Two Recent Reader Emails that Touched Me

Columnist Christopher Elliott has been trashing miles and points, and also business travelers.

As he describes it on twitter,

@garyleff just a quiet morning back home, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

Tell that to reader Cheryl W. who emails,

I have been an avid reader of your blog for about a year and I was fanagaling (yiddish) frequent flier points to work to my advantage before I read your blog.

I wanted to thank you for continuously writing about frequent fliers. I was shocked and amused to read about what Christopher Elliott was writing.

Though I am aware your blog is targeted to business travelers, as a person with a low income I have put your informative blog to better personal use. I am a teacher and my husband is currently unemployed. We both are far over-educated for our current positions, and have been able to use your information to turn our daily purchases into well planned travel.

Our honeymoon flight last year was purchased completely with points, and we even got some of our hotel rooms with points. Though we don’t aim to be low-income forever, your blog has enabled us to keep our spirits high by traveling despite the economic downturn…

So, if Mr. Elliot is unaware, frequent flier points can help keep spirits high, when purchases need to be made without cash one way or another!

Meanwhile reader Gavin e-mailed after Hurricane Sandy.

The purpose of this email is to really convey my heartfelt thanks for your blog. I am based in NYC and thanks to your constant blogging, I have managed to spend 2 nights in heat and in warmth for free by applying for the Chase Hyatt card which would have otherwise set me back at $399 plus tax per night.

I wouldn’t consider myself a novice at the mileage game since I’ve been tracking credit card deals since 2004 but coming across your blog has certainly given me more perks than what I would have on my own (for example Le Club platinum status which gave me a free breakfast and a 4 pm late checkout in Greece this summer).

And emails like these are what makes these ten years I’ve been blogging worthwhile.

So to Gavin, to Cheryl, and to the rest of you who read my little corner of the interweb, thank you!

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. They are fabulous e-mails and full credit to the work you are doing with that website.

    I can particularly relate to the e-mail from Cheryl since I’ll be going on honeymoon next year and I’m trying to figure out what my points will get us.

  2. Well Gary. I briefly read over this cranky-pants articles. Eh, he seems like he needs to take a contrarian stance to get noticed. I’ve been in the game about 2 years now. And miles and points have been IMMENSELY helpful.

    My husbands grandmother will probably pass away in the next 24 hours. I did some quick research on reward flight availability 3-8 days from now. Thanks to Avios and Southwest points, there will be no problem getting to her funeral. What a relief to tell family not to worry about the oldest grandson in grad school. We will be there.

    When my grandmother passed away last year I spent 5 wonderful days with her just before she died. Thanks to American Airlines. Upcoming weddings? Yeah I’ve got points for those too.

  3. Gary,

    This made me realize just how much value I’ve gained from reading this blog, without ever having given you a proper thanks.

    I don’t have much time to watch FT like a hawk or read through the numerous publications, so I turn to this blog as my one-stop source of news. Without it, I wouldn’t have:

    – Gotten free breakfasts, upgrades and wifi access dozens of times from the free Hilton Gold promo you posted a while back.
    – Paid $80/night for two weekend nights at the Radisson Blu Aqua with the CC BOGO promo
    – Gotten 48K Wyndham points with the recent 16K promo for $160 all-in, netting me the 22.5K US Air miles I needed to top off and book our upcoming trip to Tokyo.
    – (In progress) hoping to get domestic lounge access for free by having TK match my US status for *A gold.

    I’m sure there are many more that I’ve forgotten, but I hope that in the future, I don’t forget to give you the huge thanks that you deserve.

    THANK YOU, Gary!

  4. Having travelled to all 50 states, most territories, and 114 countries while commuting monthly to Hawaii or Florida I can assure you that using frequent flyer miles for free or reduced travel is all just an urban myth. And youth group leaders using said miles to transport parties of youth around the world to dive, dogsled, ride horses, canoe, camp, hike and see the wonders of the world is just another urban myth. This stuff just never happens.

  5. AlohaDaveKennedy I am a little confused by your comments. I’ve been a frequent traveller for over a decade and often used frequent flyer miles for long distance holidays. Is the taxes payable which you are questioning?

  6. Today, I just realized that I’ve somehow accumulated a few thousand Bank of America WorldPoints and naturally came to this blog to find out the best way to use them. Seeing this piece and the comments above made me realize how selfish I have been to never thank you for all you do, Gary. I also don’t have time to avidly read Flyer Talk or Milepoint but thanks to you I stay up to date on the frequent flyer world. So thank you, thank you, thank you!

  7. @The Guy- I think @ADK was being facetious. If not, I’m confused also!

