Is 11 Million Membership Rewards Points Too Many?

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. 11 million is way to much in an unsecured saving account
    My friend got shut down with 6 million and amex has taken away all his points savings

  2. If all of those points were transferred into Delta Airlines they might be able to get one economy ticket to Europe.

  3. I’ve got about 5M points, and I travel full time. Hotels every night, flights every week (generally F). I earn about 80% of the points back as fast as I go.

    So, the points are only bleeding off slowly.

    If I had 11M points, I honestly would have a hard time spending them all. In fact, I don’t think I physically could. Unless I was doing frivolous travel like Emirates F, paid, back and forth between NA and DXB. Or something just like that.

    But, I am proof that 4M points, with 2M+ earning a year, means you can travel full time (with a fiancé!) for free….

  4. Assuming it takes around 10 years to accumulate 11 million AmEx points, if the person had systematically transferred these at for 1.25 cents each through the Schwab Platinum option, into a basic S&P 500 fund (which averaged 13.6% gain per year for the past decade), these points after compounding would be worth somewhere in the ballpark of a half million dollars cash. Even if these points are transferred to a travel partners at ideal redemption levels, it wouldn’t be worth much more than a half million dollars in travel. But who would even need a bank of $500k potential travel credits anyway? It will presumably take many years to burn through that amount of miles, while in the meantime cash rates are currently rather low and various transfer partners devalue their points/miles like clockwork. I’d much rather have $500k cash (and growing) right now than the mere potential to book $500k in travel (and constantly devaluing) some time in the future. I don’t understand the rational for hoarding the points.

  5. I knew a guy who had several businesses over the years and would put most of his expenses on his Amex business card and had something like 30,000,000+ points. He would just use them on Southwest flights to FL (his 2nd home). I’m not even sure if he knew how to transfer them to an airline for a business/first class flight internationally.

    Of course it didn’t matter much to him. He spent a lot of time wanting to talk to me about all of his homes and, at that time, his recent purchase of a Ferrari.

  6. The wife and I are sitting on almost 26M MR points now (me 19.5M and her 6M+) as well as 10M Chase UR this does not include any airline or hotel (another 10M + (Hyatt, Hilton, AA, Cap One, Marriott, Flying Blue)…. all in 45M +/- .. which I would easily value at $1M plus in travel benefits.. ($25K /1M points)

    We easily earn 7-9M annually and use about 50%-75% of that in a normal year… we traveled quite a bit in 2020 but kept it to Mexico and in the US. So a lot of Southwest flights (Mexico, Vegas, etc…)

    not all travel is in points though.. some hotel spend based on promotions…

    This past August we booked a Hyatt villa in Mexico and paid $10K but earned nearly 500K points based on the promo at the time…. I value Hyatt points at greater than 2 cents.. so stay was a wash with points earned.

    I get the hoarding bit.. but with our last kid is heading to college this fall… we become empty nesters.. we only fly biz or 1st class on international.. I’ve actually started using the MR to book the flights we want (vs the points awards with mediocre dates and times) and get the 35% AMEX discount back (we’ve got 2 AMEX Biz cards so we can max out the rebate at 1M points back).. burn rate will jump as we travel more in 2021/22.

    Will likely transfer points into kids mileage accounts as they are already 2nd cardholders.. my older son uses the points to travel while he is in college…

  7. My wife had AmEx Plat and used it to buy everything for business (~40 ppl engineering company). Had about 1.6 M AmEx “membership rewards” points. When she sold the business, she closed the $450/yr card, and within a month, AmEx grabbed the points and never gave them back. 🙁

  8. While I’d be twitchy about massing most of my points in a single program, 11 million MR points would make for a very pleasant retirement. It’d be a ton of fun to figure out how to reasonably maximize redemptions for a decade or two.

  9. The Berlin Brandenburg Airport utterly destroys the myth of German superiority in engineering. Truly a national embarassment.

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