On my mind: Coronavirus, points and miles

Last weekend, I presented at the Travel & Adventure Show in Washington DC and Nick presented at FTU (Frequent Traveler University).  Going into the weekend I was surprised that the show and the FTU conference hadn’t been cancelled.  After all, thanks to the Coronavirus, conferences were being cancelled left and right around the nation.  Even South by Southwest was cancelled.

I figured that FTU would have decent attendance since people had paid up to $129, but I thought the much cheaper Travel & Adventure Show would be a ghost town.  This was not the time to expect people to show up for a travel show.

I was wrong.

As you can see in the photo at the top of this post, my talk was packed.  The same was true for most of the talks on that stage on Saturday.  We also had a small booth at the show where a steady stream of people came to learn about Frequent Miler and to grab some FM swag.  The show was less crowded on Sunday, but my guess is that people tend to show up more on Saturdays in general.

So, despite Coronavirus fears, people seem to still be interested in travel.  Or, at least, they’re still interested in points and miles.  That’s good for this blog, of course.  Regardless, we’ll keep plugging away with posts, videos, and podcasts.  And I have a feeling that there will be exciting new developments to write about and talk about soon.

Earn now.  Burn later.

There are two reasons that now may be a bad time to burn through your points and miles.  One is obviously that you may not want to travel during the Coronavirus scare.  Even those who aren’t scared of the virus at all may be reasonably worried about ending up in a quarantine situation.  The second reason that now may be a bad time to burn through points is that you are likely to find incredible cash deals for travel.  Points are usually best used when cash prices are relatively high compared to point prices.

This line of thought has led me to the conclusion that this is a great time to focus on earning…

Earn points & miles

Credit card offers continue to be the best way to earn points and miles quickly.  If you’re staying home from traveling, this is a great time to focus on your next set of credit card bonuses instead.

Additionally, I’m betting that we’ll soon see bigger than usual promotions.  Travel providers will not only lower prices but may also throw in big point bonuses to try to incentivize us to travel.  If the travel slump leads to a general recession we’re similarly likely to see big portal bonuses from retailers and maybe some big spend bonuses from credit card issuers.

Earn elite status…

A travel slump may also lead to better opportunities to earn high level elite status.  We’ve already seen Alaska offering 50% more elite qualifying miles.  I expect that we’ll see even more attractive incentives soon.  We’ll probably similarly see hotels offer double elite nights.  I also expect to see more public status challenge opportunities.  If these deals are accompanied by especially low prices and larger than usual bonus points, we may return to the days where it made sense to mileage run (fly for the sake of earning miles and status) and mattress run (check into hotels for the purpose of earning points and status).

How this affects me…

My wife and I already had to cancel a trip to Singapore because the meeting she had been invited to was cancelled.  Instead we vacationed in California at Carmel Valley Ranch and Ventana Big Sur.  The former was excellent, and the latter was magical.  As an added bonus, I earned 7 Hyatt elite nights.  In total so far this year I’ve earned 13 elite nights from stays.  My goal is to earn top-tier Globalist status this year (requiring 60 nights) and every bit helps.  While I’ll be able to spend my way to status with the World of Hyatt credit card, it’s more fun to earn status through actual stays.  If I’m lucky, Hyatt will offer promotions that will make it cheaper and more rewarding to earn nights through stays.  We’ll see.

I’ve been less excited about Marriott status lately.  The latest big devaluation hurt (see my rant at the bottom of this post).  I currently have 75 night Titanium status, but its very unlikely that I’ll get there again.  In fact it’s going to be tough just to make it to 50 night Platinum status unless Marriott offers some great promotions (how about triple elite nights Marriott?).  If I don’t get to Platinum I expect that Marriott will give me a soft landing from Titanium to Platinum, so that’s OK.  Platinum status is usually good enough.  I’m not happy about giving up United Silver status, though.  I currently have United Silver status thanks to having Marriott Titanium status (details here).

With regards to airline elite status, I’m already well on my way to re-securing Delta Diamond status through credit card spend (see: Manufacturing Delta elite status in 2020 and beyond).  Next I’ll have to decide if it makes any sense to use that status to status match to Alaska MVP Gold.  I think I’ll wait until next year.  MVP Gold status should give me benefits on all OneWorld flights starting in the summer of 2021.  This is what Alaska Airlines published about this topic:

Starting Summer 2021:
•  Earn and redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles on all oneworld airlines.
•  Alaska elites will enjoy privileges, including priority boarding, premium seating, baggage benefits and more when you fly on American Airlines or any oneworld airline.
•  Access 650 lounges within the oneworld network as an MVP Gold or Gold 75K member.

If premium flight prices drop far enough, I may be able to easily earn United status through partner flights.  See this post by Live and Let’s Fly to see why this is a reasonable strategy.

OK, so I just went on a big elite status tangent — let’s get back to travel…

My wife and I have lots of travel tentatively planned for the next few months.  At this point we’re just waiting to see what happens next.  Some of the travel is driven by meetings and conferences.  We’ll cancel only if they cancel.  I think that our personal travel plans (both within the US and to Europe) are safe, but if something serious develops in those destinations we’ll rethink our plans.

I’ll also keep my eye out for opportunities.  Our personal trip to Europe was booked in business class with miles.  If premium cabin cash prices drop far enough, it may make sense to cancel those award flights in favor of cash bookings.  That way we’ll earn miles for those flights and perhaps elite status as well.

