Getting to the Point

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AUTHOR: Jonathan Clements on 6/20/2024

I’ve never been that diligent about pursuing frequent-flyer points, credit card rewards and other “freebies” for being a loyal customer. Still, it’s amazing how many of these programs I participate in, including four airlines, three hotel chains, a travel site, a cruise line, Amtrak, a rental car agency and four rewards credit cards, not to mention a local pizza joint.

And these are just the ones I pay attention to: I have a quarter-century-old address book listing all kinds of rewards programs that I no longer bother with. Can these rewards and points be inherited? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It all depends on the company involved.

As my cancer compels me to wind down my financial life, has all this been a waste of precious time? To be sure, I’ve enjoyed an occasional free hotel night, car rental and airline flight. Meanwhile, one of my credit cards has generated $470 in cash back so far this year, while another has garnered me $240. That isn’t exactly chump change.

On the other hand, all this involves a degree of mental effort. Which of my credit cards is offering 5% cash back at restaurants this quarter? Should I order flowers for my mother through the airline’s online mall to get a few frequent-flyer points, or should I go hunting online for a coupon? Should I book through the Marriott Bonvoy site to get rewards points, or does it make more sense to snag a cheaper room rate through one of the third-party travel sites?

There’s a certain gamesmanship involved with this, and no doubt many folks enjoy that. But what about the time expended? Is it worth it?

That, of course, is a question we each have to answer for ourselves. But if I were doing this all over again, I’d probably take the lean approach, using just one airline program, one hotel chain and one rewards credit card, knowing I might be leaving some dollars and rewards points on the table, but also knowing the extra time recouped was likely worth the price.

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