The theme of this week has been illustrating the value of miles and points. Earlier in the week we heard from three avid travelers who have begun to make the most of their miles. Now – from the Academy archives – one of my own stories about how I spent $1,100 on magazines and flew on the supersonic Concorde. Those of us who found and maximized this deal were “travel hackers” before the term existed. Like Pudding Guy and the people who earned miles by buying coins from the U.S. mint, we made the miles and points system work to our advantage.
I was still a freshman at the mileage and status game when I saw a headline on FlyerTalk that broke the news of one of the greatest mileage earning deals of all time. That headline read: “Goldpoints – fly the Concorde for $1,111.”
I read the post with skepticism, checked the math, and let out an audible gasp. The strategy was right on the money. It worked by going to the Gold Points shopping portal and buying magazine subscriptions through one of its retail partners, Valuemags. Valuemags was offering 150 points per dollar, and Gold Points had just stared a holiday season promotion, tripling points through the end of the year. This meant magazine buyers would earn 450 points per dollar. With a Gold Point-to-mile conversion ratio of 4:1, shoppers would earn a whopping 112.5 miles per dollar, which is less than one cent per mile – an incredible value. Gold Points could be transferred to British Airways (and many other airlines) at this 4:1 ratio, meaning that the necessary 125,000 miles for a trip on the Concorde could indeed be had for $1,111 in magazine purchases.
Needless to say, FlyerTalk’s membership (much smaller at the time, where deals now vanish in hours) went on a feeding frenzy. Gold Points didn’t release hard figures, but there were individuals “buying” millions of miles at this deeply discounted rate, knowing that they could spend them for a much greater value. Gold Points were transferable to lots of airlines, so people were able to buy hundreds of thousands of miles in just about any airline program they desired.
The icing on the cake was that the magazine subscriptions were transferable. To defray the cost of the miles even more, some buyers resold their magazine subscriptions on eBay.
Most of this happened right around the Christmas holiday. When Gold Points reopened, its staff realized what had happened and pulled the triple points promotion a couple days early, but the damage had been done. Gold Points tried to void a number of transactions, but those of us who transferred the points immediately reaped a mileage windfall.
I booked my Concorde flight just in time, as British Airways discontinued service about a year after my trip. More than just an incredible travel experience, it was something I could never have done if not for frequent flyer miles. A roundtrip on the Concorde cost about $12,000 at the time. The miles not only gave me the value of a free trip, they gave me an experience I’ll never forget, and one I wouldn’t otherwise been able to have.
Where will frequent flyer miles take you next?