buy one in the absence of an absolute fire sale (which itself would likely lower the cents/mile if that seat were booked with miles).

However, with my family enjoying and pretty much expecting one luxury beach resort vacation annually, there’s a real threat that I could end up paying cash for such a stay if I can’t manage something on points, so hotel point value is very real to me in this situation.

Also, frequently omitted from hotel points value is their tax savings. It’s not uncommon to see north of 20% taxes in some countries for resort stays. Folks calculating hotel points value on posted nightly room rate before taxes are vastly undervaluing the hotel points.

Dugroz Reports

These are good points.
For example, I’m taking my Family to Europe this summer (for the 1st time!) and used 56,750 points per person one-way in business to get there. The flight costs $9,408 in cash. That’s over 16 cents per point!!!!

Is that awesome? YES!!! Would I ever in my life pay $9K per ticket one-way? Absolutely not!!!! 🙂


If you’ve never wanted to cash out (only) 331,506 URs for a $4,972.59 exclusive hotel stay on the Chase portal (that is not a Hyatt or other lp chain), I don’t think you will ever understand the real value Chase brings to the table that AMEX can’t at only 1:1 on their own


I think this is one of those objectively speaking, my subjective preferences are best met by x arguments.

Not all think biz/first class is worth paying extra. Just like not all people want to spend extra for nice cars. Like Sam Walton and other crazies.

Not all travel regularly or have a lot of excess cash flow, so fake currency should be spent broadly and comprehensively.

You guys do better than other blogs. I recommend hiring a kid out of college and making him/her travel the low end with a backpack. Like Insider does, but with points.

Alex King

Someone mentioned that in this example there are more hotel options than flight options. It isn’t even close, from NYC to BRU there are only 3 airlines, so it becomes increasingly important to have point flexibility to have a comfortable flight and/or good value. Miles also help break up a round trip fare into segments which can work to one’s advantage. On the flip side one does not have to stay at a Hyatt. In fact, it is rare when a Hyatt (or chain) is located exactly where one needs it. As someone that likes to book a hotel close to the restaurants I go to, or places I visit, it is rarely that the best points value hotel is the closest. I have better options using a map view or even Airbnb to stay.


Lost in all this discussion is Nick’s original point: that it’s better to have 10 option for flights than to lose half of those options in order to gain the only good option for hotels. I’d argue that it’s specifically because Chase is the only transferable currency that still has a widespread hotel sweet spot that makes UR so valuable. BILT doesn’t count since there’s no way to generate large amounts of BILT pts.

You also don’t always have the option to pay the cash rate for hotels. I think examples have been made on this site of things such as using points to book during an event like a concert, college football game or Superbowl. Or using points to cover a last minute emergency stay in a pricey city. With Amex, there is 0 hotel options since you are better off buying Marriott or Hilton points rather than transferring from MR.

Again, choosing the ability to make a hotel redemption doesn’t mean forsaking all business class award redemptions. Nick’s article lists 4-5 good options for Chase… just not the 10. So I go back to my original point that having the ability to redeem for airfare and hotels offers more flexibility than just airfare alone. If CITI came out with a 3 cent per point value redemption on restaurants, would their points not have gained a lot more flexibility than if they added another airline?

Put it another way, if you wanted more airline redemption options, you can go with CITI, capitalone or Amex, if you want the single good alternative to paying cash rates at a hotel, you have Chase and that’s it. (I’m not familiar with Choice and Vacasa so I’m mainly talking Marriott, Hilton and IHG).

That being said, Chase is one Hyatt devaluation away from falling to 3rd or 4th place.


The bottom line though is that everybody has different travel priorities. Right now, for me, nearly all of my travel is domestic. I have enough points to fly across the world, but I don’t have vacation time (yay small business). I can work remotely, but that’s not easy to do from around the world when I’d have to work on normal time back home. It’s hard enough when I go two time zones away to the west coast,

Yes, you can max out better with Amex than UR. But for me, in my current situation, UR is better by a mile because of Hyatt…and I’ve even gotten worthwhile redemptions out of (rare) Marriott and IHG transfers for domestic stays.


Great post, but I don’t really get why these reflections neglect to include the ease and cost of acquiring miles in the analysis. There’s no point talking about which program is better to spend miles if, as part of the equation, you also don’t talk about which program is better to acquire miles.

Here, Chase wins hands down in my opinion. With a fairly achievable amount of spend ($6K in 3 months), you can get 110K UR (with referral from P2) every 3 months for $0 with the Inks. No hoops to jump through, no coupons to clip. I admit the value proposition will go down when they drop the offer back to its regular amount, the cost will still be $0, the MSR will still be lower than the Amex equivalents, and the haul of points will still be substantial.

With Amex, your only good, repeatable options are NLL Biz Golds and Biz Plats. The first problem with Amex is that the most achievable MSR option for most people is going to be the Biz Gold, and here I would say $10K in 3 months is starting to push the spending limits of most people who don’t/can’t MS. It’s even worse with the Biz Plat at $15K. Yes, maybe you can do that once or twice a year when it is tax time or you have some other huge bill, but it will be a stretch for regular people to do that once every 3 months.

