Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Debrian Travels
Derek writes Debrian Travels to share his travel experiences and give readers tips and techniques for earning miles and points.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting Delta SkyMiles in the late 1990s. One of the 1st credit cards I signed-up for after college was the American Express Delta SkyMiles Optima. I really did nothing special to obtain miles other than basic credit card spend and flights.
I also collected various hotel points over the years, but again, nothing unique other than staying with those brands. I did not actively start pursuing miles and points until earlier this year after I started reading blogs like Million Mile Secrets and One Mile at a Time.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I was actually inspired by reading 1 of these interviews on your blog! I realized that you did not have to write about just miles and points exclusively. That is already well covered.
But the blogger in that interview (I don’t remember which one!) made me think that many of my interests overlap travel.
I enjoy photography, videography, personal finance, and the business of commercial aviation.
I have maintained several blogs over the years, to varying degrees of success, and I realized that a “non-traditional” travel blog focused not just on travel experiences or miles and points could overlap many of my areas of interest.
Debrian Travels started on April 1, 2015, and honestly, I am still honing my voice but I am enjoying writing! I just wish I had more time to devote to it, since my employer still prefers I do financial analysis than blogging for my salary!
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Everyone says it, but it is true, credit card sign-up bonuses.
Of course, you should take advantage of all the many opportunities to earn miles and points, but nothing will get chunks of miles and points faster than credit card bonuses.
With 5 new cards, I earned enough for free hotel stays during my 2-week trip in Europe and at least 3 First Class international flights in the future.
I also take advantage of every opportunity to charge reimbursable expenses on my rewards credit cards. These purchases may not get you the large number of rewards that sign-up bonuses offer, but they can add up.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
In the sense of a travel experience, it was on my 1st trip to Europe a year ago.
I remember walking down to board my flight and seeing “London Heathrow” on the board. Such a basic thing that we see on every flight we take but that’s when it sunk in that I was really going overseas.
But in the sense of a destination, it would have been the 1st time I visited the Grand Canyon in 1997. I had been fascinated with the Grand Canyon since I was a kid watching the Brady Bunch visit there on TV. Walking up from the parking lot toward the rim and seeing the canyon was absolutely breathtaking.
It truly is the epitome of “a picture doesn’t do it justice.” The vastness and magnificence of the canyon unfolded in front of you, dwarfing you, was an absolutely incredible experience.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Since I have not really been actively pursuing miles and points for very long, I am not sure they really comprehend it.
My girlfriend is expressing some interest and she has commented on using her Delta American Express card more to get miles. She is interested in accumulating miles so we can travel to a Georgia Tech football game in Ireland next year.
I tell my friends and family about how I’m getting points and show them YouTube videos of the First Class experiences I’m planning. But I don’t think it will hit them until I post pictures to Facebook or the blog of me sitting in First Class on a Singapore or Etihad A380!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I think organization is key. I have long used personal finance software like the defunct Microsoft Money or Quicken to meticulously track my finances (I have an MBA in Finance so I actually enjoy this!).
But even with that discipline, once you start adding multiple cards, management of the various statements is critical and can quickly get out of hand even with the best personal finance tools.
So, in addition to my current software, IBank, I have built several spreadsheets where I track the details on my cards like bonus spend requirements, category bonuses for things like dining or travel and payment due dates. That has helped me ensure that I am top of all the extra statements I am now receiving.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I stumbled across a blog entry where you could earn American Airlines miles for reviewing hotels. I suppose that was the most unexpected!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I had known sooner how lucrative credit card sign-up bonuses are and how they ultimately don’t hurt your credit score. That is, as long as you have financial responsibility and manage them properly.
There is no way I could plan some of the trips I hope to take in the next few years with spend alone.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I’m a die-hard Georgia Tech football fan. I attend every game, home and away, and plan to attend my 100th straight game in October when we play at Clemson.
Most of the away games are road trips but I often get in some long fly-away weekends. It’s great to combine my passion for the Jackets and travel!
Any parting words?
Thank you for such a great informative site.
I have learned so much from Million Mile Secrets that has launched me into the miles and points hobby. It is the primary miles and points blog I read and I am constantly learning something new from you guys!
Derek – 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!