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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: The Points of Life
Alexander writes The Points of Life to inspire readers and allow them to gain perspective from travel.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I used to charge my MBA tuition on the prestigious Northwest Airlines Visa Signature card, the one that had a graphic of my favorite plane, the Boeing 747. Because I went to an international business school, Thunderbird School of Global Management, I tried to cut down on the cost of attendance by putting those points to good use to travel to Dubai, Mexico, the Czech Republic and China (venues for academic exchanges).
I didn’t formally start collecting points until November of 2011 when I saw a fellow mile & point hobbyist, the Frugal Travel Guy, on Nightline. Seeing how simple it was to earn points, I applied for an Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and took my inaugural points trip to the Bahamas the following spring.
From then on I was hooked, religiously following the +91 day credit card application strategy.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog as a marketing campaign for my book Everyone’s Advice Is Wrong . . . Including Mine.
The publisher said that I did not have enough likes on Facebook, followers on Twitter, and blogging would be an effective tool for book promotion. She was right, as I didn’t even have a dedicated Facebook page or Twitter account to begin with!
As a serious writer (I say in jest), I was anti-blogging but decided to give it a shot. While I am still a little off-put by the weight given to social media, I do enjoy sharing the adventures of my points travel stories.
Points play a critical role in my book, allowing the reader to gain perspective from travel, an eye-opening experience needed to break free from the cubicle.
The blog is special because it uses points as a springboard for travel, integrates lessons learned from such adventures, while hopefully inspiring others to do the same.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Apply for lots of cards! Then after that strategically using each card to optimally gain the most amount of points. Charge travel to 1 card, office supplies to the other etc., all the while showing love to all the major banks to keep them happy in the process.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
The 1,000,000 points adventure: I spent $275 in taxes to travel 50,000 miles in business class. Before American Airlines got rid of the distanced based awards (unannounced I will add) I booked a round-the-world trip.
I was able to fly all the great airlines in a variety of configurations to some of the world’s most sought after destinations. At the same time, I used points to stay at luxurious hotels.
The trip was 16 segments and 5 continents ranging from Mauritius to the Maldives, Cape Town to Colombo, Sydney to Saigon, and Doha to Dusseldorf.
I burned points at Park Hyatts, Conrads, the Ws and St. Regis hotels with little out of pocket. Even the $275 in taxes was paid for using my Barclays Arrival card statement credit.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
They think I’m nuts until I help them get their own points. Then they’re calling me asking how to squeeze in an extra segment without invalidating their itinerary and now presumptuously complaining if the hotel does not recognize their “Gold status”.
It is funny to see the transition from “you’re doing something criminal” to “it’s criminal that I wasn’t upgraded.”
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
The usual cast of characters: Award Wallet and Excel are great but I’d say the best trick is my general OCD disposition for collecting points. As I write in my book, “I check the balance of my points accounts 10 times a day, know all my frequent flier numbers by heart, and think it’s fun to speak only using airport codes.”
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Charging the services of an attorney for my friend who was accused then subsequently found not guilty of driving under the influence.
While I don’t condone criminal mischief of any kind, I was happy to hit the minimum spending requirement by paying the hefty legal bill.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Points are worthless tomorrow, burn them today. I used to gaze in admiration at my multicolor Excel spreadsheet and plan imaginary trips around the world. Then I was exposed to the point collector’s kryptonite – devaluation.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I am moving to the coldest capital in the world, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to practice international business law, and using points to get there. That will be country #70 on my checklist.
One final rant, why AMEX why, are you limiting sign-up bonuses to once in a lifetime! Guess I’ll have to enjoy this final opportunity to fly suite class on Singapore Airlines by transferring 94,000 AMEX Membership Reward miles to my Singapore Airlines Kris Flyer account.
Any parting words?
Yes, Everyone’s Advice Is Wrong . . . Including Mine. My apologies for the shameless book plug yet again.
Alexander – 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!