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 Bonuses
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting miles and points in the mid to late 1980s. I was a ski racer at the time and was starting to fly to Europe for the skiing. So I became a member of Canadian Plus and Aeroplan to collect miles.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
Rewards Canada launched in 2001. I started it is because there were no websites in Canada that focused on miles and points. All of the sites at that time were from the US, and there weren’t even many of those. Rewards Canada was Canada’s first miles and points website. It launched many firsts that are now seen across many sites and blogs like credit card rankings, comparison charts, bonus offer listings, and more.
Frequent Flyer Bonuses launched in 2005 after I saw lots of non-Canadian traffic visiting the bonus offers section of Rewards Canada. It was a natural fit to expand on that section with a new site that covered all offers from around the globe, not just those for Canadians.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
I wouldn’t say there is one simple thing, but by far the easiest (most everyone in the points and miles world should know this), is to put every single spending transaction on a miles or points earning credit card. I never use cash, unless cards aren’t accepted at that merchant.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
That’s a tough one, as there are so many – I would say taking our very first vacation with our kids when they were little, and seeing the way they reacted with joy when they flew for the first time. And the overall feeling of seeing them take everything in when being in a new city.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
I think they all are appreciative of it, and they use it to their advantage by coming to me to help them out with new credit cards, booking travel, finding deals, and more.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I can’t stress enough on taking advantage of bonus offers. I live and breathe bonus offers thanks to the websites I run. But so many people miss out on double miles here or 1,000 bonus points there. They don’t realize how much bonus offers can help boost your account balances to get your desired rewards.
Always register for every bonus offer, even if you’re not sure if you can use it at the time. You never know when your travel plans may change. And by that time, the registration period could be over, or you may have totally forgotten about the offer. You can avoid that by registering as soon as possible.
Also, be sure to check out the bonus offers listed on our sites before you book any travel, as we uncover offers that aren’t promoted very well (or not at all) by the programs.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
The least expected way I earned miles was a few years ago when I bought Icelandair Saga Points. I was doing a regular update on our site, and adding Icelandair’s first ever buy points bonus. Rather then just posting the bonus, I went through the process of buying points to see what sort of value could be had with the bonus, as we all know certain programs carry lots of value when buying miles or points with a bonus.
By going through the process, I noticed the points were being sold very cheap. I wasn’t sure why or if it was a mistake. I went ahead and decided I’d actually buy the points to see if it the transaction would go through.
The mistake? The decimal point was moved over one place the left, which meant I bought the points for $160 rather than $1,600!
The amount of points I bought was enough for our family of 4 to fly from Canada to Seattle. I was planning to write about the mistake, but wanted to make sure I got confirmation the points would come through. I figured they wouldn’t because a couple of hours later the buy points page was removed and the next day they had it fixed.
Lo and behold, about 3 days after I purchased, I got confirmation that my purchase went through and the points were in my account. Not a bad deal for $160.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I knew the value of Alaska Airlines miles and researched the program a long time ago. The program is so valuable even to us Canadians (especially since we are in Western Canada, and Alaska Airlines flies to our home town). I have been collecting Alaska Airlines miles for ~7 years, but it would be amazing if that was 17 or more years!
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Rewards Canada was not the only business first for me. Back in 1995, I launched Western Canada’s first house music label called High Test Records. It focused on releasing primarily Canadian house music and techno. It was a natural fit, as I was already a house music DJ at the time, playing across Western Canada and in Europe.
Any parting words?
Don’t forego any chance of earning (or even more so, redeeming) miles. Sometimes we get so entrenched in trying to pull the maximum value out of miles & points that we forget the joy of a trip. The joy you get from miles and points that you redeemed at 1.5 cents per mile could be much more than one at 2.5 cents per mile.
Do what works for you and makes you the happiest.
Patrick – 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!