Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: CreditWalk
Al founded CreditWalk to create the most comprehensive resource available on the internet for Canadian credit cards.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
Like most people, I started collecting loyalty points when I 1st flew. In 2005, I was offered an airline credit card at the airport with a sign-up bonus and have been trying to maximize my rewards since then.
Although, I have always had a history of extracting the best value from loyalty programs, even as a student.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I found a shortage of content specific to Canadians that covered all the nuances of efficient travel. What makes CreditWalk different is our holistic approach supported by deep analysis. We look at maximizing earning and burning potential, as well as other travel hacks that solve uniquely Canadian problems.
As increasing numbers of friends and family sought my advice, I realized that so much of my personal knowledge was already captured in written emails. So I decided to share these answers with the world.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
One of the best, quick ways to earn miles is through the application of credit cards, even though there are fewer options for this in Canada.
First, it is important to assess your goals and decide what you are looking for. Frequent Flyer miles are not necessarily the best currency for most people. The average Canadian consumer would likely fare better (pun intended) with cash back or cash equivalent cards. The key to earning more miles is therefore, to collect in a currency that is valuable for your individual goals.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Climbing Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador was an especially memorable experience.
Even though altitude sickness prevented me from reaching the summit, the climb and the view sparked a desire to see the world from a different perspective. Now, I feel a strong draw to mountains wherever I travel.
The best part of that trip, though, was the great deal I got by using Buffalo as an alternate airport to Toronto. It was half the price to fly from Buffalo and cost me very little extra time.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
They are mostly impressed by it. Unfortunately, this means my phone is always ringing with requests for help finding the best flights and itineraries.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Being a Canadian, Air Canada (a Star Alliance partner) is the dominant frequent flyer program available to us. Using the ANA site to find Star Alliance availability is especially efficient, saving both a lot of time and money.
Also knowing which airlines are subject to fuel surcharges can make the difference between $200 in taxes or $1,500 in “taxes.”
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Many years ago, Delta Airlines offered miles every time you played their “snake” game online. Every morning, I would log in and play for 2 minutes. I believe I earned several thousands of miles by pressing a few buttons every morning.
That paid for a chunk of my ticket to East Africa in 2009.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I had properly understood the advantages of award tickets over cash tickets. Prior to getting involved in the rewards scene, I sat on the sidelines, earning cash rewards instead of miles.
For simple round-trip itineraries between my preferred cities, cash tickets were cheap enough that the use of miles didn’t seem like a good proposition.
Over time, I learned that award tickets can have free stopovers, open-jaws, and long connections, which makes them very valuable for complex itineraries. Had I known about these advantages, I likely would have valued miles higher and started earning them sooner.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I get extremely cranky on long-haul flights. The combination of travel time and time zone changes affect my internal schedule, making it hard for me to enjoy my 1st days out west (or back home).
Any parting words?
Having a plan for your expected trips can help you unlock many of the benefits frequent flyer programs offer, such as taking a “stopover” in your home town or purchasing the right miles during a promotion. Knowing where each type of mile offers the best redemption value is also important.
It is important to always understand that whenever you earn a certain type of miles, you are NOT earning a different type of reward. You need to quantify all rewards on the same basis, by converting them to a cash equivalent (or rate of return) so you can decide which 1 to collect for any type of activity.
Al – 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!