    Gary- I’m still trying to figure out Elliot’s motives, because what he writes about this “hobby” is just so out of touch with reality. The only upside, sadly for them, is that those that read and follow his column will not be vying for the same seats, rooms, or cars that us in the “hobby” are searching for.

    Great blog, and always has been, thanks!

  8. I too am truly baffled – I mean, I understand “hating the system,” but it is what it is. To not participate in the system is just ridiculous – whether you game it to the limit like Gary or just use it to get free economy plus seats because you travel 50k a year is not relevant.

    I am sure Elliot is trying to get clicks, and that’s fine. It is a tried-and-true web technique: write something ridiculous, shows up on HuffPo or whatever, pay the bills that month.

    However, arguing that a frequent flyer who would have status on an airline should forgo those benefits to send some unknown message is insane. I guess the guy never flies? I fly all the time and I want to get home to my wife and kids. Status is the one thing that makes traveling not suck, and he argues giving that up. I’d gladly invite him to wait 90 minutes in the TSA line at my home airport of San Diego while I breeze through the priority line. That will really show those terrible airlines who is in charge!!

    Anyway, the philosophical argument might be interesting but to advocate leaving the system is just plain crazy.

  9. Gary, I second the above. Your blog is one of the best resources around, and I also appreciate your writing style. Thank you for everything you do, your work is very appreciated

  10. For the most part, I like Chris’s work as a consumer advocate. He *does* help some people that actually need it. Heck, I even appreciate his TSA rants — someone has to keep them in line.

    But his FF rants cross into tabloid journalism, and that really detracts from his brand. He has plenty of contempt for FT (some of it deserved) but his bashing of the FF programs is uncalled for.

    In fall of 2013, the wife and I are headed to Europe. RT J tickets out of IAD to Western Europe, and 24 nights in hotels all free on points. So Chris can suck it.

  11. Gary: One word. Thank You!! I came to your blog in 2011 from Chris Guillebeau’s blog and since then I have become Avid Traveler using Miles and Points. Keep up the Spirit 🙂

  12. Elliott is bonkers. I’m a .gov employee and my state has frozen wages for the last several years. We love to travel, but budgeting for it would be tough were it not for miles/points and resources like your blog. The “useless” FF programs have allowed my wife and I to take one business class TATL trip a year for the past three years. My hobby effectively adds $3-5K to my income every year. Nuts to you Elliott.

  13. For those who are baffled by Chris Elliot’s ranting and raving, what part of Populist Demagoguery don’t you understand?

    {When reading the following, please understand this is not about “politics”. I am a lifelong Democrat. But a JFK conservative Democrat, not a “Progressive”}

    Obama just got re-elected using this stance ie demonizing the banks while having a large number of his administration come from Goldman Sacks; receiving more campaign cash from Wall Street firms than any other politician in US history; publicly condemning the Oil Companies despite this fact: “Obama has been the largest beneficiary of BP money in the last 20 years”; continually trash talking the “1 %”, despite his UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s net worth of around $30 Million, and holding private fundraisers at Billionaire Gordon Getty’s mansion in San Francisco’s elite Nob Hill. Michael Moore has turned his condemnation of Capitalism into a net worth of over $50 million. Al Gore left office with a net worth of 1 or 2 million, but after 10 years of campainging against “climate change”, he is now worth over $100 Million.

    If you are both articulate and lazy, joining this crusade against “the evil corporations and 1 %ers”, and pledging dedication to “helping out the ‘little guy'” can be a quick and easy way to become very wealthy without really having to work. Chris Elliott just wants to get his piece of the action.

  14. When I first found Gary’s blog a few years ago, I had maybe 70K American miles, and no hotel points. My wife and I being retired and of only moderate means, I didn’t expect that to change. Especially since we do not wish to do mileage or mattress runs.

    Following what I learned from Gary, later supplemented by a few others, we have now flown to London non-stop FC on an AA 777 for the last 3 years. We already have FC award tickets on AA booked for summer 2013, and enough miles left in our accounts to go TA FC twice more.

    In Europe last summer we stayed 5 nights in an upgraded Hilton room in Paris with free breakfast and internet, 4 nights in an upgraded room in the Doubletree in Amsterdam, 3 nights in a Crowne Plaza suite retailing for $500 a night in Bruges, 4 nights in a Marriott Courtyard in Berlin, and 2 nights in a Courtyard in Prague…all free, booked exclusively on points and certificates. We have now acculated enough additional points to do something similar this coming summer.

    So I just laugh when people try to tell me award programs are a scam.

    If I were to list the top 10 people who have contributed the most to my life, including my parents and my wife, Gary is on that list. Thank You so very much….

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