If this 23 year old “without a real job” can travel the world, there is no excuse for you not to travel too!

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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:  Travel with Grant

Grant writes Travel with Grant to show folks how to travel for cheap.

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

When I was younger, my parents would take us on summer vacations every year.  They used to travel for work so they made sure to get frequent flyer miles on every flight we took.  They set up frequent flyer accounts for us so we always earned miles.

Like most families, the miles that were earned were never enough for free trips, so they were never redeemed and eventually expired worthless.

Fast forward to March of 2012.  I was in the backseat on a long road trip.  I was curious about buying gift cards and earning cash back and stumbled upon Frequent Miler’s post on buying and selling gift cards.  I was instantly hooked.

I read as many articles as I could and still read Frequent Miler’s posts every day.  I finally met my hero at Frequent Traveler University in December 2012.

Travel with Grant - Interview with Grant

Frequent Miler & Grant

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

If Lucky (@OneMileataTime) can do it, surely this 23 year old can too!  I may not have nearly as many miles as Lucky (maybe 1/100th is more accurate), but my passion for travel is just as great.  Honestly, I don’t think there is anything special about my blog, I just write about things that interest me that aren’t talked about on other blogs.

Motto: redeeming less miles = more free trips

Travel with Grant - Interview with Grant

Travel with Grant

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

Besides the obvious (applying for travel credit cards), I also ask for retention bonuses.  I call and say something like, “I’m thinking of cancelling the card because the annual fee is coming soon and the perks are not worth the annual fee.  If you would waive the annual fee, I would gladly keep the card for another year, and spend money on it.”

Sometimes they will give you a bonus for keeping the card – especially if you spend money on the card and are a good customer.

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

In January of this year, I went on a Euro Trip with one of my best friends.  It was her first time to Europe, so I had to show her around.  We flew from San Francisco to Amsterdam (35,000 US Airway miles round trip), took the train to Dusseldorf, flew to Paris, stayed at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, flew to Munich for a few beers, took the train to Heidelberg, Cologne, Aachen, Brussels, and back to Amsterdam to stay at the Andaz Amsterdam.

90% of the hotel stays were on hotel points or from free night certificates.  I got into trouble when I chose 500 free Starwood points instead of free Wi-Fi, so I never made that mistake again.

Here is the view from our walkout balcony from the 5th floor of the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome (2 free nights thanks to the Hyatt Credit Card.  Retail price for our room was over 1,000 euros a night.)

Travel with Grant - Interview with Grant

View From The Park Hyatt Paris

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

My parents get it.  I tell them which credit cards to get, they add me as an authorized user, and I help them reach the minimum spend.  My brother thinks I should “get a real job and stop traveling so much.”

If I had a mile for every time I heard that, I would be Executive Platinum with American Airlines (I apologize for the lame travel joke).  My college friends will send me texts and Facebook messages asking me to find a cheap flight from ABC to XYZ.  I start searching for award tickets, but then remember that they have 0 miles and 0 interest in miles; they don’t understand the concept of miles and points.

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

Award Wallet comes in first followed by Credit Karma/Credit Sesame tied for second.  Learn about Award Wallet and Credit Karma/Credit Sesame.  I use Award Wallet almost every day and can’t imagine life without it.

Points.com is about a “million miles” behind Award Wallet.  If you are a serious traveler, you have to use Award Wallet!

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

I once earned 45 United Airline miles for eating at a Japanese restaurant in San Francisco.  Apparently they are part of the United MileagePlus Dining Program. The sushi wasn’t that great, but I will take the miles any day of the week.

Travel with Grant - Interview with Grant

Miles for Sushi

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

Everyone starts at 0.  Don’t feel overwhelmed if you don’t travel a lot or spend a ton of money on credit cards.  The phrases “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and “a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step” come to mind.  Everyone starts at 0.  A few credit card sign-ups, travel promotions, and retention bonuses later, you will look back at laugh at that 0.

It’s hard to ignore the other travel bloggers and their many first class trips around the world, but they too started at 0.  (I know I said I flew mostly economy, but when you can get a round trip ticket to Hawaii in first class for under $300, you take it )

Travel with Grant - Interview with Grant

First Class to Hawaii

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

Not really travel-related, but I am also an eBay Power Seller (out of my bedroom).  I have been selling “stuff” on eBay for more than 8 years and have over 3,700 positive transactions.  I have run out of things to sell at home, but luckily friends and relatives are constantly giving me items to sell for them.

eBay has changed a lot of the years, but you can still make some good money selling items.  You might be surprised to learn that people buy old/broken electronics, specifically cell phones, iPods, and cameras.  You won’t get rich off that (unless you break a lot of electronics), but every dollar is one more dollar you can spend traveling around the world.

Travel with Grant - Interview with Grant

Power Seller Grant

Any parting words?

