“I think people automatically assume that you must be far in debt if you have that many cards…”

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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:  Earn Travel Points

Steve is in the US navy and blogs about earning miles and points so I was looking forward to our Friday chat!

Earn Travel Points – Interview With Steve

Steve in Times Square

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

My introduction to points was one that is pretty different than most.  When I was 15 years old my family took a trip to Las Vegas.  A weird place to be when you are 15 because you are too young to do all the fun stuff!  To make a long story short, my dad had us staying at hotels on the strip for free.  Nice rooms, free food and free casino play (for my dad).

My dad told me that he had member cards for all of the hotels he gambled at and that they kept track of all the playing he did.  Once I was old enough I enrolled for my own player cards and used them on a few vacations there.  What happened? I started receiving offers from the Casinos in the mail!

Free rooms, free play, free food… from the Bellagio? The Wynn? Mandalay Bay? Everywhere I played.  The concept of getting something for nothing intrigues me.  (I’ve never left Vegas with less money than I came with in case you think I’m blowing it all at the tables)

Originally when I joined the military I had thought it would give me an opportunity to see the world.  I figured the Navy would have me pulling into port left and right, so I could see it all.  Unfortunately, I ended up with a job where it is virtually impossible to leave the continental United States.  What a bummer!  I wasn’t going to give up that easily though, so I started researching alternative ways to travel.

I have known about frequent flyer programs since I was a child.  Like most, I originally thought that earning them were strictly for people who, well, flew frequently.  It wasn’t until a few years later when I started to notice advertisements for credit cards that offered thousands of miles for sign-ups.

At that point, all I had was a Navy Federal Rewards Card which basically had zero earn potential.  My main concern at that point was how it was going to affect my credit score.  I started small with a Citi card and was hooked.

Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?

Earn Travel Points – Interview With Steve

Steve on a Southwest Flight

My blog is extremely new.  I was at work one day and brought up points to a co-worker.  At first he was very skeptical, but by the end of the conversation, others had gathered and sat down beside me to learn about the advantages of travel hacking.  I realized something that day.  People, in general, are extremely impatient.

To get people the information they want, you must be direct and get right to the point.  That’s how I try to keep my blog.  The only reason people had initially sat down to listen was because they were trying to kill some time at work.  Getting their attention under different circumstances may have proven much more difficult considering most of them had a negative view of the process going in.

I know what it’s like to not have a lot of free time.  Having to sift through meaningless garbage on the internet to finally find what you are looking for can prove tiring and time consuming.  I just wanted to show how earning and redeeming miles can be beneficial as well as provide a reference for those who need tips on handling certain situations.

What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?

Get a job that reimburses travel.  Haha just kidding!  I really can’t stress enough how important maintaining your credit score is.  Speaking strictly from a mileage earning perspective, a low credit score is going to limit the credit cards you can be approved for.

As Andy said in a previous interview, credit cards are the number one way to earn points.  Keep that credit score moderately high and you can play the credit card game!

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

Interestingly enough, my most memorable travel experience didn’t even require me to leave the country!  It’s not too often you hear someone say that.  A couple of years back I had the chance to go to New York City during Fleet Week.  It really taught me that domestic travel can be just as fun and exciting as international travel.

Needless to say, I had a few great nights out there.  Myself, as well as the other few sailors I was with, got treated like royalty.  The only downside was having my cover swiped from me at one point and having to walk around outside without it.

What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?

Most of you can probably relate to this, but my family doesn’t understand how this works at all.  My mom, of course, is always concerned about me carrying high balances.  I have to periodically assure her that I NEVER carry a balance on any of my cards.

Also, I tend to get weird looks from people when I tell them how many credit cards I have.  I think people automatically assume that you must be far in debt if you have that many cards, which couldn’t be farther from the truth in my case.

Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?

