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Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: FrugalHackMe
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting miles and points in 2010, right after I turned 18. I received an offer in the mail for the Capital One Journey student card which earned 1.25% cash back on all purchases and had a $100 sign-up bonus.
That sounds like chump change compared to the cards we all have now, but I had no credit history to speak of, so that was the only card available to me. After seeing the $100 sign-up bonus get credited to my account and my cash back (slowly) add up, I was hooked!
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
To be honest, I never thought I would start a blog. I always assumed it would take too much time and I wouldn’t have anything to write about, but I was wrong.
I found a hobby I am very passionate about and realized that the best way to share my passion is by blogging about it. The one thing that makes my blog special is that it’s not a travel site, nor is it a deal site. I intermingle great deals and great travel in one place.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Use your credit card for every purchase, even if it is small. Earning 1 mile back on a $1 candy bar is better than earning nothing.
If a merchant doesn’t accept credit cards, use Bluebird or gift cards. There is always a way to earn miles on a purchase, you just have to get creative.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
My most memorable travel experience is the honeymoon my wife and I took to Europe in 2012. What a trip that was! When we walked off the plane, it was almost as if we had entered a different world.
The buildings and the roads were very old, the cars were small, and every pizza we had was amazing. Seriously, I had pizza in every city we visited and it only got better as we got closer to Naples. Our first stop was Barcelona, where we drove Vespas around the city.
It is possible that we ran one or two red lights by accident, but doesn’t everyone run a red light on their first Vespa trip? After Barcelona, we visited Monaco and walked around the city. Then we toured Rome and visited the Colosseum.
We finished our honeymoon visiting Pompeii and walking to the top of the Tower of Pisa. That is one trip that will be hard to top.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
My wife loves the perks of my hobby, however she doesn’t always enjoy the frequent CVS visits or having to carry around 10+ cards in her wallet. She does put up with it though, because she loves me and loves to travel.
Since I knew the CVS trips were not her favorite activity, I bought her a pair of boots she had her eye on for awhile. I now refer to them as her CVS boots. Our conversations now go something like this:
Me: “Hey babe, I see you are wearing your CVS boots today.”
Her: “Oh no…”
She’s a great sport!
My family and friends have been very supportive of my hobby as well. I have even convinced a few of them to participate in the game.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Google Docs, You Need A Budget, and AwardWallet are the essential tools in my miles and points toolbox. Without them I would not be organized enough to participate in buying gift cards to meet minimum spending on credit cards. Everyone has their own system when it comes to this game, so it is very important to find out what works best for you.
As for tricks, I think the best trick is to make friends with your local Walmart and CVS cashiers. It makes your transactions so much easier!
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
We flew Air France from Barcelona back to the states, which was one of the worst flights I have ever been on. I am highly allergic to nuts, so I requested a nut free (cannot even be processed with nuts) dinner on the flight when we booked it. Then when I got my dinner on the flight, the packaging said the food was processed with nuts.
I asked the flight attendant for something else and he only spoke French. That was inconvenient since the only word I know in French is Bonjour. He went and grabbed a flight attendant that spoke English, and I told him the situation.
They did not have anything that fit my requirements, so I just ate the bag of gummy worms I had in my backpack for my dinner. When I got off the plane, we emailed Delta and they gave me and my wife 20,000 free miles each.
I now know that it never hurts to contact an airline carrier, if your experience was unsatisfactory. There is always a chance they will give you free miles.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I had known how to use gift cards and Amazon payments to meet the minimum spending requirements before I applied for any credit cards. I have a few cards that I will never use, which I originally only signed up for to get a measly $100 sign up bonus.
Those cards will now sit in my sock drawer forever, taking up space that could have been used by a card with a much better sign up bonus, or even socks for that matter.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Occasionally, I read some of my blog posts aloud to my cat, Pixel, so I can check for spelling errors and grammatical issues. He is a great listener.
Any parting words?
Find a place you want to go and use these resources to help you get the miles! Also if you are looking for a good time, get a kitten because they are super entertaining and furry.
Josh – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!
If you’d like to be considered for our interview series, please send me a note!