Go to as many travel conventions as you can.  Frequent Traveler University (FTU) and other seminars are great ways to meet friends who don’t think it’s strange that you have 13 credit cards and know exactly which card to use for every purchase.  You will hear some crazy travel stories and learn a thing or two.

Travel with Grant - Interview with Grant

At Frequent Traveler University!

If this 23 year old “without a real job” can travel the world, there is no excuse for you not to travel too!

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

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58 responses to “If this 23 year old “without a real job” can travel the world, there is no excuse for you not to travel too!

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

    Besides the obvious (applying for travel credit cards), I also ask for retention bonuses.”

    Retention bonuses? That’s the best advice you can give? Oh my.

  2. I’d love to see a blogger, maybe MMS, work up a detailed chart of all the relevant spending categories, and then list the top 1-3 cards for that spend category. Then offer us ideas on how we can easily remember which cards work best for each category. My 2 cents: If you’re really organized, you can write the category name on a little piece of paper, then tape it onto the upper right corner of each credit card in your wallet.

  3. @Paul, I had a long explanation of how I got 10,000 united miles and 2 club passes from a retention bonus but it was too revealing. Also got $47.50 statement credit for my ink bold. I can’t say anymore.

  4. Paul, don’t be a douche.

  5. Pingback: A Million Thanks to Million Mile Secrets | Travel with Grant

  6. Here’s the problem I have with this post and, Wanda, Paul’s comment is just indicative of the paucity of value in the post.

    The title implies that Grant has no real job and thus no real income yet he is able to travel the world on points. The last time I looked most awards require a minimum of 25,000 points/miles and more for foreign travel, and even more for Business or First classes.

    On average each such point requires $1 to be spent (CapOne give 2, some others may give more on categories, but $1 is a fair average).

    That means that to do any more than one trip a year, and certainly for Grants trip around the world and stays at all the hotels with certificates he refers to, he must have spent a minimum of $50k to $100k.

    Now, that is not impossible if he did it over many years, but probably not in one year. And if the goal here is continuous travel, and not just every few years, then you need a job, you need to spend $50,000 a year.

    Maybe I just don’t understand but how much spending is the minimum one must do to get to go to Europe or Asia more than once a year and also use certificates for hotel stays?

    As for Grants page, just fair to useless. Certainly not up to Darius’s page. And as far as the suggestion to go to a bunch of Frequent Traveler expo’s? Please, nothing you might learn there is any more than you might learn by subscribing to Million Miler, the Points Guy, and any other blogs out there.

    I’m not trying to be mean here, just pointing out the emptiness of this interview. As for his eBay site, seems to me it’s for people who like jigsaw puzzles, I don’t see a lot else for sale.

    I travel a lot, make what I consider a reasonable income, charge EVERYTHING from food, meals to my electric and utility bills and have no problem charging even a $1 item. But that said I cannot generate an award, to Europe, more than once a year though this year my wife’s business has involved a lot of travel, which is billed to clients, so we are adding miles like crazy on AA at essentially no cost.

    Help me understand.

  7. @Mike, you have very valid points. Starting with the ebay items, you only saw the items I currently have up for sale, not the items that I have sold: http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_ipg=50&_from=&_nkw=&_armrs=1&_ssn=quarter_collector&LH_Complete=1&LH_Sold=1&rt=nc

    You don’t have to spend $50-$100k to earn enough points to travel. 95% of the points come from sign up bonuses, of which, 90% of that comes from manufactured spend at OD, CVS, Target, WM, etc.

    I know my website is not as good as MMS, I just started in May 2013, so I only have 2 months under my belt.

  8. Understand your eBay sales.

    I have done the sign-up route. But, after I get my 50k or 100k bonus on BA, or my 50k on Citi’s AA, etc, and after I use them, I am at ground zero again and in order to replenish my supply of points I need to spend REAL money. I looked at the gift card route and at least one site you mentioned, I think plasticjungle, now has a notice on it that it no longer is in that business.

    But the real point is that you cannot buy and sell gift cards as a way to fly free (even if the loss on the sale is just 5%).

    Do you really have no job, that is you’re income is generated solely from eBay sales? Because if that’s the case then collecting 25k or 50k points a year has got to be difficult at best.

    And this ignores that even if the card fees are waived for the first year, which most times are not, then you soon find yourself with a bunch of $85 or $95 fees to pay annually for each card. If you have 15 cards at $90 average each, that’s $1350 a year. If you spend $50k a year to get a Europe award, then 14 of those cards have no return. You would have to determine what trip you were going to make in 2014 and spend only on the card that best supports the award need for that trip. In any case, each award trip requires an expenditure of at least $50k, forget First Class, or Business.

    My point is that you need to have a good income to collect sufficient points, and for a majority of the country few can collect enough award points. And it’s even worse for a family of four to do so.

