“I Stay Up at Night…Wondering About the 38% of People Who Say They’re Interested, but Never Take Action”

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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:   The Bucket List Lifestyle

Nate writes The Bucket List Lifestyle to encourage readers to make the proactive choice to design their life around marking items off their bucket list.

Nate Buchanan - Interview With Nate

Climbing the Flat Irons, Boulder, Colorado

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

I started collecting miles and points about 2 years ago after I graduated from grad school.  While I was in grad school, I ran a website that taught students how to build good credit using student credit cards.

As I was searching the web 1 day, I came across a website called Noob Traveler.  It was the 1st blog I had ever read that explained travel hacking for beginners.

The next thing I knew, I had spent 2 hours going down the rabbit hole and finding tons of blogs on the subject.  I spent the next 3 to 4 weeks reading as much as I possibly could about the subject before jumping in and applying for my 1st credit card.

Nate Buchanan - Interview With Nate

Estes Park, Colorado – Fly Fishing

At that point I had just graduated, and I didn’t have a ton of money.  But my wife and I had decided that we really wanted to see the world before we had kids.  After taking my 1st award flight with miles, I knew that travel hacking was the tool that was going to help us turn that dream into a reality.

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

The main reason I started my blog was to answer the question, “How can you and Kara (my wife) afford to travel to so many places?”  On my blog I write about more than just travel hacking.

The posts are centered around 3 topics: travel hacking, entrepreneurship, and lifestyle design.

Travel hacking is a great way to decrease the cost of travel, but if you don’t have time to travel, then what’s the point?  The Bucket List Lifestyle blog is about using entrepreneurship to design a life that will allow you more opportunities to travel and mark stuff off your bucket list.

Nate Buchanan - Interview With Nate

Exploring the Bahamas

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

I run a printing company, and I write a travel blog multiple times per week.  So I stay really busy.  I like to concentrate on points earning opportunities that will get me the most points for the amount of time I invest.

As your readers already know, credit card sign-up bonuses are the best way to earn large amounts of miles in a little amount of time.

When I 1st started travel hacking, I was afraid of signing-up for cards with large annual fees.  My advice to people who are just starting out would be… don’t let the big annual fees scare you away!  A $450 annual fee sounds really expensive, but at times it’s 1 of the best ways to cheaply acquire a ton of miles.

Nate Buchanan - Interview With Nate

Fishing in Belize

Plus, if you take the time to read and understand the benefits of the premium card, you can usually get a ton of value extra value out of the card in addition to the sign-up bonus.

For example: a couple premium cards offer $200 statement credits or offer to waive $200 worth incidental airline charges.  That almost cuts the annual fee in half.  Then, take into consideration the other perks like free lounge access, free world wide Wi-Fi (with Boingo), and free access to business centers (Regus).

Add a really high sign-up bonus like the 100,000 point sign-up bonus on the Citi American Airlines Executive card (this offer is no longer available) earlier this year and the $450 annual fee turns into an awesome deal!

Nate Buchanan - Interview With Nate

Paddle Boarding, Belize

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

When my wife and I got married, we went on our honeymoon to Belize.  We stayed on a private 7 acre island 15 miles off of the coast.  Staying on a tiny island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea was an incredible experience.

Plus, we’re both certified scuba divers, and our island was less than 2 miles away from the Belize Barrier Reef which is the 2nd largest Barrier Reef in the world behind Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.  On our dives, we had to opportunity to swim with sea turtles, sharks, and goliath grouper.

Nate Buchanan - Interview With Nate

Scuba Diving, Belize

Our honeymoon trip to Belize was amazing, and I will never forget it.

Nate Buchanan - Interview With Nate

Sea Turtle, Belize

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

Most people I know are separated into 3 different camps.  First, there are the people who just think we’re completely crazy (60%).  Then there are the people who say they are super jealous of our life and really want to learn, BUT for some reason they never actually take action (38%).

Finally there are a few people (2%) who actually read and implement the travel hacking strategies I talk about on the blog.  It’s been really fun to see the people taking action and being rewarded with free travel that they never thought was possible!

I never really worry about the 60% of people who think I’m crazy.  There’s just no point in worrying about what they think because our mindsets are obviously completely different.  However, I stay up at night scratching my head and wondering about the 38% of people who say they’re interested, but never take action.

Nate Buchanan - Interview With Nate

Ready to Ride at Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

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

There are actually 6 tools that I use almost on a daily basis to organize and maximize my travel hacking endeavors.  I wrote about all 6 tools and how I use them in my 2014 Travel Hacker Gear Guide – 6 tools no travel hacker should live without.  Anyone who wants a copy of my gear guide can sign-up on the sidebar of my website.

Nate Buchanan - Interview With Nate

Sandboarding – Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

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

A friend and I were staying at the Hilton in the Dominican Republic.  We cut our stay short and asked them to refund the points we used for the last night.  They ended up refunding almost double the amount of points we had actually paid to stay there.

