Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where renowned mile and point gurus share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Nomadic Matt
Matt runs the budget travel site, Nomadic Matt and his advice has been featured in The New York Times, CNN, Lifehacker etc. He just released a new book for $10, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day on how to save money on your trip so I was looking forward to our chat!
Have you used airline miles and hotel points during your 6 years on the road? If so, how and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I use miles and points constantly throughout my travels. I even started using them back in 2003 when I got a Citi Premier Pass card and used the miles for a free flight to Europe. Now, I collect hundreds of thousands of miles per year. When compared to people such as yourself, I don’t really do much but I do enough to get by.
I plan to do more mile hacking this year because I’m painfully low on Starwood hotel points.
Why did you start Nomadic Matt? What’s special about it?
I started the site to be an online resume for when I contacted travel magazines. I wanted to be a freelance writer and write guidebooks for Lonely Planet. But over time, the website grew and grew and I became an authority on budget travel.
I don’t know what makes me special. You’ll have to ask my readers why they read me but I like to think it is because of my honesty about my experiences and depth of knowledge on the subject.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Those are two questions. First, as your audience probably knows, credit cards sign ups are the best way to get miles outside of actually flying. You can get hundreds of thousands of miles per year dong that.
I think the single best thing to do to travel more is to find cheaper destinations and get beyond the obvious. If you aren’t racking up millions of miles a year, try cheap destinations where money goes far like Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, or Central America.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I have to choice one? After six years, I have so many. I would have to say that one of my favorite memories was when I lived on the island of Ko Lipe.
I spent a month living on this island in Thailand doing nothing but relaxing, getting a tan, and making some lifelong friends.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby & your nomadic existence?
My friends and family have no clue about miles and whenever I try to educate them about it, they say it’s too complicated then ask me to give them some. I’ve given up on it!
They don’t want to listen. They are jealous of my lifestyle to the extent they wish they could travel more. Now that I’m over 30 and they are all settling down they keep asking me when I am going to do the same.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
The most genius way I collect miles was probably by signing up my family to my cards. Since you can add users to cards, I sign up for cards, put my family on them and then have them spend the money so I can make the minimum spending requirements and get the points.
They never seem to complain. I’ve also paid my taxes with my credit card to meet minimum spending requirements.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I knew that it didn’t hurt your credit. I always thought getting a lot of credit cards would kill my credit but that’s not true. I have a great credit score and I opened like 10 cards this year.
I would have used cards a lot more in the past to get more free travel!
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I’m a pretty open book with my readers. I tell them everything. When I meet my readers they are mostly surprised by my age. They either think I am much younger than I actually am or that I am much older.
They would also probably be surprised that I am a huge health nut and eat extremely healthy as well as work out a lot.
What’s the bare minimum amount of money needed to travel?
Of course, it really depends on where you go. It varies greatly but I think that people on a budget could travel the world on $50 per day (hence the book title).
But if you really want to stretch your money, go to cheaper destinations and regions like Southeast Asia or Central America. You can get by for between $20 to $30 over there.
You have the points to stay in fancy hotels, but you don’t seem to do that a lot. Why do you prefer the budget hostels?
The W is my favorite hotel chain and I love staying there but fancy hotels are too removed from the city life for me. I don’t feel connected to the places I am.
I stay in budget hotels and hostels because it’s cheaper (points don’t cover meals!), the atmosphere is friendlier and social, and these places tend to know the budget activities in a city better.
What’s been the cheapest trip you’ve been on?
The cheapest trip I did was probably when I went through Northern Thailand for about 15 USD per day. That was some good cheap living and I didn’t really want for nothing. I just did like a local.
Up in that part of Thailand, it’s very cheap. Thailand may be a big tourist destination but like every place, once you get off the beaten path, prices go way down!
Matt– Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!