Travel Tips

Are Points and Miles Conferences Worth Attending?

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the upcoming FTU events in NYC and D.C. and I got a few questions from readers wondering it points and miles conferences in general are worth attending. This is something I get asked a lot, so I thought I’d share my thoughts. I’ve attended the Chicago Seminars pretty much consecutively over the last five years and I’m scheduled to speak at FTU Seattle this weekend. In general, I think points and miles conferences have value regardless of how advanced you are. It combines learning and networking, which can be helpful regardless of how much you know about points and miles.

If you’re new to points and miles, conferences like FTU are great starting points. You hear from the most experienced bloggers, ask questions, and connect with people who share the same hobby. Hearing from others about what’s possible in terms of manufactured spending or travel hacking in general is very motivating. You may even pick up tips and tricks that don’t get blogged about (or that haven’t been discovered yet). Plenty of seasoned vets go to these events for the networking opportunities alone. In my experience, they tend to be pretty approachable and willing to share tips in person.

Points and miles conferences like FTU are great for newbies and more experienced travel hackers alike. There’s a misconception that most presentations are aimed at newbies and that’ simply not the case. Guys like Stefan always have interesting presentations about obscure places they’ve traveled to or useful tips on how to save on paid travel. And even if you sit out every single presentation, these conferences are a great place to connect with people who validate and encourage your obsession with points and miles. Even I’ve picked up a few MS tips from people I met at these events. 

Overall, I think there’s a lot of value in attending points and miles events like FTU. Not only can you learn quite a bit from the presenters, but it’s a great place to build relationships and pick up tips in a more informal environment. Really, anyone can learn something at these events – regardless of how long they’ve been at this. That being said, I’d love your feedback on this topic and whether you’re attending FTU Seattle this weekend.

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35 Comments

  1. There is a big elephant in the room it seems when talking about MS specifics as it relates to AMEX, Chase, Citi, Barclay, etc. No one seems to want to talk about what level of MS seems to be OK from personal experience at these banks for various cards. I know you did alot with the Arrival Plus and Barclay seems to be OK with that. But what about the other banks and the various cards they support.

  2. John Caffrey

    I also attended the Chicago FTU and was quite disappointed with the program which was about 80% oriented to MF which, in my opinion only, is not really “travel”. The seminar should have been devoted to how to best optimize whatever points you own from whatever sources. Instead, the speakers talked about how to buy goods at a discount and then sell them for a profit, etc I ask you how that is “travel”? For full disclosure, I attended an earlier conference in Dallas which was NOT so heavily oriented toward MF and I learned a lot but if this is the future of these conferences, then count me out! So, no more such conferences for me.

    • Are your referring to manufactured spending? That topic generates a lot of interest, which is why these events focus so much on it.

    • Agree. Attended Seattle ftu last month, first timer. Appalled at how many sessions devoted to MS. Yuck. Would have preferred sessions discussing online travel tools….there was benefit from attending, but so many sessions on ms turned me off. Won’t be attending another ftu….

  3. Mile and Point conferences are kinda a scam … just ask TPG … he won’t go to them anymore

  4. It’s very expensive to fly, stay and pay FTU fee. I assume the speakers are comped those costs. In Chicago 2017, the Marriott where the conference was held was in poor condition. No one made arrangements with management to keep lounge open that week-end. Was it worth over $800? Probably to the speakers. The people trying to sell something were friendly. What I learned was that there are less expensive ways to learn. Having said all that, I did not attend Ariana’s presentation (she was probably fabulous) and I very much appreciate her blog.

    • Thanks Donna! There are definitely less expensive ways to learn – namely, scouring blogs for information, which is how I got started. But I’ve met newbies who don’t have the time to do that and for them, these conferences do provide value. That being said, I do like going back to the Chicago Seminars every year just to catch up with people who go for the meet-ups. I agree on one thing though – some bloggers are totally ungracious towards attendees and will bounce as soon as their presentations are done.

  5. Being in Portland, I really wanted to attend FTU Seattle! I had a health even with a family member that will prevent me from going. I was really looking forward to connecting with others in the Pac NW to see if there what regional MS opportunities might work. I’m looking forward to attending one of these events sometime.

    • Sorry to hear that. You can always go to one of the monthly TravelCodex meet-ups in Seattle.

      • Thanks Ariana, I’ll have to look into that.

