The Man Who Turned Credit-Card Points Into an Empire – The New York Times

kelly admits these travel hackers are not his target audience. “ I don ’ t want to have to go round to 10 different Targets to buy different give cards to get points, ” he says. “ People called me a sellout in the beginning, like, ‘ Oh, you ’ re just doing this for the masses. ’ And yea — I am. That ’ s the point. ” He didn ’ thymine start The Points Guy to keep his deals a secret. “ That was a commercial enterprise decision early on, and that ’ s why I think we ’ ve been able to grow it. We are very open about the fact that we have to make money. I have 100 employees. I can ’ t pay their salaries in Amex points. ” I left Washington on March 8 and arrived back base in New York City fair in time to watch it shut down. That Thursday, Broadway went night, and a prohibition on gatherings of more than 500 people was announced. In the follow weeks, the schools were closed ; the city ’ s day by day Covid deaths reached a bill of more than 800, by some counts. The Points Guy, with its fluency in bureaucratic slang, pivoted about entirely to parsing the daily-changing crisis plans. ( Some sample headlines : “ Everything You Need to Know About the U.S. European Travel Ban ” ; “ here ’ s How to Figure Out if You Qualify for a Flight Refund ” ; “ How to Cancel an Airbnb if Your mental reservation Is Affected by Coronavirus. ” ) Over the months that followed, I checked in with Kelly sporadically as he bounced around the world, from Palm Springs, Calif., to Antigua to Mexico City — getting massages, dining out at restaurants, updating his Instagram floor throughout. When we final spoke, in November, he had merely returned from two weeks in french Polynesia, where he stayed at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui and float with humpback whales. now back home in Pennsylvania, he was once again looking forward to the release of the Points Guy app, which had been kicked down the road to mid-2021. “ I ’ m still confident it will change the room people think about points, ” he said. While writing this article, my own perspective on miles and points surely changed. Through daily spending — and expenses, which were late reimbursed by The New York Times — my rewards balances began to grow. At press clock time, I have : 3,815 in AAdvantage, 4,735 in Delta SkyMiles, 5,600 in Marriott Bonvoy, 44,485 in Southwest Rapid Rewards and 65,482 in Chase Ultimate Rewards. I hoped to end this narrative in a faraway set, relaxing on my own plot-concluding loose vacation, but who knows when this might be possible ? The more I sit dwelling daydreaming about travel, the more doubting I feel about the sorts of trips that points and miles tend to produce.

As corporate partnerships have grown increasingly enmeshed, rewards have come to form a global hamster tube, connecting Sky Club lounges to Ritz-Carlton lobbies to Wolfgang Puck Expresses to Uber Black cars. This elite ball-shaped habitat — separate of our global, but besides apart from it — is suggestive of our stratify economy at large, one that stays aloft through fiscal novelties and unchained access to cheap money. A major reason points-and-miles trips exist is because airlines turn a more stable net income by minting their own currencies than by selling actual airline seats. The flight seems about accessory to the fiscal transaction it enables — a vogue across the whole economy, where the betray of goods or services serves to enable the collection of data, the preoccupation of venture capital funds or the recruit of hidden transaction fees. In this outline, posting to social media, or collecting points and miles, or ordering a taxi or a gyroscope on your call, is merely a gesture to keep the wholly process in motion. The real moneymaking happens behind the scenes, driven by a series of exchanges where value seems conjured from nothing at all. But of naturally, value always comes from somewhere. If you trace the string back on any one of these businesses, it ’ second constantly the lapp cover : The poor underwrite the fantasies of the in-between class, who in turn cover the realities of the fat. When citation cards charge gamey exchange fees, they pass the monetary value of commitment programs on to merchants, who in plow passing it back to customers by building the fees into their spine prices. Those who pay with credit can earn it back in points. Those who pay with debit or cash wind up subsidizing person else ’ s loose vacation. According to a 2010 policy newspaper by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the median cash-using family paid $ 149 over the run of a year to card-using households, while each card-using family received $ 1,133 from cash users, partially in the form of rewards. It remains a regressive transfer to this day. about a year into the pandemic, we ’ ve seen travel plumb bob to practically premodern lows. According to the United Nations ’ World Tourism Barometer, external tourist arrivals dropped 93 percentage year-over-year survive June, the begin of the summer tourism season. The ripple effect was immediate and huge, manifesting itself in idiosyncratic ways : Carbon emissions dipped ; the Mona Lisa sat entirely for four full months, credibly her longest solitude since she was painted. In famously overtouristed Venice, reduced canal traffic and the disappearance of tourist “ effluent ” output contributed to what one study called “ unprecedented water transparency. ” The decay in export tax income from international tourism has been, according to one estimate, eight times more austere than the passing the sector experienced following the ball-shaped fiscal crisis. Hundreds of millions of people are out of influence. The United Nations predicts change of location will begin to rebound angstrom early as the one-third quarter of 2021. McKinsey says we might return to pre-Covid levels by 2023. “ Rebound, ” to me, is a strange way of describing whatever the future tourist wave might look like. In any case, I ’ ll keep holding on to my points .

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