Using the Google machine might be the most useful thing on the internet.  Need a question answered? Google has ya covered.  Aside from that, I’d say Awardwallet is great for keeping track of my miles, Mint is great for keeping track of my cc spending and these travel blogs help keep me up to date on the newest deals.  Everyone is different, so use what helps you the most!

What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?

Not the coolest story in the world, but recently GoPro released their Hero3 Black Edition.  I was so excited to get one, but the site was back-ordered and Best Buy had a very limited supply.  People who had them were selling them for $200 more than advertised.

One day, while at work, I checked Best Buy to see if they had stocked them yet.  I was in luck, they had stocked them but they had an extremely limited quantity.  Rather than log into Chase and go through the portal, I bought the camera as fast as I could to ensure I would get one that day.

The next day Chase informed me of the extra points I was getting for using their UR portal.  I had never logged into the portal using that computer and still to this day do not know how I got the credit for it, but I’ll take the extra points!

What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?

When I first started out, I had no idea that some cc companies would consolidate credit pulls.  I had very little direction in the beginning and didn’t have a system for churning.  So if I was to change anything, I guess I would have done even MORE research than I had already done.  You can never know too much!

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

I guess this isn’t too surprising, given some of the posts on my blog, but I am a huge fan of Southwest Airlines.  I get it, they do not fly internationally (Changing somewhat soon given their new routes to the Caribbean and Mexico) and they only have an economy class.

What they lack in flash they more than make up for with their service.  They are very flexible when I need to change my flights and have very low rates. Not to mention, they do not sneak in any extra fees.  Man, I sound like a commercial for them. But seriously, they’re overlooked by many travelers.

Any parting words?

Try not to let your career get in the way of the things you love doing.  If you want to travel, then make time to do it.  Money should never be a problem, considering the nature of these blogs and sites.  If I can find the time and money, you definitely can!

Steve – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!

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32 responses to ““I think people automatically assume that you must be far in debt if you have that many cards…”

  1. It never ceases to amaze me the number of miles and points blogs are out there. How is the market not saturated at this point?

  2. I am new followers to your blog and this whole credit card thing. Is there any read up on CC stuff that what effect your credit history and what doesn’t effect it by having like 5 to 6 CC at one time and all of them being used with a decent balance on the card.

  3. @jimit – I have 21 cards! = credit score is great.

    The key is no balance – pay off every month & only spend what you can afford.

    Otherwise the points game is not good since interest will eat away any benefits from the points.

  4. @Jimit – ih is absolutely right. You will never come out ahead when you hold balances on your cards. Rewards cards typically have higher interest rates than other cards and you will end up paying more in interest charges than you would make off the rewards.

    Making payments on time WILL help to establish a good credit history, but once again, holding a balance is not the way to go.

  5. “Also, I tend to get weird looks from people when I tell them how many credit cards I have. I think people automatically assume that you must be far in debt if you have that many cards, which couldn’t be farther from the truth in my case.”

    This is SO true, even though I also never carry a balance. Often, if I answer a question about my double digit number of credit cards, eyes pop out and people ask if I’m having money troubles. A couple friends asked me how I’d ever plan on getting a loan with that many credit cards, and I said “with my credit score of 796, I’m not worried” 😉

  6. I’ve been following this blog since last spring when I started getting serious about point/mile collection. I’ve been blindly carrying an AMEX platinum card for the past 10 years, foolishly racking up tons of rewards points when I could have spread out purchases to different CC’s depending on product category and maximize points. My question is regarding the credit pull consolidation in the article. how exactly does this work and how can i strategically use this to my advantage? I am almost finished with a refi of my house and want to plan a cc churn asap. I have a decent credit score (750’s averaged on the 3) but I do have a few hard pulls within the past year from my refi and a few cc’s last year (delta gold sky miles, chase sapphire pref, and virgin america). I really want to do a 5 card churn (ink/bold/freedom, hyatt, british airways), but I dont want to make any mistakes or do something to negatively impact my credit rating. any advice?