Then you have the hassle of trying to negate the annual fee. For the Biz Gold, that’s not really possible. You have to eat $295 for your 100-140K MR. For the Biz Plat, you have the hassle of dealing with Dell and the restrictions placed on the airline incidental credits. You have to put in a fair amount of work to get your 150K MR down to $0, compared to Chase where it comes standard.


Great point! I ride the all of the trains, especially the INK train, and even the Biz Plat train.

This is my biggest issue with Cap1, Citi, and even Marriott.

So much noise around the Venture X…

Ok, ya got your sub, now what?

How are you going to replenish?


Wait, how are you generating “110K UR (with referral from P2) every 3 months for $0 with the Inks”? Those are insane numbers. That would buy an annual trip for both me and my girlfriend with almost no money out of pocket


Right now Ink Cash and Unlimited bonus is 90K plus you can get 20K for referral if going back and forth between P1 and P2. No AF, $6K spend in 3 months.

That offer isn’t there all the time, but it’s been going strong for months now.

Phil Ridolfi

This is a great discussion, and I’ve been thinking about it all day. For a minute, forget all the points analyses. I think it all boils down to this. What do you value more: 6-12 hours of great comfort in business class on the plane, resulting in a much better first vacation day, or 6-12 days of staying in a great hotel. Of course, the best answer is both, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Usually, we pick the latter (you know, the fancypants hotel), although I must confess to enjoying being spoiled in that business class section. But it’s really a personal decision, and it will drive your choice of cards and how you use your points.


The fundamental difference between your arguments is that regular Joe is not flying to Belgium with a partner on short notice. The regular Joe is flying somewhere domestic with a family and here Chase beats Amex mightily.

DL has a crazy redemption value and AA is hard to accumulate. Jetblue and Alaska have limited route network. That leaves us with United and Southwest which are both Chase partners. You often can’t find United saver availability. The variable pricing may be off by 1k miles and you can’t book with one of Amex partners. You need UA miles for that. Hyatt wins again for value in domestic redemption.

The best feature of all is CSR 1.5cpp redemption for economy (or any other class) flights.

If we’re indeed talking about regular Joe, discussing Amex is laughable.


Spot on.

Joe Hamburger is taking the clan to Orlando – Flying Southwest and staying at an IHG or Hyatt property close to the parks. Grab a personal Southwest, Biz Southwest, IHG and Hyatt card every other year, especially using a P2, and vacation is paid for.

MR works for me as I will go to Belgium and run through the country hitting the Trappist breweries.

Last edited 1 month ago by Wijkowski

Exactly this. I think you brought up an important point as well – Chase does really well with partner cards.

Between the points earned and Companion Pass two Southwest cards covered round trip travel across the country for 7 to Orlando when we did a Disney World trip with friends. Hyatt gets the press but Chase also has better Marriott card offerings than AMEX – the 5 FNC offer on the Boundless last year is worth 250K Marriott points, and then you can convert to the Ritz card with better value at present than the AMEX Brilliant.


Again… I LOVE these “thinking out loud” discussions. It’s incredibly difficult to convey the logic that is linked to the subjectivity of assigning value to award travel.

“Maximizing Redemptions” vs “Negating Costs”

I’ve been sitting on a large pile of Cap1 points… debating on whether or not to cash out about $1000 of miles using travel eraser…

I finally just cashed them out… and I still have a large pile of Cap1 miles.

I love to maximize, but sometimes I have to remind myself that it would take years to use up all of my points.

Which is ALSO another debate:

“Hoarding points for a max redemption” vs “earn and burn”


Was just thinking about this today. I also was thinking of cashing out $1,000 or so worth of Capital One points because I have several hundred thousand of them available and I can’t really think that there’s a lot of situations where I’ll be transferring them that I won’t have a similar opportunity to use my even larger stash of Amex points.

Dave Hanson

Added to that is what we might call “Greg Risk”. 🙂 Cap One might decide they don’t like your heavy accumulation for some reason, and shut you down, leaving you with lesser redemption options (like Greg’s forced .5 cpp).


Optionality for hotels is much higher than flights with very, very few exceptions (e.g., Conrad Rangali). I will always value J flight redemptions far more highly than any hotel redemption.

Logic over emotion

A lot of mental gymnastics over, what exactly??? Simple fact: when WOH points for purchase go on sale they cost at their lowest ~1.7% and when Aeroplan points go on sale at ~1.3% at their lowest cost, speaks forNick and Greg declared that Aeroplan was the absolute best use of MR points in a webcast. Well i guess according to them! And their petsonal biases to use transferrable points for busi ess/first class air travel. I dont see how something that can be bought for 1.3 per point to be the indisputable champ of all transfer currencies.
The issue here is Nick has a bias to using points to transfer for airline business class seats and someone else a bias to nice hotels or suites, or the ability to book direct flights even in coach on the day they need to travel, but all of these are just personal preferences and not universal value statements regardless of how much the outrageous cash price may be, when you can simply buy the points and use them to book the experience you want. Because you transferred them from your cc,account doesnt make them worth any more


Another thought provoking article. So glad to have Nick / Greg at FM and Benjy at MTM for these posts.