  9. Hey Grant, I didn’t think your interview was empty at all. I think you can be a good inspiration to young people interested in getting started in the travel hobby.

    Good luck with your blog!

  10. I really do have to agree with Mike here. There is a sort of mythological mist hanging over rewards travel that it can be done sort of indefinitely if you just keep reading the travel bloggers. It is a great hobby and I adore indulging in it, but if you are not a business owner or very high earner you are only really going to get enough points for travel through credit card sign up bonuses.

    It is a great game but it is often puffed up to be something it is not.

  11. Anne & Mike, you are right. Credit card sign ups and retention bonuses will not get you free trips all over the world several times a year, but you should be able to take 1-2 nice trips each year if you plan accordingly. Of course, if you have children or family members without credit cards, that will make it much harder. Having a business definitely helps bring in large amounts of points.

  12. @ Grant
    Thank you for giving me that penny for Google wallet.

  13. I agree with you about attending frequent traveler conferences, Grant. Since I read the blogs, I don’t learn much from the actual seminars anymore (I’ve been to four of them now). But attending these events to network with fellow frequent travelers is invaluable. Many of the very best points earning opportunities or travel deals have to be learned via networking, because the deals would be ruined if they appeared in the blogs.

  14. As a followup to Anne’s comment. Two years ago I signed up for a Cap One card. Their sign-up offer was this: send them my last years credit card statement for my award spending and they’d credit me with double miles, max of 100k. I jumped on it, got my 100k, and over the next few months shifted my spending. When I got done with a Germany trip, which I had booked with miles I had about $2000 in charges for hotels, etc. I used my Cap One points to offset almost all the $2000. That left me no more Cap One points. I’ve stopped using the Cap One card.

    The reason I no longer use Cap One is I use miles for European only travel. We only use awards to travel in something a level above Economy, be that World Traveller Plus or Business. Using Cap One instead of Citi or BA cards thus is counter-productive.

    Anne is correct that this is a game or hobby, and one only playable by business travelers. At one time I flew so much that no matter how many vacations I took my mileage kept going up. And as Platinum it went up even faster. But when my business travel stopped my mileage collection started going down. Soon it will be down to where I will only collect enough points to get an award every two years, unless I want to fly US coach only.

    Looked at that way you can truly appreciate what the game is. And that is that the airlines, like AA, are in the credit card business, or the mile selling business and I expect soon that all those sign-up bonuses will result in higher mileage requirements, which we’ve seen happening somewhat, as well as fewer award opportunities at the lower ends.

  15. Chris,

    So you can hear about great deals before they hit the blogs.

    I am not so much surprised as I am feeling about disingenuousness on the part of the bloggers.

    Here I thought reading the blogs would let me know about great deals, and here you are telling me that by not attending the conferences I won’t hear about them quick enough if at all:)?

    Am I an innocent in thinking that the bloggers should have posted those great deals to their blogs at least the day before the conference:)?

  16. Points and miles can help offset lots of expenses, but eating, drinking, activities can add up and it helps to have a full time job. Blogging is a hobby for me and not for the sole purposes of income for me.

  17. @Mike

    What are you and Anne talking about? You don’t need to be a business traveler or own anything to get into this hobby. It’s a hobby!! The only exclusivity is in having good credit. I think creativity is key in this game. Look at frequent miler. Not every one can do it yes, but it’s not as hard as you think if you are smart

  18. Grant,
    You are now more closer to AA Exec Platinum,with few more comments on “get real job” on this post.
    Don’t be bothered…you’ve got lot of time ahead to get a job…these times are for exploring and experimenting.

  19. Mike: There are many opportunities out there that the bloggers don’t know about, or they don’t blog about them because they know doing so would ruin the deal. Networking and making the right friends is the way to learn about many of these opportunities. Attending conferences is certainly not the only way to network with frequent travelers, but for me it is the best way. (I’ve befriended a few of the major bloggers myself, and have learned some great things that they wouldn’t put in their blogs).

  20. Tim2,

    First, this thread started when I took exception to the statement that Grant, even though he had no job, and by implication not a lot of income, was still flying around First Class on awards and staying at hotels with certificates.

    My point was that you could not do that without income to spend. You needed REAL money sooner or later. All the sign-up bonuses would not last more than a year or two and then you needed to spend money. Heck, even to get the bonuses you needed to spend money, in some cases LOTs of it.

    You can have all the smarts in the world and an 800+ PICO, but without REAL money, lots of it, you might need years to get an award.

  21. Chris,

    No argument about networking, or in it being a hobby, and in part my comment was tongue in cheek. But, if you do go to four conferences a year they better be shortly after some new deal is announced by the airlines or hotels. And even then, the bloggers do hold themselves out as the place to go to know everything about our hobby.

