Marathon Man: “Manufactured Spending is like Card Counting” and my #WestCoastDo Thoughts

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Marathon Man: “Manufactured Spending is like Card Counting” and my #WestCoastDo Thoughts

Don’t worry Marathon Man, your secrets are safe. The one thing you said that I will share is, “manufactured spending is like card counting.” That is such a great analogy that fits perfectly.  Just like card counting, MS is not illegal, but it is definitely frowned upon.  The comparison to MS is wonderful.  After catching up on some sleep, I have a few points I want to share about the #WestCoastDo and the other travel conferences I have attended.

1 – First off, great job to Matt @ Saverocity for putting together and pulling off a great travel conference.  I am sure those in attendance would agree.  The lunch was fabulous and the extended happy hour was much appreciated. Thanks for all the hard work, time, and money you spent on this conference.  You da’ man!

2 – Uber is great in Phoenix/Scottsdale.  I used Uber a few times to get to/from my Holiday Inn Express hotel (please don’t screw me over Into the Nights) as well as to get to the airport.  There are lots of drivers at all hours of the day and night.

Uber in PHX

3 – George @ Travel Blogger Buzz is much nicer in person.  I have been a long time reader and friend of George, but this was the first time meeting him in person.  He is very nice, funny, and just fun to hang out with.  He shared his thought on #WestCoastDo here.

4 – I am a MS noob compared to everyone in attendance.  I spoke with people who do more MS in one month than I do all year.  If you want to learn from the masters, this is the place to go.  In a matter of hours, it felt like I had read the entire MS forum on FlyerTalk without blinking.  My head was spinning and I couldn’t make it stop.

Too Much MS

5 – 99% of the conversations revolved around MS.  This is a trend I have noticed from Frequent Traveler University, Chicago Seminars, and #WestCoastDo.  Almost all conversations eventually drift into MS tricks, success stories, or new opportunities.  I like MS, but I love travel.  Let’s not forget why we all got into this game because we all love to travel!

6 – Ethics is such a gray area.  This is a continuation of the previous point.  The more you hear and learn about MS tricks and techniques, the more gray area you get into in terms of ethics.  What is right?  What is wrong?  If I only do it once or a few times, it’s ok, right?  I promised not to discuss anything new I learned about MS, but there is a heck of a lot of gray area in the MS world.  I don’t condemn MS, since I would be a big hypocrite, but just do what feels right to you.

7 – Short term gain or long term profit?  I will act as the Devil’s Advocate now.  Before I go on, I was glad I got to speak with Julian who writes as the Devil’s Advocate on Travel Codex and Frequent Miler.  We shared some interesting stories and I offered a few suggestions for future topics (Julian, don’t forget to hat tip me *at the top*).  Anyway, back to my question, what is better, short term gain or long term profit?  I am turning 25 later this month and I would guess that I have 50+ more years of credit card use in my future.  I want to play the MS game, but I don’t want to get banned by any of the credit card companies in the process.  I find is extremely difficult to imagine that I could earn more in a few years with MS than I could over the next 50+ years with credit card sign up bonuses and new MS techniques.  With that in mind, I don’t want to burn any bridges with credit card companies.  You have no idea what the travel space will look like next year, or the year after that, or even 5 years in the future.  Why jeopardize your future self to please your current self?  As you can probably guess, my outlook on MS is much different than the majority of those in attendance.  The message I heard many times was, “it’s going to die soon and I want to get ever last point I possibly can.” Good for you guys, I hope it works out.

8 – These people really care about me!  I am honestly surprised that so many people in attendance read my blog.  People were asking me about my credit card affiliate links (gone as of 10am this morning) and about my job search.  My readers are more tuned into my life than my friends on Facebook.  It’s funny.  I have a lot more in common with you guys than I do with the people I grew up with.  They just don’t seem to care about miles and points like we do.  It’s probably for the best anyway.  We have more fun!

