Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where travel bloggers share their thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Miles Dividend MD
Alexi is a Cardiologist who writes Miles Dividend MD to show folks how to add value to their lives by planning for early retirement and using miles and points for Big Travel with Small Money!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started playing the miles game in February 2013 after booking an economy trip to Kyoto for my family of five. My wife is from Kyoto, and we tend to go about once a year to visit family. This was the first year we had to pay for five tickets as my youngest son had just turned three, and tickets just keep on getting more and more expensive.
The trip ended up costing almost $8,000 just for the plane tickets. I just thought to myself, “there has to be a better way.” A Google search yielded Million Miles Secrets, and I was off to the races. I haven’t looked back since.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
The miles game is such a “value added” proposition. It’s just amazing what a little bit of thinking outside of the box, and organizational skill can get you in terms of free travel.
One thing that quickly became clear to me, however, was that the miles game reinforced skills that were very applicable to other parts of my life. I began using the same skill set required for card applications and generating spending to pursue financial independence (early retirement.)
I began to develop my own philosophy which is something like this: The miles game is kind of like getting a really great bargain while shopping. If you just end up spending the money you saved on other stuff that’s pretty good.
But what if you were to invest the savings in your future? Now we’re talking about the real possibility for positive life change.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
You know it’s all here on your blog, Daraius. Nothing compares to applying for credit cards for the big sign-up bonuses.
But putting a little effort into how you shop, and striving to always get at least five times rewards on every purchase, (whether through credit card selection, gift card purchases, or the use of online portals like cashbackmonitor.com) really adds up to big rewards over the course of a year.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Travel is really about the people you are with. So the first thing that comes to mind would be a trip I took with my wife before we were married.
For the first time in my life, I booked a trip for me and someone else with my own money and, to be honest, it was not a luxury experience. We took a ferry to a little Japanese island in the Philippine Sea called Shikine-jima and stayed in a very rustic inn. We biked all over the island going to natural Hot Springs, and swimming in the ocean.
Most importantly we were young, and in love. How could it get any better than that?
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
It’s a mixed bag. Some have been open to new possibilities and have really just dived in and gone for it. Others think it’s too much work and are ambivalent.
The final group, and this is the group I’m most interested in, are really against the whole thing. I actually interviewed a friend’s wife on the blog for this third perspective, and it brought up a lot of really interesting ethical questions which I explored further.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Well, the FlyerTalk forum is great for finding the latest info on whatever credit card you’re interested in for your next application. But my go to source is really the blogosphere. I’m continually amazed by the open spirit of sharing and hard work displayed by my fellow bloggers.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I crack up every month when my AutoShip order of kitty litter arrives from pet food direct complete with a 1 mile per dollar award of US Air dividend Mile.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I really like the trick of buying Amazon gift cards at office-supply stores with my Chase Ink card and then purchasing recurring orders of disposable items like toilet paper and paper towels on AutoShip.
This is great not only for the miles, but just for the freedom from having to worry about shopping for these unglamorous items.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Probably that I spend most of my time trying to eliminate abnormal heart rhythms in my patients. (I am a Cardiac Electrophysiologist). My blog posts are often written at the end of a day of intense medical procedures. I guess you could say this blog truly is a labor of love.
Any parting words?
How about a parting challenge? If you have the skills it takes to play the miles game, (creative thinking, attention to detail) you already have the skills required to retire in the next 15 years. And you know what? Once you get started it’s every bit as fun. What’s stopping you?
Alexi – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!