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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 City Miler
David writes The City Miler to help family, friends, and readers understand how they can fly around the world using miles. He shares his travels, as well as writing about bits of New York City life. Check him out on Instagram and Twitter!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started casually a few years ago, but had no idea how accessible they could be to someone who didn’t fly all the time. By that time I had already had a taste of their value, though.
When I was in college, I went to visit a friend who studied abroad and city-hop around Europe with him. My mom generously booked my trans-Atlantic tickets using some of the American Airlines miles she had accumulated over decades.
Thanks to a quirk in saver vs. standard availability across classes, I got to fly back in First Class! That definitely helped me see how valuable points and miles could be.
But then a few years ago, as I was researching a new credit card, I came across a handful of blogs (including this one!) which helped open my eyes to how rewarding the points and miles hobby could be. Not only that, but I realized how accessible it was, even for people who only flew a couple of times a year, if that.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog recently, only this past summer. The reasons were twofold.
One, I missed writing, and was looking for a creative outlet. I actually started writing more generally about photographing, living in New York, and travel, but quickly noticed I enjoyed the travel posts the most and was writing more of them.
I decided to start focusing on travel, keeping a light New York City perspective and occasionally including bits of city life.
The other reason is I really wanted to help family, friends, and readers understand that anyone can play, even if someone isn’t looking to rack up a million miles a year and fly around the world in Singapore Airlines suites every other weekend. Even playing conservatively and dipping your toes can help you. It all depends on your goals.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
The easy answer is credit card bonuses, but for people who want to play more casually, I’d say to stay on top of promotions. Read blogs, check airline and hotel websites, and register for every single promotion that’s open, even if you don’t have any plans to travel. If you end up making plans later on, you can get a nice chunk of bonus points.
I’ve gotten as many as 8,000 bonus miles for a single domestic economy flight this year because I had registered for a promotion a few months before and then forgotten about it.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
When I was around 13, family friends of ours spent a year living in Namibia for work. We flew to visit them, spending a total of four days in Windhoek, and 10 days exploring the northern half of the country. It was incredible to learn about somewhere so different from home.
We saw the most beautiful sights, from wildlife in national parks to breathtaking sand dunes. It wasn’t my first international trip, but that definitely planted the seed for my love of travel.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
I’ve had a mix of reactions. A couple of people have been terrified I was ruining my credit score or violating some kind of rule. Others have said they were jealous I’ve been able to make this work so well for me.
That’s another part of why I started blogging, to show family and friends what this hobby is all about. A couple of others have been playing the “travel hacking” game as well, and I hadn’t even known!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I’ve got a few. One, use a password manager (I personally use 1Password) to keep all of your frequent flier account numbers and passwords easily accessible in one place.
Also, when getting involved with credit card bonuses, maintain a spreadsheet to keep track of accounts, requirements, opening dates, and annual fees.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I stopped at a bar with a friend after work and paid for our drinks with my card. I hadn’t realized that the bar was part of the dining Rewards Network. I also hadn’t realized that the particular dining program that I had connected to that credit card had a promotion going on. I got around 1,000 miles for buying two drinks!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
In this game, things change all the time, sometimes without warning. If you find a deal that fits into your points and miles plan, don’t hold off: jump on it before it goes away.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I love flying, and I love airplanes. I love pretty much everything about being in the air, and I’ve been flying more and more often. But, as comfortable as I am flying and as much as I enjoy it, I still get a little anxious during takeoff and heavier turbulence.
Any parting words?
Getting to see more of the world, even domestically, is one of the most incredible privileges. Take advantage of every chance to enjoy it, and find ways to do it!
David – 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!