UPDATE (September 3, 2019)- Due to some reader feedback, I have provided more specific examples in the “No increased earning ratios” section.
If you have been following us, you’ll know that one of our mantras has always been “earn and burn”. But why?
Have you ever met new people who just got started in the miles and points game, only to say: “I wish I started sooner, I missed out on so many opportunities”.
It’s like saying, I wish I invested in the market when I was born, I would be so much further ahead by now.
The good news is that as long as you have the long term in mind, it is never too late to start. Even though the best time to start was yesterday, the next best time to start is today!
Anyway, onto to main topic. This is going to be the first time where I write a full blown post about “why earn and burn?”. The answer can be summarized into 1 word:
So what about Devaluations?
Due to inflation, the cost of redeeming points for a specific reward goes up over time. However, the value of our miles and points balance do not earn interest. So if you earn 25,000 miles, let’s say you managed to keep your account active once a year, and you left your account along for years, you won’t have more miles. However, the airline can increase the cost to redeem for a flight and then each mile that you have will be worth less.
No increased earning ratios
What we do not see often (if ever) is increase in earning ratios. For example, a card that allows you to earn 1 mile/point per dollar, has not really increase in earning ratios for a while. So what usually happens is that the point is worth less and less. Air Miles is the perfect example of this.
I’ll try not to get into too much negativity, but here is an example, the Cineplex Movie Night Package, went from cost 170 miles, to 190, to 200, then discontinued temporarily, but reactivated at 425 miles to redeem for the same reward. However, the base earning rate of Air Miles has remained the same with Air Miles’ credit card and store partners. To be fair, Air Miles has mitigated this by offering more multiplier bonus offers, especially with its online store (airmilesshops).
Speaking of Cineplex, another example is that the Scene Rewards program increased the cost to redeem for a free movie from 1,000 points to 1,250 points, which is a 25% increase. Scene mitigated some of this by increasing the number of points members earn for each movie (e.g. for regular movie, from 100 points to 125 points per movie); however, the earnings on its co-branded credit card (Scotiabank SCENE® Visa* card) has remained the same.
Bankruptcy / Mergers
We also cannot predict when companies and discontinue a loyalty program or merge with another company. When that happens, sweet spots tend to go with them. The saying goes, when one door closes, another one opens.
So the idea is, if I company folded or teamed up with someone else, the door that closes might be an amazing reward option (sweet spot), so you do not want to miss out, even though new options may be presented (another door opens).
At the end of the day, the bottom line is that inflation is highly likely to happen and there does not seem to be any track record of earning interest on miles and points, or getting better earning ratios on every day spending.
So because of all this, we stick with earn and burn at the moment, but the value of our miles and points goes down over time.