Comparing cash prices to points matters if youre saving points. I’m extremely points rich so I value the points less & am certainly willing to burn them on hotel rooms. $/pp means less with Biz Plat NLL & Inks making it rain in 2 player mode.


Two things to consider, one in favor of hotels and one against:

In favor of hotels is that it’s a lot easier to use points to book hotels than to get J seats on planes. With a given date, the odds are very high that one of the chains will have availability at your destination (assuming they have hotels there) while the odds of J availability — at least, on the most direct flight — are pretty low.

On the flip side, using hotel points restricts your relative freedom much more than using points for airfare. With airfare, you’re going to get in a plane and fly to your destination. The experience will be pretty much the same on one airline as another, assuming the same class of service. With hotels, however, you’re eliminating 95%, at least, of your options by choosing to use points — options that may include hotels in better locations, more interesting architecture and history, or larger rooms than what are available with points.


My favorite foreign airlines are Virgin, Avios, and Aeroplan. Chase has all 3.
Sure Amex has some niche transfer partners with lucrative sweet spots, I’ve just never had the opportunity to use them (yet).
For now I collect both, with a slight preference to Chase URs. I try to transfer from Amex or Cap1 if possible to save all my URs for Hyatt and United.


Small pet peeve: Please consider calling it Washington’s birthday, the federal holiday. “Presidents” diminishes Washington and was made up by marketers.


Nick, as always I enjoy your writing, but it would surely be helpful if you pulled all the example numbers out of the text and put them into a spreadsheet. There are way too many words there to easily track your numerical argument.


Let’s add more complexity to the concept of opportunity costs – You can invest cash but not points.
If you’re saving for long term goals like tuition, retirement, legacy to your heirs, then hoarding/investing excess cash has worked out fairly well: the S&P 500 Index is up 228% in the last 10 years.  If you had used points for a $1,000 hotel stay and simply invested the $1,000 10 years ago then it would be worth $3,280 today. Points only devalue.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jacinto

I’d also just point out that Nick’s analysis is right and great as long as you aren’t bringing the kids, then 2 tickets works out, But if you are travelling as a family of 3 or 4 on a peak week like President’s week, 2 business class points seats to Brussels is worth a lot less to you than 4 southwest seats to orlando and a hyatt place.


I tend to agree with Nick. For me, I value lie flat over a super nice hotel. I’ll also say that Amex and Citi seem to have more transfer bonuses than Chase which really starts allowing you to get outsized value (although the Aeroplan bonus on Chase was phenomenal).


For me it’s the opposite. We tend to take longer trips (7-14 days usually), so I’d rather splurge on the hotels (where you spend far more time and which make up the bulk of the trip’s experience) vs. 8 hours on a plane there and back.
Not that they’re mutually exclusive if you have the points stash to swing it 🙂


What I see in this and previous discussions by Nick is that everyone missing the price shift (that happened in past few years).
The hotel prices increased double – and triple-fold in short time, especially after Covid restrictions lifted. And the airfare remained similarly priced to 10 years ago, counting in the inflation and gas prices.
With that in mind, all above arguments are away from point of what travelers are paying for the most: flying to destination or staying at destination…

The hotel prices are made ridiculously high because of strong post-covid demand and the bigger number of people who travel around. Rooms that were $100 few years ago, now in $250-300 range for same or reduced service. And buying hotel nights with points became more expensive as well with frequent Hotel Program “devaluations” (read price increases) and going away with per night award charts (in most programs). Midrange hotel room cost $250-300 in summer season, spring & winter holidays, so a week’s stay cost in US and most places abroad skyrocketed to couple thousand (if paying cash). Now that’s comparable to an airfare cost (economy) for 2-4 people. And with that in mind, if a traveler don’t have available Hotel transfer partner to use points for accommodations, they must pay big (biggest) portion of expenses in cash!!

So for the most part, having available “hotel” points is a must for a frugal traveler. And the more programs to transfer the better.
So go ahead, Nick, and take the rose-colored glasses off. The high hotel prices are here to stay for some time, and Hyatt program is one way to avoid paying it, or use Chase travel portal to book hotels using points. Either is a saving of a big portion of one’s travel expenses.
Happy discoveries!


Your comments are spot on. But, the question remains: Is Chase the best card issuer that one uses to obtain those hotel points? Does another card issuer do a better job? For argument sake, let’s say the Chase is the best card issuer to obtain hotel points. Is there any reason beyond hotel points to use Chase? Or, is it that one uses Chase solely for hotel points and other card issuers for airline points?


What benefits does Chase provide that other card issuers do not? What makes Chase a compelling card issuer? Nick’s question is fair. Nick’s conclusion is fair.

