Credit Card Expert Roundup #36 - What do you say to friends and family members who are skeptical of the value of travel rewards credit cards?
Even though we are constantly being exposed to travel rewards cards through advertising, the media, and through our social media accounts, there are still skeptics out there when it comes to the huge value in carrying these cards. Everyone knows someone like this, even people who are in the credit card industry as a career. Jason Steele asks a panel of experts for this issue #36 how they address the concerns of people they know who devalue travel rewards credit cards:
"What do you say to friends and family members who are skeptical of the value of travel rewards credit cards?"
Andrew Schrage - CEO and co-owner of Money Crashers
I tell anyone that is skeptical of the value of travel reward credit cards that they are crazy. Travel reward credit cards far exceed any value you get from a cash back card or store loyalty card. For example, when you redeem your points for a business class flight or a hotel suite, you are getting many thousands of dollars in value to go along with an amazing experience you’ll never forget. Moreover, even if you don’t redeem your points for travel, your points or miles can be used to purchase gifts, gift cards, and often cash back as well.
Also, most of these points or miles will never expire as long as you have the card open, so you have plenty of flexibility not only how to use them, but when to use them. You can also use your rewards to book travel for friends and family. Forgoing a travel reward card will cause you to miss out on some great opportunities and experiences that would be very difficult to afford otherwise.
Eric Rosenberg - finance, travel, and technology writer in Ventura, California
I have run into several situations where friends or family have been skeptical and unsupportive when I have shared how I take free and discounted trips fueled by credit card rewards. At the end of the day, what's most important is that I understand how it all works. If someone refuses to accept and learn about how travel rewards work, they are the one losing out, not me!
However, if I am determined to show them the light, I usually let the numbers do the talking. Rather than use generalizations, I'll pull up my own credit card, airline, or hotel rewards account to show them exactly how it works. If you are squeamish about showing people under the hood of your financial accounts, you should share your AwardWallet, TripIt, or other rewards tracker to show off your six-figure point balance.
But if you can't convince someone else how great it is, you shouldn't worry too much. Outside of your spouse or domestic partner who you share finances with, it doesn't matter if someone else believes how great it is to earn and redeem travel reward. If you can snag that free plane ticket or hotel night for free or pennies on that dollar, that's what really matters.
Bill Hardekopf - CEO of www.LowCards.com
When you hear some of the lucrative offers for travel rewards credit cards, people can be skeptical. And I tell them they have a right to be skeptical because there is no such thing as a free lunch. There are positives and negatives to these cards and they should take time to assess whether the card is right for them. These cards usually have some extremely attractive introductory offers: a significant number of miles when you spend $X during the first three or four months, and possibly a special 0% APR for a certain number of months on purchases or balance transfers.
They may also have some very beneficial perks for the traveler such as free checked bags, access to airport lounges or a credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓. But these cards can also come with a higher annual fee and ongoing APR. Those "costs" have to be weighed against the attractive "benefits" to see which side wins out for that specific individual's needs. Considerations include their volume of travel, the amount charged on the card, and the expected rewards that could be earned. These cards are very attractive but, like any card, they are not for everyone. It becomes an individual choice that each consumer must make.
Andy Shuman - Blogger at www.lazytravelers.net and writer of the Lazy Traveler's Handbook series
Friends and relatives are the worst to deal with when it comes to this hobby. When you tell them how you jet the world for close to free, they just roll their eyes – if not to your face, then behind your back for sure.
It sounds strange because they know what I do and how I do it. They know I’m not lying about it, but something deep inside makes them “shut the door.” That doesn’t include my cousin; he’s often traversing the world with me, so he knows it’s serious. :)
Most people take the adage “if it sounds too good to be true it usually is” as absolute without realizing the qualifier “usually” is there for a reason.
People are also creatures of habit. They believe there is the way of doing things. Those who book travel via travel agents believe this is the best way. Those who book directly with an airline, hotel, or via OTAs are proud they’ve figured out how.
I was staying for free at a $500-a-night hotel once, and a guy next to me in the check-in line was bragging to his partner how he had saved $150 on a 3-night stay with a “secret” promo. He was proud of this skill and rightfully so. But I don’t think he would ever believe that he could’ve done better than that with rewards credit cards.
The idea of using credit cards for anything less straightforward than paying for goods and services scares people off. In addition, there are still a lot of myths and preconceived notions surrounding credit cards and credit score.
Which is why I all but quit trying to convince my friends and relatives about the virtues of travel rewards credit cards. Sometimes, they might ask me for a tip for a particular card or travel arrangement, but that’s about it.
Jason Steele - Credit card and points/travel rewards expert as well as Founder of CardCon
I’m always eager to explain how travel reward credit cards work, so long as the person I’m talking to wants to know. Nevertheless, I occasionally feel like kind of an outcast. I’m sometimes seen as that guy who’s obsessed with points and miles, and that it’s some sort of scam. These are people who will pay thousands of dollars to fly internationally economy class and book hotels with cash. I won’t try to convince these people of the value of credit card rewards, but I’ll just let my actions do the talking. When they see me and my family traveling the world in business class, for free, they may eventually conclude that it’s not a scam.
Greg Davis-Kean - Owner and Founder of The Frequent Miler
Skeptics see the rewards game as too good to be true. There must be a catch. I mean, come on, there's no way the card issuers will give you hundreds of dollars (sometimes over $1,000) worth of rewards just for signing up for a card. Same with rewards for daily spend: card issuers must be getting more from you then they're giving you or why else would they do it?
And those skeptics are right. There is a catch. A big one. If you don't pay your card balance every month in full, you'll pay very high interest fees. And if you're late with a payment you'll pay late fees on top of interest fees. The card issuers do make some money each time you use your card to make a purchase (paid for by the vendor, not by you), but their take is often less than the value of the rewards they dole out. They're betting that you will slip up and pay interest and late fees sooner or later. Finally, when you're ready to redeem rewards, the card issuers often encourage customers to use those rewards in ways that cost the issuer less and provide less value.
On the other hand, the rewards game is truly a golden opportunity for those who play the game right: Pay your credit card bill in full every single month. After a year with the card, cancel or downgrade to a no annual fee card. When earning points instead of cash back, read blogs to learn the most valuable uses for your rewards. And when the card issuer encourages you to pay with points at Amazon.com, please just say no.