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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 Traveling Professor
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
However, I estimate I have earned over 10,000,000 miles & points through flying, credit cards, credit card bonuses, and through other miles earning opportunities. I started collecting miles & points with my American Airlines AAdvantage account.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog in 2007. It started out as a specialty blog about Paris travel, and evolved to cover more destinations in Europe and South America.
I started adding travel tips, including how to collect and spend miles, about 4 years ago. I think my blog posts are special because one of my goals is to print tips and pointers that are not commonly found in other blogs.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Sign-up for credit card deals. I presently have 4 credit cards where I got at least 50,000 mile bonuses for signing up: Barclaycard Aviator Card, Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and a British Airways Visa Signature Card.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I have 2 memorable travel experiences.
The first is when I visited a remote island on Lake Titicaca in Peru called Amantani. Very few outside visitors have come to the island since shipping across Lake Titicaca ended many years ago.
So, the island has been pretty much isolated for generations. No phones, no newspapers, no internet, no machines at all. I was part of an inaugural program where visitors would come to the island, bring gifts and stay with a resident family for a night.
I gave the household food and the 2 children some very simple toys. They were overjoyed. The next day when I left, the children just disappeared as we walked to the marina to catch my boat, never saying goodbye. It bothered me. Did I do or say something wrong?
But after I left the island, I realized why they never said farewell. The island’s inhabitants don’t know how to say goodbye. They never had to, because no one ever left before.
The second memorable travel experience is visiting the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer at the Normandy Invasion Beaches.
Words cannot describe the emotions at seeing what our heroes confronted to accomplish their mission and walking on the sand at Omaha Beach. Nothing is as humbling as seeing the thousands of crosses and Stars of David at the cemetery. I am eternally grateful to these brave warriors.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
My friends and family love my miles & points hobby because they are frequent beneficiaries of my miles & points redemptions!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
The tricks are in redeeming miles for the best value. For instance, avoid flying through London Heathrow Airport on miles because the taxes & fees charged usually outweigh the cost of the “free” ticket.
Another trick is to use miles to get elite status on airlines for better seat selection, reduced mileage awards, lounge access, and reduced fees like baggage fees.
My other big tip is the “Status Match” program available on other airlines. For instance, I have Platinum status on American Airlines. It takes 50,000 flight miles per year to become Platinum and it comes with a lot of great perks.
However, I can request a “Status Match” on another airline like Delta or Virgin America and voila! I have equivalent elite status on that airline without flying a mile!
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
The least expected way I earned miles (and an airline voucher) was many years ago when I volunteered to be bumped from an oversold flight from Las Vegas to Chicago.
They arranged to put me on another flight, but then switched me back to my original flight. I call it the “bumpless bump” because they still gave me a voucher and miles for my “inconvenience”. Those were the good old days.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
American Airlines has a Business Extra program where points are accumulated in ADDITION to miles. These points can be used for things like flights, upgrades, and lounge access.
I love double-dipping on miles! I only enrolled in this a few years ago and wish I had done so earlier.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Everyone is always surprised to learn I was a Statistics Professor for 31 years and I was the Male Scholastic Typing Champion of the State of Virginia of 1979. LOL!
Any parting words?
Miles & points are starting to have less and less value for the more casual flyer. Lately, the airlines are trending towards giving their best rewards to their corporate First Class flyers. The other piece of advice I have is to find an airline that is best for you, get elite status, and concentrate on accumulating miles & points on that airline.
Steve – 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!