“Use your points – I hear Charon doesn’t accept them”

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Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where travel bloggers share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!

Miles & Points Interview: Free Travel Genius

Dave writes Free Travel Genius to show his wife and family how to travel the world for less.

Free Travel Genius – Interview with Dave


How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

I joined American Airlines’ AAdvantage on Thursday March 30, 1989 at the ripe age of 13 and never looked back.  

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

In the first 7 months of 2011, I took my wife to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Tanzania, Netherlands, Israel and France.  The longest of those flights were in first or business class and we stayed at many luxury hotels.  We didn’t pay for any of it.

When my friends and family caught whiff of what I did, they started asking questions.  After answering the same questions unknown times, I wrote it down and soon thereafter put it online.  It started as just one article.  I soon decided to make it a professional website and renamed it freetravelgenius.com.

Free Travel Genius – Interview with Dave

Cooking Class in Thailand

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

Credit card bonus offers, of course, but you don’t need me to tell you that if you are reading Daraius’ blog.

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

Wow, there are so many, but summiting Kilimanjaro with my wife stands out the most.  It was a pretty easy walk up a hill other than the whole lack of oxygen thing.  It certainly hit me a lot by 18,000 ft., but gave us a huge sense of accomplishment.

I loved being able to fly to Kilimanjaro airport from Boston with only one plane change in Amsterdam on KLM (as compared to most that need to fly to Nairobi or Dar-al-Salam and spend a day on a bus).  Best part is that I received over 90% of the points needed for BOTH my wife and I to get there from a single American Express Platinum card application; and Capital One Venture Card was nice enough to pay for my wife’s climb.

Free Travel Genius – Interview with Dave


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

About half of them want to do it too.  So I do it for my core family and advise many others.

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

Two websites are key: matrix.itasoftware.com and wandr.me.  Bookmark them!

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

Calling up American Express and just asking for them.  Just a few years ago, they would oblige (but not so much more).

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

I started caring about miles quite a while ago, but I never brought it to scale until a few years ago.  I am kicking myself thinking about all of the cash that I spent on travel during the first 35 years of my life; imagine if I invested it in Google instead!

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

That I am an online marketing professional for one of the world’s fastest growing agencies.  This is a bit embarrassing since I do almost no marketing for freetravelgenius.com and have a relatively rudimentary web design.  The funniest part is that I sometimes use my site as an example of what not to do when speaking with clients.

Any parting words?

Use your points – I hear Charon doesn’t accept them.

Free Travel Genius – Interview with Dave

Masai children in Tanzania

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

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55 responses to ““Use your points – I hear Charon doesn’t accept them”

  1. Question for Darius,

    I clicked on this guys link. Took me to a page with tons of credit card links.

    Tried looking around for the actual blog posts….. seems he has 1 mundane post every few months

    So I ask…..
    1) what was it that you saw about his blog that made you think it was worthwhile to interview him?
    2) What insight do you think he provided in this interview that hasn’t already been repeated 5000 times over?
    3) Do you actually believe the bloggers when they tell you “they write it for the family”?

    The only unique thing I see about this blog is that while some blogs have a separate tab for credit cards links from the blog posts, his is the first I see that has a blog tab to keep separate from his credit cards links

  2. Joel Miltenberger


    I met both of you guys at the DC conference a few weeks ago and was impressed with your ambition. I use your bag and will finish the $100.00 start up book you gave me soon . Maybe you remember me, I am the guy who was happy to meet you commented on your professionalism. I read all of your helpful blogs and wish you great success with your enterprise.


    Joel Miltenberger

  3. Aug 7 (2012), Nov 15 (2012), April 19 (2013) appears to be the last 3 posts this guy has had….no thanks, I will stick with MMS.

  4. Pimpin ain’t easy. But seriously, his link goes directly to a credit card spread sheet. And he never posts… Do you vet these interviewees? Do you receive a kickback from them?

  5. Question for Dave: can you write off travel expenses under your travel blog? As in, I needed to travel to Kilimanjaro for good blog content, etc.?

  6. Great job MMS. The Friday interviews were already bad enough with credit card pimping wannabe calling themselves expert bloggers but this one leaves me speachless give how bad this guy is…

    Keep up the good job with worthless stuff!

  7. Extremely weird call with a Citi rep this morning. Probably isn’t the place for the comment, though I know this post will get the most attention this weekend. I got an AA personal card back in October and just applied for the business version of it this month.

    I called the rep and was told I was denied because you can only have one AA card PER AA number. I have never heard of this before? Anyone else been told this? I’m not big with Citi, I usually stick with my Chase and AMEX cards, but could use to AA points before the AA and US Airways merger.

