Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Danny the Deal Guru
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
It all started with a bank bonus that I saw at a local branch back in 2012, I believe. Then I started looking for more bank bonuses and eventually stumbled across credit cards that offered even more lucrative sign-up bonuses.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started the blog in January 2015, so I still consider myself pretty new at this. I started the blog after following some of the major blogs for a while, Million Mile Secrets included. I thought it looked pretty easy, and I could make tons of money quickly as I would post more deals than anyone else and all readers would rush to DDG. I realized very quickly that I was wrong, but stuck with it and it’s slowly growing.
The blog is not just about points and miles, but about deals in general, as the name implies. You will find credit card bonus offers, bank sign-up bonuses, travel deals, free money offers, shopping deals, and more.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Always use a credit card and be informed on what card gives you the best return for your purchases. Also, nowadays, when a good part of shopping is done online, using shopping portals can earn you lots of miles and points.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I definitely started traveling more for less after getting into the miles and points game. If I had to single out a travel experience, it would have to be a trip to Italy about 4 years ago. I had a short stay in Rome, and then about 2 weeks in Naples.
It was one of my first, somewhat cheap, trips thanks to miles earned from credit cards. I’ve been to Italy several times. It is probably my favorite country to visit, and Naples would be my favorite city. The city itself, the beaches close by, the people, and also the small towns I visited in the Campania region around Naples were an amazing experience.
And then there’s the food that tops it all. I just visited the area again this summer for about a week and I still love it. And again, I put on about 10 pounds!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Family doesn’t really get very involved in the details. They’re just happy that I can get them good deals and even free stays and flights for close family. As for friends, I’ve gotten a few friends on board who were at first hesitant about the effort involved.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I think the most surprising trick that I’ve discovered, if I can even call it that, is to just ask for things.
It sounds simple, yet many people are not aware that you can ask a credit card company to waive an annual fee or a late fee, or ask to get a lower APR. You can ask a bank to waive a monthly fee, or bank check fee. You can get a free upgrade or a better room at a hotel.
Or, if something went wrong during your stay, don’t hesitate to let management know. They might offer some kind of compensation.
The same thing goes for air travel, although that has become harder to get by just asking. The point is that you can definitely get things to go your way with some good manners and friendly conversation.
A second trick for those starting out would be to stay organized. Spreadsheets are your best friend. Keep track of your credit cards and bank accounts’ opening dates, bonus, bonus requirements, closing dates, and everything else possible. Create a spreadsheet for AMEX Offers to keep track of what offers you have on each card.
It takes very little effort to input that information but it becomes very valuable in the long run.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Well, this wasn’t really a ‘points earned’ scenario, more like getting my points back. As I mentioned above, asking for something is all it takes. I booked a 5-day Hilton stay for my parents at Niagara Falls. Not the best use of my points, but that’s what they wanted.
The first night, they were given a 2-queen 2 room suite instead of a king 2 room suite. Then the second night, the room had a cigarette smell. I contacted Hilton through online chat after their stay, and in a few days I was refunded 112,000 Hilton points.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
In the beginning I was just going after the big bonuses, based on their points’ valuation. I wish I had known that going after the right cards and the right rewards currency is more important to get you where you want to go.
A 100,000 point sign-up bonus might be worth $1,500. But it could be also worth $0 if you can’t use them for a vacation to your favorite destination!
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I’m not the best at redeeming miles. Actually, my head hurts sometimes when it’s time to book, and often I push it off until it’s way too late. And I end up booking everything with Chase Ultimate Rewards points through my Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
I’m also not a big fan of long flights. I try to minimize my flying times and maximize my vacation time…preferably on a beach.
Any parting words?
Use the miles and points game to fulfill your dreams and explore the world. Yes, it takes some effort, but it will open up new opportunities that you wouldn’t be able to have otherwise.
Don’t just pile up your points. Put them to good use and pile up your experiences.
Danny – 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!