For cards that earn transferable points, what about category earn rates? Chase has absolutely nothing noteworthy. Sidebar: Likely in late April, Citi will restart the Prestige card under the Strata Elite moniker. The earning structure on the revamped card might surprise some. The key thing is that Chase will look even less appealing and it will need to rethink its strategy.

If we look at Chase’s transfer partners, its only exclusive deal is with Southwest Airlines. All other transfer partners are available via other card issuers. (Focusing on a few: Hyatt, IHG, and United are all available via Bilt.)

So, you turn to cashing out. Pay-yourself-back has been devalued. Other card issuers have mechanisms to cash out at 1.1 cents per point . . . without category restrictions. Close enough to eliminate differentiation.

What about a flight redemption at 1.5 cents per point via Chase? The Amex Business Platinum does it at a slightly higher rate. No differentiation.

So, Chase, other than sign-up bonuses, why should I do business with you? Please tell me in what way I’ve been unfair in my assessment and misjudged you.


Bilt does not (yet) count as competition to chase for the shared transfer partners because the number of chase points one can get for the same amount of spend is an order of magnitude more than bilt. It would take one years to save enough bilt points to take a blockbuster vacation using united and hyatt.


You can have CSR and redeem for any travel and any airline at 1.5cpp, while on Amex side you need to have Business Plat with $700 fee and you will only be able to redeem for one airline only, and no other travel at all, and you will need to use this coupon book to justify AF. Amex has the worst cards right now, I cancelled most of them, because of couponization. I currently have Amex Business Gold, it’s very similar to Ink Preferred for my needs, but it has an AF of $300, earns 4x in top two categories, and has almost no other benefits, apart from booking single airline at 1.33cpp, while Chase can book any travel at 1.25cpp, get 3x in all similar categories, and has AF of $95. And you can always cash your points at 1cpp without having $700 coupon book. This Amex card will be cancelled at the next renewal.

Last edited 19 days ago by Yuri

I view paying annual fees for SUB’s as buying points. If he’s paying annual fees, he’s most certainly paying for hotels and flights.

I gladly pay $125 each year for our Amex business Marriott cards, but I realize I’m just buying 35k points at a large discount.


Imagine lacking the self awareness to not quit while you’re behind, but doubling down on it with yet another article. Nick would not have to imagine this too hard I suppose


Awesome analysis as usual. I primarily fly internationally. Currently I only collect Chase Ultimate Rewards. One of the features of UR I use often is the ability to purchase a flight on some no name foreign airline using UR points. Yes some of of those airlines may in fact be partnered with a program I have points with but my schedule is less flexible on these connecting flights. In addition the time and transfers necessary to use points on a $150 dollar flight is not worth it. Perhaps I could find award space for 5000 points but be limited to award space flights and fly at a less convenient time. Or I could buy the flight at exactly the time I want using 10k UR points. I use this feature of UR often.

A question I would love to have you think about is which other transferable points program is the best to pair with chase UR. Amx, Capital one, or City. Perhaps two answers. One of you primarily fly domestically and another if you primarily fly internationally.


Never seem to get great value from AMEX. I’ll go even further and say if it’s not Chase it’s not in my wallet.


overthinking awards ruins the travel experience and distracts from what we could learn. don’t miss the forest for the trees


I think there’s some disjunctions in your argument. It sounds like you would only accept lie flat business class airfare but are OK with a $150 hotel room. I could make the same argument with budget airfare vs. the Juliana. I could save 176000 Amex points by paying $750 on airfare to fly economy (probably harder in your example because the date is so close-in). On your UR example, if I flew economy, those 245,000 UR points would buy me almost 10 nights a Grand Hyatt Kauai or 11 nights at the Juliana. Would you still pay points for that flight or consider slumming it in economy?

I also think you are basing some of your argument on more cents/point redemption = better, which we all agree is the wrong way to look at things. You didn’t list the cost of that United Polaris flight but would you pay $5000+ for 2 to fly United Polaris when you wouldn’t pay $600/night to stay at the Juliana? How about $1760 + $126 cash (Amex points rate)? On the UR side, the Juliana stay would “only” cost 84000 UR or $840.

Moving away from the cents/point argument, I wonder how many people would enjoy and actively seek the food and service of United vs. those of a SLH property (assuming at least breakfast was free). Are we overvaluing the Polaris experience because United economy is hell? In your example Polaris vs. Economy is probably more comparable to Julianna vs. hostel.

More broadly speaking, moving away from Chase transfer partners, I’d like to point out that in terms of usage, finding award flights is a lot harder than finding awards on hotel stays. I wonder if this scarcity makes us overvalue the flight experience? We frequently talk about layovers, positioning flights, being flexible with our schedule just to fly a certain airline’s business class. I doubt any of us jump through that many hurdles for a hotel. I’ve recently had the pleasure of trying JAL J and F, Qsuite, Singapore J. I don’t disagree that they are exceptional products but at the same time I had to layover in Tokyo on my way to Singapore or have 10+ hour layovers in Doha going to and Singapore coming back from the Maldives. We’ve also had to take extra PTO or cut our trip by a few days because of award flight availability. Those are not things that we would accept in a hotel booking yet we would gladly do so for flights.