        • You don’t have Portland Meetups? Our Seattle area meetups are very welcoming!! I haven’t made it in ages, and have been too busy with life and work to play this hobby much lately, but come visit anytime! It’s the third Tuesday of every month, 5-9+ pm. Dave Nuttall hosts and is super friendly!! Regional connections, and personal connections in general make a big difference. That’s what I go for- the FUN of hanging out with folks with similar minds, and getting people’s phone numbers and personal tips. I always learn more from the attendees than the speakers, even at my first FTU. I even made friends with my favorite writer- who wrote hilarious posts at the time. I will be attending Seattle, minus some time for my son’s birthday, and am particularly pleased to finally see you, dear Arianna. You are actually the first person to get me into this hobby, as I ran across a link to your personal tweet with @konorth and @ringsthecaddy, and cracking the codes on your hilarious group banter was too exciting! Sorting out what the birds were and why trips to visit Kate meant you could MS in pink underwear at home, were enticing. Took me ages to sort out who Kate was, by cross referencing blogs and tweets! I’ve been a permanent fan since, and always wanted to get to meet you or see you speak! See you there!

  6. Short answer to are these worth attending?

    No.

  7. Jim Dakanowski

    If you have to ask, you can’t afford it

  8. Charles Arnold

    I am currently at the FTU in Seattle. I did not make your presentation the first day, but hope to see your Sunday presentation. FTU does seem heavy on MS. I find much of the information is available if you search enough on the web. But I learned a few things yesterday and expect to today as well. The two biggest things I get is seeing new ways to think about utilizing different programs and the networking is really great at these events. I have been to two conferences and I believe I got value from both. Not sure I will go every year but I plan to go again.

  9. If was nice to hear your talks and meet you in the lobby today. See you at another event! WorldTravelGuy on instagram.

  10. Definitely worth the time and money to attend the event. Met great people, made some connections and learned quite a bit.

  11. I often wondered how these events went/go. As with bloggers(you excluded) most seem to be very protective about how they do things with their mileage games. I’ve been to a few meetups in my city only to find that those who attend are more interested in hear about how others do things and not sharing about how they do things, again, very protective but unwilling to help a bro out. The way I see it is these big events can be a kind of fan-boy experience. The cost is up to those who are willing to take that risk of attending with the hope they gain some information that could be dead 2 days later. I suppose it depends on how much one is going to get involved with the mileage game.

    • Yeah that sounds about right RE meet ups. I think if you’re a newbie, these big events can be a good way to get your foot in the door, meet bloggers, fellow weirdos, etc. Hearing what other people are doing can have a motivating effect on a timid newbie.

  12. I find greater value in local/regional travel hacking meetups rather than the FTU/Chicago Seminar events. You’re networking, you can discuss more regional specific items, and sharing a few tips with your local friends isn’t bound to kill an MS avenue at local meetups. Plus it only costs food+drinks. You can get the same, if not better experience at a local meetup. I was less than impressed with FTU Seattle.

    • I actually thought this event was well organized and really liked the speakers. But I agree, there are cheaper ways to network. The only problem is if you go to these meet-ups as a newbie, you don’t always get welcomed with open arms.

  13. Hi Ariana,
    I attended a conference back in 2012 in New Jersey and it was fantastic. After the conference I took countless trips thanks to miles and points. At this point I want to learn more about MS. But as a solo mom living in NYC I want to make sure the program will deliver MS tips even for New Yorkers without a Walmart in hand. What do you think? Should I take the $ 300 plunge ? 🙂
    Thanks,
    Tania

    • That’s awesome! I would review the schedule and see if the topics address your needs. They’re getting mostly local speakers, so there’s a good chance you’ll get ms tips relevant to NYC.

  14. Tania Pereyra

    Thanks. I really appreciate. I’m so happy finally FTU is coming to NYC but on top of the conference fee I have to pay for babysitter. That’s why I want to make sure I will get useful information about MS. I’m planning to go to Thailand next year and if I can get points with MS for 3 business class tickets it would be amazing. My mom would be flying from Brazil (my home country) and it would be a dream for her to fly business class for the 1st time in her life.
    Thanks again.
    Tania

  15. My son and I went to the Chicago seminars last year. We went to different seminars and then discussed them and compared notes. We hope to do this again this year. I have traveled all my career and had tons of Marriott points and over time millions of miles earned by seat of the pants. Now retired most of those seat of pants miles are gone and this hobby is a great way to reduce my costs in travelling. I want to hear how everyone is earning points. Lately I have found credit cards harder to get and MS costs double over last year. I would love to learn how to better manage my visa debit card costs.

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