9 – Wasting miles and points is good for us.  Stay with me on this for a second.  We all have that friend / family member / coworker who travels a lot and is really good at wasting miles and points.  They don’t track their balances with Award Wallet and let their miles and points expire.  They don’t redeem their points for award seats, but rather shiny new toasters.  They don’t sign up for frequent flyer accounts, even though they travel several times a month for work.  Why is this good, you ask?  Think about it for a minute, if everyone earned miles and redeemed miles for award tickets, the airlines would drastically jack up the number of miles needed for awards.  If no one ever let their miles expire, there would be way to many miles in circulation, causing award charts to inflate.  So the next time you hear someone waste their miles or points, you should thank them for making it easier for you to redeem your miles for an award ticket.  If you really care about them, you will tell them about Travel with Grant :)

United Toaster

10 – Is #WestCoastDo worth $115?  Great question.  I have been to many travel conferences over the last few months and feel like I can adequately answer that question.  First, let’s compare the price to other travel conferences:

  • Frequent Traveler University – Basic ($149)
  • Frequent Traveler University – Advanced ($249)
  • Chicago Seminars ($99)
  • #WestCoastDo ($115)

The Chicago Seminars is definitely a great value with tons of travel advice, award booking advice, MS advice, and open discussions.  The Chicago Seminars starts Friday afternoon, goes for a few hours, then is all day Saturday, and most of the day on Sunday.  You definitely get your money’s worth.  The location is not great (always at the Holiday Inn in Elk Grove, Illinois) but with airport shuttles that is not an issue.

Before I discuss Frequent Traveler University events, I want to make it clear that even though I am a part of Prior2Boarding / Boarding Area, I pay all expenses to get to/from FTU events.  All FTU events are run by Boarding Area.  Anyway, hopefully Randy won’t be upset with me for sharing my thoughts.  As you probably know, the FTU price has climbed up to $249 per person.  In comparison, the host hotels are usually very nice and close to major airports, making it easy to get to/from the airport.  The event starts Friday night with complimentary happy hour, goes from 9am – 5pm on Saturday, and 9am – 4pm on Sunday.  Lunch is provided on Saturday and Sunday.  FTU events often have many travel sponsors, so the price seems unnecessarily high.  With all that said, I am still planning on attending FTU Advanced in Washington, DC (December 2014) and FTU Advanced in San Diego (March 2015).

Lastly, let’s discuss #WestCoastDo.  The host hotel (Kimpton FireSky) was beautiful, but I did not stay in the host hotel, so I am not sure what the hotel rooms looked like.  The conference was in a large room with several large round tables and many chairs surrounding them.  The lunch was excellent, much better than other lunches at FTU events or the Chicago Seminars.  The hotel-provided happy hour was great, followed by a #WestCoastDo happy hour afterwards.  Clearly there was enough alcohol to support twice as many people.  The conference was only 1 day, from 10am to 5pm on Saturday.  No formal events on Friday or Sunday.  I wish there were, but we made due by eating lunch and talking more about MS in the lobby/bar area.

11 – To summarize… #WestCoastDo is best if you want to learn MS tricks and share MS tricks with others.  Chicago Seminars is best if you want to get your money’s worth, don’t mind going to Chicago in October, and want a great variety of speakers and topics.  FTU Events are great for beginners and intermediate miles and points readers.  If you enjoy reading the Boarding Area blogs, you might not learn very much from the presentations, but you can interact directly with some of your favorite Boarding Area bloggers.  An interesting fact, Frequent Miler speaks at all 3 travel conferences, he is the only one.

As a blogger, I enjoy going to all the events and meeting blog readers and other travel bloggers.  It is all about socializing with others (not much socializing goes on in my bedroom).  If you have never gone to a travel conference, I highly recommend going to at least one.  They tend to be all over the country, so one should be close by.  Buy your tickets as soon as they go on sale.  You can always transfer/sell them if you decide you cannot make it.  If you need more encouragement, please read Why you Should go to Travel Conferences by Yourself #Rant.