    As for tips and secrets, I understand. It’s just like telling everyone about that great hotel where no one goes and it’s peaceful.

  22. Jim Coddington

    I have become good friends with Grant since meeting him at FTU in LAX back in Dec. 2012. I am 44 now, and Grant reminds me a lot of me when I was 23. Everyone one has to start somewhere, and Grant will get there with us seasoned frequent fliers. I am a farmer from IL with lots of time on my hands, and I have had the opportunity to not only teach Grant a few things, but Grant has also taught this old fart a thing or two. Grant is a smart person, and as he grows in the world of frequent flier miles, so will the information he provides. I think the article was excellent, keep up the good work Grant, and do not let anyone tell you differently.

  23. Jim,

    I meant no disparagement of Grant. Again, my issue was the assertion that he was doing all this without a real job, and thus without any real income. And I was not about to ask him what his income was. My point, as I’ve said above, all of us FF’s are able to lay this game either because we work for a business where we have to fly a lot (and thus earn miles) or we are able to charge our tickets, hotels, meals for those businesses or clients, and get reimbursed no less, and earn even more miles.. The best is when you bill a client for a $1,000 ticket, and collect the flying miles and the credit miles and pay $0.

    But, if you don’t fit that profile then you have to have enough cash flow so that as you charge your life’s expenses you earn enough, fast enough, to get to take those free Economy or First flights and lap of luxury suites.

    Grant and the rest of the flight bloggers do a great service in alerting those of us who cannot keep track of every new wrinkle the airlines and hotels think of, but the bottom line is you need to have spendability.

  24. Well….waiting, waiting, waiting…

    for you know what:-)

    Grant, welcome to the crazy world of blogging. Hope you have something to offer. I had to chuckle about how you got started in March of 2012 and your hero was Frequent Miler (for those who don’t know is also fairly “new” to this space). May you prove to be as talented as FM.

    Regarding your advice about going to all seminars…Please don’t! Pick one nearest you and enjoy interacting with other miles/points addicts. If you regularly read the blogs and network with others I am not convinced shelling all that money to travel to the seminars is worth it!

    Miles/points Grandpa

  25. @Mike

    I’m dumbfounded that you are making such claims — especially on this blog. I am a living refutation of your claim that you need a “real” Job or high income to play this game. I’m a graduate student and live off a $24,000 a year stipend. I’m perfectly content with my life choices and readily concede that I don’t have a real job nor excessive cash flow. However, even with these restrictions, I’ve earned over 350,000 frequent flier miles YTD (full disclosure, 75,000 of these came from brokerage account bonuses) in addition to 4 free hotel nights credits.

    I would LOVE to have a higher income or business expenses to help meet min. Spend requirements or to keep a steady stream of points, but, by the end of the year, my plan is to pay for 2 business class tickets to Australia and stay in hotel suites for a week and a half. 7 months into the year, im one round of credit card applications away from meeting the goal. So, at the end of the year i’ll estimate, conservatively, that I will have 550,000 frequent flier miles and 2 weeks worth of hotel points/free nights at top tier hotels (with free night certificates, points & cash options, and stay 4 nights get 5th free deals, and different award charts, the number of hotel points is not all that helpful).

    Am I playing the game successfully?

    What makes you feel like you are an authority on this topic? My advise to you is to think before you begin bloviating to blog readers who are living, breathing, mile-collecting refutations of your assertions.

  26. A few of things about the post and the slightly over-the-top reactions it’s getting:

    Reading the headline and assuming that it means traveling for life without a job is quite the extrapolation. I don’t recall anywhere in the article that that is even possible and that Grant can show you how. For all we know, once Grant has exhausted his miles from credit card sign ups and dining bonuses, he’ll stop. Probably not his intent, but the article headline wasn’t really misleading.

    A) He’s 23 (I’ll take that as the truth)

    B) Without a real job (he’s admitted as much)

    C) He’s traveled the world (this one’s subjective since he’s traveled more than most of the 7 billion people on this planet – maybe not you but the definition of “world” to you but only a few people have been to the bottom of the Marianas Trench so really, it’s a sliding scale)

    D) With a number of credit card sign ups and whatever earned FF miles you have, who says you can’t at least see one or two countries with that?

    My point is that while it’s not totally unjustified to assume that the article will show you how to travel the world indefinitely without significant contributions to the U.S. tax base by way of proper employment, neither the headline nor article ever really alluded to that.

    Perhaps it’s some of you – you who once had such lofty travel lifestyles – who desperately want to believe that it’s possible to keep the lifestyle to which you’ve become accustomed without your employer’s deep pockets. And when you read the article and had your hopes dashed, you knew it warranted such a detailed, Excel-worthy response about real dollars spent per mile earned.

