Questioning Mainstream Media…

Fellow BoardingArea blogger, Ben, from One Mile at a Time, recently wrote a post entitled Where On Earth Is The Mainstream Media Finding These “Travel Experts?. He referenced a news release from Bloomberg called The Two Words That Will Help Get an Airline Upgrade Over the Phone.

Remember an article by CBC entitled: Canadians should be wary of loyalty programs — not enticed by them.


To summarize, Ben pointed out that mainstream media is publishing information that lacks a little bit of balance. The article talks about using “two words” to get 100% chance of being upgrade to First Class on a flight. Here the exact paragraph from the article:

  • Say to the agent: ‘Have revenue management released any first-class seats for miles upgrades yet?’ When they say no, ask them to check or just be put through to revenue management so you can ask when they will release some, as well as how many seats are left. Politely respond like this: ‘You have 20 seats unsold?  Why aren’t you releasing them?’ Often by the end of the conversation they say, ‘OK, we’ll release one for you,’ or they might tell you to call back tomorrow. Doing that, we’ve had a pretty much 100 percent success rate.

100% success? Bold statement?


Then let’s take a look at CBC’s article cautioning people about loyalty program a few weeks back:

  • When you consider the real cost of our increasing debt burden, our urge to splurge and the risk of points deflation, Canadians should be wary of loyalty programs — not enticed by them. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to get duped into spending more for the thrill of getting something for free.


My Thoughts

I will admit, I thought that I was the only one with this feeling, until I read Ben’s article, which gave me the courage to share my thoughts as well.

Do not get me wrong, the two above articles have some truth to it. Maybe include some balance? If the subject matter is going to be so extreme, maybe share a different perspective as well?

Maybe I am way off base. But I am more than happy to share my personal experience. For me, it has come down to trial and error, as well as do your personal calculations.

Trial and Error

Trial and error because anyone can give me ideas, but it may or may not work. It can sometimes work, but I can try the exact same idea on another day and it may not work. There is a lot of hit and miss, but no guarantees. If I take risks, I sometimes get some results. If I speak up and ask for something, I sometimes get it. I do recommend staying within the rules and regulations, because I prefer not having any trouble later on.

If you prefer to keep life simple, you can still participate in the rewards game by going for no annual fee cash back credit cards, so that you can use the cash back to credit against any expenses that you inccur.

Personal Calculations

Are miles and points worth it? The way I see it is, if I receive more than I spend, I am coming out ahead. Unfortunately for some, it requires some math, being organized and have an understanding of the terms and conditions of reward programs. I separated personal calculations from trial and error, because math is not subjective, so there is no trial and error involved.

If I spend $100, but it cost me $1 to spend $100, but I got a return of $2, then I am ahead by $1. If I did not come out ahead, then just don’t do it.

Your thoughts?

Most importantly, what do you guys think? Should mainstream media publish something more balanced? Do you ignore mainstream media when it comes to the rewards game? Are Bloggers out of touch with society?

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, but let’s keep it civil, as this may be a hot topic!


  1. I don’t know if “out of touch” is the right description but I do feel a lot of blogs and related communities can be a bit crazy with how they approach this points/miles game.

    A perfect example is the almost devout religious pushing of the amex cards as the “best” “quickest” “easiest” way to get miles. Whenever someone new enters a community and asks what is the best way to get started, it is guaranteed that at least one person will tell them about the business plat, and then referrrals etc. And how at the end of the day you’ll get x points for only y $ spent in annual fees.

    At no point does anyone really explain things like cash flow, the fact that you pay end up spending more money in a period than you would normally and what effects this will have on your other finances. More people seem focussed on “credit hits” and “hard pulls” rather than more common things like “can I spend the min spend organically or will I need to resort to buying thousands of $ of gift cards.”

    I’ve read multiple comments from people in the “community” where they’ve applied for cards, received them and then are asking ways to meet the minimum. That seems less than ideal.

    1. Very valid point.

      Generally, if you can’t afford to meet payments in full each month, you should not sign up for a CC, and if you can, make sure that you can meet the minimum spend if you are getting a card that requires one. Otherwise, just get basic 0$ fee 1% cash back CC, and just let it be.

      Personally, I try to get a new CC sign up with large minimum spend only if I intend to do a large purchase. Case in point, I was intending to pay for my parents’ medical assessment/blood work/eye surgery. I knew that I will be spending this money, so I signed up for a new CC, put this expense on it, and met minimum spend. But which bank was it? RBC not too long ago, had a massive sign up bonus with BA Avios Visa but had a requirement of 9K/2 or 3 month minimum spend to get the bonus points…..That’s just crazy. Buy a car on credit card?

      And unless you travel alot, AmEx Plat is overrated.

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