Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: RewardExpert
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting rewards just like everyone else – through my credit card spend – probably about 15 years ago. After a while, I started getting smart about maximizing my spending by swiping the right card for the right shopping category. Things really kicked into gear when I opened my first business and started earning even more miles and points through maximizing my business expenses.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I have always been a travel junkie and loyalty program nerd.
I spent a good number of years “travel hacking” around the world. As did my co-founders. Our friends and family would constantly ask for us for advice so that they could get a taste of the travel hacking life. After seeing such a big information gap in an industry that so many people engage with, we were compelled to create a solution that works for novices and pros alike, which lead to the launch of RewardExpert in April 2016.
We started off with an online tool and extensive blog with the mission of helping people make the most of frequent flyer programs and credit card rewards.
RewardExpert recently came out of beta with a web re-launch featuring a whole new line of free tools that simplify earning and spending rewards. We set ourselves apart by being the only service on the market that guides users through every step of their rewards journey; from earning the most rewards from their everyday spending, to redeeming their miles and point in the most efficient way to earn cheap travel.
RewardExpert now offers 3 primary features to its users:
- RewardExpert® Travel – This intuitive metasearch engine enables users to easily filter and find award flights based on the often complex needs that arise in award travel. The tool is integrated with a flight-pricing API from Skyscanner, allowing for easy comparisons between cash prices and award ticket costs.
- RewardExpert® Shopping – Many consumers are unaware they can earn up to 15X points or miles by shopping through their reward program’s online portal. This tool helps users earn the most rewards while shopping at 20,000+ of their favorite stores.
- RewardExpert® Trip – Longtime users are familiar with this tool as it previously operated as the sole function of RewardExpert. Under its new name, RewardExpert® Trip, users can continue to easily manage all of their reward programs via their RewardWallet and create customized strategies for redeeming award flights.
- Data Intelligence Center – A series of actionable, data-driven reports designed to help consumers make better personal finance and travel decisions.
- Financial Product Reviews –RewardExpert provides comprehensive credit card and banking product reviews that help consumers pick products best suited to their needs.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Many people don’t know that their airline frequent flyer program lets members earn miles just by eating out at their favorite restaurants. For example, if you sign up for United’s MileagePlus Dining and register your Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you can earn 3 points per $1 on dining through Chase. And then additional miles on top of that through United Airlines – a great opportunity to double-up on your rewards!
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
From my more recent travels, Iceland stands out the most. There’s a reason why that place is currently overrun with tourists. It’s a place where you can feel the raw force of all of nature’s elements – earth, ice, fire, wind – they have it all.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
They love it. They’re usually the ones benefiting from my know-how and experience.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Well, we created RewardExpert due to the lack of tools out there that simplify rewards programs. I turn to our 3 tools to help me earn the most points and to figure out the most cost-effective ways to redeem them for award travel.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
It may not be the least expected, but it’s a tried-and-true method that I’ve benefited from greatly: shopping through my credit card rewards portal. So much of shopping happens online already, why not give it an extra click to shop through your credit card or airline rewards portal and earn points in the process?
Card members are prone to forgetting that they can earn anywhere from 2X to 15X points per $1 when they shop at an endless array of online retailers if they just log-in to their rewards mall first. RewardExpert® Shopping takes the guesswork out of the process and shows users exactly where they can earn the most rewards while shopping online.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
As a foodie, I wish I knew about the dining mileage programs when I was younger. I had a lot of missed opportunities where I could’ve had my cake and eaten it, too, so to speak!
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
In the past decade or so, I haven’t paid for a single plane ticket, hotel stay, upgrade, or rental car with cash. Everything has been paid for through travel rewards!
Any parting words?
Additionally, find a card that works for your spending habits, don’t change your habits to match a card.
We recently released a report analyzing exactly how long it takes for rewards credit cards to start paying for themselves. We analyzed luxury and lower-fee cards to see how long it would take for consumers to break even on the cost of an annual fee and actually start netting rewards. And found that for consumers spending less than $2,000 per month, a luxury credit card may not be the best fit.
The message here is to not view credit card rewards as an excuse to spend more than you typically would. Getting into a spiral of debt never outweighs the potential benefits. Instead, find a card that offers the most rewards for expenses that are most important to you.
But don’t be intimidated by rewards programs. It takes some effort and educating to get the hang of it, but everyone should be smart about their spending and look to new ways to make their money work for them.
Roman – 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!