I’m a firm believer of the fact that miles and points can defray the cost of tralternateavel for most of us, not just to the extent of bringing the cost down but sometimes also travelling in luxury. Premium Cabins, luxury hotels, the whole 9 yards. These could be trips of a lifetime, or these could be just the average long weekend trips, or just a last minute work trip where airfares are high as well. I’d like to repeat here, that travel is not free, regardless of what someone makes you believe, but you don’t have to pay top dollar to get top-dollar experiences, that I can vouch for.
In 2014, when I had to propose to Shipra, we flew on a secret sortie to Paris to make it happen. Tickets were paid for but premium cabin upgrades and peak summer stays were all thanks to miles & points and everything in between. Heck, the hotels even threw in champagne (the real thing, not sparkling wine!) and macaroons sometimes.
In 2015, when Shipra & I got married, we took a short honeymoon at the 800-1000$ a night Park Hyatt Maldives. We then progressed on to a longish trip covering Bora Bora, Los Angeles, New Years at New York and travelled in the fabled Singapore Suites and Etihad Apartments. That trip would have been worth over INR 50 Lakhs, but for the points!
In 2016, we were able to work out a longish trip to Australia, yet again, travelling in Etihad’s First Apartments and staying at plush luxury hotels such as the Park Hyatt Sydney over New Years, which would usually go for $1000-$1300 a night during the Holiday season. Yet again, a trip of a lifetime and a trip we thoroughly enjoyed. Yes, money was spent, but it was spent on meals and cars, not on stays largely.
People frequently complain that Indian users don’t have the same opportunity as the Americans in earning miles and points. I usually have to remind them that nowhere in the world do people have that opportunity apart from the US of A. Having said that, once the belief in miles & points gets better and people start accumulating more and spending more of these alternative currencies, that should definitely encourage the card issuers to also make stakes higher. It is a good time to be earning miles in India.
Having said that, I wanted to just recap my points & miles haul for 2016, which should amply be able to demonstrate that it is not difficult to be a mileage millionaire in India as well. And you could be earning more than enough miles if you did the right things.
First up, I’ve change things slightly to move to depicting Mileage Earning for both Shipra and myself. Why do that? Because hey, the both of us contribute to our home, and both of us work. And sometimes it works out better to be spending on her cards than my own. Eventually, we are using miles from both of our accounts, so this is how we show it.
Where did we earn and how?
Essentially, I had to cull through all our travel statements over the past year to be able to tabulate the details. This was important for us to know about where were we earning as well. That takes time and hence we publish the output in March every year rather than before. It turns out, between Shipra and myself, we earned well over 1.25 Million miles and points last year.
These include miles & points in Airline programs, from our travel (stays), from credit card based spending and other miscellaneous stuff such as shopping, service recovery credits and so on. Like you’d see, we have a strong preference for spending on Credit Cards. Could work for everyone now that Cashless is king!
After all, I may not be on a flight everyday or in a hotel every day, but I’m definitely spending money on my credit cards most days, right? The logical question to ask is how did we earn them as well?
This is how they were earned. You’d see, only about 7% from real flying. 42% from Spending, and another 39% from bonuses (included from credit card bonuses, promotional bonuses such as Hyatt 5K and so on). Things do go wrong when you spend time on the road, so 6% from service recovery when airlines or hotels want to pacify you, such as in this case. The best way to read these numbers is not to try and compare them with the chart above.
But which programs do we like?
Miles and points is a passion where you need to diversify and concentrate at the same time. Diversify because you should not have all your eggs in the same basket (it won’t serve your purpose all the time, and if a devaluation hits, you’re fully doomed!). Concentrate because your points are going to be good for nothing if the points value is too small. For instance, if you earned 250 JPMiles, 500 Hilton Honors and 350 Etihad miles on a trip, they won’t be good for much. But if you put all of those in your JPMiles account, we are talking maybe a 1000 JPMiles and that is 1/5th of the way for a free flight between Mumbai and Goa.
Since this is the split of all the miles we’ve earned in 2016, you’d not get a full picture of our miles and points stack. Having said that, we continue to lean towards earning JPMiles for our spends, apart from Diners Club and Citi Prestige points as well. Air India was 12% of last year’s earning stash but now that I’ve cancelled my AI SBI Card, maybe it collapses next year. IHG, Etihad, BA are all other favourite programs as well. You don’t see much earnings on Hyatt last year for us, because we focused a lot on redemption spends rather than earnings! What to do, you earn, and then you burn at some point of time as well!
That is about how Shipra and I minted over 1.25 million miles last year. I’m sure we passed on some opportunities and we made good with some others. This is a brief insight, but I’m happy to answer questions on specifics in the comments section as well.
I’m keen to also hear your experiences about your mileage earning endeavors in 2016. You could share those with us here, or email me at ajay at livefromalounge dot com as well!