“With Miles & Points, You’re Not Restricted to One Most Memorable Experience”

Disclosure: We get a commission for links on the blog. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very grateful when you do. American Express, Barclaycard, Capital One, Chase, Citibank and US Bank are Million Mile Secrets advertising partners. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by our partners. Here’s our Advertiser Disclosure.

Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!

Miles & Points Interview:  Points Fitness

Ricardo writes Points Fitness to help readers earn tons of rewards and great value, and use credit cards to earn miles and see a bit more of the world.  Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Points Fitness

We Reached the Clouds in Machu Picchu

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

I started collecting miles back when I was in my teens.  My dad opened miles accounts for the family, and we traveled once or twice a year.  Then, while I was in college (around 2006 and 2007) I started traveling a little more, until one year and without any intention, I hit United Premier Silver status.

So I started to look a little more at what could be done with miles at that time.  I still collected most of my miles by flying.  Up to this point, I had maybe 1 or 2 miles earning credit cards, and worried for my credit score.

Then ~4 years ago, I seriously started leveraging many methods to earn miles, and have held United Premier Platinum status since.

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

When you realize the amazing things that can be done with miles & points, you start telling everyone.  Friends, co-workers, neighbors, random people even…  I saw how people that had no hope of traveling now could afford it and all because of the little I had shared.  So I thought, well, if I’m going to give advice to some, I might as well to many.

Points Fitness

My Wife Didn’t Know Where We Were Going Until We Arrived at the Gate. It Was Bavaria for a Long Weekend

As for the push I needed to actually do it, that came from Rene of Renes Points.  He’s a good friend of mine and has been an awesome resource for me these last several months (thanks Rene!).  This is one thing about travel bloggers, there’s a great camaraderie among them which made it that much easier to want to join in.

My blog focuses particularly on flying with United Airlines and its partners.  Though I fly out of Chicago O’Hare these days, I flew United Airlines for some 15 years out of San Juan and I guess there’s some sort of emotional attachment there, since they were my first airline.  As everyone knows though, United Airlines’ last 10 years have been rocky.

But they’ve been great to me even in their worst times, so I want everyone to know that there’s a lot of value to tap into with United Airlines and its partners!  Besides, things are getting a whole lot better in the past couple of years, except for a few (major) PR nightmares (for example, #leggingsgate).

Points Fitness

My Wife and Her Sister Were Almost Blown Off a Cliff in Vik

Lastly, I’ve been a fitness buff for years, and even ran my own gym for a while.  So during my travels I’m making sure to visit several gyms and review them in my blog, so other fitness buffs can use that as reference when traveling abroad.  I throw in some info about staying active while traveling as well, good fitness equipment to travel with, and things like that.

Hence the name of the blog, Points Fitness – Fit for miles and travel.  It’s about being fit points-wise and also physically, as both are important to enjoying travel.

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

Not just the most lucrative, but the easiest really – credit cards.  Though I earn miles in many other ways, there’s no comparison to the amount to effort ratio that one gets from credit cards.  If at this moment you can’t be applying for credit cards, does that mean you can’t earn tons of miles and points?

Absolutely not.  It’s just a matter of getting creative and spending a bit of your time doing so.

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

Oh man, this is tough.  You know what I mean.  One experience that jumps out because it was just so cool was being on a hot air balloon over Cappadocia, Turkey, and picking apples while in the air and then eating them as we kept going about our flight.  It was so awesome!!

Points Fitness

We Picked Apples From a Flying Hot Air Balloon in Cappadocia

Needless to say, those were the best apples we ever ate in our lives.  But again, I think there’s a long list of first place finishers for most memorable experiences.  Tomorrow I might talk about a different one.

With miles & points, you’re not restricted to one most memorable experience.

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

At first, they thought it was crazy that at one point or another I had 15+ credit cards open.  Also, they were a bit skeptical that there was NOT a catch to all this.  But little by little, as they kept learning more, they ultimately used points to travel themselves!

Many of them follow my blog, and are now avid points and miles collectors.  And the ones who aren’t just call me up to help them on their next trip.

As it’d be expected, a switch goes off when someone flies First or Business Class to Europe for the first time, paying almost nothing for it.  There will always be those who just aren’t interested.  I won’t ever understand this, but that’s okay too.

