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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 Shutterwhale
Mark writes The Shutterwhale to share his passion for photography and travel.
You can follow him on Instagram.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I really started collecting miles and points when I moved back from Australia to Singapore. Initially, it was more about simply collecting but then when I realized I could get free nights and Business Class or even First Class flights, I was really intrigued (read: addicted).
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I did a lot of photography in Australia. Simply because it is a lot more beautiful with a lot less people per square foot. But when I got back to Singapore, this happened a lot less as there were always people in my photos, I did not like that!
So really, the blog started as a way to encourage myself to write more about the things I love and take more photos.
The Shutterwhale focuses a lot on luxury hotel reviews and how you can get there by taking advantage of hotel promotions and credit cards. And it has evolved a little bit to include other bits of affordable luxury such as Business Class flights and good hotel food.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Have an open mind. Seriously, on so many occasions, I have gotten the same old excuses that “miles are not for us” or “we prefer to get cash back.”
Earning miles is not difficult, but it does take planning and dedication. There are plenty of articles and tools out there that can help you achieve your goals. But you need to know what you want and how to get there without brushing it off the 1st time you hear of it.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
This is a tough 1 since most travel experiences are pretty unique and memorable in their own way (even the bad ones!).
If I had to pick 1, I think it would have to be traveling in First Class on Singapore Airlines’ latest 777-300ER plane. While I have traveled in First Class on other airlines before (though not as often as I would like), the 777-300ER is really a different league of its own!
Think flat bed, plenty of champagne, good food, and an amazing seat pitch and width!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
At 1st they were slightly disapproving. My parents think traveling in Business Class or staying at a 5 star luxury property when you’re going to be out traveling for the whole day is an extravagance.
But I do not actually blame them. If I had to pay full price, instead of redeeming points and miles for everything, I would be broke right now. Interestingly though, most of my family and friends now approach me for miles and points advice.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
When redeeming on codeshare and alliance partners, be sure to check ITA Matrix before trying to book. This will save you and the person on the line time and effort. ITA Matrix is a great way to search for connecting flights and stopovers!
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Buying a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates in a supermarket and earning 30 points per $1 spent.
No seriously, until recently, the supermarket I go to was offering 30X bonus points for that 1 item only. No one knows why, but let’s just say I have quite a few boxes of Ferrero Rocher in my house right now.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Calculate how much your miles are worth based on your airline and alliance of choice and use them wisely. When I 1st started, I actually redeemed some expiring Qantas frequent flyer miles for a Spotify Premium subscription (ouch!).
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I have a day job that is completely irrelevant to this hobby. While I majored in hospitality management, I am now a senior analyst in a management consulting firm that prices retail products.
Any parting words?
If you’re interested in travel, I recommend focusing on miles and points instead of cash back cards, because you can get more bang for your buck.
Mark – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!