If you were at #WestCoastDo, what did you think of the conference?  If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

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40 thoughts on “Marathon Man: “Manufactured Spending is like Card Counting” and my #WestCoastDo Thoughts

  1. Sam

    Just a question: you mention hoping Randy isn’t upset at you for sharing your thoughts–is that possible, or are you kidding?

    I was glad to meet you this weekend, and sorry for the “Hey you’re Grant, from Travel with Grant,” when I first saw you.

    1. Grant

      Randy is a very understanding guy and I hope he understands where I am coming from. Since I do not participate in planning or organizing these events, I have no idea what the cost involved is. I am only looking at it from an attendee’s point of view of what I get vs. what I pay for. With that said, I still pay to go to the events because I enjoy socializing with others and speaking with the presenters/bloggers.

      Don’t feel bad, Sam, I heard that a few times at #WestCoastDo. It was great to meet you as well, wish we had more time to talk, blogger y blogger. There is always next time!

  2. Jamie

    FTUs are not run by Boarding Area. They are run by a separate 501(c)3 entitled the Frequent Traveler Education Foundation. A great deal of it has to do with the House of Miles, but it isn’t owned or operated by Boarding Area itself.

    1. Grant

      Thank you for sharing Jamie, I think you are right. The tickets are issued/processed by Frequent Traveler Education Foundation. Will you be at FTU Advanced in DC?

    2. John

      Also, even though the FTU’s are run by Not For Profit 501(c)3, that doesnt mean the people running them dont get paid…..I think ir would be interesting to find out the salaries of the people who run them…

  3. Hank

    If U are not going to share “secrets” about MS that U may have picked up at the conference, then why should anyone bother to read and support your blog?

    1. jed

      Some bloggers don’t know or don’t care that sharing secrets about certain deals on a blog on the Internet kills those deals. I support Grant because he uses discretion! If you want to learn secrets that can’t be learned online, go to meetups!

  4. Raul

    I agree that MS is like counting cards. You take a risk of getting caught doing sumthing thats frowned upon and the consequences may be getting banned or taken out back and getting roughed up. Now if I was a gambling man and took that risk and got caught I would just leave and never return or make a scene when asked to leave. Marathon Man does not see it this way. He seems to believe that if you get caught you should make a scene and threaten lawsuits like he recently did on flyer talk during the old blue shutdowns. He blamed bloggers for his shutdown when it was most likely do to greed and overworking his workhorse. I think his lowest point was when he basically called for people to call American express and tell them that they learned MS from bloggers who have ties to american express via affiliate sign up links. Didn’t like how he came at frequent miler sideways recently. Frequent miler handled it like a true gentleman I must say, don’t think I would have been as mice as he was when responding back to MM. Just my two cents.

    1. Grant

      Marathon Man does take MS very seriously and is very passionate about the topic. I don’t always agree with what he does, but sometimes he has valid arguments. I have not been keeping up with that FT thread, but it sounds feisty.

      1. Raul

        Lol feisty it was, for a short time at least. I took the advice from a poster who suggested making popcorn since it was so entertaining. Most who were shutdown were running $50,000 through CC in a month if not more. Most also had statement closing dates on the 22nd or 27th from what I’ve read, sum exceptions to this rule but not many. Haven’t seen anyone post about getting shut down after the 27th so I think Old Blue is safe again.

      2. chrisflyer

        I don’t necessarily agree with the stuff Marathon Man does. But I did have a chance to talk to him for a few minutes before the DO and he seemed like a really fun/entertaining guy. He actually got suspended from flyertalk for the drivel he was putting in the FT Amex Blue thread, but he had a good sense of humor about that when I asked him about it. He’ll be back.

        1. Grant

          Yes, I agree. I spoke with him by the firepit on Saturday night and he is a very smart guy with a good sense of humor. That is the side of Marathon Man I like the most.

  5. Airgypsy

    Yes, Grant. I second Choi..what can’t be discussed on your blog stays within the confines of Tustin In ‘n (no) Out! ;) see you Sat!

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    1. Grant

      Great decision Danny, where are you flying from? It is a lot of fun and probably 90% or more of attendees come by themselves. It is more fun that way :)

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