Points Fitness

The Camel Got a Kiss and I Didn’t in Giza

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

For me it’s been the United MileagePlus X app, since I mostly collect United Airlines miles, aside from transferable points.  I’ve earned so many United Airlines miles and with such a great redemption rate.

I wrote an article particularly about triple dipping with Starbucks purchases – and we drink A LOT of coffee.  Whenever you can double dip or more, you know you’ve got a great tool in your hands.

Just this past quarter, my earnings were at a ratio of 4.7 miles per $1!!  And that’s not even the best I’ve done.  It’s unbelievable to me that more people don’t talk about it.  I regularly do in my blog.

This one is actually a great tool also for those who can’t apply for multiple credit cards and want to collect miles.

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

I think for me it was medical expenses.  I wrote a post on the benefits of having a medical plan that includes a Health Savings Account, which allows you to pay yourself back for expenses that you’ve paid for with your credit card.  It’s a no-brainer that I think many are still unaware of.

Points Fitness

We Were on the Edge, Literally, in Victoria Falls

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

I wish I knew of ExpertFlyer, and that what the airlines may show as available is not necessarily all that’s available.  I think I could’ve gotten some better value or product on multiple occasions was I aware of this from the beginning.

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

I think when people see bloggers that have traveled the world and have a bunch of pictures throughout the world, they may assume that this is their main job.  Well, I have a regular full-time job, and I’m not required to travel often, so I’m not a frequent business traveler either.  The same can be said about my wife.

Yet, we’ve always figured out how to make time to travel and everyone can do it too, within their own circumstances.  It’s just a matter of good planning and strategizing.  One thing we’ve done is take short weekend trips regardless of distance.

The balance between work and life is a big thing nowadays, so it’s important that you sit down with your boss and be frank about your travel goals.  Our main problem when we travel is who’s going to take care of our 3 birds (one African Grey Parrot and two conures) while we’re gone!!

Points Fitness

We Couldn’t Believe How Bright the Blues and Greens Were in Koh Phi Phi

On a personal note, I’m from Puerto Rico and my wife Irina is from Moldova.  We love the gym and eating healthy.  Go Seahawks!  Go Cavs!  Go Cubs!  Go Kings!  Vamos Vamos Rafa!  Vamos Barza!

Any parting words?

I suppose I can conclude by saying that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, you probably can travel more than you imagine.  Just give our suggestions a try.  You’ll have the most enriching experiences and memories that’ll last forever.

Oh and one last thing, give United Airlines a try, you might just be surprised in a good way.  (I’m sure I’ll get a lot of love from this).

Again, thank you Million Mile Secrets!  I look forward to more miles & points for years to come!

Ricardo – 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!

* If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 25,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another update!

Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 responses to ““With Miles & Points, You’re Not Restricted to One Most Memorable Experience”

