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Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where renowned mile and point gurus share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Bengali Miles Guru
Tahsir has been fascinated with traveling ever since he was a kid. He’s currently a 20 year-old student at the University of California, Riverside who also runs an award booking service.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting miles when I was about 17. I started just reading blogs and became instantly amused by how easy it was to fly! I remember going to flyertalk for a random question I had about meal service on domestic flights and it all just started from there!
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog because I wanted to help people who don’t necessarily know how to use points. I tried to strike a balance between beginner and expert where I would start fresh and “grow” with the reader. There are so many amazing blogs out there and I just wanted to throw in some of my thoughts and how I became successful at collecting miles.
I believe the most special feature of my blog is my award booking service. No one out there has a flat rate of $50 for everyone on an itinerary! People tell me that it “degrades” my image, but in reality, everyone’s looking for a deal and this is a good deal. I’ve had dozens of customers that flew around the world and more! I’ve never had a complaint and for the past few months, have been doing most of my business through referrals. I sometimes also go on flyertalk and offer to help book itineraries for free!
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
I believe the one single thing they can do is to really use common sense. People don’t realize how much they can earn just by shopping for the same product online. People often tell me that what they want is never online or that they want it instantly. The truth is, most stores now offer store pickup and if you’re not pleased with your purchase, you can exchange it for something else!
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
My most memorable travel experience would be when I flew to Singapore for New Year! It was about 11:30 pm and there was a crowd of people that surrounded a small office. It was almost as if they were all called to board a gate at the airport! This line wasn’t for a plane though, it was for the huge observation wheel called the Singapore Flyer.
The midnight ride had sold out months before, but thanks to our Ameriprise World Elite card, they were able to make a few calls and get us 4 tickets to the midnight ride just 2 days before! We waited and waited wondering whether we would get to the top before midnight. Sure enough, the most amazing sight revealed itself. It was Singapore. A city known for the hustle and bustle now was lit up by fireworks! For miles, all I saw was fireworks! Our guide told us that some fireworks were from neighboring Malaysia! It was one of the best trips I had ever taken!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
When I first started talking about points, naturally, my parents were skeptical. Traveling for free didn’t sit well in their minds. I eventually convinced them to apply for certain cards (Citi American Airlines 75,000) and before we knew it, we were at 350,000 points!
That year, we took an amazing trip to Malaysia & Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific First Class. After we got back, my parents were finally believers. My relatives soon followed and were also able to rack up an impressive amount of miles.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Honestly, the one tool you have in knowledge. After booking dozens of trips, the process just becomes automatic. You start to ask yourself where a stopover can be or where you can transit through.
The biggest tool though is to call in. I know many people hate calling and waiting on the phone, but I love it and my saying is “two brains are better than one.” Some people would argue that by calling into some centers, you’re only using one brain 😉 but I’ve met some really great people through call centers and I have a lot of respect for what they do!
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
The LEAST expected way I earned points was by using an American Express card to book a port-o-potty. Hear me out! My sister was having her wedding at a ranch in Malibu, California and the owners required that we have a separate bathroom because 700 guests couldn’t use a septic tank bathroom. We decided to go with a local port-o-potty company and charged it to our Gold Card.
The statement came the month after and it showed 3X bonus on the potty purchase. When I looked into it more, it turned out that the port-o-potty owners also owned a travel agency and just used a single merchant system that made everything into a travel expense! That was pretty amazing.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I knew how to earn more points out of the gate. For years, I was under the impression that you had to spend $30,000 to get $30,000, but I found out that wasn’t the case. If I had known that in the beginning, who knows how many more millions I could have racked up! In addition, I was also under the impression that you could only apply for one card every year and so that’s what we did for a long time until I found out you can sometimes apply for 2 or 3 in the same day!
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I feel like my readers would be surprised to know how much I’ve traveled given my age. I’m 20 years old and the only continents I haven’t been to are South America & Antarctica. Being the son of someone who works at an international airline, we would often take random trips to Malaysia or Singapore on the weekends.
I remember one day I got picked up from school and was told we were going to Malaysia the same day for Thanksgiving. It was awesome and I’m extremely blessed to have had the opportunity. As I get older and start my own blog, I’ll be traveling on my own to different places all around the world! No doubt that I’ll be blogging about my adventures as well.
Any parting words?
I tell this to all of my customers who get MAD at me for charging too little. Trust me, I have gotten yelled at!
“I love to travel and I’m sure you do too. When I sit in first class (sometimes) and see a man who argues with the Flight Attendant about paying thousands and getting horrible service, I chuckle. I chuckle because I didn’t pay anything for this seat and I’m extremely proud that I was able to do so.
When you take your flight and look out the window knowing you didn’t pay for this flight, you’ll understand. You’ll understand that travel is a passion for me and I get satisfaction by your satisfaction. Money always comes second to happiness. I was taught that all my life and I apply that to my own business. If you’re not happy or you’re just content, I haven’t done my job”
Tahsir– Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!