“…I feel many people get so excited with the miles game they forget what traveling is all about – the destination”

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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!

TJ on Miles & Points - Interview with TJ

TJ

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?

TJ on Miles & Points - Interview with TJ

Sunset in Bagan, Burma

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?

I could not believe the discounts provided by car rental companies using discount codes.  I also find milez.biz very helpful to find award prices per route.

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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15 Responses to “…I feel many people get so excited with the miles game they forget what traveling is all about – the destination”

  1. Very nice interview! TJ, like you, when I had my first J class flight paid for with US DM miles courtesy of Grand Slam, I was worried they would call me an imposter and kick me out too! I’ve been a backpacker-now flashpacker for 30 years so it’s hard to adjust upwards! I agree, I see a lot of people especially on FT get more excited about the new lie flat seats than they do about the destination. It’s nice to fly premium but we are privileged to be able to travel at all!

  2. Traveling doesn’t have to be about the destination. As Robert Louis Stevenson once put it — “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”

  3. I agree… so many bloggers go to fantastic places… just to turn around at the transfer desk of the airport.

  4. Haha great interview and links to his blog re: discount code. Good timing, we are looking to rent a car in Frankfurt.

  5. Congrats TJ – do I get a prize for “knowing you” before your MMS bump? ;)

  6. I, too, agree with Amol, but i”ll take it a step further by stating that life is about the journey, not the destination. Once you reach the destination, you will not be satisfied…trust me. The goals you made yesterday are going to be so different than the ones you will make tomorrow. The person that you have to become to accomplish the goal (or destination) is so much more valuable and rewarding!

    Good interview.

  7. Nice interview with a real traveler. My thoughts: “Canada” can be an overwhelming goal. Huge and beautiful country, which will repay many, many visits. Many of my own miles redemptions have been for visits for myself and my husband to see this beautiful country. You will love it.

  8. This guy is the epitome of a raving, clueless idiot: “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!”

    No way is this guy redeeming for 6-10 cents a mile. And if he’s paying 1 cpm, he’s a moron. And since when is discretionary travel an “investment”?? Gawd almighty. Makes the hair on the back of my neck curl in disgust.

    Come on D, get somebody who knows what they are blathering about…

  9. Another pointless blog. How many bloggers do we really need who just point links to other blogs?

  10. Blogger, Please!

  11. Robert Barron

    Um, Ron…it’s entirely possible to redeem for 6 or 10 cents per mile. I am traveling to Nunavut, CA in April of this year for 40,000 miles via Aeroplan. The cheapest ticket would have been $2,700.00. I think that works out to 6.75 cents per mile or something like that. My first trip based entirely on a credit-card sign-up bonus was to Nova Scotia- from Colorado Springs- cost had I purchased- $1,050.00. Number of miles used: 17,500. That worked out to 6 cents per mile. While it is not usual…it is not difficult either.

  12. Beautiful picture of the sunset in Burma… definitely on my list to visit someday! This year’s trip to Asia is already planned, but maybe next one :)

  13. I tried to buy the American Express and Visa Vanilla Gift Cards today ($500.00 denomination) at Office Depot and was told they are pulling all of these gift cards and will no longer sell these. I am in Tucson. Do you have any further information on this? Thanks.

  14. Laine – it looks like it is hit-or-miss with buying Vanilla reload cards. Some people are reporting that it is still possible to purchase them from some CVS locations, but I have not had any luck recently. I think everyone can agree that this deal is on its way out…

  15. Always looking for great info on travel. Glad to follow you on twitter, especially for the chance to win some miles. Thanks!

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