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Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: AcCounting Your Points
Derek writes AcCounting Your Points to help readers travel more while spending less! He’s also a Certified Public Accountant, so the title of the blog is a little play on that.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
When I was a senior in college I landed an internship with a Big 4 accounting firm in Atlanta. My client was located in Columbus, Georgia (~2 hour drive from Atlanta) and required me to stay at a local Hilton brand hotel 4 nights a week for 2 months.
The hotel experience got off to a rocky start. I was a bit concerned about the placement of a jacuzzi just a few feet away from the bed where I would be sleeping. But I got over it and the hotel became my home for a couple of months.
Some of the more experienced colleagues on my team advised that I sign-up for Hilton’s reward program, which proved to be great advice! After the internship ended I decided to plan a trip to Chicago with my girlfriend (now wife).
Upon checking my Hilton HHonors account, I realized I had accumulated enough points during my internship to redeem for a 3 night stay at the Drake Hotel in Chicago! We had an amazing trip and I have been hooked on points and miles ever since.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
The driving force behind AcCounting Your Points is to help friends, family, and all others leverage their points and miles to achieve their travel dreams.
The “barrier to travel” that most of my friends and family face is cost. But through AcCounting Your Points, I share how to achieve your travel dreams while maintaining a sound budget.
AcCounting Your Points is designed to offer insight on topics such as travel, points, miles, credit, and saving money. The blog thrives on the input of my friends, family, and readers to determine the direction of the post topics.
Some in the points and miles community get frustrated with blogs sharing secrets and deals, but I believe these should be shared so AcCounting Your Points will not hesitate to post them!
The talented bloggers, like Emily and Daraius, who write about points and miles, have inspired me to spread the knowledge and the power of points and miles to all who are interested!
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
The best way to accumulate points and miles is to capitalize on good credit, which is just my way of saying apply for credit cards with lucrative sign-up bonuses!
The dynamic of the credit card world is always changing. Although some might say this hobby is coming to an end, as long as there is healthy competition among the credit card issuers, applying for credit cards will remain the single best way to accumulate points and miles.
Since that is such a broad answer I want to follow with specifics. Apply for at least 1 good rewards earning credit card and use it for every purchase you make. It is amazing how many people have no credit cards or a credit card that earns them no to low value rewards. Take advantage of the money you spend!
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Each travel experience is so unique and special that it is tough to pick just one!
With each trip I have taken, I’ve experienced memories that will stay with me forever, but this is Million Mile Secrets and I have to give the people an answer! So, I will say that the most memorable experience is my honeymoon to San Francisco and Hawaii with my wife!
For our air travel, I saved up enough American Airlines miles, to fly First Class from Tampa to San Francisco, onward to Kauai & Maui, and back home to Tampa. Mostly through the now expired 100,000 American Airlines miles sign-up bonus with the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®.
We experienced some fancy travel at a very low cost, but the best part was that we were able to visit these new places for the 1st time together as newlyweds.
It sounds corny, but that really is my favorite part about traveling!
I do love flying First Class and I love staying at 5-star hotels. But sharing a sunset view from the top of the Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco and exploring Kauai terrain via helicopter with someone you care about are more memorable than the meals in First Class and heated floors in the hotel bathroom.
Although, stepping onto heated bathroom floors is the most amazing feeling after a long day of exploring a new city!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Skeptical. I’m sure many individuals in the points and miles game can relate!
At 1st, my friends and family thought the whole process was just too much work to really obtain any value. That is, until they witnessed the multitude of domestic and international trips that my wife and I took this past year.
Now, my Dad asks me all the time to “teach him the ways” he and my Mom can travel on points and miles as well.
Fortunately for him, I was able to set him up with 2 Chase Southwest cards, so now he is trekking toward the Companion Pass. He also has some significant free travel in his future!
I am pretty sure he is still unaware of just how lucrative the Southwest Companion Pass can be. So I am excited to see his reaction and opinion of my hobby when he gets to put his Southwest Companion Pass to use in a couple of months.
The interest in points and miles from family and friends has definitely increased since the start of AcCounting Your Points. And I am eager to see what they think when they start using their points and miles for free travel!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Google Flights. It has completely changed the way that I search for airfare. I use it primarily to find cheap airfare utilizing the calendar feature, as sometimes it just makes sense to pay for a fare rather than redeem miles.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
There was a promotion back in October 2014, where American Airlines frequent flyer members could earn 7,500 American Airlines miles for test driving any Cadillac vehicle (now expired).
The promotion was short-lived but I was able to reserve a test drive at my local dealership, and receive the bonus miles for just 5 minutes of my time. I wasn’t in the market for a new car, but 7,500 American Airlines bonus miles was too good to pass up!
I still receive emails and the occasional call from the Cadillac dealership. Who knows, maybe someday my fond memories of this promotion will result in me getting behind the wheel of a new Cadillac!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
When I started out a few years ago, there were times when I ignored what I considered to be too few points or miles to worry about (1,000 points or less).
Whether it be related to rental cars or signing-up for the Wall Street Journal, I assumed that since the amount was so little, the points didn’t matter.
I now know that every mile counts, no matter how insignificant the promotion may seem!
There have been so many times that I have had a redemption in mind, but am just 500 to 1,000 points short of what I need.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
People would be surprised to know that even though I love to travel for free on points and miles, it brings me greater joy to be able to help others achieve their travel dreams!
This goes back to why I started AcCounting Your Points in the 1st place – to help others!
I have been so fortunate to follow blogs like Million Mile Secrets that have taught me enough about points and miles to help me travel the world for (nearly) free. Now I want to pass that on to my family and friends!
Any parting words?
Thank you to Emily and Daraius at Million Mile Secrets!
You guys inspire me to travel the world and have played such a significant role in allowing me to do so for such a low cost!
Thanks to the readers of Million Mile Secrets and make sure to check out AcCounting Your Points for more of me and free travel tips and tricks.
I normally sign off all of my posts on AcCounting Your Points with a little leading statement so I might as well keep it going here!
Your free travel is waiting…
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!