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: Well Traveled Mile
Susan and Rand write the Well Traveled Mile to share their experiences traveling with miles and points, so I was excited for our Friday chat!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
During my sophomore year at University of Colorado – Boulder, I called in to apply for a United MileagePlus Visa that had a 50,000 sign up bonus during a break between my classes. That’s when it started. I was hooked.
Of course I earned miles from family trips abroad and collected them from paid flights as well when I was younger. But it really took off after I learned the ropes of mega mile earning through signup bonuses and other deals in college that earned me free vacations. After that I realized the potential of earning miles and points.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
The fact is that I wanted to start a blog because for years friends would try to figure out how I was able to afford to travel as a college student that didn’t have a serious job or high income. In reality, I was traveling for free or for dirt cheap using points I earned from credit card bonuses and miles that I collected through paid flights. For me, signing up for credit card offers was a way for me to see the world as a college student living on a very limited budget.
Friends were interested when I talked about the ins and outs of traveling with miles and points and how to earn them through credit card bonuses. When they found out more about the tricks they became even more interested. I figured blogging would be the most effective way to share my own experience as a points and miles addict and write about current deals that I think would benefit me and my readers.
While most credit blogs share similar insight, Well Traveled Mile doesn’t just cover business or luxury travel. I want to also write about travel and deals that would appeal to people that are interested in adventure traveling and backpacking. Our unique perspectives will hopefully provide you with information of where to go and what to do once you’re there.
Essentially I hope to blog about the best deals as well as the destinations you can explore using miles and points.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Have a strategy for signup bonuses and stick to it. Wait for a good signup bonus and the one you want, then apply. A lot of people get suckered into signing up for something before they research all of the offers out there and end up getting a lower bonus.
It is vital to do your own research no matter what–confirm every deal. Be somewhat conservative with the cards that you apply for, this can benefit you because if you get too trigger happy with credit card applications, you might not get approved for the really big bonuses when they roll around.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Spending two free weeks in a 4 star and 5 star hotel in Argentina. It was the first big travel that I did for free, and being a broke college student I was definitely excited to spend a week at a luxury hotel in downtown Buenos Aires for nothing.
It all started after I had been reading fatwallet.com about a promotion by lastminutetravel.com that essentially allowed you to book a weeklong stay at any hotel offered on their site for $1 (later it was actually free). The promotion popped up randomly in different time zones across the US and you had to watch several videos before you could book, all while a timer was ticking down.
I randomly refreshed the page after walking in the door from a run and wham! The promotion was running for me.
This all happened as I was planning on traveling to Argentina and would be the first time I would be living abroad. So really, a chunk of my memories of this travel experience started even before I left my home in Oregon. Scoring this deal and making sure that I got it was all I could focus on for one week straight.
It was the whole process: learning about a promotion, finding a loophole, cracking it, and cashing in on it. I remember setting the volume up on my computer to maximum (my computer was set to watch the website and notify me if the page had changed). I would jump out of bed at 3 a.m. when the promotion went off, then begin tapping at the keyboard as fast as I could before the timer counted down.
Long story short, I booked two free weeks, but wasn’t able to secure a third. It’s addictive, especially knowing the infinite possibilities that are out there. I remember walking into the 5 star hotel in Buenos Aires with my backpack after a 16 hour overnight bus journey. I definitely got some odd looks from the doormen and the front desk. I’m sure they wanted to redirect me to the hostel down the street.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
At first they were skeptical, but once they saw how I was traveling for little to nothing they started to believe more in the whole process. It amazes me how many people don’t know about the possibilities of traveling with miles and points, and are just too skeptical to look into it. I still have to explain everything to my parents a couple (maybe five or six) times so they understand.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Ask questions, it never hurts. Ask for a fee to be waived, ask for an upgrade, ask if you can be approved for the credit card you were denied, etc. There are a lot of opportunities that are never realized because the companies don’t want you to know about them or don’t advertise them.
By asking lots of questions you may open a door that you didn’t even know existed.
That being said, it is also essential to be reading about updates and browsing for the best offer. The best offer is not the one the bank wants you to get. Do your research and find the best deal for you. As for tools, by reading blogs, forums, and other information published about miles and points you can get the best deals.
I think that is why us credit card bloggers blog in the first place, we want to do the leg work and share the secrets with our readers.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Probably earning 100,000 points for a Capital One signup by transferring points from my Continental account to my Mileage Plus account. The promotion was that they would match the total miles in one of your other accounts for up to 100,000 points. I just didn’t see this promotion coming again, but luckily I was able to take advantage of it to maximize the offer by transferring my miles over to one account.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Patience, and planning. Normally, the absolute best deals that show up are offered for a limited time. It pays off to know what promotion you are after and when it is feasible to get it. Do your research and know if you are going to get approved for the card offer.
It pays to plan ahead so you are ready for the next round of great offers. Also, make sure you don’t hold on to a card for too long so you can be eligible for the next signup offer.
Definitely knowing the tips and tricks about certain loopholes has helped me.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
In my free time I fall timber and manage a logging operation in the backwoods of Oregon. I also backcountry ski and mountain bike a lot.
Any parting words?
Remember to have fun and enjoy the points earning game and to use your points for something that you are really excited about and looking forward to. Half of the excitement is scoring the points, and the other half is knowing that you can take an amazing trip in the future without having to cough up any or much cash to pay for it.
I’ve traveled to 26 countries and a majority of the trips were made thanks to using points and miles. I just want to travel well and pay little.
Susan and Rand – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!