Miles and points are fun to earn and are a blast to spend, but I notice one overarching trend among the new and old travel hackers alike. The debate always comes up of what miles and points are worth and getting the best redemption value for them. I personally know a few people who will obsess over redemption, they will be furiously searching for the best possible way to maximize every single point.

Many times I’ve seen says and days go by where someone will ask my opinion on a redemption value for their trip, it might be a difference of a few hundred points but they will do the craziest things. To save just a few hundred miles I’ve seen people add more segments to their flights, take less than desirable flights, pick rough transfer times, all of this just to save some miles and points.

I’ve taken a different approach to my redemption that may be a bit more costly in the short term but ends up being a better result in the long run. I don’t necessarily look at the cent-per-point redemption value but I end up instead looking at what I’m willing to spend for a certain flight based on my desirability to go to the destination.

The one simple question I ask myself is: Am I willing to part with that number of points for my redemption?

This all comes down to my desirability to part with my points. For example, I regularly commute between Minneapolis and Seattle, the award redemption for this city pair is at the low end around 10,000 miles and can go up to 100,000 miles depending on the loads and the days.

Recently I had a wedding to attend and it was of a very best friend that I went to college with. While looking at flights round trip they were up around 60,000 miles, which is not the best. Cash price for the ticket was well above $800 and something that cash wise I wasn’t willing to part with. Lucky for me I have a massive excess of Delta miles that I’ve been sitting on and it was the perfect moment to get me confirmed seats to make sure I make the wedding. In this situation it was more worth it for me to redeem the miles based on cash price and my desire to go.

I would not make that redemption to just go home to visit family or friends. That’s way too much and my desire isn’t high enough. On the other hand I just recently booked my parents tickets to come out and see me, at a cost of 10,000 miles it was an easy decision to bring them out at that price point. It saved them money plus they get to come out and see me.

When I see valuations that stick a dollar amount on a single point or mile, that doesn’t mean much. It’s a great starting point if you’re just getting started with redemption and need a reference, perfect. At the end of the day it all depends on how much you really want to get to where you’re going and if you’re willing to part with your miles and points.

If someone posts about an insane redemption value for their points don’t be discouraged. The amazing redemption values can be had but it’ll take a lot of work, research, and time to find the right routing.

You can be the excellent point hacker by getting the most bang for your buck, or you can lift by what I find to be a good model which is to rate my desirability for points against my redemption.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on redemption?