Why I'm Cutting Back On Chasing Frequent Flier Miles

Becoming estranged from "The Hobby"


Manufactured spend. Churning cards. Sign up for X card for Y bonus miles. The game of leveraging mileage earn and using miles is known as "The Hobby" to travel hackers worldwide. Countless travel blogs will cite card deals or best cards to sign up for (that they usually get an affiliate cut from) or ways to fake spend to meet card spend minimums for miles, promote mileage buying deals, etc. etc. For the past two years I've drank the Kool-Aid the Hobby is often serving and while it did get me a reduced cost trip to England and a few other places, it also helped put me into $20k of credit debt.

The Promise

It sounds almost too good to be true right? If you use this one credit card you'll get 30-60k bonus miles! Hey, you're already or almost towards a business class one way reward so keep going! Do this mileage run and get 1500 miles! Using this card and this shopping portal to get 2x miles for every dollar you spend. Buy some miles at a discount! Man, it almost seems like earning all these miles for that dream trip is just so easy, right? It's free miles! Except, it really isn't. While being so narrow-focused on earning six figure mileage amounts, it's easy to forget how much you're likely actually spending to pursue this goal. 

The Thrill

Seeing my SkyMiles account fill with 60,000 bonus miles was an absolute joy. So much that I ignored the fact that I had to spend $1k to qualify. And then keep spending to get to any sort of worthwhile award amount because flying wasn't enough. Delta is revenue based, meaning flight longer distances to accrue miles doesn't cut it. Virgin America was the same (but with a better earn and better award chart.) The thrill of earning miles blinded me to the fact that I was spending a lot to get there, and making the terrible mistake of spending when I couldn't pay my cards down within the next statement period. But hey, it meant I could fly to places for nearly free or buy an award ticket for a friend, so surely it was worth it?

The Crashing Aftermath

Yes and no. I'm glad I was able to use the money and miles I sank into my Delta Gold Card to fly my BFF to Germany and she got to experience international travel for the first time and go on a vacation together. I'm glad I was able to experience Virgin Upper Class award space on my first trip to England. But this did not come free and this habit of pursuing The Hobby in a stupid and reckless way has put me into credit card debt far more than I am comfortable with. I think there's such a zeal at times with bloggers to only highlight the fun of this lifestyle that people forget to talk about its dark side and how it can be really dangerous to people with poor impulse control or who aren't thinking long-term (hello, me.) 

That being said, so much of this is directly my fault, not other bloggers. And that's why I'm giving up actively chasing miles and signing up for credit deals and trying to game my way into more miles. For me it's just become this awful money sink and I didn't have the foresight or control to pay better attention to how it impacted my finances. 

If I happen to earn enough miles through flying on trips I already have planned and can use them at some point? Awesome. That I'm okay with. But trying to find every trick and loophole to earn that will cost more money in the long run to do so? Pass. I'll enjoy the miles I earn flying on Alaska, which is still distance based, and hopefully get to use what I have before they experience any partner airline shake ups (which is rumored to be likely). But that's about it. With how award program and charts and mileage increases for awards keep going, it's becoming less worth it for me.

So this is where we break up, Hobby. Adieu.