[Editor's note: today's post is a guest submission from Trevor, who blogs alongside Joe Cortez at Tagging Miles, a member of the Saverocity blog network (i.e. the good guys). Trevor is a After seeing Trevor's rants about US Bank on Twitter where he is @tmount, I begged him to write a post giving my readers the case against one of my favorite points currencies: the Flexpoints earned by US Bank's Flexperks Travel Rewards credit cards. To his complaints, I can add my own indictment: I have no idea whether Flexperks is supposed to be written with CamelCase (FlexPerks) or without. Enjoy!]
The Free-quent Flyer is big on FlexPerks. I suspect he is in the 1% of maximizers of the FlexPerks program. And why not? On the face, it’s a pretty spectacular program:
So then why I am so down on it? Simply put – the value of points or miles is intrinsically linked to their ease of redeeming.
Now, I’ve got accounts with Chase, American Express, Barclays, Citi, FIA (aka Fidelity AMEX), Discover, and US Bank. The only account I commonly have to reset the password (which is nearly as hard as booking a Korean Air Skypass award), is USBank. So before I can even think of redeeming (and I’ll get there), I’m going through a rigmarole just to check my account. Really, I feel like they should be buying me dinner and drinks – first you ask me my log-in / username, then you ask me who my best childhood friend is, then it’s an image and a password. Ok – so I’ve finally gotten in!
A week or few ago I received a little pamphlet showing me how easy it is to start redeeming my FlexPoints. Maybe it’s just me, but if you have to send out a pamphlet with step by step instructions, maybe it's kind’ve hard?
The first thing that strikes me about using FlexPerks is that you’re limited to their website to purchase tickets.
Ok. I get it, they have a partner that they want to guide you toward. Or they want to simplify their accounting. I don’t know, but I get the single option. For all of my — non-mistake fare — revenue travel, I book directly with the airline. Why? Because it gives me that warm fuzzy feeling, like, if I run into a problem before, during, or after travel, I can call the airline, and they can make it right.
I’ve been in the other position. I once went up to Boston on an interview, the ticket was paid for by the company I was interviewing with, and I finished early. I called the airline to try to waitlist on an earlier flight, yet I was told that I had to call Orbitz, because that was who the ticket was booked through. That got me nowhere fast. I ended up flying my ticketed flight after 3 hours in Logan Airport's old terminal (at least I think it was old, it sure looked old).
Back to using FlexPerks – the Free-quent Flyer has a lot of tips and tricks for utilizing FlexPerks, Frequent Miler has some recommendations too. But, when you actually go to make the booking, first you’re faced with points only, not able to make the judgment call as to whether you’re maximizing your points or not.
I guess this is the same thing as if you look on ITA Matrix to find a flight you want, then go to buy it on American Airlines’ website, but it just seems like additional clicks that are geared against consumers trying to maximize their value.
You do get the point and dollar cost once you’ve selected your flight, which is good, but it's additional clicks.
Is the hassle worth it?
So, to summarize my issues with US Bank:
- Just logging in is nearly as difficult as it is to book a Korean Air Skypass award;
- Once you make it in, it’s another few clicks to get to what is essentially an Orbitz search tool;
- Initial results only provide the required points, it requires an additional click/page load to see what the dollar equivalent of a ticket is.
Talking about the benefits of the US Bank Cash+, yes, you can get up to 5% on charity, but is it worth it?