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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: I Go By Plane
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting miles and points while traveling as a consultant for work in 2002. But I did not use them very efficiently at the time. For the most part I redeemed them for merchandise to sell on eBay.
From 2007 to 2011, I worked at a local model consulting firm and didn’t accumulate much. Although recently, I started traveling again and came back into the game in a big way!
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog to save and share pictures and stories. I also wanted to dispel some of the myths I think my friends have that have kept them from trying to travel with points.
The most special thing about my blog is I’ve created some engines on the site that will tell you the best path to accumulate points or reach a goal based on your criteria and currently available sign-up bonuses.
The United and American Airlines Engine gives advice on how to score ~274,350 United miles or ~342,152 American Airlines miles. The engines take into account all card point sources and conversions.
Don’t want a card with fees? No business cards? Want to put in a goal of traveling from North America to Japan on American Airlines? Enter this in and it will tell you how to accomplish your goal.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Aside from charging everything, probably the biggest thing people could do is to pay their mortgage or rent with credit cards to get miles. Aside from that, anyone financially responsible should have no problem at least getting an occasional 1 or 2 cards for sign-up bonuses.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I just traveled in Southeast Asia for 3 weeks with a buddy and that was a lot of fun. We just happened to be in Kuala Lumpur doing Thaipusam. I also really enjoyed petting some tigers in Thailand. As a car guy I thoroughly enjoyed and will most certainly be back to the Nürburgring.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Naturally they think I’m cray-cray.
I have convinced a few friends shooting for a Companion Pass or a fancy honeymoon trip to start playing. But many consider what I do to be damaging to my credit or involve too much time and effort. To dispel this, I have a post on my credit score as well as a calculation on how much the job pays per hour, considering the time and effort to achieve an award.
If my parents visit my sister in Australia this year, I’ll use my American Airlines Executive Platinum systemwide upgrades to upgrade them and we’ll see who thinks I’m crazy after that.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
The 1st flights I booked with miles were to Berlin on First Class via London on American Airlines and British Airways, then returning through London via United Airlines in First Class.
I didn’t chat him up until landing and seeing he was reading a Top Gear magazine, but the CEO of TireRack was sitting next to me. In any case, I ended up paying for going through London Heathrow Airport and not using any of the special bonus trip options one can do around international award flights.
I learned my lesson and recently used the free 1-way flight trick on United Airlines to tack on a
Business Class trip to the end of my Southeast Asia trip.
You see, my trip wasn’t to Chicago, it was really to Buenos Aires…I’m just taking a stopover here in Chicago to work for a while! Business
Class to Buenos Aires was an additional $25 and 10,000 miles for the 1-way.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I bought some artsy gold pigs on sale during Black Friday. But I’ve been lazy, so I’m currently the owner of 2 large ugly pigs roaming around the basement.
I also still have a few extra bags of luggage…
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
In the beginning, that I would have been much better off using those points for travel rather than redeeming them for “stuff.” Today my advice to newbies is to start with 1 to 3 cards and have some kind of a goal in mind.
I think I, like many, voraciously gobble up points now. But I have orphan points in programs off to the side now that I’m not sure when I’ll use, sprinkled here or there.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
My first job was McDonald’s?
I had a pretty hard sprint and some crazy runs to get American Airlines Executive Platinum status last year. I’ll post a story on that one soon.
At the Chicago Seminars last year I did the work that resulted in Team SPG winning the maximum value out of points redemption contest. I heard during the presentation that Team Chase was expected to win.
It was pretty challenging to complete everything in the amount of time we had available. It really was pretty intense work on the laptops in the hallway by all teams. Those points geek competitions really get the adrenaline flowing eh??
Any parting words?
I encourage anyone interested in doing a bit more travel to jump in the pool, if they’ve been waiting on the sidelines to take any action.
I actually consider the current situation a travel arbitrage, and windows like that usually close. So jump in while there are still great awards to reap. Plus I could use some travel companions.
I would love to hear anyone’s thoughts on my blog. I plan to continue posting more deals, tricks and stories and to keep on exploring and knocking things off my bucket list as well.
Thanks Daraius and Emily for having me!
Mike – 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!