There is a lot of talk, speculation and conjecture about Bitcoin; that mysterious and yet untested currency that is the current speculation of choice among the intelligentsia, the curious and the foolish among us. The story of how Bitcoin will play put is still in its infancy. It may go the way of the Tulip Mania or it may be yet the archetype of a new and amazing currency.
But, let me ask you. Suppose you had somehow had gotten hold of these precious Bitcoins. Where would you spend them? How would you use them? Or, would you just tuck them into some dark box somewhere hoping the value of your Bitcoins keeps growing…And growing evermore.
And yet, you never benefited from your Bitcoins?
But, what if I told you, you could have the original digital currency and you could have all you want of this precious resource?
What if I told you that with this real digital currency, you could walk into any airport at the last minute, call a dedicated phone line where a staff member is waiting for you and within minutes, book a flight to anywhere in the world.
What if I told you, that after making your flight to “anywhere in the world,” you then make a second call, where the person on the other end of the phone already knows your name, answers “Good Evening, Mr. Wynn, what can we do for you this day.”
I then reply with my Sean Connery imitation, “I am flying to ‘Anywhere in the World,’ and I need a room at a Category 7 hotel. I need this room upgraded. And, I would like food and wine included in my stay?” And, minutes later they reply, “Of course, Mr. Wynn, I have you booked and have you arriving this date. Can I do anything else for you?”
Even more, what if I told you that with this precious resource, you could buy anything that you wanted; goods from the finest luxury goods makers in the world, tickets to world class sporting events, or, special events designed just for you and your spouse or you and your closest friends.
And, what if I told you this resource is in your back pocket or your pocket book courtesy, of your debit or credit card?
Cash Poor/Points Rich
I am not a wealthy man.
And, I bet many of you have far more in your savings than I do. And, truth be told, at the time of this writing, I only have a few digits in my savings account. But, what I do have is lots of points. Over one million hotel, airline, and car reward points at any given time. And, I am constantly earning thousands, sometimes tens of thousands more of these rewards points each and every week (the week I wrote this article I earned over 60,000 reward points).
And that my friends is the game changer; it evens the playing field between me and the 1% of society.
I can fly first class like they do, I can stay at the finest resorts like they do, and I can buy just about anything that I want, just like they can. And, if anyone wants to trade reward points for an original Picasso, please give me a call!
And, unlike those among us who are hoarding their Bitcoins, I actually want to spend my rewards points. I want to spend them as fast as I get them! These rewards points may be “precious to me,” but they’re not so special I won’t drop a few thousand for a flight to Vegas, Hawaii or Europe.
What is a Reward Point
A reward point is either a hotel point, an airline mile, or a reward point for using a specific credit card. Points are awarded on a variety of spending factors but, you can on average assume that for every $1.00 spent, you will earn 1 point.
A reward point by most calculations is worth about $.01.
Some reward programs will pay out a higher or lower amount based on the vendor’s preferences. Thus, some reward programs become more valuable than others. Some vendors will offer bonuses for achieving certain spending minimums, spending at certain times of the year, or for achieving certain statuses.
Thus, with the abundance of reward programs, vendors, bankers and merchants all plying for your spending, it can become confusing which is the best reward program to use for even the most veteran of credit users.
Earning Points is Easy
We are now in a “Golden Era” of rewards points. Never has it been easier to receive a credit card or debit card that rewards you something for your expenditures. Cash is effectively dead as a currency. The only people I see using cash now are members of the Baby Boomers who used cash all of their lives and were taught that credit use and incurring debts were BAD and should be kept to a minimum.
I am not of that generation.
I apply for credit cards, loans, and lines of credit on a bi-monthly basis. I am constantly scanning offers both online and those that I receive in the mail. Recently, I was offered a special for flying on a certain airline. I applied for that airlines branded credit card and was awarded a new credit line. And, earned 60,000 bonus airline miles for receiving the new credit line.
But, you have to be smart about applying.
Knowing is Half the Battle
That is why I use Credit Karma. If you just go crazy and apply for every card, multiple cards a week, you will sabotage yourself. Every time you apply for credit, your credit score will take a minor hit. Enough of these hits and red flags will start to pop up all over your credit files. I DO NOT recommend applying too frequently to credit vendors.
Credit Karma allows me to monitor my credit on a daily basis. If I apply for a new card, I will see the hit on my credit score the next day and I can see to what extend that application affected my credit. If I suffer too much, I take a break and allow everything to settle down. I have gotten a few denial letters based on “too many credit applications.” So, take it EASY….