Nate Buchanan - Interview With Nate

Snorkeling, Belize

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

When I first started collecting miles and points I was reading blogs and applying for what everyone else said were the “best” credit offers.  I ended up with miles spread out between a lot of different programs, and they weren’t especially useful.  Now every card I apply for is part of strategy to build up my points balance in airline and hotel programs that I use frequently.

Beginners should consider concentrating their points earning strategies on 1 or 2 specific airlinesFocus on airlines miles because flights are usually the most expensive part of travel.  If you’re a budget traveler, you can always find cheap accommodation, but cheap flights are hard to come by.

Nate Buchanan - Interview With Nate

Southern Most Point, Key West

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

I’m the founder of a social enterprise called Peanut Butter Printing.  This year the business has donated almost 20,000 meals to children dying of malnutrition.

While starting this business has been extremely rewarding, we’re still in the early phases, and I’m not taking a paycheck from the company.   This year my wife and I have been able to visit 8 new countries and several new states all on a household income of less than $40,000 thanks to miles and points.

Nate Buchanan - Interview With Nate

Spear Fishing, Belize

Any parting words?

If you have a good credit score, why not put it to use?  You might not want to obsess over miles and points as much as Daraius and I do, but at least get 1 or 2 cards that earn travel rewards and start putting all of your spending on those cards.

If you want to keep it extremely simple, just sign-up for a fixed value points card like the Barclay Arrival Plus card and put all your spending on it.  It will at least help to offset some of the expenses on your next vacation.

Nate Buchanan - Interview With Nate

Surfing in Costa Rica

Daraius, thanks for the opportunity to share my story!  If any of your readers want to connect with me, they can visit my blog at Nate Buchanan.

Nate – 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!

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8 responses to ““I Stay Up at Night…Wondering About the 38% of People Who Say They’re Interested, but Never Take Action”

  1. Nate – I tried to sign-up for the tool guide in your sidebar, and couldn’t submit my information using either Chrome or Safari on the Mac.

  2. Update – it appears that my subscription was entered (you might want to revise the user interface so it lets visitors know that they have been subscribed), but there is no mention of the 2014 Travel Hacker Gear Guide that I am looking for. Thanks.

  3. Great guest post!! Thank you to Daraius and Nate. I’m having a lot of fun checking out his blog this morning 🙂

  4. +1 to Teri’s point. I signed up for the email club about 5 times because there is no notification that it worked. Also, no idea where to find the 2014 Travel Hacker Gear Guide. Thanks Nate!

  5. I read you started traveling after graduate school. My daughter finishes college this May and starts grad school in the fall. She’s had a Discover card for 3-4 years and has excellent credit (over 800), which I assume comes from being a user on my cards since she was 15 as well. She only works in the summer. She would like a card with a big airline points bonus. Does she have a chance of being approved if she applies right after she starts her summer job? If so, which card would you recommend? Her monthly spending is fairly low. Thanks so much!!

  6. The 38% can best be explained by simple human nature. First, this game is exactly the opposite of instant gratification. You have to plan ahead many months, if not years, to properly take advantage of the benefits. Secondly, the methods might seem daunting, if not outright scary to a lot of people. Most people have a hard time just paying off their credit cards each month. Don’t even mention the people who are constantly maxed out. Now present those people with a method for obtaining cheap travel that will require them to maintain credit accounts that are likely going to total many times their annual salary, and tell them that they MUST keep those cards paid off, as interest charges will quickly cancel out the benefits. Between my wife and I, we have 23 credit cards. I spend about 30 minutes each week just checking each account and making payments on them. It gets tedious, especially when I’m checking accounts that I know I haven’t used in several months, and BETTER be 0, because I can’t always remember for absolute certain that I didn’t pull one of them out since it fit a spend category that I don’t typically get the opportunity to take advantage of. My wife keeps sticky notes on the 5 or 6 that she carries with her to know which one to use for gas, which to use at restaurants, which to use at the grocery store, etc. There’s always at least one card that I’m spending toward a signup bonus, and that gets used by default for everything else. Thankfully my credit limits are usually high enough that I don’t need to concern myself with hitting it, but a couple of the cards were issued with low limits. It’s tough to spend $3000 in a month to get the bonus when the limit is only $1000. I was paying the bill every 3 days and since the payments don’t always apply immediately, I found myself walking on eggshells to spend quickly enough, as my life required me to make purchases, and not go over the limit and still get all the spending done before the first statement hit.

    Some of this I discovered after I got into the game, but much of it was apparent before I ever got started. When faced with the looming financial nightmare that this game can appear to be, it’s no wonder why a significant number of interested people will just remain interested, but unwilling. In any event, you shouldn’t lose any sleep over it.

  7. How much help do you give to the 38% ? I try to help, but end up spending way too much time and effort on their vacation!

  8. @ Nate….looks like you had a very short trip to Colorado. This is the ONE place that you can take trips around the world from, yet come back to and still realize you have literately everything (and then some) all right here at your fingertips. Hope you get to dig in a bit more next time (but don’t tell your friends…we have too many people moving here already)