I’m Being Trolled, Right?

Filed Under: American Express

The Devil’s Advocate and I are in the middle of a bit of a kerfuffle. The truth is that when his weekly series started, it presented a unique perspective. Unfortunately the quality of his content has gone down faster than a bottle of Krug in Cathay Pacific first class.


I’ll admit, though, that he got me a few weeks ago. He attacked my beloved Lufthansa first class, and it hurt. But he was right. Because my love for Lufthansa is unconditional. We have a thing. And you’ll never understand. But I respect that. Much like you and your girlfriend must have a thing, because she tolerates you putting her in angled business class. 😉

I’m not sure what has happened since, but he has gone from making valid points to basically just being a troll.

Last week he wrote a post about why Membership Rewards points are “worthless,” which I rebutted because… well, it was possibly the worst argument I’ve ever read on the internet (and I read the comments sections of AOL news stories, so that says a lot).

This week he returns with a post entitled “We Interrupt This Series So My Readers Can Thrash Plucky.”

In case you don’t have five minutes (or any brain cells) to spare, here’s a 45-second summary of his argument:

Now, I’ll do what I can to use as many gifs as possible, because I think they’re more on Julian’s level… maybe he’ll actually understand my argument that way?

Instead, today we’re going to look at Little Plucky’s Membership Rewards argument point-by-point and tell him why he’s wrong.


(I have a sneaking suspicion this is gonna be pretty sweet.)


Little Plucky also claims my argument partially boils down to the fact that the hotel transfer partners are “useless” because of the bad transfer ratios. That’s not what I said at all. I said the hotel transfer partners are useless because the hotels partners are useless. Unless you disagree and think that Best Western has a lot of fantastic ultra-premium properties, that’s a pretty big difference.


In case you didn’t catch on in the last round, your argument was so bad that I actually tried to do you a favor by arguing some points on your behalf. So Membership Rewards’ hotel partners are useless, right? It’s not the transfer ratios? So if each Membership Rewards point got you 10 points with a hotel transfer partner it would still be worthless since it’s not the transfer ratios that are the problem, but rather the partners as such… right?

Because I’d be perfectly happy redeeming points at the Conrad Koh Samui…


Or the St. Regis New York…


But, I mean, I guess who would really want to stay at those hotels anyway, right?

Now we move on to Little Plucky’s defense of AmEx’s transfer partners. He lists a bunch of partners who have huge fuel surcharges on redemptions and argues the following about them…

I’m thrilled to redeem ANA Mileage Club miles for Lufthansa first class roundtrip between New York and Frankfurt 100,000 miles plus ~$800 in fuel surcharges.

What??? He’s thrilled about spending ~$800? Well, I suppose that’s one position. A different and substantially more sane position by us folks who actually work for a living is that no one is thrilled about spending ~$800 on anything unless it has the words “Super Bowl” and “~50-yard line seats” in it.


Honey, you couldn’t pay me $800 to go to the Super Bowl. If we’re talking about front row seats to a One Direction concert, though, that would be a different story.

You’re right, shame on anyone that doesn’t mind paying less cash for a first class ticket on one of the best airlines than they’d pay for an economy ticket. Angled flat business class is the only way, after all!

And there are tons of uses of Membership Rewards points that don’t involve any fuel surcharges, including many redemptions through Air Canada Aeroplan, British Airways Executive Club, Delta SkyMiles, etc.

For instance, AJK mentioned that

…MR purports to offer transfer bonuses. In reality, though, it’s been like three years since the last DL bonus.

Yes, at least Plucky didn’t try to sell us all on the latest 30% transfer bonus to Virgin America which still doesn’t even get you to a 1:1 transfer ratio.  Hey, look everyone, AmEx is screwing you over by 30% less this month!


You can’t even keep your argument straight here. One Virgin America Elevate point can be redeemed for more than two cents towards the cost of a Virgin America ticket.

It’s ironic that you don’t understand the concept of points currencies being worth different amounts, given that, you know, the whole basis of your argument is that one points currency is “worthless.”

