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: Passageiro de Primeira
Fabio is a frequent flyer who prefers spending more time in the air than anywhere else. So of course I wanted to chat with him about it!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting miles and points when I received my first VISA Platinum Card from former VARIG as my 16th birthday gift (11 years ago). I still remember the nice silver box where the card came and started reading all the benefits. The part about miles and points came up and really got my attention, making me very interested. From that day on I never stopped reading and studying about them.
In less than 2 years I got an upgrade to a Mastercard Black, 2 Visa Infinite and The Platinum Card from Amex and started collecting double points for each U$1 spent. Today I’m one of the few travel award consultants in Brazil, and I´m very proud of it. I usually book around 60 to 70 award tickets per month and although it is very time-consuming, I love what I do. Actually, I barely have time to do my own bookings anymore. LOL
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor diploma in Tourism and Hospitality Management from Modul University in Vienna, Austria. During my time at University I gained a lot of theoretical and practical knowledge about airlines, travel industry and tourism. After finishing my studies I came back to my home country (Brazil), and I was kind of lost about what I was going to do from that moment on. I used to search about airlines news, frequent flyer programs articles, etc and post them on my Facebook profile
One day a friend of mine said “You should spread your knowledge better, start a blog”. I think that was the small push I needed. So I started my blog Passageiro de Primeira (which means in English “First Passenger”) about airlines, credit cards and loyalty programs. Soon after 3 months I started receiving 300 visitors per day, and in 1 year the blog had about 1.000 visitors a day. The special thing about my blog is that it is unique, since here in Brazil the points and miles culture is not very common. So it is a pleasure to explain my readers how to get the best out of them. And I believe I’m among the few ones who write about this content in my country.
I also offer an award booking service through my blog, and this is what I´m “famous” here for. Around 96% of my clients are TAM Airlines clients, so I usually book only Star Alliance members. Award tickets from GOL Linhas Aereas (the other major airline in Brazil) are bookable online, so they have less demand.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
My advice for people to earn more miles is to use the credit card for everything, even a small candy from a grocery shop. And of course, hotels and airline point-reward promotions are usually good deals.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I think all my travel experiences are memorable, because I tend always to choose airlines that I haven’t flown so I can try their services. For me, the destination doesn´t matter much, what really counts is the journey. If I can go from Sao Paulo to Las Vegas, I want to go the longest way, with the maximum number of segments possible, of course, in premium cabin. I wouldn’t dare travel that long in economy.
But just to mention any, I would say my 6-month internship in St. Barths in 2009 where I spent one of the greatest times of my life. And Xmas and New Year in Lebanon in 2009/2010. Beirut, Jbail, Baalbek are also wonderful places and worth visiting.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
My family and friends think I’m an airline freak. LOL… But they all support me, especially when I get them business and first class for free using their miles. Besides that, they know I love what I´m doing.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I don’t know about other countries, but the best trick for points here in Brazil is to pay one credit card with another. We have a bank system in Brazil that allows you to pay one credit card with the other, so as much credit cards you have, more points you will get. Nowadays I have 4 credit cards and I´m able to get around 200,000 miles per month just rolling over one payment after the other. Usually the bank charges 2.99% per month of the amount of the credit card bill that you are paying with the other. But the glitch is, if you pay one credit card with another today, and go to the bank tomorrow and pay the 2nd one you are charged only 1 day which should be 0.09%. So it is totally worth it.
Another thing that we have in Brazil is that the Rewards program of one of my Banks (Bradesco) actually buys the ticket instead of using miles/points to book it. So in the end they deduct the points from my Rewards account, and that ticket will actually accrual miles since it is a revenue ticket. The amount of points/miles you need is proportional to the ticket’s price, so it is not worth using them for business or first class. In this case the best option is to transfer to any airline program and redeem the award ticket the normal way. The banks in Brazil usually transfer points/miles to TAM Airlines (Star Alliance) or GOL (Delta, Air France-KLM and Qatar Airways)..
Another trick is that TAM Airlines (currently a Star Alliance member) does not have any mileage limit permitted for itineraries. I can book a flight from Sao Paulo to New York with 10 connections that their system will allow to do so.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I never forget one day I had a trip to New York and it was snowing something unbelievable. When I arrived to Crowne Plaza the hotel was fully booked even though I had a confirmed reservation. They offered me 80,000 points for each day of my stay if I decided to move to Ramada. In the end I got 560,000 points. In addition I got Priority Club Platinum status for 2 years. That was amazing!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I knew about this “pay credit card with another” thing earlier so I could have collected more points. This is actually recent to me, from 6 years ago. In addition I wish I knew blogs with so much great information like yours earlier, so I could develop my skills.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
My readers are usually surprised when I tell them that I´m only 26 (turning 27 next month) and had traveled so much already. Since I don´t have any self-portrait picture on my blog, I believe they think I´m around 40-50´s. LOL
Any parting words?
Pay less to fly first class!
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