Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Wallet Hacks
Jim writes Wallet Hacks to give folks tips for achieving financial independence.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting miles and points years ago after moving to Baltimore, home to an airport with lots of Southwest flights.
I’d say 99% of my domestic flights are on Southwest, so I wanted to learn how my loyalty could be rewarded. That led to becoming savvier about the different airline programs.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
Wallet Hacks is actually my 2nd personal finance blog. After a few years off, I decided I wanted to get back on the horse and share my thoughts about money management, investing, living a much richer life, and achieving financial freedom.
I love to travel, but don’t want to spend a ton of money to get to new destinations. So having a good credit history to take advantage of travel rewards is crucial because I love to travel. But I don’t want to spend a ton of money to get to places!
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
I believe knowledge is extremely powerful and knowing good resources, like Million Mile Secrets, is helpful.
Promotions change. Programs change. If you know where to get good information and learn how to analyze different programs and promotions, you will know the most efficient way to earn more miles and points.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
My wife and I spent nearly 4 weeks traveling around Europe right before she started working towards her Ph.D.
We went everywhere from the UK, to Germany, to Cinque Terre, Italy. The most memorable part of that trip was taking the scenic train in the Swiss Alps – absolutely amazing views.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
They love it! I get to be half guinea pig, half filter on a lot of new things and keep them up to date.
Sometimes the programs can be complicated and just one mistake can drastically reduce the value of your points. So people like having me help guide them through the right order and timing of things.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Sometimes I feel like my engineering background has helped me because my favorite tool is just a spreadsheet.
Keeping things straight on paper means you don’t have to keep track of them in your head. It also means you’re less likely to miss deadlines!
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
The different partnerships some airline and hotel programs have.
For example, Southwest (and many others) have a dining program where you link your credit cards and earn points when you eat at participating restaurants.
We also earned points by signing-up with an electricity supplier that was cheaper than our existing one! Double win!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Hoarding points seems like a lot of fun, everyone loves big numbers, but avoid the temptation!
They can and will get devalued over time. It’s nothing nefarious, inflation is a real thing in the real world – and it exists in the travel points and miles world too.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I’m relatively frugal when I’m at home. But I throw that out the window whenever I travel.
I feel like life is a series of trade-offs and by saving money at home, I can spend more when I’m on vacation. I still try to get where I’m going for less, usually through points and rewards. But when I’m there I’m indulging.
Any parting words?
Never give up the thirst for knowledge, that’s what separates the folks who succeed and the ones who complain about their lot in life.
If sites like Million Mile Secrets have taught us anything it’s that you don’t need to spend a ton to live an extravagant travel lifestyle, if you are prudent, clever, and hard-working enough.
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!