I’m sure in his next post about how Starwood points are worthless, he’ll slap their wrists for having a 65:1 transfer ratio to Air New Zealand Airpoints. And maybe after that we can have a post about how currency conversion is a scam. How dare they only give us one US Dollar for every 11,000+ Indonesian Rupiah!

And then he selectively shares comments from his readers:

My reader Jason noted another downside of Membership Rewards that is super exclusive to just them…

I never see this discussed, but aren’t there fees associated with transferring MR points to partners?

Why, yes, Jason, AmEx is kind enough to charge us an additional fee when we transfer MR points to domestic carriers. They say it’s because they’re being charged taxes on the transfer. Interesting though that neither Chase nor SPG feels the need to pass along the same tax, isn’t it?

Do I like that they charge these fees? Nope. But:

  • It only applies to US programs, which aren’t the ones I generally choose to transfer points to anyway
  • The fee is 0.06 cents per point, up to a maximum of $99 per transfer — if that’s the difference between a program being valuable or not, then that’s on you…

And my reader Mipo777 had a great point about AmEx’s top-notch transfer partner Frontier Airlines

I had just enough Frontier miles to get a whopping $20 in Papa Johns gift cards. Which is did because those miles are about worthless.

I almost hesitate to ask how many Frontier miles were required to get extra pepperoni.

Mipo777, I realize based on reading what the Devil’s Advocate has to say, transferring points to Frontier might seem like a good option. After all, they don’t have fuel surcharges and your girlfriend might really like the animals on the tail. But if you come over here and read my blog, I’ll show you how you should actually redeem your points. 😉

But let’s not restrict this to my own readers. Here’s what commenter David Young wrote over at Plucky’s blog

The MOST valuable thing about MR is they can be turned into cold, hard CASH at 1c/mile.

He’s right. American Express Membership Rewards are equivalent to a cash back card but with a super high annual fee. Hey, who wouldn’t want that?

Right, the $0 annual fee on the Amex EveryDay Card is just a real killer! And I think you’re missing the point (no pun intended). Points can’t be worthless when at worst you can redeem them for one cent cash each.

And since Plucky doesn’t play Devil’s Advocate, I’m sure he would never argue one way on something and then turn around and argue it the opposite way just to get back at me, right? Because that would make him a hypocrite, wouldn’t it?

Why Membership Rewards is more or less dead to me” by Plucky Schlappig

Oh, Plucky. I’m so disappointed.

This guy is better at selectively quoting than a politician! The part he left out is that the post of my title had “for now” in it at the end. And I hate to break it to you, but they’re more valuable to me now thanks to all the positive changes that Membership Rewards partners have made, and all the “sweet spot” redemptions we’ve figured out.

Allow me to quote myself from the last post (since I’m not actually convinced you read it):

A transferable points currency is akin to investing your money vs. storing it under your mattress. Yes, the value of transferable points currencies can fluctuate. But that’s a good thing. Sometimes they lose partners or their partner programs devalue, while other times they add more transfer partners or their partner programs open up new redemption opportunities.

And if we’re going to start selectively quoting blog comments, I can play that game too.

chasgoose said:

I have to agree Lucky. While its true the hotel rates suck (although SPG isn’t TERRIBLE, especially if you just need to top it off). I really appreciate having more than one source for points that I can transfer. I was recently able to book a European vacation entirely on miles (including a couple hotels, although mostly I’m AirBnB’ing) including LH F A380 on the outbound and SQ Suites on the return and I wouldn’t have been able to do that were I not able to combine my points from Chase Ultimate Rewards and AMEX. Sure the value of Membership Rewards has gone down with recent devaluations (not to mention the increasing reduction in benefits for Platinum cardholders), but its still a great mileage currency.

Also, its not discussed, but I have found that for almost every partner AMEX is faster or at least just as fast in terms of how long the transferred miles take to post in whatever program you want to put them in. I transferred both MR points and Chase UR points to SQ for my trip at the same time and it took Chase 2 days longer to get them there.

KP said:

Devils advocate’s posts are pretty good, but his argument today was simply flawed.

