Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where travel bloggers share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Saverocity
Matt and Allison met in 2004 while working on the Holland America cruise ship “The Zuiderdam.” They have cumulatively have lived in 7 countries, visited over 60, and struggle to go a few months without a new adventure.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
We started collecting them back in 2003, but back then it was just from earned miles on whatever revenue ticket we were traveling on. We didn’t start taking things a little more serious until 2010 when I could qualify for US Credit Cards (I’m a Brit originally), and gain the huge signup bonuses they come with.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
We started it in 2012. The blog is separated into 4 distinct areas at the moment, bringing together my two passions and our two perspectives. Finance, Products, Travel and Trip Reports. I view miles and points as a commodity just like any other, so whilst we love to travel we also look at earning opportunities for cash back.
An example of this is the $5,000 Challenge where I try to build a Fidelity Portfolio from cash back and spending in under one year.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Credit card sign ups are the fastest way to earn the most miles, but personally I think the daily spend area is one for most improvement, making sure that you have the right mix of cards in your wallet to take advantage of every category spend bonus, such as Dining, Travel, Gas, Groceries etc.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Our honeymoon through Africa, we traveled through South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zanzibar using air, land and sea. It was the first trip (and last) that I was allowed to do the planning on and I used google maps and my thumb to estimate distances. The 4 hour bus trip was actually 12 hours and required us to carry our own boat across the border, slip the border officials a little extra to facilitate the entry and get carried from the checkpoint to the next town on the back of push bikes.
We ran out of money mid way through that and were saved by a good Samaritan who hooked us up with a hotel room and some spending money for the evening.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & point hobby?
People love the pictures and stories of the destinations we go to, but their eyes often glaze over when we talk of how we earned the points, or how to squeeze the most value out of them – it really is a ‘full time hobby’.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
There are lots of tools and tricks, but the one I think is most important is to keep perspective. When we plan our travel we are often finding kinks in the award programs to maximize our spending, doing so requires a lot of interaction with Customer Service from the loyalty program booking services, and its key to remember that being polite and not losing your cool is most important.
I find it helps to have the number to the specialty desks too, so you are talking with the most experienced people, such as the United Round The World Desk.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I am still surprised by the Dining Programs, they are the only ones that are totally passive – I have linked all my cards with United Mileage Plus Dining but never pick a restaurant based upon that. Receiving an email informing me of additional miles earned after enjoying a meal that I didn’t even know was part of the program is a great feeling.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Stopovers and Open Jaws – since wrapping my head around them I generally get 50% more travel out of every award ticket, using these to book a free one way at the end of every award trip. Currently this means my past 2 award reservations have resulted in between 3 to 5 trips. I missed out on this for a long time before the penny dropped.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I’ve lived in 3 continents, starting out in the UK, and moving to Japan and now the USA, and also worked on cruise ships for several years. So beyond visiting places as a tourist I have had a lot of exposure to foreign lands as a resident too.
Any parting words?
Travel opens the heart and mind, and I encourage everyone to do more of it from as an early an age as possible. Using the tips and tricks shared here on Million Mile Secrets and on Saverocity will certainly help make it more accessible for you.
But don’t forget that even ‘free’ travel has a price, so by being willing to travel in Economy class and staying at cheaper hotels opens a lot more doors for people in terms of more trips, and also allowing the earning techniques to also create cash flow and provide some spending money on the trip!
Matt– Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!