    There are blogs I find more useful than others. Some I don’t find useful at all for various reasons: it’s not relevant (to me), those without value (to me). Those blogs I simply ignore and move on because they might be useful or, at the very least, entertaining or inspiring to someone else. I don’t think I’ll follow Grant’s blog (sorry, dude) but to call his advice useless is overreaching. It could be useful to someone really new. Isn’t that how many of us started? I got into frequent flying after stumbling into Gabriel Leigh’s mini-doc a few years ago by accident while watching stuff on Vimeo.

    I don’t mind people taking to task those who intentionally mislead. I just don’t think that was done here. Any assumptions or extrapolations otherwise is made by the reader.

  27. @Jim, I’m looking forward to seeing you in Tampa and Chicago in a few weeks. It will be good to catch up and swap stories. Drinks on me.

    @TBB, I am always emailing FM back and forth with different suggestions and experiments. He really is a great guy and deserves more credit in the travel blogosphere. I’ll admit that most of my content was inspired by his posts and I think we think alike.

    @Mark, what you are able to do with $24k a year is inspiring. I hope you enjoy your trip Down Under! I’m racking up AA miles for my AA Explorer Award.

    @Tristan, that was awesome. If I ever need a lawyer or someone to defend me, you are number one on my speed dial.

  28. Grant, don’t worry about the haters. You are wise beyond your years.

  29. ha ha you are not taller than Emily !

  30. Pingback: July 5, 2013: Ibis bunnies, Cruise ship jobs, Quingdao bandits, Pan Am, Aeroplan, Airline Fees are up (how shocking!) | TravelBloggerBuzz

  31. First, it is true what they say about blog responses and email. People will read into posts what they think you meant, your tone of voice, etc, and soon all reason is out the window. So let me ask that those of you who have commented on my post reread it and my subsequent posts before asserting some nefarious motive to me or them. Now, let me try again and answer some of your comments specifically.

    My belief is simple. Yes, you can fly free, even with little money, and assuming you have reasonable credit, by signing up for various credit cards and then using the bonus miles you will get. But once you have used those miles up we are all in the same boat. You need to earn miles then and earning miles requires spending money. If you have no job, or no money then that becomes a difficult task. Yes, you can get another card with bonus miles, but that too becomes harder and harder as you find less cards available and as you accumulate them your annual dues load starts to eat into your limited funds.

    Mark, I am not an authority on the subject, I am merely giving my opinion, and certainly not bloviating. You apparently have done very well having only $24,000 a year to spend. You have collected 350,000 miles YTD, 275,000 of them apparently in bonuses and spending. My point is that once you spend those miles on Australia you will be hard pressed to do it again any time soon. Now, let’s assume you used your entire $24k on spending on your BA card and earned BA Avios. That would earn you 30,000 Avios. I’ll assume you got there 100,000 bonus award too, though that did require spending much more than your $24,000. On most other cards it would earn 24,000 points. I’m impressed because you were able to collect an additional 145,000 miles somewhere, on some other cards, through bonuses alone (if you spent all $24k on BA there would be no other charges you could make on other cards). You could do us all a great service telling us the secret to getting those 145,000 miles with no spending.

    As for your goal of 550,000 plus 14 free hotel nights, also by year end, truly amazing and again, how did you do it? I obviously am doing something wrong since I have more than $24,000 to spend and cannot see how to do that.

    Let’s try to keep this civil. Grant understood where I was coming from and we’ve exchanged a few posts without rancor, so let’s try that here. I truly would like to know how you do it.


  32. I don’t think the issue is how much income you have. I think it’s how much “extra” income you have to dedicate towards manufactured spending. If out of that $24k you only have $500 a year to spend on manufactured spending, then yes, it will be impossible to amass a large amount of points. On the other hand, if out of that $24K salary, you have $2000 (as an example) to spend on manufactured spending then you can make rack up some serious points or miles using cards with bonuses like AMEX BRG or Chase Ink. Just with the Chase Ink and 5X bonuses, you can get 250KUR points for $1750 of your money…I think that is worth it.

    So free, not really, unless you get lucky and get a ton of points from a $ off sale on GC’s like OM had recently. Then they were actually paying you to buy them.

    But my point is, even people with lower income can do this quite effectively. I am actually very impressed with people who can do this with lower income. They are showing that you do not need to be wealthy to be smart with your money. I would brag too if I only made 25K a year and was able to travel to world…even if it was only once a year. How many people making 25K a year can say that?

    I am lucky to have great income so I don’t need to worry since I mix my normal spending with manufactured spending…that doesn’t mean I want to pay for travel when I can get it for a dramatically reduced price. I am happy these blogs exist, or I bet most of us would still be paying retail for travel.

    Thanks guys!

  33. Geez, you guys, lighten up on Mike. He is trying to point out you can’t do this indefinitely (after the sign up bonuses) on almost no cash flow. That is ALL he is saying.