David M said:


I absolutely agree with you. Mynhead was spinning when I read the other post. They are worthless because they have overlapping partners with other and some of the point exchange rates are not good – so what!!!

it so easy to get a lot of those point with great sign up bonuses! I just used a ton of easily earned points to book a trip from Boston to India on Virgin Atlantic – lots of value to me!!!

Chris said:

TEAM LUCKY. You just tore that ignorant boy a new hole.

dave said:

One of these guys is flying in business class drinking warm beer and listening to his girlfriend complain the entire flight about the angled flat seats while the other is kicking back in Lufthansa first class with a cold flute of Krug and a mouthful of warm nuts. Membership Rewards points for the win!

HansGolden said:

@MikeOWave: That’s why I’ve been pretty dubious of HMT DA as a regular feature. The first few posts were great (and then he had a funny one), but I was already bracing myself because there just aren’t enough sensible contrarian viewpoints out there to do 52 a year. And most of the sensible contrarian viewpoints have already been expressed in regular blog posts anyway. (And the ones that haven’t, DA is unlikely to discover and I sure am not going to divulge! Those are trade secrets. :-D)

Most importantly, this series of DA posts is a cringe-inducing train-wreck. The point of a valuable DA is not to make a cartoon-figure scenario, but rather to give arguments that are least halfway sensible and actually stimulate thinking, even if many people don’t believe them. When a DA advocates a position no one believes, it becomes a strawman and quite useless. (Or when he advocates a position that “low information” FFP users hold, it becomes worse than useless because it validates wrong beliefs about miles and they may not realize how unserious he’s being.)

At this point it just feels like DA is descending to Christopher Elliott’s level and writing absurd flamebait just for the clicks.

Writing with such hyperventilating hyperbole that Amex MR “Are Totally Worthless” helps no one. We know they’re worth a minimum of 1.25 cpm if you have Business Plat and 1 cpm if you don’t. It would have been actually helpful if he’d, you know, done some real work and quantified a value for the three transferable currencies based upon average fuel surcharges for TPAC and TATL tickets. Amex has a focus on international FFPs which tend to charge YQ, but with recent devals in US programs, it’s often either pay exorbitant miles and no YQ or with a foreign program reasonable miles with YQ. When you actually do the math, you often come out ahead or breakeven if you realize you can pay the YQ at 1.25 (MR)-1.33 (UR) (or even better do some MS on the Barclay Arrival and/or Fido 2% to cover it), compared to transferring to a US program. (SPG is the current big winner because they transfer to AA, US, and AS, the only USA ones to not have devalued yet.)

The hilarious thing in all this? CW actually says, “Ahh!! YQ!! Never pay YQ!” which is basically the stance DA adopted. The true DA position would have been to actually do some work, crunch the numbers, do the work no one has done, and show a comparison of when paying YQ is a good idea, which is a much under-reported and non-CW stream of thought. It’s something that’s occasionally mentioned on blogs that sometimes it’s better to just pay the YQ, but no one has done the legwork (that I’m aware) to make a comparison table/spreadsheet to run the scenarios. (Drew and Carrie, I hear your name calling on this one! Great content post idea for you.)

Please note that while I use strong language in this post, it’s not personal against the DA as the DA acknowledges that his positions are absurd. What cracks me up is the comments on HMT, the noobs are eating it up. I guess it serves as therapy to channel their frustration, even if the channeling is wildly inaccurate. It’s a frustration that familiarity with the ins and outs and routes obviates, so I’m fairly oblivious to their plights, mean old me. But kudos to DA for being a populist chest-pounder and writing a popular post. There is a special skill in that and vindicates, after a fashion, the hyperbole. It vindicates if you want to be the BuzzFeed + Donald Trump of the travel blogging world. :-P Sorry, I keep trying to say nice, conciliatory things, but other stuff just keeps coming out. :-D I guess I’ve just been thoroughly infected by faux cat fight spirit of these posts, I just can’t help myself.

shay peleg said:

I gotta say the devil guy is wrong on this one Mr lucky. Amex miles are the best and it’s run by amex which makes it even better ( costumer service)

Bottom line


  1. Next time, please put the bottom line (quite apt IMHO) at the top to save us from 5 minutes of mindless drivel.

  2. how many readers does his blog have anyway? i bet it’s a fraction of your readership… why do you even care what he writes?
    if you had not posted it here, all 3 of his readers would know about it…

    “a mouthful of warm nuts” – whatever works for you…. hehe

  3. I had never heard of this person until I read this post. If you don’t fan these flames, they will go out.

  4. When people troll each other this hard but that poorly, it is because they are in love with each other and don’t want to admit it.