More availability over more products (more hotels than flights at a given destination) also means easier ability to redeem our points for decent value.


Nick is the king of mental gymnastics


Some great points being made here. “ It sounds like you would only accept lie flat business class airfare but are OK with a $150 hotel room. ” We clearly don’t all have the same priorities with how much value to assign to different luxuries.

Like Nick, I am also willing to plan my travel somewhat around what flights have lieflat award availability (and if award availability didnt exist I would probably fly paid economy vs paid business/first). Not everyone wants to do that, so they won’t value flight transfers as highly.

For me, there’s generally more hotel options (award or cash) than ideal flight routes in most places, so I would rather have my second or third (or tenth) choice of hotel for 2-3 nights instead of a 7+ hour flight in economy when business is available. But I totally agree its not irrational for people to come to the opposite conclusion as well.


On the flip side, if the plan for the trip is that the hotel is little more than a base to sleep and shower at, a Holiday Inn Express would almost always fit the bill quite well. A Holiday Inn Express is still high enough on the hotel scale that the bed will almost certainly be comfortable, the room will be clean, and the surroundings will be reasonably safe. Upgrading to the Juliana would be mostly wasted – sure, the surroundings would be nicer/fancier, but I won’t be spending much time actually enjoying that aspect of it.

Meanwhile, a lie-flat business seat could be a well-utilized upgrade over coach. If that lie-flat seats gets me six hours of good sleep, versus a couple hours of interrupted sleep in a coach seat, I can hit the ground running when I arrive, versus having to fight off tiredness for the first day. Whether that is worth the upgrade over economy (particularly given other inconveniences to find business class award availability over economy) is quite debatable, but if it works I’d find that to be the more valuable upgrade for a Brussels trip (or a trip to Europe more broadly.)


Great article! I totally see your point and you did a good job explaining the details. The best part is that I actually understand it and can picture most calculations in my head (I am fairly new to this). For me, truly the bottom line is that you have to cater to your personal situation, family schedule and priorities. We travel a lot more driving to tennis tournaments and staying at hotels, than flying business class overseas. And if we do go overseas, for the next four years, it’s still not during the off peak times. Appreciate this example though, does make me think my plan over. Thank you.


Fun and enjoyable article Nick! I see this topic as another example of how the perspective of “travel bloggers” is often different from the perspective of “Regular Joes.” I tend to come down on the side of the Regular Joes. Most travel bloggers are obsessed with exotic trips in lie-flat seats, whereas most Regular Joes are looking to take what I’ll call more “normal” trips. Take the 3-continent challenge, for example. It made for a fun read, but I was glad it was you guys enduring that slog rather than me.

Friends often reach out to me for advice on points and miles travel, and what I find is that most people aren’t looking for lie-flat seats to Istanbul (I just picked that far-flung destination at random to make my point). What they’re looking for is a way to fly to San Diego, or New York, or Boston, or Las Vegas, or San Francisco, etc. etc. etc. and stay in a nice hotel using points and miles.

I love being able to show someone how they can use points to fly to San Diego on Southwest and stay in the Manchester Grand Hyatt. And this is where Chase Ultimate Rewards points really shine. Sure, a person can get greater theoretical value by transferring points to any number of foreign airlines, but the travel blogosphere has become so focused on this, that the Regular Joes of the world are either being ignored or led to believe that they aren’t doing it right.

Look, I realize you guys have to come up with fresh ideas to write about. I really enjoy your articles, and I know you have readers who really do want that lie-flat seat to Istanbul. But please keep in mind that most people are looking for a simple and sustainable way to take normal trips using points and miles.

As always, I enjoy your blog and encourage you to keep up the good work!


Excellent points! I think it is so easy for those of us who ‘aspire’ to the lie-flat, luxury hotel mode of travel to forget that we can get outsize value from domestic travel, too.


This example does seem a bit niche, though I think Nick’s argument does hold up well for this case. It’s not usually practical in my experience to book round trip award tickets last minute, or at all (which Ana requires, I think), and Ana’s site can be hard to navigate, so I would be more convinced by an example where the booking was made with a program that was as easy to use as united. Not Turkish, not Ana. Maybe Avianca?

Also, as nick mentioned, it’s not really practical to say you can cash out amex points at 1 cent per point universally. Maybe that is a good benchmark “value” but in practical terms, the imaginary person who only has amex points and can’t cash them out will be paying for the hotel for this trip out of pocket which is exactly the opposite of what Dougroz reports goal is (to only use points for travel).

I appreciate Nick’s points in this article overall, but in the end no one is “right” about this. It all depends on your preferences and where you feel you get value when booking awards. Very interesting topic, and thought provoking discussion.


I’m with you, Nick! Thanks to FM, I continually learn how best to use points. I was just trying to explain this concept to a friend at dinner who had cashed out points thinking it was a good deal. I said “not if you want to travel”! ( which he does). I’m sending your article his way.