I like to space out my applications by a few months. That way I can get my new card, establish my line of credit, meet any spending minimums and receive my bonuses. I then let the card begin to age as I use it for all of my organic spending. Organic spending means I do all of my spending on that card for the next 90 days.
Once I have “broken in” the new card, I give it a rest, and move on to my next application and repeat the process.
Juggling it All
As you start to build your portfolio of reward cards you probably will need help giving everything organized. I currently use the mobile app, Birch. I find that Birch tracks how much I spend, (once you link your credit cards) and it tells me which card is the best card to use for transactions.
For example, as I check my app as I write this, I know I have an upcoming purchase at the hotel I am currently staying in. Checking Birch, it is recommending I use my Delta Skymiles card for checkout. Reading further through the app, I see I have a grade of “F” since I could have used other, better suited reward cards for my recent purchases of gasoline, restaurants, and groceries.
This is intelligence that is vital as we chase points to their maximum.
Brand Fanatic or Helter Skelter
It is easy to go helter skelter in this business of chasing points. You could have rewards cards from a dozen airlines. A half dozen hotel chains. And, maybe a dozen retailers. And, what you will get with that is a big old pile of confusion.
I am a brand fanatic. I endeavor to use certain airlines (Delta) as much as possible. I try to use one hotel chain (Marriott). I make an effort to use one car rental agency (Hertz). I attempt to use one retail card as much as possible (Disney). But, yes, on occasion I do stray, but for the most part I am a brand fanatic!
I find being a brand fanatic helps me to develop clout with the companies that I do business with.
I had dinner with a brand manager once and she told me that companies, including hers, keep files on their most prolific customers. They do this because they understand the 80% of their business comes from just 20% of their customers. And, they want to keep that 20% as happy as they can.
With the amount of travel I do, I want that edge. I want to know when I mail a letter to the CEO of Marriott, I will get a reply. I want to know that when I call customer service for Delta, they will make an effort to assist me in any way that they can. And, often I find they are willing to go the extra mile for me.
I want that edge, and I will go to any length to get it.
Changing the Odds of Upgrades into Your Favor
But, let me assure you, having spent years in the service industry, I have learned a few tricks. And, the number one this is to take care of your wait staff. I never yell at the staff. I always say thank you. I always compliment. I NEVER cause an issue. And, I always tip!
In my younger days, I delivered pizza for extra money. I once delivered a pizza in a driving rain storm to an individual who lived waterfront. As I pulled up to his waterfront house, I could see his yacht, which was worth far more than everything I owned at that moment. I ran up to the house, getting soaking wet in the process, and handed the customer his pizzas. He tipped me $.50.
I stood there contemplating hurtling his $.50 against the door. But, I did not. I turned, ran back to my car getting even wetter from the driving rain. And drove back sulking to the pizza shop. I never forgot that lesson. Take care of everyone you meet!
Always be the gracious customer. The service industry works hard. And, you can always thank your airline staff, hotel staff, and all the others that you are going to interact with. They will remember that. And, they will remember you and they will go the extra mile to help you out the next time you see them.
One of the things I do is I use Trip Advisor to record and publicize great service. In fact, I am one of Trip Advisors most influential reviewers. I recently got an email from the Trip Advisor CEO Steve Kaufer thanking me for my reviews.
Second, I like to mail physical letters to CEO’s and bring to their attention great customer service. I think it is important in today’s electronic age that we still mail out cards and letters acknowledging the efforts of others. And, having been in the business where a letter means a lot, when I use to get those handwritten letters, it meant the world to me.
Data Mining or Manufactured Spending?
How to you get earn Bitcoins? You set up a sophisticated computer network and allow Bitcoin software to operate on your hard drive. You earn Bitcoins for allowing the software to run on your hard drives. Or, you trade with someone who actually has Bitcoins. Do you know anyone who has Bitcoins? I don’t.
How do you earn Rewards Miles and Points? You spend money. You spend as much as you can and plow all of your expenses through your credit card. And, you can manufacture spend. A very unsophisticated method of buying gift cards, redeeming those gift cards, and then paying off those credit cards so you can repeat the process. This is easy peasy.
Which is More Valuable? Bit Coin or Rewards Points
For those who want to take their Bitcoins and hide them away in the hopes they keep becoming more valuable, I wish you the best.