One of the new series of posts here on Milenomics since Robert’s joined the blog has been Brandon Asks. This is a series where readers ask us questions related to points and miles, and we answer as fully as we possibly can.
Some of you might be asking “Why is the series titled Brandon Asks? Who’s Brandon?” And the answer is pretty simple: There is a Brandon and he’s been getting some really terrible advice.
I only hope this isn’t a real person because the idea that you take a question that readers are genuinely wondering about (Disney cruises) and answer it with bad information and then a sales pitch for another card is not helping Brandon, or anyone. Well, it probably helps $omeone. Robert tackled this exact issue (Disney Cruises) in a post on Saverocity, so you can see the difference between a proper answer and a sales pitch.
The Brandon Asks series here on the blog is one of deep conversation about what really has to happen in order to use miles. Often times we’ll write these live, in a back and forth manner (again Robert’s great idea), which shows you how thoughts develop and how ideas turn into results organically. We’re committed to illustrating the methods and mechanics of the problem. So ‘Brandon Asks’ is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek way of thumbing our noses at the standard question and answer series you might see on a blog.
But that’s not the end of the answer as to who Brandon is. Because we’ve all been a Brandon at one some point.
I started in this game as a Brandon. I was balancing work and school and soon to bemarried. I needed to come up with a honeymoon for my wonderful wife and I. A friend told me about how easy it was to earn miles to help pay for flights and hotels. I was hooked. Prior to this I had been using cash back cards almost exclusively, and earning cash back from those cards. Why not extend this to earning miles? Seemed like an easy way to get a FREE honeymoon.
Except it wasn’t. I quickly had 300,000 miles strewn all across different programs. In varying, sometimes useless amounts. The wedding was approaching and I had zero time to figure out how to use those miles. And my buddy who got me into this had no idea how to use them either. To say I was frustrated is an understatement. And so the honeymoon was put together with the world’s most flexible point currency: the dollar.
I had to figure out how to use these miles. I was asking for help left and right. And I got good advice and I got terrible advice. I was Brandon. Having a background in cash back I kept thinking about how I could have applied for cards with cash bonuses and be sitting on cash. I felt like everyone in this space knew the punchline and I was the joke.
Fortunately I had already seen the light: my miles I wanted to use for a very specific purpose had zero use for that purpose. This helped me to see the difference between terrible advice (Like “Sign up for more cards, get more miles.”) and really helpful advice. And when I set out to make Milenomics I wanted to this blog be full of only great advice. Because I’m not the only person who has ever felt like a Brandon. And I’m not far enough removed from that to forget what it felt like to be Brandon.
It feels pretty crappy to not know what to do with your miles and points while others are showing you their ‘successes’ over and over. So I want to foster a positive blog, that moves us all forward, away from our Brandon phase.
You’re Brandon (Or, You Were)
Brandon represents all of us, at the moment when we became initially aware to the power of points and miles but naive to the huge concessions that need to happen to use them. I ask you to think back to that time when you were making some really silly mistakes–applying for every single card you could, spending insane amounts of time, energy and money to earn miles. We’ve all been there.
We all had to start somewhere. And the idea that there’s an old guard and some new rookies is one that I reject fully. The amount of time you’ve been in this space isn’t nearly as important as how we treat each other and how we shape the space going forward. Certainly there are people who are relatively new to points and miles and who are great stewards.
But the difference is that YOU have a choice. You can help each other, or you can hoard your knowledge. Because the advice that’s given to someone like Brandon is going to have a very, very profound effect on his next 1-2 years in points and miles. So we need to shepherd our Brandon, and answer his questions fully. Because eventually we’ll have a stronger group of people who can help each other.
There are no stupid questions. There are only stupid answers
Really I mean this. I get questions from people all the time that might seem trivial. But they’re clearly important enough for to the person asking them. And so I think they deserve a response that’s as genuine as the question. It might seem silly to think that you should call Cathay Pacific to book a flight AA miles, but that’s a pretty easy assumption to make early on.
And the answer isn’t always the most important piece of information. That’s because the answer depends on a whole host of variables that are only important to you. More important is how to get to that answer, and how to get there in a repeatable way. Learning that means you can each understand what’s the best answer for your specific situation. And that’s where Brandon Asks helps–you might not want to go to Boston to watch a Baseball game, but the advice in that post can help you any time your destination and dates are fixed.
I’ve said this before but you have to re-wire yourself if you’re going to start using miles and points. Doing so is very different from buying paid tickets. We’ll highlight those differences here on the blog as we move forward. And we’ll also get deep into some high level stuff. If something doesn’t make sense, ask.
Welcome to Milenomics, a place where your intellect and your wallet are both respected. (h/t Robert)
– Written by Sam Simon. All ideas are my own, but I encourage you to see my point of view and I promise I’ll try to do the same. Connect with me on Twitter @Milenomics.