Last week our family moved from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Billings, Montana. Previously, I was a full-time blogger, and now I’m working full-time with a church.
It’s amazing how a move impacts a mileage strategy. Some news is good and some news is bad news.
The Bad News
1. Southwest doesn’t fly out of Billings (or anywhere in Montana).
Since my wife and I both have a Companion Pass, it’s a huge negative. The closest Southwest city is Denver which is about 8 hours away. That’s a huge inconvenience, but for Christmas we might just be driving down to Denver and flying out of the airport there. Getting two free tickets out of Denver does provide some incentive. However, once we lose our Companion Passes (mine this December and my wife next December), we probably won’t be working to get the Companion Pass again.
2. Billings is an expensive city to fly to and from.
This rules out pursuing any fixed value credit card programs for flights out of Billings. The flip side is that it does make miles more valuable (even though I’m not getting any more travel out of the miles).
Out of Denver (our previous home airport) we could fly in October from Denver to Buffalo (near where my family lives) for as low as $255 roundtrip. Now out of Billings, the best price is $399.
The Good News
1. Montana doesn’t have any state sales tax.
If I ever find a good deal online at a store like Office Max or Office Depot, I can purchase the items (earning 5x with Ink Bold) and resell them on Amazon Marketplace. I’ve done this a few times in the past, but sales tax always eats into my profits. I’ll be able to do more buying and reselling for the sake of points.
2. Montana requires stores to cash out gift cards of $5 or less.
This rule only applies to gift card balances that start off at $5 or more, and the balance is used to bring the total below $5. Since I sometimes buy gift cards as a way to earn points, I’m glad to know that I can get cash for any gift card balance less than $5. As an example, in January I was able to buy $10 Chili’s gift cards for $5 with my Chase Sapphire Preferred for 2 points per dollar. Now, when any of those cards get below $5, I’ll just cash them out.
To see if your state has the same rules, check out this page.
3. A CVS store in town accepts credit card payments for Vanilla Reload cards.
I’ve already found a CVS store that will let me use a credit card to buy Vanilla Reload cards. That’s going to be a great way to slowly start stockpiling miles and points.
As always, I’ve found a really valuable use for Avios. Those are nice points to have for limited markets.
Not solely related to our move, but I now think American miles are much more valuable since United started charging for date changes on award tickets. While American doesn’t fly out of Billings, Alaska Airlines does.
Lesson for you:
I’ve always thought it was important to diversify your miles. You never know when you’re going to move or when a mileage program might change its policies. In the end, the more diversified you are, the better prepared you’ll be to get through any changes to a program or your personal situation.