We traveled abroad in economy our entire adult working lives until my husband and I retired. I was determined that we would fly in lie-flat seats with champagne AT LEAST ONE TIME. Between finding and studying FrequentMiler and getting 2 CSR cards, we were off and running. We haven’t seen a long-haul economy seat since. We had never been in an airport lounge.

We are frugal. I love a deal. Something I rarely see mentioned is that when you start getting older (we are 67 and 71), you may not be able or willing to fly coach for 8+ hours (we mainly fly abroad), nor hang out in airports for hours in uncomfortable areas.

Thank you for the great explanation and examples.


It seems a bit unfair to look at Brussels in February(!) when Dougroz says his travel is limited to June-August.

Greg The Frequent Miler

I would love to see a similar analysis, but where you stay in a $2,000 per night Hyatt or SLH.

Greg The Frequent Miler

My point is that you may have your heart set on a specific $2K per night property and so if you had only Amex you would have to either pay out of pocket for that or buy Hyatt points to cover it. I think Chase would come out way ahead in that case.


You and Nick are at different places in terms of how you value hotels (and possibly flights as well). It would be interesting for you guys to do a podcast activity (or article) where you go through different hotels and say what price you would pay (in cash) for different rooms at those hotels (you could do this for flights as well). You could email each other (or another member of your team) the numbers ahead of time. I think it would be very revealing in terms seeing how we value things shapes how we think about the redemption side of points and miles.




makes it seem like using Hyatt points has greater outsized value than it does.

This. The “value” for a hotel redemption is not what that room would have cost if you had paid cash. It’s the price you would have paid for an equivalent room.

Example: On April 18th, a 270 sq ft room at the five star Park Hyatt Vendome costs $1,832 including tax. The same night, a 270 sq ft room at the nearby five star Hotel Regina Louvre (same 9.2 rating on is $715 all in. The Hotel Bowmann, same size room, same five starts, superior 9.4 rating, is $445.

The value of redeeming 45k Hyatt points for that hotel is not 4 cents per point, it is just under 1 cent per point. At best. If you’re will to accept a mere four stars then the value goes down even further.


Do I smell a post roast?
Haven’t had a serving of that in a while…


I think Tim could do an excellent rebuttal


I actually think that this post makes me more supportive of Dougroz’s point of view than I was before reading this. Dougroz’s main argument is that WoH consistently offers solid, high-value redemptions when (a) planning ahead and (b) traveling during peak times. This counter shows that Hyatt provides poor value at an off-peak time and that Amex can provide better value two weeks away. Kind of feels to me that you two are almost talking past each other.

I don’t fundamentally disagree that without WoH, Chase UR would have significantly less value than Amex MR. That said, the consistency afforded by WoH alone makes up for the gap and then some for travelers like Dougroz and myself who are confined by school schedules to travel in certain times of the year. If you have dates and a destination in mind, WoH consistently opens up availability at schedule open for hotels and you can get pretty great value. I myself booked the Regency Vancouver at 15k/nt this summer when cash rates are nearly CAD500/nt. Wouldn’t have paid it, but most decent hotels in downtown YVR start at $300/nt. So I can get 6 nights for the UR cash out price for 3 nights at a different hotel.

I suspect that trading anecdotes would really just arrive at what I viewed to be Dougroz’s point; for those with significant flexibility, whether it be flexible dates, close-in booking or total openness to any destination, WoH’s value isn’t really there in the same way that it is for those without those flexibilities, particularly if one is confined to traveling during peak demand times.


Thanks for engaging. Always appreciate the level of engagement you all put forth here – this level of true interaction sets you guys apart from the other blogs out there 🙂 Doubly so, because in this particular interaction, I learned Flying Blue has a 25% discount for kids’ award tickets! Can’t wait to make use of that knowledge someday!

But yeah, to your point, it may be overly reductive and kind of a lazy conclusion to reach, but it feels to me that the strength or weakness of a particular transferrable program depends a ton on each traveler’s … eccentricities to put it one way. I myself really can’t stand spending a ton of time on hold, so I tend to shy away from things I know can provide better value like TK United bookings or Avianca in case something goes sideways with a booking. I fully know that both of those sweet spots provide outsized value but you really have to put in the time and energy to make it work, and I just flat-out would rather spend the spare time I have outside of my 9-5 and commute with my 1-year-old than on hold with Turkish Airlines. I also really value the certainty that Hyatt’s early booking window provides, but I can very easily see that someone with differing priorities values maximizing the value of each point a lot more, so the hold times or customer service quirks is less of a deal-breaker than it is for me.

And to the point of preferring a hotel vs a flight, I think I’m personally more or less neutral, believe it or not. I’ve had superb stays at cheaper IHG properties and I’ve spent the first three nights of a trip sleepless because I couldn’t adjust to jetlag due to a super-cramped econ experience. I like and appreciate good high-end hotel touches, but as long as there’s a comfy bed and space for a crib, I’m fine with whichever old hotel as long as the location is good. I’m completely with you that I’m probably not going if I’m confined to econ.

