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Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where renowned mile and point gurus share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Cheap Tricks to Travel
Shari’s been to more than 30 countries and lived in Japan and the Czech Republic, so I was looking forward to our chat on Friday!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
My husband and I had an American Express Starwood (SPG) and an American Airlines Citibank credit card for several years but we only thought about getting miles by spending money on them one dollar per point/mile, and of course getting frequent flyer miles for flights.
For years we only earned enough miles for 2 domestic round trip tickets per year. We finally spent all of our SPG points earned over several years (100,000) on a 5-month trip around the world we took in 2010. However, it wasn’t until last year in June, that I read a magazine article about point strategies and bonus points. Then I discovered sites like yours, The Points Guy and Flyer Talk. I couldn’t believe I didn’t know about this before!
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I love travel and I love writing. For much of my life, I was a professional writer for magazines, newspapers, ad agencies and corporate communications. I thought blogging would be a good outlet for both my loves. One thing I find missing from some of the wonderful blogs I visit almost daily are other aspects of travel beyond miles and points.
For example, my husband and I have had great low-cost trips doing home exchanges and vacation rentals, even volunteer opportunities. Most the time we stay at guesthouses, in hostels, B&Bs, etc. that are really low cost. We also do Groupon, Travelzoo deals, etc. when it’s a really killer deal. My goal is to travel more often and longer for less money–and that’s the focus of my blog.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Signup bonuses! But I have learned to wait patiently for the best deals so I don’t spread our credit too thin and spending requirements aren’t too stressful.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Definitely our 5-month trip around the world starting in Fiji and ending in NYC. We actually planned for it to be a year but we cut it short because we needed a break from traveling, believe it or not. We had a loose plan but it was great being spontaneous with virtually unlimited time. A total sense of freedom!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
The savvy travelers get it and some don’t understand it as a strategy to travel more or cheaper. One couple who we are good friends with are on their 1-year sabbatical right now inspired by our 5-month experience.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Waiting patiently for really good deals since we want to maintain our good credit scores and continue to be able to get new cards.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Moving money from our bank into Fidelity Investments and Ameritrade to get a bunch of American Airline miles. I calculated I would get more miles if I opened more accounts with less money in each.
The BIG mistake was that I put these accounts in both my name and my husband’s name, which was really dumb because we could have gotten double points separately.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Getting separate cards/accounts for me and my spouse. We only made that mistake once but it was costly in terms of the lost bonus opportunity.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I’m a real estate agent in “real” life. Being self-employed works well for taking time off but I feel a little guilty leaving clients. Fortunately, I have an agent friend who can help out when I’m out of town.
Any parting words?
If you love to travel, travel now! Take more than your 2-week vacation and hit the road for an adventure. Don’t wait for retirement because we never know what life will bring, so travel now.
Shari– Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!