    And he is absolutely right.

  34. I think Mike asked a fair question originally. I have often wondered how individuals with no/low income can accumulate so many miles and award certificates. At some point you will only be approved for so many credit cards…once the approvals dry up (see what’s happening to Rapid Travel Chai right now…) where do you go? Ultimately, you have to make money to spend money to earn points/miles. I think what happens is that many bloggers sort of give the public the perception that they are always traveling on award tickets. Of course, many of them do travel often like Ben and Brian. But Ben and Brian are also buying tickets…not just doing award traveling. The issue is that the bloggers touting no/low income cannot be traveling like the Points Guy or One Mile at a Time. The reality is probably that they are only taking one or two trips a year. Which is fine. Free travel is a win across the board no matter how often you can do it.

  35. Robert Hanson

    Two things I’m curious about:

    1) with no job and limited income, how do you even get approved for decent points and miles credit cards?

    2} in the case of Mark, with an admitted income of merely 24K a year, where do you get the cash to deposit in a brokerage account that yields bonuses that large. The offers I’ve seen require $150K in deposits, combined between several brokerages, to get 75K miles. You can no longer deposit, withdraw, and redeposit the same cash, they closed that loophole. Now that $150K needs to be deposited all at once, in order to get 75K miles “YTD”.

  36. Rick, Anne, Keith & Robert,

    You all hit on a good point and one I asked Mark to elaborate on. How the heck does he do it? The answer to that would make this blog worth every cent (just hyperbole), but certainly every minute spent reading it, and bring in the readers that would catapult Darius to the top of readership in travel blog world.

    All we can do is eagerly await Mark’s reply.

  37. Robert,

    You got me thinking so I did some research. The only Brokerage firm I could find that had any active miles for money offer was Fidelity. They offer AA miles and you need $150k to get 75k miles. Plus, it has to be put in a Brokerage account, not an IRA or a number of other types, and it has to stay there for 9 months. TD Ameritrade did have an offer back in 2011/2012 but it’s expired, and there was a Delta offer but that too expired in February 2012. I’m not sure what Brokerage firms Mark found for that 75k miles this year.

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  39. “I finally met my hero.”

    WTF? FrequentMiler and miles are great, but this is hilarious.

  40. Good lord, this loser already has affiliate links so he can brag about not having a real job…

  41. When it comes down to it you can probably consistently get a few thousand dollars per year of miles/points, primarily through credit card signups. This works out to about one free sandwich per day. Even if you assume you are spending 10 minutes/day managing everything related to miles/points, reading blogs etc. this is over 60 hours/year. How much do you value your time? $30/hour? If so you’ve spent $1,800 of effort per year to get your free daily sandwich…

  42. How I do it on 24k a year:

    First, while I make 24k a year, I have invested wisely and have about 250k in various brokerage accounts. Im 27 and had a “real” job for 2 years from 2008-2010 before i went back to school (I started my job when the stock market hit its nadir — good timing!). That said, this money stays in my brokerage accounts and i am still able to contribute $5,500 a year to my ROTH. Just like credit cards, brokerage accounts offer some juicy rewards — and you can negotiate retention bonuses just as you can with credit cards. As I’m planning on flying to Australia, Delta miles are valuable to me, so 50,000 points came from moving a brokerage account from scottrade to fidelity. Now, fine print excludes ROTH IRA accounts and restricts the offer to once every 12 months — however, just like credit cards, when calling customer service reps, they’ll blandish you and back it up with inducements to get your business. Hence, I received 25,000 more delta points for moving my ROTH to fidelity. fidelity is not the only brokerage account offering bonuses, but they are, to my knowledge, the only ones offering FF points…

    As far as credit card churning goes — I’ve been churning cards for approx 6 years now, and churn anywhere from 8-12 a year. My credit score is in the 770s (could be better, but it’s respectable) and I take a very catholic interpretation of what household income means (I have three roommates). When I’m not immediately approved for a card, I follow the advice provided by Darious and other bloggers and call the reconsideration lines and rarely am outright rejected (occasionally I will have too many cards from a given provider or they’ll say my total credit limit is too high — but they also have provided ways around these problems….).

    Manufactured spend helps a lot to meet the min requirements (paypal never froze my account when I was moving 4k a month). Also, I am extremely lucky as I’m able to pay my rent with a credit card (no tricks, no fees!!!). I live above a non-profit with roommates and they accept CC as payment for rent — I have my roommates pay me with a check, and I pay the landlord with a credit card. This has lowered my reliance on manufactured spending. The reason I thought to ask the landlord in the first place: Daraius’ blog post on meeting min spend requirements.