  7. Got to love it – a gov’t paid guy’s mantra is “never let your career get in the way of your travel”. Sums it up in a nutshell…

    This jerkoff has it exactly backwards. Excel in your career, and you will be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor when you have EARNED it.

    I love the line: “The only reason people had initially sat down to listen was because they were trying to kill some time at work”. Gawd. These are a “best and bravest” that I’m paying massive taxes for? Makes me want to puke.

  8. @Ron, what a dick post you made. This guy at least had the balls to tell you where he works. Where do YOU work?

    And I totally agree with his “never let your career get in the way of travel”. While you are slaving away trying to “excel in your career” (whatever that means), he is out seeing the world. I’d rather be like him than you!

  9. Sorry, flying Southwest to NYC for Fleet Week is hardly my idea of “seeing the world”. Which, other than Vegas, is the only trip he mentions having taken in his life. And that one trip was two years ago. “domestic travel can be just as fun and exciting as international travel”. This from someone who, as far as I can tell, has never been outside the US.

    I’d guess 98% of the people who read MMS know more about travel hacking than this guy. The only exceptions being the ones who just found out about it the last couple of days. Last week I couldn’t even spell blogger, and now I are one. 😀

  10. @Bluecat,
    You work for the Gov’t too?

  11. @Ron – “Try not to let your career get in the way of travel” is the quote. Which means don’t use it as an excuse to stay in one spot. When you say to excel in my career, I’m pretty sure I’m doing just that. Also, there is such a thing as a lunch break in the military. If us sitting there for 30 minutes a day to eat our lunch and talk upsets you, I’ll be sure to let congress know so they can lower our massive salaries. ::rolls eyes::

    Robert – I did not say seeing NYC was seeing the world. It just happens to be one of my favorite trips. I have been around the world and back again, but I was unaware that I needed to mention every trip I have taken. Yes, it is much harder for me to get approval from my chain of command to take international trips, but that does not mean they do not happen. Domestic trips are just much easier to get approved. Oh, and I happened to have won my 4th grade spelling bee, so spelling “blogger” is no problem for me 😉

  12. Hey Daraius,

    Just signed up for amazon payments. Already had amazon for a while on my name so I created AP for myself and a new account (Amzn.com and AP) for wife and got us a new hyatt CC. Made a $10 payment successfully which enboldened me and tried a $990 payment which “failed” (no reason given but account wasnt shut down). Tried another $240 payment which also failed, then a $10 payment which failed. Any suggestions? Can you email me directly since I dont know if I’ll see your reply?

    Thanks much!!


  13. Nice move Rob. Make a dick post and take all the attention. Now I get ignored so everyone can all flame you. thanks.

  14. Sorry Sammy, didn’t mean to overlook you. I’m assuming by “Ink” you mean “Ink Plus” given the Ink Bold is next on the list. I see that all 5 of these cards are Chase cards. Personally, I would not recommend that ALL of the cards in your churn are from the same issuer. You are extremely unlikely to get all of those cards approved at once by Chase. In my own experience, I have pushed the limits and obtained 3 personal cards along with 1 business card in about a 3 week period. I would not recommend trying this. Typically 2-3 cards from the same bank are the max you want to try for. It all depends on what you want. If you would like to chat specifically you can email me directly and we can get more in depth.

  15. What, you were a star speller in your 4th grade class, and you didn’t even mention that in the interview? 😀 Interesting that someone who has “been around the world and back again” has only 2 photos for his interview, on Southwest and in Times Square. And doesn’t mention having been as far as Canada, much less around the world. If you check previous interviews on this site, you will see photos of the bloggers at the Great Wall, at the Royal Palace in Bangkok, and the like.

    I wanted to be fair, so I went to your blog in search of trip reports, hotel reports, photos taken overseas. Zilch, nada, none of the above. Even your discussion of discount military fares just lists theoretical fares, not anything you have personally done. Somehow, you forgot to include the part about “around the world”, much less “back again”, on your blog. Just this: “Unlike a typical military guy, I am unable to travel the world given the nature of my job”.