I think I’ve seen a really good maxim for award travel a few places: pick no more than two – cheap, convenient, or set dates. True unicorns are those awards that are all three; the perfectly routed flight, on the perfect day, bookable simply and cheaply online. I think one’s preference or view on a transferrable currency depend on which of the three they absolutely cannot drop. We don’t have completely set dates and are flexible within a narrow window, so that’s probably the one I have to choose, so my view on value depends on what I can get when traveling during peak demand, unfortunately.

Last edited 1 month ago by Raylan

Sorry if this is duplicative, but I typed out a response, then edited it and my response got eaten as spam presumably because I edited it so soon after posting the original 🙁 Would you be able to release my comment? Thanks in advance!

A guy named Mike

I think there are a ton of life reasons to prefer one approach over the other (like always).

When it was just my wife and I, my biggest pain point was flying (6’4″) and premium seats were the focus. With my 7 month old, I find that hotels (specifically getting suites) are more important. Part of this is definitely the shorter flights we will have for the near term.


I feel most residence inn I look at don’t allow the rooms separated by a door to be booked by points. For that reason, we have mostly been doing Hilton embassy suites.


Nick, I agree with you for my own travel perhaps because I travel in a similar way to you, just much less. I can travel mostly when I like and like the flexibility of having many choices. I collect both Chase and Amex points, having aassed so many in the last few years that I may find it hard to use them all. The Amex Business situation has been amazing this last year, and the Ink cards are so lucrative. I also love Hyatt, mainly because it’s easy to get top Globalist status that gives decent value versus Marriott and Hilton.

I have miles in all major airlines as well. But I realize that most people cannot spend the time that I do to get these points, nor are they able to so easily manufacture the spend that I do. In 2-player mode it is easier and I imagine most people are traveling with at least one other person anyway.

And remember, with Amex’s liberal policy with their business cards you can accumulate masses of airline points. I have over $4000 in airline credits just in the last year from that. Long may that last.

This is not for everyone as I can spend on average at least an hour a day and sometimes many more on this hobby and I also have the cash flow to keep this going. Having 830 or so FICO helps too, but the more I play the game the higher the score becomes! Only in America.

Most of my friends think I am nuts, but then they like the free Global Entry I can offer them from all the cards I have as well as borrowing my Globalist status.

So, even though I don’t travel like you do, Nick, I agree with you on the rest – if you can afford it, work both MR and UR points, and if you can add IHG and Cap One as well it’s even better.


Love this article – The reason I love FM.
I think to summarize Nick’s ideas here – The marginal benefits of Hyatt points are much less than the flexibility of AMEX MR’s better partners.
As I tend to agree (I mostly transfer UR to Hyatt too), at the end of day it still depends on your travel patterns: If someone is a domestic, urban traveler who value good hotels, then the table is turned.
In addition, ANA’s outsized value is niche in the devalued post-pandemic world, it also has hard point expiration policy, round trip only, worse surcharge policy, (what if Lufthansa has awards?) steep learning curve, and less than stellar customer service comparing to US programs. And dare I suggest by collecting Marriott points (cards or buying) and transfer, you can have even more niche (and good value), eg. 40K OZ for the same ticket?
It always takes hard looking at one’s own travel patterns to decide which one is for them.

Nate SGF

Nick, while I appreciate your in-depth perspective on this topic, I think you miss one HUGE point to all of this…

When you take away the excitement of “free”, you take away much of the excitement of our hobby.

Case in point, the Citi Double Cash is one of my oldest credit cards. I had the card for probably 13 years before I got into this hobby. Sure it was great to earn cash back, but I did absolutely NOTHING to earn outsized value. I didn’t try to optimize the points I earn on specific categories, no manufactured spending, no excitement for new sign-up bonuses, etc.

My point is, my wife and I LOVE to enjoy flights and hotels that the practical/frugal side of me could never justify otherwise if I were paying cash. So if I start thinking of points as cash equivalents the way you argue, it takes away ALL of the excitement I have for this hobby.

This January, my wife and I went to both Alila Ventana Big Sur and Conrad Maldives Rangali Island properties, flying in first/business class to both destinations. These are two places and properties we would have NEVER went to if instead of enjoying the excitement of “free”, I was thinking I actually paid $XX,XXX because I could have cashed out the points. Again, the ENTIRE reason I enjoy this hobby is the outsized value and excitement of “free”.


+1 on this. I actually actively ignore cash-out value because I know that if I considered cash-out value, I probably wouldn’t be able to turn off the rational part of my brain that says “you don’t need to go on this vacation, but you do need the $5,000 cashed out.” The points we earn are, for me, just a bank account that I only use to travel, because I just don’t think I could get to the point where I could justify traveling and experiencing as much as we’re afforded if I just considered points as cash equivalents rather than travel-only currency.