  5. Take the high road, brother! Unfortunately ANY comment your write at this point only benefits putting a spotlight on “he who’s name should not even be mentioned”. You know his comeback is on the way…..don’t fall into the trap of responding.

  6. “My name is on the streets? My name IS my name!”

    Be be quoted on the interwebs 2x in one day has my head spinning. I really do find this back and forth between the DA & Plucky amusing, although I think that this particular topic has run its course.

    I do want to clarify that those 8400 Frontier points I cashed out for a pizza-like-Frisbee were hard earned, BIS miles. Back in the good old days when warm chocolate chip cookies were handing out to those of us still nostalgic for Midwest and before Frontier engaged Spirit in a race to the bottom. I would never swap AMEX points for Frontier miles.

    I have however, happily shuffled MR off the BA back when they had a 40% bonus (God I miss those bonuses) and used Avios to book a otherwise ridiculously overpriced flight home for Christmas.

    So I think Amex points do have value, so long as the Avios program doesn’t change. I have the new AMEX everyday card & about 90k MR tied to it just praying for another bonus to BA. Or maybe I’ll combine them with UR for Singapore redemption someday.

    So remember to DA & Plucky, “You come at the king, you best not miss.”

  7. The only part that got me was the one direction show. You really like them or its just you being ironic? Because I do 🙂

  8. Not fun or entertaining. I know both of you are doing it for fun, but it sounds like an inside joke. You both can produce much better quality posts.

  9. Who is Julian? Is that the DA’s actual name?

    BTW, sounds like DA is similar to Sonja; quite delusionaaaallllll! 😉

  10. Wasting energy on troll is counter productive.

    Your blog is awesome.

    btw where is AI trip report get back to work… 🙂

  11. This is obviously not a real kerfuffle. Bloggers will be bloggers. It’s all quite silly.

    Aside from that, I imagine your relationship with Amex has a significant impact on your feelings on MR.

  12. Ben,

    This is great !!! Had not laughed so hard in quite some time.

    Your blog is awesome. Keep it up 🙂

  13. TEAM LUCKY AGAIN!!! Lucky seems to just WIN these point by point arguments. Why does this other unknown guy I’ve never heard of even try?

  14. No offence to you Lucky, but these kind of high-school mud-throwing posts back and forth is not why I read your blog. Its too bad that this GIF war has to clutter the actual content that most of us come here for..

  15. Hah! Lucky, I never heard of DA till you linked to him and while I enjoyed his good humored jab at you for Lufthansa-Love, his recent comeback to your comeback to his MR post seems to have descended a few rungs on the ladder of good-natured gentlemanly blogging.

    I love your blog and I love the GIFs but I don’t watch Real Housewives because it’s a lot of needless drama. So I hope you don’t bite any more of the DA’s bait and we end up with a lot of needless drama on here. I was looking forward to start reading DA’s blog regularly till I read his most recent post and realized he’s running out of original material.

    Keep up the good work. Love your writing and what you do for a living and look forward to meeting you in person someday.

  16. If you as a proud Male American would rather go see some foriegn teeny booper concert (last time I checked you’re halfway to 48) than our Nation’s greatest sport, then there’s something seriously wrong with you.

  17. The devils guy posts are getting more and more silly . Am I the only one who never saw any value in his posts?

  18. Who is this guy ? I cannot even find his “blog” on google typing “review flight/plane/first class…” Don’t waste your time with this “troll” and continue your hard work… He is going to disappear sooner or later ^^

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