  8. Interview Dan of Dan’s Deals!

  9. I have two Citi AAdvantage cards… the regular and the Executive. Both are tied to my AAdvantage number.

  10. Retire the Interviews


    he’s been scraping towards the bottom of the barrel with these interviews for a while now

    I think he’s officially reached the bottom of the barrel with this interview

    He needs to do the last 2 relevant bloggers remaining to be interviewed (Dan and TBB) and the retire the series for good

    It’s getting shamefully pathetic, and I’m guessing by MMS’ changing the wording of the intro (no more “renowned miles and points experts” and no more “…. so I was excited for our Friday chat”) that he is well aware of that

  11. LOL, how is this guy a renowned miles and points expert? He posted 3 posts in the last 6 months and his main page is a plethora of CC links shoved into the face.

    Or did you mean he has the same passion as you in pimping out the CC links?

  12. I normally find something interesting in each interview but this subject was just bad. Absolute waste of time to read this and then I hopped over to his site (mostly was curious about the stuff for his “family”) only to find that bad too. I am not sure how you found this guy but definitely not close to your best interview subject.

  13. Gotta say I agree with the previous comments above, clicked the link and said “you’ve got to be kidding me” credit card links in spreadsheet layout.

    MMS, how about a Green Dot Money Pak series similiar to the one Jason is doing on TPG? Or great alternatives to the bluebird/vanilla reload just in case cvs decides to axe the ice cream train.

  14. Pictures are too blurry, a lot of the interviews are reptitive but I still read them.

  15. OMG this is such a stupid blog post

  16. Robert Hanson

    @ Rob +1

    The truly insufferable part is that this very occasional blogger promotes himself as a “travel genius”. Perhaps he misunderstands genius to mean delusional noob ?

    ” I received over 90% of the points needed for BOTH my wife and I to get there {R/T Boston Kilimanjaro} from a single American Express Platinum card application”, bearing in mind his previous statement that the flights were FC and J. So I guess I missed out on the promotion where you got 270K points for a single AMEX sign up then…..

    I’m utterly perplexed that his first recommendation for a cc with “travel benefits” is The Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN, with a sign up bonus of 50K points after spending $5k. How many folks new to the points and miles game will want to apply for a “Business” card with a required $5k spend? Yet he doesn’t even mention the Citi AA cards which provide the same number of miles for half the amount of spend. And while he does list the Chase United card with a 25K sign up bonus, he fails to mention that there is a way to get both twice the miles, and a $50 statement credit, for that card with the same minimum spend. Travel genius ?

    Which perhaps explains this: “I sometimes use my site as an example of what not to do” Perhaps that’s even why Daraius interviewed him ? LOL

    Now is the point where Rob emails all of his friends and relatives to visit MMS for the first time ever, and comment how Rob really is a genius, I am a merely a “hater”.. 😀

  17. Dozen credit card sign up links on Homepage !!! . He nailed it on the homepage. Good luck.

  18. Robert Hanson

    Of course, I meant to say “where DAVE emails all of his friends and relatives to visit MMS for the first time ever”, not Rob, who I gave a +1 !

  19. The comments section really saves this interview 🙂

  20. “Dar-al-Salam” is actually Dar Es Salaam.

  21. @Ganta. Thanks for leaving another one for me! They’re “Maasai children”, not Masai.

  22. MMS, please end the interviews with all these noobie referral hounds. Enough already!

  23. MMS jumped the shark!

  24. Who is this guy?

    “Dave writes Free Travel Genius to show his wife and family how to travel the world for less.”

    Do people normally start blogs to show their wife how to travel the world for less?

    Assuming you both live under the same roof, that seems like a pretty inefficient method.

  25. I'm a blogger too

    If his rare posts count himself as a travel blogger, than I must be one too – I have written way more than he has just in the comment sections of travel blogs! 🙂

  26. Warning: I hope you love me after my review tomorrow:-)
    I am not sure I can take another blogger with FTG as the acronym!
    I need to find that site where that guy keeps flogging himself with a slim jim:

  27. As a former interviewee you won’t hear me knock the Friday interview. Granted not all the interviews can by as awesome as mine was (tongue firmly in cheek). This one made me think of the great scene in dumber and dumber. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnkefjCES-4 Commenters thanks for redeeming this one. Awesome.

  28. DumbAndDumber

    Everyone in this blog is now dumber for having read this “interview”. He is awarded no points and may God have mercy on his soul.


  29. Closer to when this blog started Daraius reached out to me to do an interview. I declined. That’s before bloggers went nuts on credit card spam. I’d love to be interviewed today. I have an opinion full of vitriol!