How this affects the blog…

For the most part, things are business as usual for us, but with one big exception…

We’ve been planning to do a new challenge like the 40K to Far Away Challenge.  We’ve been digging through reader suggestions and designing a challenge that we think will be even more fun and exciting than the previous one.  And we were hoping to kick it off soon.  Unfortunately, the Coronavirus has put our plans on hold.  We need to wait and see how this plays out before settling on dates and picking destinations.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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JB SanDiego
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JB SanDiego

U mention about bigger card bonuses. Do u know anything about airlines pre-selling miles to credit card partners the way airlines did during the Great Recession? What does this even mean?

How does today situation compare to the Great Recession in terms of getting bigger credit card sign up bonuses and how much will airlines drop the cost of award flights. I already see that Delta is now showing 75Kmiles instead of 80Kmiles to AMS from San Diego starting from July all the way to February 2021?

Should we wait before signing up for a new card from any bank?

Are we going to see ridiculous business class cash prices to Europe for the coming months and into next year?

Dee
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Dee

I thought about cancelling my trip to FTU last weekend, but decided it was the last outing until we see how things shake out with COVID-19. I was super careful: didn’t take any swag/paper/brochures, opened doors with a paper towel, didn’t shake hands, etc. I traveled Amtrak in my own compartment, which I wiped down thoroughly. Same with my hotel room.

I’m in the high(er) risk group (over 60, auto-immune disorder, asthma), so I need to take this seriously. I really don’t want to infect my 100-yr-old mother either. My son and his partner were supposed to come to an international conference in our city this month, but that’s has been cancelled. My husband and I cancelled plans for local large group events in the next few weeks. We have several spring and summer trips planned, but will decide for each when the time comes.

There are no confirmed cases on our side of the state… yet. We lived on the Connecticut coast until 5 years ago. It feels like when we waited for hurricanes to hit, except this could be a months-long storm while we avoid exposure.

As I was leaving for the conference, my husband said my focus should be on figuring out how to MS without leaving home. Maybe that’s the project while being stuck at home. If I can’t, I might have to come to terms with letting some spend bonuses go. Running around to multiple grocery stores to liquidate VGCs will soon be a bad idea, if it isn’t already.

Captain Greg
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Captain Greg

I agree with “earn now, burn later” except with regards to Hyatt because they are going to dynamic pricing soon. I’m speculatively booking all the Hyatt’s I can think of into the future and can just cancel if it doesn’t work out.

Super excited to hear about the next FM challenge!!

William
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William

Greg, before you get to confident you should take 15 minutes and listen to the start of this conversation between Joe Rogan and Michael Osterholm, a highly respected epidemiologist. The conversation took place within the last few days and in that first 15 minutes he speaks on what to expect from corona-virus. Just to give you an idea. They expect 96 million people to get sick, 45 million people to need beds and over 450k people to die IN THE NEXT 3-7 months. Hospitals in Italy are having to chose who they let die and also many people in Italy getting sick are in their 40s. It sounds extreme but he said it out of his mouth and you can decide for yourself if he sounds competent. I just want you and your family to be safe.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3URhJx0NSw&t=1869s

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

William
Lots of people are respected and lots of people are wrong too . So u should sell the Market Short I just went LONG !!!
LOL
CHEERs

rich
Guest
rich

Everyone has a different opinion on the traveling. The one thing to really consider is family. You may be young, or willing to take a chance but if you end up bringing it back even though you weren’t showing any symptoms and pass it on to an older relative or someone with an existing condition, that would be a terrible feeling IMO.

It isn’t the flu, it is more serious although many people recover from it or only have minor issues from it.

I was hoping to head back east for a vacation and visit family but for now, I’m putting it off since I think airports/airplanes are high risk areas and I don’t want to get my 80+ yr old father sick.

In NY they were describing how 1 50 yr old man transmitted it to at least 50 people. People’s carelessness can cause significant problems for others. Ben, over at OMAAT was talking about a trip he may be taking with his mother (recently finished chemotherapy) and that seemed crazy to me. He was talking about taking precautions and washing hands frequently but how does that help if someone happens to sneeze near you? Especially someone was a weaker immune system.

I’m still going out locally (restaurants and the like) and haven’t seen a big decline here (prime tourist season in Scottsdale with spring training ongoing) even though this area has the age group most likely to get hit hard (tons over retirees).

Jon
Guest
Jon

Since you write for a living, it would be good if you used the words “effect” and “affect” correctly. The things you discuss affect you and affect the blog, meaning that they impact you and the blog. I’d be interested in hearing about what effected the blog but that happened a while ago, before you started writing it. Thanks!

wise2u
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wise2u

anyone who would risk their health (or pay $129+) to listen to credit card and loyalty program schemes needs to take the Wuhan China challenge/mattress run…..the idea is to go to Wuhan, lick a yak, and return for less than 200k points…..who is ready?!?!?!

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

Highly recommend a protocol called “social distancing” if you want to contribute to flattening the curve on this pandemic. That is what EVERYONE should be doing until testing becomes available to find out how many time bombs we have walking among us

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[…] the Points has 2 articles HERE and HERE. Check out Frequent Miler’s take of the situation HERE. One Mile At A Time offers essential travel information HERE. Richard Kerr’s piece HERE […]