I think this is a really important point and I come out somewhere in the middle on this. I think about the relative value of points vs cash on every transaction I make and wish more people would do this. There’s a reason Delta can get away with assigning high six-figure redemption rates, and that’s because a lot of people who don’t think enough about value will just pay whatever is asked and think of it as free money. It’s not. But it’s also 100% rational to look at the cash value vs the point value and decide you have way more disposable point wealth than you do disposable cash wealth and opt for spending points when it’s not favorable. I love Nick’s deep dives, but you don’t have to get as in the weeds to just do a sanity check and understand that you’re getting ENOUGH value out of each transaction, even if you’re not getting the MAX value. If more people did this, some of the less valuable currencies out there would be forced to be more competitive.


This is where I fall on this as well. If I had to frame my points as the equivalent of income (true as it may be) and start down the money-is-fungible trail, I would just show myself the door. Hobby is the operative word for me here. I am not looking for and do not want a side hustle, so I do not personally wish to cross these wires any more than as a pilot I want to think about what the opportunity cost of tie-down fees for a Cessna are.

I appreciate that the idea of monetizing hobbies is part and parcel to the entrepreneurial spirit that a travel blogger must possess. To that person, disentangling the two as I prefer is probably a nonsensical wedge.

You see, I’m too practical (stingy? Yankee?) to justify half of the trips I take. Seeing points in dollar form will always cut into the part of my brain that derives satisfaction out of not running the heat and wearing shirts with frayed collars. The same enjoyment of optimization that keeps me in this hobby manifests itself in other areas of my life too. At that rate, I’d never go anywhere and we’d all stay at home eating chipped beef on toast.

I kid slightly, but the point is I must prefer to enjoy “free,” defined by me as using my points at fair values to slip seamlessly around with few-to-no additional checks to settle, knowing that:

1) my credit card fees + paid travel together constitute an annual travel budget that I find acceptable, and

2) said travel budget delivers more and better travel than it would in a world where none of this existed.

Last edited 1 month ago by Kyle

Another thing to say about hotels booked with points vs cash: I always seem to get better rooms when I pay with cash than points. I’ll also generally have much more selection for what kind of room I’d like!!! Great analysis Nick.

Starbucks Man

I appreciate Nick’s think-pieces (and FM generally) for being targeted at a more advanced audience than elsewhere (“gEt MoAR cRedIT cARds”). I admire the depth of analysis, even if I’m not nearly at this level. I can’t wait to see some of the comments.

A guy named Mike

A pet peeve of mine is that crowd also emphatically rejects closing cards for immaterial credit changes, but ignores card caps (Amex) and credit limit maxes (Chase) that will become problems if you use the “eleventiy billion cards at once” strategy.


Most of this comes down to whether you prefer swanky hotels or lie-flat seats. Let’s say the delta between the swanky Hyatt and nice but non-swanky X hotel is 10k points, and the difference between J and Y class is 25k, you’re effectively getting 5 swanky hotel nights vs. 1 great flight. (Assuming double occupancy.) With those numbers I’d take hotels any day.


The swankiest hotels aren’t available with point redemptions.

John F

Love it. 100% agree here. I think about use of points and the opportunity cost almost EXACTLY the same way you do (which we both know is the ONLY right way :)).

But that also occasionally prevents this typical “basic economy” flyer who looks for bargains everywhere from using points – or makes me feel dirty when I do!

That 88k flight to Brussels is a great deal – but it’s still $880. that’s double the price of a cash flight in the back of the plane (especially since I’d find a deal!) Would I actually PAY $880 to fly business class? Unlikely (we all get there at the same time – and I can suck it up). So why do I conclude that it’s okay to spend 88k points on that same flight? I’ve do it – but it offends my Mathematical sensibilities. So clearly the points are forcing me (it’s the points – it can’t be me!) to spend more than I normally would and get great “value” by getting a much better product than my cheapo self would ever pay for.

To be clear – I am fortunate enough to have the means to spend a good amount of money on travel – I just refuse to do so because I’m super cheap/thrifty/justlikeadeal whatever. Clearly using points is a forcing function for me to spend more on travel for amazing opportunities and experiences that I would never do without the points. So can I really even still value the points the same way? This is the intersection of math and psychology – and I’m losing (or winning???)


I will, and have, pay $1,500-$2,000 for J across the pond. Worth it.


Couldn’t agree more with this statement. I have the same internal struggle even with the best business/first redemptions. But, ya gotta admit it’s fun. Caviar and Dom and all the Johnny Walker Blue, etc etc on Cathay First was an amazing experience I never ever would have if not for miles. Of course that was on the old AA chart when it was a lot cheaper on points…but I digress. Just saying we travel for experiences and memories and doing something extravagant makes for a special memory.

I think business class, esp to Europe, is harder to justify because the flight isn’t that long and the experience isn’t usually that great. Still, you can justify it like I do. Lie to yourself and say you basically get a whole extra day of vacation because you arrive rested and enjoy the first day in the new time zone. That helps offset the value of the extra points. Of course it’s often not true, but you can enjoy yourself and not feel so much like you’re wasting points/miles/money. I also like to think it takes a very miserable part of the trip and turns it into a fun part.