    I take issue with anyone who claims you need real money to travel like these blogs advertise. First, I agree you cannot travel indefinitely with credit card points, or go on multiple honeymoons a year. And if those are your expectations, then you will be disappointed. However, look at Daraius’ blog posts about bora bora and Bali — I sure as heck can recreate that trip. with points to spare. Or, if one is so inclined, a round the world ticket on delta costs a (relatively) measley 160,000 delta points — that’s a lot of travel for a little money in my book. I don’t feel bloggers (like Daraius) are being disingenuous at all or selling snake oil when they say you can travel the world for close to free with credit card offers alone. You can! Certainly, you have to put effort into it, and credit card offers are not an indefatigable source of points, but if one is dedicated and follows a couple blogs, two or three trips a year are well within an average person’s (with an above average credit score) reach. (Of course, the quantity of trips depends on the length/quality of accommodations — for me, flights are the easy part, it’s the accommodations that are tricky).

  43. For the current delta fidelity offer:


    It took me approx. 1 hour of work to talk to the reps, fill out and fax all the paper work. AND, scottrade charged me a $75 transfer fee. So the cost of 50,000 delta skymiles was 1 hour+ $75.

  44. @Kris, I know, more affiliate links. I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a blogger if I didn’t have my own affiliate links. I’ve made it big!

  45. Mark,

    OK, so in the years 2008-2010 your real job allowed you to invest and accumulate $250k in multiple Brokerage accounts, with at least $150,000 in one of them, Scottrade, now and for the rest of the year at least in Fidelity.

    You appear to be able to contribute the $5500 max to a Roth, so that would leave you $18,500 to use as income to spend and earn miles with. I assume as a college student pizza and beer is adequate and thus $18,500 would cover that life.

    But it won’t if you were married, or had a kid, own a car and of course had vacation expenses in addition to life expenses. So I assume you are a single college student.

    I assume you and your friends live in a large apartment, maybe in bunk beds, and their rent is let’s say $500 a month each. So you collect $1500 a month from your friends and annually charge $24,000 in rent payments.

    As I see it that gives you $48,000 a year spendable to charge cards, though only $18,500 is spendable for your personal life needs.
    We are way beyond the ‘managing to accumulate miles on $24k a year’ as you really have $48k.

    What I still don’t understand is this. You’ve accumulated 350,00 miles this year, and I assume all Delta. 75,000 of them from Fidelity and 48,000 from spend, and let’s say another 48,000 for 2 miles per dollar, maybe not on all, but what the heck. So now we have 171,000 and no more spend. Where did the other 179,000 come from? And the two weeks of hotel stays? And 500,000 by end of year (that’s another 200,000 miles? I do not believe in Santa Claus or the Great Pumpkin).
    I’m very skeptical. But, that’s meaningless. What I think has nothing to do with what you do, or say you do. I said it was difficult if not impossible to accumulate significant awards on an income of $24,000 a year (and that’s pre tax) and I still believe that.

    Maybe we’ll find you have an aunt who just gives you money each year too.

  46. Not all my miles have been Delta (But with various transfer programs, i could convert many of them). And I am still just in shock that you have difficulty accounting for a couple hundred thousand miles (amex offer at 50,000, chase ink was at 60,000, both starwood prefered can be transfered for 70,000 delta points, etc etc) Collecting 200,000 points by the end of the year is as unbelievable to you as Santa?!?!? I would simply direct you to the “hot deals” tab and tell you to take your pick of 4 cards.

    You don’t need high income to do this indefinitely (assuming the rules don’t change). CC sign up bonuses haven’t “dried up” (though they’re not as lucrative as they used to be), and, can easily pay for two vacations a year (shoot, the southwest card will get 2 people to pretty much anywhere in the US or some Caribbean destinations). If you can qualify for them, People with low incomes simply need to meet min spend requirements (which, worst case scenerio, spending can always be manufactured). Again, if you are a hobbyist, I’m not saying anything remarkable here.

    Sign up bonuses aren’t inexhaustible, but a hobbyist could easily get 300,000 – 500,000 a year in points. Sure, a high income would help, holding everything else constant, but that is just icing on the cake as far as I’m concerned.

    So, why are you so incredulous? PayPal alone can help you achieve $4,000 a month in spending for $32 in fees– and that’s just one of the ~50 Daraius has posted under how to meet min spend requirements.

    Unfortunately, I think the marginal value of any further comments is close to 0. But we can agree to disagree; you can keep your skepticism, and I’ll keep my miles!

  47. Agree.

    Have fun.

  48. Why is it so difficult to believe that you cannot amass a large amount of miles living off a meager income? I lived off a stipend of $18K (after tax) a year. 3 years after I first chanced on FT, my AW balance stands north of 1600K despite multiple redemption. If you follow FT, it is not that tough. However it does consume time and I quit. I decided it is much easier to earn miles from paid travel as an invited speaker of repute than toiling out the frustrations of manufactured spending.

