Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Frequent Flyer Miles 101
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
Wow, I don’t know, I’ve been doing it since the programs were created. But I really got into it around 2000, when I started a job that involved a lot of travel. I had used miles once for a First Class flight, and decided I liked that lifestyle.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog because my coworkers were constantly in my office asking questions. They were asking beginner questions, so I started the blog as a repository of basic information, because they were getting overwhelmed by FlyerTalk. Over time, I kept writing, and it turned into what it is today.
As for what makes it different, I’ve tailored it entirely to people who are just getting started in the miles & points hobby, or may have been doing it for a little while but are overwhelmed. I write about 1 topic per day, and generally go deep into it.
It’s not really a living for me, just a hobby. So although I have affiliate links to credit cards, all of the proceeds go to a local charity that supports children from low-income families.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles
I am shocked by how many people shop online and don’t do it through an airline portal, or at least a cash back shopping site. It’s something a lot of people who are new to the hobby don’t know exists. Now that JetBlue has a partnership with Amazon, you can really get miles for just about any online shopping.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
The trip I took with my family to London in 2016. It was an overnight flight from Boston, so I spent Delta miles for the 4 of us to fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. It was great seeing how excited my 8-year old kids got when they realized their seat turned into a bed.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
They think I’m nuts. They’re happy to tell me so, as well. They have no problem, of course, asking me for advice or a few extra points.
My coworker still tells people about the time I got her $3,000 from British Airways for an EU 261 violation. And in the same breath, she tells them that I’m crazy!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Put everything on a credit card. This is another point that seems obvious. But for many, it’s a revelation that they can pay their insurance, utilities, etc. using their card, and earn miles for doing so.
Taxes are another big one. Many people don’t know they can pay their estimated taxes for a fee under 2%. So if the card pays 2% or more in rewards, paying taxes becomes a profitable exercise!
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Ordering pet supplies online to earn US Airways miles during a promotion. Fortunately, a bunch of “Flyertalkers” joined in with me, and we were able to make a nice donation to a local SPCA.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
If you’re flying to London on a mileage run, and the immigration officer asks you why you are only in London for 3 hours, it’s a bad idea to say, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” They don’t like that.
Also, don’t schedule mileage runs to India for a few months after your kids are born. Turns out that “Sure, I’ll take care of the newborn twins for the weekend while you fly to Delhi”, sounds a lot better in theory than practice.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
On my second date with my wife in 2000, we watched a “special” video, if you know what I mean. It was about the making of the new international terminal at Detroit a friend of mine at Northwest Airlines sent me.
Any parting words?
Credit card companies do not give out rewards because they are nice. They do so knowing that a large percentage of people won’t pay their bills in full and will end up paying interest. No credit card reward is enough to offset the interest the bank will charge you.
If you carry a balance, don’t apply for rewards cards that charge high interest rates.
Mike – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Big Travel with Small Money!
If you’d like to be considered for our interview series, please send me a note!