I used to own a nice credit card from one of the major banks in the U.S.
Now, because it was a nice credit card that had the suffix “preferred” at the end of its name, it came with one of those deals that said “no annual fee for the first 12 months, then $ XX … every year.” And if I spent more then $4000 or so within the first 3 months of activation, I’d get something like $500 worth of points which could go towards, well, pretty much anything (yes, even cash). After the first 12 months (of no annual fees), I would be free to close the account if I didn’t want to keep it. Sounds pretty good, huh?
With so many credit cards that offered such enticing offers, I ended up signing up for a number of these nice credit card offers. After a minute of simply credit checks, I’d usually get approved and have the credit card in mail in a couple of weeks. I’d usually meet the spending requirements for the various rewards and have those points (sometimes cash) in hand just a few months down the road. What is to complain about, really? None that I can think of.
A strange thing happened when one of these nice credit cards was approaching its first birthday. Now, I was fully aware that once it hit its first birthday, I’d be automatically charged an annual fee if I didn’t cancel the credit card. So, the rational thing to do (at least if I wanted to be consistent with the intention I had set out to do this thing with in the first place) was to call up the credit card company and suspend the account before it reached its first birthday. Just pick up the phone, call the company, and say that I no longer want to keep the nice credit card.
But I didn’t do it.
For whatever reason it may have been, I just wanted to hold on to the nice credit card. Even if it came with the fee all the sudden. Even though there might have been a number of other nice cards out there that I could have signed up for to replace it — all free of annual fees for the first year. I simply didn’t want to lose what I already had. I wanted to hold on to the preferred status I was freely given when I signed up for the nice card.
This fear of losing what one already has has led to a phenomena called “mileage runs” in the flight community. And it’s prompting many to fly between the same two cities multiple times during the same day, just so that they could rack up enough miles to keep and maintain their status with airlines:
The costliest manifestations of GS-MAD are unnecessary year-end trips, called “mileage runs” in the frequent-flier community, which are cousins to the flights Walter Kirn’s protagonist in “Up in the Air” takes to meet his goal of a million lifetime miles. I asked around to find the highest amount anyone had heard of being spent on mileage runs: the winner was fifteen thousand dollars, by a friend of a friend, in a month. Another friend told me about his own bottoming out, in the pre-Global Services era, when, in an attempt to achieve the highest status level at Continental before it merged with United, he took advantage of a temporary quirk. At the time, Continental, engaged in a route war with Southwest, was flying connecting flights between Houston’s two airports. Just shy of the requisite number of flight segments, my friend flew three round trips in one day without ever leaving town. The planes were filled with others doing the same, like some mile-oholic version of “The Iceman Cometh.”
(see full post via The New Yorker here)
Really, some say it should be aptly labelled a “first world 1% problem.” I agree – but I also wonder, “Will it always be?”