When we started our blogging in mid-2013, Melissa and I started writing down a list of topics. The first 150 or so topics came quickly off the top of our heads; this is my #112. As we’ve written the posts over the past few years, topics which seemed timely were added and we have not following a pure sequence in the topics. I added the topic, Frequent Flyer Points, for a couple of reasons. The main one is to note that this has been a training item with new staff. Primarily, we train staff who are booking flights, or anything with affinity points, to be sure that either Melissa or my account numbers are used on the bookings. While we encourage them to set up their own accounts, we want to get our points – to get something for the pain and cost of spending thousands of dollars on flights, rental cars, hotels and conference space, etc. As the readers who use such points know, points are not free – they are well paid for and truly of little value individually. I think the going rate is a value of less than 2 cents per mile for flight miles. But, managed carefully, they can pay off with reward flights, hotels, etc. Notice I didn’t say “free flights” – they aren’t free, they were paid for over time as money was spent – they are instead, “earned” flights/nights, etc. We have enjoyed travel to Australia, Europe, across the USA, including Hawaii, and other destinations on these points. Unfortunately, though, it takes considerable effort to “spend” these points. Though some improvements have been made, we have had to jump through hoops from the airlines, hotels, and American Express to use them. It can be very intimidating and frustrating, but it does pay off. But, it all goes back to the beginning and ensuring that, when we’re spending our money, as well as blood, sweat, and tears, we’re getting the little bits and pieces of points to save up for that big trip. That is, it is crucial to train staff to make sure these points are recorded as earned by the hotels and airlines along the way. Training must cover many topics!
Coincidentally, David chose to write this post soon after using hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer points to book flights to and from Greece. The process of using frequent flyer points is an arduous and stressful endeavor: one must begin by finding flights (a long time from the booking date, because frequent flyer points typically often cannot be used at the last minute); contacting the airlines to determine the cost of the flights and the number of points to redeem for the flights; contacting American Express (which, in and of itself, is nightmarish) to place the points in an account that can be accessed by the airline; then contacting the airline once more to apply the points to the flights. However, as time consuming and frustratingly complicated as it is to redeem frequent flyer points, it takes years of traveling for business reasons to earn enough points to go anywhere. When I travel on behalf of a client, I spend my own money on air fare, rental cars, gas for rental cars, hotel conference rooms, hotel sleeping rooms for my staff and myself, meals, parking, etc., then I am reimbursed for my staff’s and my expenses. (Sometimes, the reimbursement process takes an eternity, adding to my frustrations with business travel.) Expenses on any given project range from several thousand dollars to much more, depending on the magnitude of our work, meaning I am “out of pocket” for this money until we receive full payment from the client. In addition to money, traveling for business has other costs, including the “human cost” of being away from home, often alone, working, while most other people are cozy in their homes, with loved ones. As a result, I take my frequent flyer points seriously, very seriously, in fact. When an employee forgets to ensure my frequent flyer or hotel number is used when making a reservation, he/she can expect serious consequences for this oversight. Frequent flyer points are one of the few benefits I receive for traveling to places my clients require me to go and I intend to use them to go where I want to go.