Eat @ Joe's By Ralph Raffio
Earn 'Em and Burn 'Em? I'd Rather Horde 'Em
Thursday, August 23, 2018 -- Hello, my name is Ralph, and I'm a hoarder. At least that's what I'm being told.

I didn't want to attend this meeting. To be completely honest, I see nothing wrong with the way I live my life. I'm not hurting anybody. In fact, I think that I've always been the type of guy who goes out of his way not to hurt people.

Only lately I have been accused of acting rather badly. In the opinion of a particular frequent-flying friend, my actions have gone way beyond disturbing. And so, he says, I need help.

"You have to make this right," this friend charged angrily the other day. "Hoarding isn't something that normal people do. It's not healthy and you need to stop doing it. Right now."

What I "hoard," to use this individual's uncharitable vocabulary, are Chase Ultimate Rewards points. As of this writing, my wife and I are holding a combined total of around 380,000 of them.

We enjoy having so many of these Chase points at our disposal. It's like having a few thousand dollars in cash stashed away around the house at all times, designated for use when we want to treat ourselves to a fine hotel where we normally wouldn't stay or perhaps a spur-of-the-moment flight to a destination we hadn't planned to visit. Provided, of course, that the points-to-dollars value ratio is acceptable. And usually it is.

For two consecutive years we spent the better part of Christmas week in luxurious New York lodgings--including the not inexpensive Gramercy Park Hotel--courtesy of our Chase points. We've flown to a last-minute weekend get-together with friends in Chicago. On occasion, my wife and I will make the two-hour drive to Boston from Portland for the evening or weekend. We've used points for hotel rooms there as well.

Rarely are we unable to achieve a valuation of 1.5 cents per Chase point. And if the value isn't there, then we just don't use the points. Even if that means paying cash instead--and earning triple points for charging it to our Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.

We're comfortable doing things this way and have enjoyed all of the travel upgrades our points have earned us so far. It works for us is what I'm saying.

But for reasons that I cannot completely fathom there is a contingent of people who finds this approach unacceptable, wrongheaded even.

Consider this example: My wife and I are planning a European vacation for early next year. We have enough Chase points to take a run at business class flights, which we have never flown. But that would clean out our stash of points entirely, plus cost us some cash. A nonstop premium economy roundtrip wouldn't use up all our points, but it would make a huge dent in the stash, leaving not very much for the spur-of-the-moment treats we so enjoy.

In short, we would miss the pile of points if it was gone or seriously depleted.

Instead, we're considering flying premium economy to Europe--but with stops in both directions. The travel time remains reasonable and the price--around 125,000 total points for the two of us--seems very reasonable. That will also leave us with better than 250,000 points left in our accounts, some of which we'll likely use for upgraded hotels on our trip.

And yet it's just this type of calculation that got me accused of hoarding.

"If you're not willing to spend your Chase points then why are you bothering to earn them?" my friend asked after I'd showed him the European itinerary my wife and I were considering.

"I am spending them," I answered. "Around a third of them, actually."

"Yes, but you should be spending more of them. You're spending points as though they're cash. They're not cash, they're points that you earned by spending cash. Use the points. Use all of them. That's what they're there for."

Now I'll admit that I'm new to this whole points game. It's only been a few years that I've paid any attention at all. I don't fully understand the conflicting valuations across airline and bank-card platforms. I surely don't grasp the earn-'em-and-burn-'em mentality that passes for gospel around these parts. And I don't fear devaluations.

Maybe I'm a hoarder, like my friend says, I really don't know. But you know what? I don't care, either.

Sitting on a pile of Chase points seems like a pretty nice thing to me. Yes, my wife and I use them judiciously and pay close attention to the value. But they're still an enormously satisfying way to treat ourselves from time to time. The game wouldn't be nearly as much fun if there weren't plenty of points to play with whenever we found ourselves in the mood.

If that makes me a hoarder, okay, then I'm a hoarder. But I've got no problem with that.

And I ain't coming to any more of these stupid meetings.

This column is Copyright 2018 by Ralph Raffio. is Copyright 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Ralph Raffio. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.