Monday, 24 September 2012

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Paying with Points

I guess summer is over now. Despite the fact that we're still caught in a streak of scorching hot weather (which isn't helping our forest fire situation any), the calendar now officially reads fall, and with the first couple of weeks of the new school year behind us, that means it's time for me to start looking at possible destinations for our Christmas vacation. So far I've priced out trips to the Bahamas, Maui, Barcelona, and the south coast of Australia. If you've seen my bank balance, it should be obvious by now that I still believe in Santa Claus.

Unfortunately, Santa doesn't come around much anymore. Sure he made an appearance a couple of years ago in the form of Expedia handing out free Christmas vacations, but last year he skipped our house (I suspect he read about my stretching the truth at hotel check-in and put us on the naughty list) so we were left to fend for ourselves. This year I don't see a return to the nice list as imminent (for reasons that I choose not to disclose here), so we're making our own plans. Unfortunately, flights and hotels in tropical destinations are way out of our budget during the Christmas season, which means that if I want to make this happen, I'm going to have to spend some of my beloved points.

This most likely wouldn't be a big deal for most people, but my points totals are a source of pride for me, probably because I'm far better at taking care of my points than I am my money. I just seem to be able to control my points better. My car has never broken down and wiped out my stockpile of Hyatt points. Lori has never come home from the mall and informed me that she spent a few more Alaska airmiles than she meant to, although she has come home a few times and confessed to earning more than originally intended. The church doesn't want 10% of my miles, and the Canadian government doesn't even seem interested in what is really my sole claim to any source of wealth. My points are like my own little stash of money that nobody else needs (or wants) to have access to.

That's probably why I have such a hard time spending them. I long ago got used to seeing the occasional negative sign in front of my bank balance, but my heart breaks just a little every time one of my mileage balances approaches the zero mark. I'm insanely jealous of my American friends who can restock any mileage plan they choose by simply opening a new credit card, but I've had to earn my points the old fashioned way. The way of our ancestors. I had to hotel hop.

Still, if spending a few of these points is what it's going to take to make this vacation happen, then I guess I'll have to do it. Miles are like money in that having them is great, but the real enjoyment comes in spending them. Just know that while my family is enjoying their "free" vacation, I'll be cringing a little bit inside knowing that my points balances have plummeted and it's going to take a little time to get them back up, even if Lori does charge everything more expensive than a Churro to our credit card. No point charging Churros though. Despite my brilliant arguments, our bank still refuses to recognize Churros as a necessary grocery item, thus qualifying them for double points. No wonder people say the banks are out of touch.

Written by Steve Pratt