  49. Asar,

    $18k is $1500 a month. I assume you don’t charge your rent. Maybe you live with your parents or some friend who asks no rent. You apply for a card. You note your income as $18k. You apply for 6 cards each awarding you 50,000 miles, or 300,000 miles. Next year you do it for another 6 cards, and another 300,000 miles. And in the third year another 6 cards and another 300,000. At $18k a year you also collect 54,000 miles. So now you have 954,000 miles. You’ve also redeemed some of them, let’s say 54,000. leaving you at 900,000 after 3 years and 18 cards. How do you get the remaining 700,000 miles to get to 1,600,000 miles?

    I’m curious, what is your area of expertise for your speeches?

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  51. Mike .. why don’t you just shut your negative hole .. obviously. .you’re just not smart enough.

  52. Gerry,

    Could be I’m just stupid, even with all my miles and elite statuses. No problem. But after looking at my mile collection, and how I’ve done it, I don’t think so.

    I plan my app activity, I plan my travel, I manufacture spend, though I do watch just which cards and fees I am willing to shoulder yearly. I manage to keep my FICO over 800.

    My questions have been serious and curious because I feel one can always learn from others, and I know what it takes me to accumulate So when I see someone who is able to amass mileage somehow I am interested. I never view a question as negative.

    I assume that you have no problem understanding how Asar has amassed his 1.6 million in three years on $18k? Then you are smarter than me and I’d be grateful if you would explain it. I want to do that too as I have more than $18k available so it should be even easier for me.

  53. Hi Mike,

    I wholeheartedly agree with you. I travel +200 days a year and fly every single week. I look for credit card offers and try to achieve status through challenges when available.

    I simply don’t believe someone making less that $30,000 can travel or accrue the amount of points like these people are claiming. My travel expenses are around $2,000 a week and the numbers I see at the end of the year are around half a million hotel points and miles.

    Unless everyone plans to live on credit the rest of their lives I don’t think these claims are possible. Also; what is y’all’s tvm? At a certain point devoting hours to credit card “schemes” and quick fixes won’t work out.

  54. Michael,

    Glad to see some realism here.

    On TVM, I’ve found that trying to do too many CC apps can result in a turn down, to say nothing about potential hits to your FICO. But, the biggest problem of course is the time involved. At one point I had 10 apps going and the biggest problem was being able to make the spend required. And forget about the $85 or $95 annual hits on a bunch of cards. Though Marriott does give me a free night for that $85.

    Good thing the company allowed me to charge many of my tickets and hotels to my card instead of using theirs. My wife has it easier since she’s a Consultant and bills for travel reimbursement so she really racks up the mileage.

    While I was doing a lot of travel I managed to get Lifetime Platinum with American (2 million miles) but travel has tapered off, and credit charges no longer earn Elite status, so Exec Plat probably won’t happen.

    But, even while getting the 100% bonus as Platinum it was still impossible to really earn another million, though granted I wasn’t flying to HKG every week.

    There is one other thing that is a fact and that is that you really need to concentrate on one or two airlines to get Elite status, that really is a great benefit and outweighs all the mile awards. I’ve got miles on airlines I will never fly, even in the US. My hub is Dallas, American. I go to Europe non-stop. But when I want to use a USAir award I have to fly to PHL before the flight to Europe (this is hopefully only until the merger is done, but who knows). I don’t mind BA’s London connection, though I try to use then for domestic only.

    But, there’s no doubt it’s a great game.

  55. Michael,

    I had a reply but they wouldn’t post it. Don’t know why. So I’ll try this shorter one.

    TVM is an issue. I once had 10 apps going and found it just to much. Plus I got some turn downs for the high activity so I had to spread them out. But even then, tracking so many (and I don’t want to pay some Wallet to do it as I still have to keep myself informed) is time consuming.

    The other issue I see is you need to concentrate on a few airlines and get Elite status. Having 50,000 miles on 15 airlines is not a great deal. I fly out of a hub for my airline and can get non-stops to Europe. But if I use a different airline (I’m not naming them since maybe that’s why my last post wasn’t approved) then I have to fly to their hub first.

    At any rate, even with Elite bonuses I cannot even approach 500,000 miles, though when my job required more travel I could at least earn a lot which helped me achieve Lifetime Elite.

    Bottom line, even though I’ve asked for an explanation, no one can tell me how they actually collect masses of miles, like Asar’s 1.6 million, in 3 years.

    Darius has a great job that involves a lot of travel. Not many people earning $18k, or $24k, can do that.

    Question to moderator here, can you tell me what was wrong with my prior attempted post so I can avoid that in the future?

  56. Mike,

    You have been really entertaining ;). Valid questions. If money grew on trees, sure but it doesn’t :).
    We can all keep the conversation civil and still answer questions(if we feel like).

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