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: Jim’s Universe
Jim started Jim’s Universe to develop on online resource for families planning a visit to Universal Studios. And now it also covers other miles and points topics, along with a little math tutoring.
Visit his blog for a chance to win a $100 Southwest gift card!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I have been collecting miles and points for ~10 years. But only within the last 2 years have I really figured out what I am doing. Like most people, I thought I was making the most of my credit card spending. But in all honesty, I left a whole lot of points on the table, and I would do anything to get them back!
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
When I started my blog 2 years ago, it had absolutely nothing to do with points and miles. My family and I had been to Orlando many times, and I was always shocked by how many Disney-oriented blogs there were while Universal went largely uncovered. After enough people repeatedly asked me for advice on Universal Orlando, I decided to put everything I knew into a website.
It was not even a blog initially. It was merely a ThemeParkopedia if you will. Once I myself started learning just how powerful credit card sign-up bonuses could be, I decided to share that knowledge as well. So I added it to the site and it is now my favorite topic to discuss.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Simple, and Daraius espouses it consistently, sign-up (intelligently and strategically) for more cards. The same 1 or 2 cards used continuously year after year will never get you anywhere, unless you spend a fortune on them for your business.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
It would have to be the trip my wife and I took last year to Greece, and my readers know it well as I have alluded to it many times. Four nights in Santorini with a little Athens on each end. Santorini makes for a magical vacation in any imaginable circumstance. But when you fly in First Class for (almost) free, well, that just takes it to a new level.
I got into the points hobby for that very trip and those very flights, so to see my credit card “work” come to fruition for the 1st time and see that aspirational travel was actually possible was truly indescribable.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
I am still surprised by how many of them don’t take the leap, when I can offer so many personal experiences as examples. But I accepted that it is not for everyone. I get everything from “That’s awesome” to shoulder shrugs.
Certainly they are happy for me, and I have never detected negativity from anyone. But the simple truth is, most people (not just my friends and family) feel that this hobby is either:
- Not worth the trouble
- Too good to be true
- Or not important to them because they don’t travel enough to worry about it.
I can usually tell within a few minutes of conversation who is really enthusiastic and who is not, and if they are enthusiastic, I will talk to them all day…as my wife can attest.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I don’t really believe in tricks per se, but if you know of any let me know! As for tips, I have several, some of which I am sure I was taught by someone else. First, know your credit thoroughly. If you don’t, wait until you do know it before you dive into this.
Second, know your travel goals. If you just want free domestic flights, then don’t pay so much attention to ~20 year old single bloggers whose primary goal is First Class international flights for 1 person. Only sign-up for and use cards which can actually get you to your goal.
And finally, read, read, and read some more. There are 3 blogs which I read faithfully every day. Why? Because I am not going to make a move without getting a few opinions from some real experts.
For example, everyone, and I mean everyone, describes the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express as the greatest card of all time. And you know what? For many people it is, but not for me. And it was Daraius’ post a few years ago about that card being somewhat overrated that made me think much harder about signing-up.
Yes I got the card, and yes I loved its sign-up bonus, but it just is not a keeper for me. Had I not read multiple blogs, I may have been swayed into using the wrong card for my circumstances.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I will feel very foolish answering this, but when I rented a car from Avis, I completely forgot that I also earned Starwood points. Given how hard those points are to come by, I was thrilled.
I also always forget that my natural gas provider also gives me Delta Airlines miles (sadly, fish heads and rice were not an option) for each dollar I spend as well.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Oh, this 1 hurts. For a few years, I was a consultant, and I was on the road quite a bit, even going as far as the Middle East 4 times in six months. My employer even allowed me to use my own personal card for my travels.
I naively stuck with 2 cards the whole time (1 was a Capital One, ugh), and I would give just about anything to be able to go back in time and use the knowledge I know now for those trips. I’d be swimming in miles and points and actually planning those First Class flights the other bloggers write about!
So, to answer your question, my biggest tip for people is: the expressway to more free travel is through more credit card sign-up bonuses…period. There simply is no “1 best card” for the majority of us who cannot spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on our cards.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Not sure I want to admit this, but…I love to sing. I’m not great at it, but I’m good enough to hop on stage at a karaoke establishment and belt out some classic rock or classic R&B. I was quite shy and insecure (weren’t we all?) in high school, and so often now I wish I had done things like plays or musicals.
I continually tell my children that the greatest tragedy in life is a missed opportunity. When they come along, you simply must take them.
Any parting words?
Sure, and it has nothing to do with travel. My parting words, both for my readers and more so for their kids are…step out of your comfort zone whenever you can. Life gets better and better when you do.
The sooner you stop worrying about what others think about you and stop worrying about embarrassment, the sooner you actually start living.
Jim – 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!