  1. I made a decision a few years ago to go with UAL and sold my soul for Silver Elite, then clawed to Gold which i was ecstatic to achieve last Christmas on a final LAX-LON flight. it’s now almost June and I haven’t taken a single United flight for whatever reason. whatever reason. Part of it is that I live in Long Beach and we have a nice little airport that primarily flies JetBlue so I try to use them for domestic flights as much as possible. But I also really like to fly business class internationally and Long Beach has really like to fly business class internationally and Long Beach has no international flights unfortunately. I have had difficulty with United in the past with fees etc. recently (that is yesterday morning LOL) I booked a booked a flight to Portugal, and open jaw, was reassured by the website that i need not worry as i had 24 hours to cancel the flight without penalties, a policy I knew well. During the course of that booking they informed me i didn’t have enough miles; but they
    I made a decision a few years ago to go with UAL and sold my soul for Silver Elite, then clawed to Gold which i was ecstatic to achieve last Christmas on a final LAX-LON flight. it’s now almost June and I haven’t taken a single United flight for whatever reason. Part of it is that I live in Long Beach and we have a nice little airport that primarily flies JetBlue so I try to use them for domestic flights as much as possible. But I also really like to fly business class internationally and Long Beach has no international flights unfortunately. I have had difficulty with United in the past with fees etc. recently (that is yesterday morning LOL) I booked a flight to Portugal, and open jaw, was reassured by the website that i need not worry as i had 24 hours to cancel the flight without penalties, a policy I knew well. During the course of that booking they informed me i didn’t have enough miles; but they didn’t have for me is that to continue I would have to purchase miles for $1000. They also offered me accelerated miles for an additional $300 for a grand total of $1300 plus all my points (90k)I got my open jaw flight in economy. well I called in that wreck with a time to cancel the entire thing and you told me I would still be billed or $1300. Even though I could never earn the accelerated miles if I wasn’t flying the flight. The meet is I want to guess the whole concept of a worry free booking because there were certainly penalties if I didn’t go through with the booking which I made explicitly clear to them. So apparently the supervisor has forgiven me and I sent it onto the business department and I’ll haggle with them
    so I understand that Delta has, overall, of the big three the best of everything for the money. Now it’s just as easy for me to fly out of LAX on Delta as it is United; I think Delta even has one flight out of Long Beach. So now I’m considering refocusing my energies and going for delta premier status. I just don’t think that at this date I’m going to achieve Premier Gold for next year with United. I also great difficulty using the star alliance program between Turkish Air Lyons and United Airlines on a flight to Istanbul it was the worst customer service experience I had with you Airlines over the phone who refuse to talk to each other if your sister customer when they’re both “partners” of the star alliance program. I literally had one representative from United on one phone and another representative from the Turkish Air line another trying to work through the pain upon tennis game where I was the ball and try to get them to talk to each other it was surreal.
    So enough complaining! in your opinion, of the big three, which is easiest in terms of miles flown or segments flown or dollars spent ito obtain gold or platinum Premier level status? I have a United Airlines credit card which already takes care of some of the requirements for premier status; for example I get silver status which doesn’t amount to much honestly that’s why went for gold and spent quite a bit of money to obtain gold status.
    2. of the big three, which is easiest to upgrade to business or first class, or to pay with points to buy a business or first class ticket outright (not upgrade)? United, I found out tonight, has no way to do either a points plus cash option to purchase or upgrade to a business class or better; surprisingly, on an open jaw or a round-trip ticket, you can’t even pay 1 way with money and with points on the return. Both of these show me how inflexible their system is. And of course if you do two separate one ways, it costs a whole lot more in terms of fare on UAL; whereas if you fly business class on Norwegian you can fly one way and the tickets are much less expensive.
    3. of the big three, which do you think has the best partnering program with international airlines? I was the flight Alaska quite a bit which is just merged with virgin and you can book international travel using your Alaska Airline miles. Maybe I should just go with Alaska?
    4. of the big three, which is the easiest to use your miles for especially international travel? I find with United I can generally use my miles for domestic travel and getting a seat on their saver program; but for international I’m lucky to be able to get an Economy saver seat. Morelver, they don’t let you upgrade to business since you got the economy ticket with points. And trying to find a business saver class using miles outright is next to impossible. Generally, you have to buy your Economy seat, then take your miles and put them in an escrow account and be waitlisted til day of flight to see if you can be upgraded. moreover the upgrade involves both cash and Miles, and that “co-pay” can be hundreds of dollars! Funny how they don’t allow cash and Miles any other way except when they decide they want it. I automatically upgraded to business class anyway as a gold Premier member that was I was unclear to me what it vantage I’m taking to be waitlisted anyway it and use my miles and spend money. For an elite member you should be able to do that the day you purchase the flight in economy. Otherwise why would be waitlisted when I’m waitlisted anyway?? . This is bogus as far as I’m concerned. My only saving grace is that I automatically get economy plus as a gold elite member so if I do purchase in economy for any flight it helps a little bit but clearly I want at least a business class ticket.
    I’ve heard American is getting harder and harder to use your miles at all for a seat. how do you find delta in terms of access to business class seats using their point system for international travel? do their business class seats on international flights lay down completely flat for sleeping on a redeye? Do they have a saver program like United where you don’t have to use as many miles to get a business class seat? Any other differences between the programs? anything you can do to convince me to move over to Delta I would love to hear. I think at least JetBlue you can get any available seat with points. The airline overall just seems more flexible as does southwest of coarse and Alaska in someways.

  2. I like this post until the end when it said Go Cubs 🙁 Still good though!

  3. I have a health savings account and do the same thing. We had some medical bills from my husband’s wrist surgery and recently received his new Chase Sapphire that required mininim spend so I was able to pay those bills and than pay myself back!