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: Point Travelers
Steven runs Point Travelers to lay out a step-by-step strategy to help you earn points and travel the world.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting miles and points back in 2011. Capital One was heavily promoting their Venture card that gave 2 points for every dollar spent. Although I wasn’t interested in travel at the time, I was interested in getting cash back.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog mainly for co-workers and friends. 2013 has been my big year for travel. My wife and I went to Puerto Vallarta, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Baltimore. People were wondering how we could afford so much traveling.
I tried to explain points/miles credit card sign up bonuses, but I could see the skepticism in their faces. A lot of friend thought it was to good to be true. My friends were telling me I was losing money because the credit cards were forcing me to spend more than necessary.
I wanted to setup a blog that would clearly show that the points game is not a scam. I try to detail out every dollar I spend, all the points I earn, and what value I get from the points I earn.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
I hate to state the obvious, but the easiest way to get more points and miles is through credit card sign-up bonuses. If someone can tell me a better way of getting 50,000 Southwest miles by spending $2,000 on a credit card, please let me know!
Outside of credit card bonuses, I really like using Visa gift cards, Vanilla reloads, and Amazon payments as a way to earn points.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I really enjoyed my hike up Rattlesnake Ledge in Seattle. As a Christian, one of the joys of traveling for me is experiencing God’s creation. The view at the top of Rattlesnake Ledge was awesome.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
My family members were definitely skeptics at first, and I’m pretty sure my mom called me crazy at one point. She now has a AMEX Delta, Chase Freedom, Chase Sapphire, and Chase United. She just called me last week to book her a flight from Detroit to New York with my points! You’re welcome mom.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
A lot of credit cards give bonus points on certain categories of business such as office stores, department stores, and restaurants. Sometimes I am unsure what Visa might categorize a store. I use the Visa merchant tool to look up stores to make sure I’m not missing out on points.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
This might not be a way I earned points, but an unexpected way I stretched points. A few months ago I was out in Seattle for business. My company booked me one night in a premium room at the Westin, which is worth 12,000 points.
After the business trip had ended, I decided I wanted to stay in the city for two more nights. I booked 2 nights in a non-premium room for 20,000 points. I knew I had to switch rooms, but I thought I would try negotiating.
After speaking with the hotel clerk, I was able to stay in my premium room at the price of a standard room: only 10,000 points per night! I didn’t even need to negotiate anything, all I did was ask if I could stay. My wife and I were able to continue to enjoy our breath-taking view of Seattle while saving 4,000 points.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Last year, I got the Chase Sapphire with a 50,000 point sign-up bonus. Instead of transferring those points to an airline or hotel partner, I took cash back. I got $500 cash when I could have gotten over $800 worth of travel.
So if traveling the world is your goal, never take cash back as the first option, chances are your points are worth more when you transfer them.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
As much as I enjoy collecting points and flying commercial, sometimes I get to fly private. Jordan’s Grandpa is a pilot and owns a single engine plane.
Any parting words?
Collecting points and miles with credit cards is great. However, personal finance author Dave Ramsey often says, “We buy things we don’t need and can’t afford, in order to impress the people we don’t like.” It’s important to be cautious about monitoring your spending and paying your bills on time.
I know people who have wisely said “no” to the credit card game because they know that they struggle with controlling their spending.
Steven – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!
* If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 14,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in a RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another interview with Mile and Points gurus!