    I don’t doubt you are doing a great job of accumulating lots of miles and points. And your blog seems to do a pretty good job of explaining to new players how to do the same thing. I just see no indication you have ever been outside the US. As you say on your blog “In the military you must stay within a timely recall. Even after work I can get called to return and can’t be thousands of miles away.”

    Why not just turn this to your advantage, and say you are proof that one can get huge amounts of miles and points without paying for travel, since you are unable to go anywhere until your enlistment is over? Because without a single photo of yourself overseas, you aren’t going convince most of the readers here that you have been around the world. However, I do want to add this: Thank You for your Service !

  16. @Robert – My blog is new. Barely 3 months old. I have no international travel posts because in the past 3 months I have not traveled internationally. The quotes you are referring to are being taken out of context.

    The “typical military guy” quote refers to the fact that I am not stationed aboard a ship that pulls into port. A lot of my friends get port calls in many different countries and I do not. Personally, I have never been to Thailand and I lot of my friends have. Not because they CHOSE to go there, but because their ship happened to pull into port there.

    The “Timely recall” quote is referring to mileage runs that some people make. I cannot just leave the area after work on Friday to fly a multiple stop-over route to Istanbul. The military just doesn’t work that way. Now, if I request leave, that is a different story. Leave and liberty are two different things.

    The discount military fares you are referring to are MAC flights. These are mostly free for us. And yes, I have never taken a MAC flight, nor do I say I have in my post. One of my friends recently took one to Germany and had a positive experience, so I decided to write about it.

    Does every blogger sign up for every deal they put out? Just because I personally have never done it, doesn’t mean the information won’t benefit someone else. I’m not going to sit here and debate with you where I have been over the years. I didn’t think my job was to “convince” others I’ve been places. I put information out there to help others maximize their point revenue. If you think some of the stuff I say is helpful, then great. If not, well that’s fine too. I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know. I just want to help others out so they can do what we do.

  17. Tim formerly avid reader

    Thank you for your service Steve!

  18. Scott (first comment) said: “It never ceases to amaze me the number of miles and points blogs are out there.”

    Yeah, tell me about it, it’s insane!!

  19. @EarnTravelPoints right, I meant ink plus/bold. didnt realise that the BA CC was under Chase as well as Hyatt. that wouldn’t be good. Would it be wise to try for 3 (plus, bold, & freedom) all on the same day with a couple of non chase cards? i guess im just nervous of what that will do to my credit score. i always pay all off monthly and on time, but Im not sure if because of my recent refi, the number of hard pulls will be too high.

  20. Sorry to see so many nasty comments. Reading travel blogs should just be a fun hobby where people help each other out, rather than an activity which gives malcontents a chance to snipe at each other.

  21. Sammy, I wouldn’t apply for more than 2 chase cards in a churn. As it is, the second application will likely get flagged for further review. Slow and steady wins the race. Get two after the refi goes through and plan on an additional 2 a few months thereafter.

  22. Hi, Steve,

    Like Tim said: thank you for your service.

    Like Bluecat said: nice dick post, Ron.

    Robert Hanson, why be so pretentious and petty? It makes you look like a pretty small dude. If you don’t like someone’s blog you can always ask for your money back. Oh, wait.

    Good luck with your blog, Steve.

  23. @Steve, Do not pay attention to the Trolls or feed them. Most Americans are proud and grateful for your service to our country. You are doing a great job, and do not need to explain yourself.

  24. @Scott: “Does every blogger sign up for every deal they put out?….I put information out there to help others maximize their point revenue. If you think some of the stuff I say is helpful, then great. If not, well that’s fine too.”

    I guess you missed that I said: “I don’t doubt you are doing a great job of accumulating lots of miles and points. And your blog seems to do a pretty good job of explaining to new players how to do the same thing. Thank you for your Service.”

