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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: TJ on Miles & Points
TJ is a travel enthusiast & so I was looking forward to our Friday chat!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting miles back in 1999. I grew up in Germany and for my first business I used to travel a lot to Asia. Now Lufthansa’s Miles&More was THE program to be in & at the time had no fuel surcharges, a very rewarding award chart and plenty of award availability.
I took a number of trips paid by miles (mostly earned on economy or business class flights) to Middle East/ Europe and the US. It also gave me Frequent Traveler status which allows you to use all Lufthansa lounges.
I flew Emirates in the early days and believe it or not I received a number of economy to business upgrades at the gate because of the Frequent Traveler card. Those were the times!
I was too preoccupied after that but became invested into Starwood because of the American Express card as the primary corporate card. However only in 2010 did I have enough time and motivation to dive into all of Flyertalk and Milepoint.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I accumulated a lot of miles & points know-how in the past 2 years. At some point there was no new thread to read on Flyertalk anymore. I felt starting my own site was a good idea to better communicate with other miles & points enthusiasts.
I’m deeply grateful for all the information that is shared on other blogs (like yours), Flyertalk and Milepoint. However I feel many people get so excited with the miles game they forget what traveling is all about – the destination. So I want to help readers find the most exciting and rewarding travel destinations as well and how to get there in style.
Additionally I have worked my way into hotel Best Rate Guarantee programs and aim to guide users how to use those very generous programs to your advantage.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
I think credit card sign up bonuses are just so easy and the payoff is just huge. It takes a bit of knowledge to get started but it’s just too easy.
There are a number of promotions that very rewarding and easy to do as well. Avis and American Airlines had a promotion with 3,000 miles for each rental. There were no restrictions in minimum rental duration imposed.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
My first 1st class flight using US Airways Dividend Miles was certainly very memorable. Until takeoff, I was sure they would bump me back into economy (‘Sorry First Class is full today’) or simply refuse service because I bought the ticket with miles. It did not happen.
But the flight attendants assumed I knew how and when to order from the menu. But I was waiting for the food cart that never appeared.
In terms of destinations my visit to Bagan in Burma and the Blue Lagoon in Iceland really stuck as strong memories. These are just awe inspiring places which are really in a different world.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
They have hoped ‘the phase’ goes away initially and while it did not still think it’s crazy. For me it’s just another way to ‘invest’. I have invested my whole life but investing in miles for 1 cent and using them for 6 – 10 cents is a pretty simple investment decision!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I still can’t believe that BankDirect has such a high earn rate on miles just for deposits – I hope it stays that way. To my knowledge they are the only bank offering miles per cash deposit. I also participated in the 2011 Grand Slam and it was major fun and still find it a very innovative marketing idea. Loved the way to earn miles this way!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I knew how to redeem on partner airlines in the same alliance. Also I was stunned to learn about status matches – Last year I briefly had top status at Starwood, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and IHG (Platinum not Royal Ambassador) and Best Western.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I have never been to Canada – it’s not that I don’t want to go but the opportunity never really presented itself. This will change soon I hope!
Any parting words?
We are running a new 10,000 AMEX points giveaway for all readers who subscribe to my Facebook/Twitter/Google+ page and leave a comment that they did so. It runs until February 15th.
TJ – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!
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