Miles and Points Are Not Aspirational Travel, They’re Freedom

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What do you use your miles and points for? Aspirational travel or freedom?

When people talk about miles and points it’s always aspirational travel they’re referring to. Places on your bucket list. Travel to Australia. Travel to the Maldives. Travel to Bora Bora. Trips to Hawaii. Trips to the Caribbean. We use miles and points for dreams, hopes, vacations.

A Lufthansa First Class seat for $40, flying to Australia in First Class, or having Dandan noodles and getting a free massage at The Pier, the Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge.

How to the get the most value from our miles and points from cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and the Ink Business Preferred.

That’s what most people think about when they talk about miles and points.

But it’s so much more than that.

Miles and Points Are Not Aspirational Travel, They’re Freedom

Miles and points are not just about aspirational travel. Miles and points give you freedom.

The freedom to do what you want, when you want.

Sure, I’ve used miles and points for plenty of aspirational trips. I’ve been to the Maldives. I’ve been to Australia three times. I’ve flown Etihad First Class many times and took a shower on the plane. We go to Hawaii every year. 

All for free. Paid for with points and miles.

Miles and Points Change Your World

But miles and points and points also made other things possible.

Miles and points let me take my mom on a cruise before she passed away.

They’ve made it possible for me to attend many funerals and several weddings.

Most recently, miles and points let me be there for the last hour of my aunt’s life. We all know how expensive it is to buy a last-minute ticket. Without miles and points, this wouldn’t have been possible.

Did I care that I was using miles for a domestic coach ticket instead of an around the world ticket? Nope, because it meant I could be where I wanted and needed to be. And happened to luck out because Lexington was a reduced mileage award city.

Earn and Burn or Hoard

Some people follow in the “earn and burn” miles and points strategy. Collecting enough miles for an upcoming trip and then immediately redeeming them. So that their mile and point balances are zero or close to it.

I believe in keeping a stash. Some may call it hoarding miles. I call it my just in case fund.

Just enough miles to get me and my family anywhere we need to go in case of an emergency.

Miles and Points Are a Currency

Because miles are a currency.

They are a way for me (and you) to do exactly what we want when we want, when we need, and how we want.

Like any currency, they can get devalued. You want to keep a large enough points stash to do what you want. But not too large that it becomes useless.

Because you’ll never know when you’ll need them.

Unlike most currencies, miles and points don’t have a fixed value. Sure, some bloggers like to assign a value to miles and points. But that’s subjective.

They are worth how valuable they are to you. 

If you earn lots of miles and points through credit card bonuses or creative spending then the value you get will be different than someone who struggles to earn as much. You may prefer to fly in First Class or Business Class and would never redeem miles for an economy ticket. Or as Ray, my friend Tammy’s husband, calls is “gen pop.”

But for someone who has a family and can only earn a limited amount of miles and points or want to use them to take more trips, it makes more sense to fly in coach.

That last-minute ticket to Lexington would have cost $758. But I used 17,500 miles. When put into common travel hacking values, the miles were worth 4.3 cents each ($758 ÷ 17,500). 

But like the Mastercard commercial, they were priceless. 


Miles and points give you freedom. And that’s what I hope miles and points do you for you.

Give you freedom to travel. To spend time with family and loved ones. To do what you want, when you want. Be the person you’d like to be. Have the travel life you want to live.

Miles and points make that possible.

That’s why traveling using miles and points is about freedom, not aspirational travel. 

Use your miles points how you want regardless if you’re getting the most best redemption. Because in the end, it’s all about what matters most to you. 

How do you use your miles and points? Do you earn and burn? Think of them as a currency? Do you stockpile them for retirement or a much later date?

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Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for beginning travel hackers. It is the first card you should get to start traveling for free because the welcome offer is 60,000 points (after spending $4,000 in the first three months).
My favorite perks about this card are earning 2X points on travel and dining, no foreign transaction fees, and transferring points to 13 airline and hotel partners like Hyatt, United, and Southwest.

Debra Schroeder

Debra is a former 12-year travel industry executive and has traveled the world using airline miles and credit card points since 1994. She'll teach you the secrets of traveling well for less.

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  • The below responses 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.
  • Eric Gamble August 31, 2019 at 9:21 am

    So I am very very torn by this post Debra because I am 100% against all Credit Cards and Debt for anyone….EVER! This is because even though you said, “All for free. Paid for with points and miles” in regards to your points, that isn’t really true because you spent your hard earned money to earn those points. Now I don’t know your specific financial health but the reason why it always bothers me is because I was very very reckless with credit debt in my 20s. SO all those “Free Points” I earned also came with compounding interest that the credit card companies and blinding and training people to disregard in exchange for “free Points”. When I realized I had a problem that most Americans have, I quit it and paid them all off and got rid of them all.
    Now on too why I am so torn…I LOVE what you did with all of your Points! I love how you, unlike many people I know, USE your points to travel and see the world. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE that you took your Mom on a cruise and you took advantage of the opportunity and tools you had to create an amazing experience and memory with your mom that you will have forever. So I love that you found a tool that works for you.

    I know that many people play a points game with Gift Cards, and hacking purchase deals, and then some even pay off their entire debt every month and that is cool. I guess I just know too many people who don’t have that type of self control or devotion to the game (MYSELF INCLUDED). Keep up the good work and creating amazing memories!

  • Carol Colborn August 31, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    My husband uses points to pay for bills so that we can be free to buy whatever travel or whatever that we want. That’s freedom!

  • Tom September 2, 2019 at 5:05 am

    I’ve never used miles or points, they just don’t seem to be known about in the UK, but I met an American travel blogger and they were saying how much they travelled the world thanks to the miles and points they had racked up. It’s something I need to investigate a lot more.

  • Anda September 2, 2019 at 12:26 pm

    I wish I would agree with you on the miles part, Debbra, but I can’t. I used a credit card that gave me miles for years and years. Unfortunately, the options for buying plane tickets for miles were very limited. They only offered the worst possible connections, or red eye flights for people purchasing airfare with miles. I think the credit cards that give you a percentage back for the money you spend are better. I switched from getting 1 mile/dollar to a credit card that gives me 2% back on every dollar spent and the deal seems much better.

  • Indrani September 2, 2019 at 11:23 pm

    I have never used this program but my approach would be the same as yours. Stash them away so that you can use it to make that dream travel of in case of cash crunch.

  • Medha Verma September 3, 2019 at 1:05 am

    It’s so great that you were able to attend occasions and respond to emergencies with last minute ticket discounts because of your miles and points. It makes me question why I do not have a subscription to any airline loyalty program. I travel a lot and have been doing it for ten years but never bothered to buy membership for an airline! Maybe I should look into it.

  • Rosemary September 3, 2019 at 2:22 am

    I do think miles and points can offer freedom if done in a responsible manner. The risk of getting into credit card debt or negatively impacting one’s credit score with too many cards is high. However, if done in a smart way, like it sounds like you do, it can pay off in multiple ways. I use points for travel but not in any serious way. I’m in the earn and use camp. I think I need more education to learn how to build miles and points and use them like you do.

  • Suruchi September 3, 2019 at 9:49 am

    We don’t like using credits cards and have neither used this program earlier. But it does look interesting. We are surely going to research more on this and can check if we can enroll for it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kamree September 3, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    Miles and Points are a lifesavers! Finding the right card for rewards can be tricky, but definitely worth it if you know how to use it properly! xo – Kam

  • Nicole LaBarge September 3, 2019 at 10:09 pm

    I keep reading your posts about miles and I really should get started. I can’t imagine flying Lufthansa for $40. I do love my business class.

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