    @Daniel: I thanked him for his service before Tim, David, and you did. That doesn’t mean he is qualified to be a travel blogger just because he is in the service and does a fairly good job of repeating what he read on MMS. I don’t think you are qualified to call yourself a travel blogger before you, you know, actually travel. Much less come up with unique content not found on every other blog out there.

    Scott: You say you have no posts on your international travel, supposedly because it has not occured during the 3 months your blog has been on line. Yet your picture in Times Square is 2 years old. Why didn’t you post some pictures and trip reports on all the travel you did “around the world and back” before you started the blog? Daraius posted about the trip he and Emily took to India before he started his blog. Your reports are not required to be in real time. They are expected to be in the real world.

    “I didn’t think my job was to “convince” others I’ve been places.” Dude, this is a blog on “Big Travel on Small Money”. To post here, you are expected to have traveled farther than Times Square. My wife and I have flown First Class to Europe the last 3 summers on award miles alone. We already have two First Class trips reserved to Europe this summer on award miles. What makes you think you are qualified to teach me about miles and points?

    I repeat: “I’d guess 98% of the people who read MMS know more about travel hacking than this guy. The only exceptions being the ones who just found out about MMS the last couple of days.”

  25. @josh I think you just need to verify the receiving account’s bank account.

  26. get a life robert and ron

    you guys are tough, geez. let the guy give an interview. if you don’t like what you read, move along

  27. Sammy- 2 Max on Chase. They key is not overloading the same issues on a quick churn. Also utilization is critical. If you can pay all of your cards prior to closing billing dats you can really boost the credit score. By the way people tend to evaluate credit scores too much. Instead of getting all excited over FAKO 800 or similar scores, look at the credit lines on these cards. If you have several high limit cards, that tends to get you more high limit cards. Even when you hit the max per card company, you can till reallocate and after a while they tend to increase those lines anyway.On a recent data points I got 2 of those Citi Hilton cards. Both said to call. I called on one of them. One CL was fairly small for me, but I got approved on both and the second card has a large line. For me when its time to cancel some of the cards (maybe) the recon line can be the key for me to rack up nice bonuses. I have a business so spend is never an issue. That really helps. Also be careful with Chase. They are tough if you come onto their radar. I dont have all general points cards, I also have 2% cash back cards as well. My business partner does not travel Internationally so he doesnt have a great need for standard airline miles. We do love Starwood though.

  28. Robert Hanson is MMS you fools! He is attacking his own mentee out of some sick fantasy, ewww

  29. Thank you for your service! Now go bang all those hookers in bangkok

  30. “Try not to let your career get in the way of travel”
    I totally agree! (Especially when quoted by someone who puts himself in harms way as a career.)

    I’ve seen too many friends and relatives (including my dad) work so hard all their lives dreaming of a retirement full of travel, and then BOOM, illness hits and that’s the end of travel.

    Travel when you can whether it’s to Vegas, NYC, or Bangkok.

  31. My following question just shows how uninformed I am. But what are player cards in Las Vegas? And where to you obtain them?
    There is a greenhorn writing!

  32. @Karin – Player cards are basically the way casino’s track how much you gamble. When you sit down at a machine or with a dealer, you insert your card and it tracks what you are gambling. The amount of points you earn varies by hotel and how much you are gambling at the time. These points are not exactly the same as air miles, because there is not typically a “redemption chart” associated with them. It is just a representation of how much you play. Another cool feature is that you may not necessarily need a new players card if you go to a different casino. For example, The Bellagio and Mandalay Bay use the same card to keep track of points. If I leave Mandalay Bay with 40,000 points and go to the Bellagio, I just pick up where I left off.

    When I go to Vegas I never have to pay for a thing. I get my rooms comped, usually have a buffet or two and even get a few hundred bucks in free play to start me off at the casino. Once you find out about airline miles, you stop paying cash for things because you are missing out on valuable points doing it that way. In Vegas it’s the same way, why play without a card and miss out on all those perks?