  30. arizona guy – I also have a standing invite. but I’m not filled with vitriol. I’m just waiting for something good to say. think I’m getting close.

  31. god, this series sooooooo jumped the shark a while ago…. please please please retire it.

    stuff like this is beyond pointless, and it cheapens your brand by a lot

  32. I didn’t say anything negative, and yet my post was deleted…

  33. Worst Interview Ever…………………………D, please go back to interviews to people who talk about travel. Not CARPETBLOGGERS , whos ads get in the way of the cutting and pasting and are about as subtle as a Billy Mays infomercial. TWO THUMBS DOWN on this guy.

  34. stevie wonder

    Best interview i read in a while.

  35. Brent Musburger

    If you’re going to do these types of interviews, at least require that they include pretty pics of their wives or something. http://millionmilesecrets.com/2013/01/11/glyph-interview-with-mike/

  36. lol, what irredeemable crap

  37. lol…….Helloooo Jennifer ..I miss her. Could you please invite her back to take pictures?

  38. This PATHETIC interview was a new low. His “blog” is nothing but a site to pimp lousy CC offers.

    Shame on you Darious for linking to this guy’s pimp, er, blog.

    In future, I suggest you’d do FAR better not to post anything than to post these absurdly pointless/useless “interviews”. But maybe all that time on “surprise vacations” makes it hard to post mildly useful content any more?

  39. I am almost 100% sure he didn’t even have the time to go into that guys website to actually check his stuff. Shame on you Darius my friend, we trust your content don’t ever do that to us again. At the very least check that he blogs frequently… I appreciate your blog but today you kinda disappointed… just saying!

  40. That guy’s “blog” gave me cancer.

  41. Professor Erwin Corey


  42. Shame on you Darius.

  43. What are you guys talking about? I loved this guy. I leaned a lot from him. I’m applying for the Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN to see if I can fly the same route on J class.

  44. Retire the interviews please!

  45. Wait-better idea- do an ‘interview the commenter’ series- some of these commenters are far more interesting people than someone that put up a few affiliate links on their homepage.

  46. Bothofus2, brillant!! Start with Robert Hanson!

  47. Folks! If you all think you know better, start a blog! D is just sharing interviews with people who use miles and points. D is not endorsing them or asking you to follow them. Food has a variety of spices – some of which you like or dislike. Skip the ones which don’t appeal to your palate!

  48. Robert Hanson

    @BothofUs2 and Troy

    I don’t have a blog, but if I did… 😛

    My wife and I have flown AA 777 FC n/s T/A for the last 3 years, are doing so twice this year, and already have enough miles to do so again in 2014. All on “award” tix, without a single paid ticket in just about forever. We are spending 6 weeks in Europe this summer with all but 4 nights in “free” Hilton, Doubletree and Marriott hotels. All with virtually no paid hotel stays in just about forever. Just to be clear, we have no business travel whatsoever….

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

    Read MMS at least twice a day… 😀

  49. @Diana, your analogy is flawed. Each of D’s interviews (your “spices”) is different and you pretty much have to read it all before you know if you like it or not. There’s no way to know in advance if it is “cayenne” or “saffron”.

    The point people have here is that we all love D’s blog and that’s why we come here and that’s why we bother spending our time posting here. If something he is doing is starting to go bad, I hope he takes notes of it and tries to adjust. Of course, it’s his blog and he can always tell everyone to buzz off, but I would hope he respects some of us enough to make changes when changes are due…

  50. SHOOTER MCGAVIN golf pro

    @diana, to continue your food analogy about this interview, IT GAVE ME GAS.

  51. Robin QuiversMay 19, 2013 at 4:15 PM
    I have a serious question for you George. How did the new FTG get an interview with MMS? Don’t you think that MMS would at least had to take a look at his site before the interview? Is MMS playing us, is he the genius? No seriously did Daraius look at his site and think this was worthwhile to share with his readers? What is your valued and educated opinion? The world is waiting breathlessly for your response.

  52. @Robert Hanson

    Well done sir!

    I think the readers would greatly benefit from learning about your strategy to *get* all those points and miles. Any techniques beyond cc signups?

  53. Wow…

    “Before applying, make sure to check your credit. You can get two of your three FICO scores for free at Credit Karma and Credit Sesame. ”

    Hello…those are FAKO scores not FICO !


  54. Robert Hanson

    @BothofUs2 I don’t know anything that isn’t already reported in MMS, MP, VFW and OMAAT.
    I just read all of them everyday, and make the best use I can of everything I read.

    I also don’t claim to be a genius. 😀