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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: Points, Miles, and More
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
Sadly I didn’t get into the points game until 2012 when I began traveling for work on a consistent basis. But since then, I’ve jumped in head first and acquaintances still don’t quite understand how I afford so many vacations!
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
My brother Ben and I decided to start a blog because we felt like we each had a unique, and different, perspective on the points and miles world. Between the two of us, we represent a more casual points fan in Ben and someone more hardcore that’s far over the infamous “Chase 5/24 rule” in myself.
Our main goal is to keep miles and points approachable while not sugarcoating that it can be work to book these amazing trips! Lots of blogs are very niche and intimidating to the newbie today so we aim to be an easy one-stop shop with daily content, but also a daily roundup to show the biggest points and travel stories from the previous day.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
I follow the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid! It’s not always about complicated schemes to rack up hundreds of thousands of miles (although those can be great, too!). Most people don’t have the time or desire to spend 30 hours a week racking up points.
So I always advise to get the right credit card and get the low-hanging fruit in addition to everyday earnings – things like dining rewards, AMEX Offers, shopping portals, and Amazon. That alone won’t get you to once a year First Class flights, but it is easy.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
It’s so cliché to say, but it was my honeymoon.
My new husband and I spent two weeks in Asia flying Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines First Class, eating our way around Tokyo while staying at the Ritz-Carlton (courtesy of points from having our wedding at a Marriott hotel!), and then exploring Bali.
We had both traveled in Business Class before, but First Class was new to both of us. Such an amazing splurge with points we had been saving for a long time.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Honestly, most don’t even know I have a blog! But friends and family do know I have a lot of points and think I’m a little crazy with all my credit cards – until I show them pictures of the Cathay Pacific First Class seat, that is. Mostly I try not to bore others with the hobby because I do realize that even though I’m into it they’re often about as interested in the topic as I am in birdwatching.
That being said, my main goal right now is to transition all my friends and family members away from using the Southwest credit card for every single purchase. I may have even made it a topic of conversation on a family wedding weekend. Oops.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
AwardWallet and Mint are the tools that make my life the easiest and keep me organized. I know, nothing earth shattering in this answer, but AwardWallet makes sure I never let points expire and Mint lets me easily track my spending when using multiple credit cards.
My favorite trick is the one that actually put us on the map! It’s the ability to share Mlife status with your spouse, or any person living at your address, so you can then get Hyatt status up to Explorist for your spouse. It’s a handy little trick, and a great example of the benefits that you can get by following points and miles blogs!
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
In my previous job I traveled often and occasionally with co-workers who had zero interest in collecting hotel points.
Because I also had a corporate card, and they did not, I would offer to put their rooms on my card so they could avoid waiting for reimbursement. That meant I got their rooms on my folio, and therefore their points as well. It was often a LOT of points due to expensive conference hotels!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
That no matter how small the amount of points or miles, just sign-up for the loyalty program! There were more than a few times when I said “well I never fly United Airlines anyway, or stay at Club Carlson hotels.” It’s so easy to keep accounts active if you want to and it’s very annoying that I left points on the table.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
That both my brother Ben and I are passionate sports fans. A common use of points is to attend road Arizona State University or Arizona Cardinals football games. Or, when forced, Michigan games with my husband (I mostly kid!).
Any parting words?
Just many thanks to Million Mile Secrets for featuring us! My brother and I are definitely passionate about showing people how they can spend less and travel better. Whether you’re just looking for a free jaunt to visit in-laws or luxury travel, anything is possible depending on how hard you want to “work” at it.
Liz and Ben – 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!