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Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Oren’s Money Saver
Oren writes Oren’s Money Saver to help readers save money with shopping portals, discounts, and rewards credit cards.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I only started collecting miles and points a few years ago. I can’t recall a single frequent flyer mile that I earned from spending before 2011.
Even though I had never collected miles, ever since I was a kid I was always interested in earning and saving money. One of my best friends and I started when we were in the 8th grade working together as waiters at a catering hall. I still remember the feeling of getting paid.
After every paycheck he would suggest buying some ice cream as a reward. Even then, I always said no. I deposited the money right into the bank. I know, dorky, but it has served me well.
I have been maximizing my credit card spending since the days of the Chase Freedom 3-2-1 non-rotating categories (this is no longer available). Miles and points came much later.
I kept hearing of friends using miles to travel to foreign countries so I decided to look into it. I haven’t looked back since.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I actually started my blog to force myself to come up with creative ways to save money and earn cash back & points. If I was only reading a few other blogs, I probably wouldn’t try as hard for myself. Along the way, I try to create a great reader experience.
The blog focuses on what I know best from personal experience, which is usually not travel oriented. My wife and I have full time jobs and unfortunately we don’t have many chances to travel. I almost never talk about redeeming miles.
You can find great information from other sites about travel. My focus is usually on how to put a lot of spending on credit cards and other ways to earn cash back, miles, and points.
Since I have a full-time job, I don’t have as much time to earn points as some other bloggers. Therefore, I also write about what I call “Pajama Money.” Ideally, I’d like to earn all of my cash back and miles in the comfort of my pajamas. I avoid brick and mortar stores unless it is too lucrative to pass up.
My last focus is automatic earnings. I love, love, love deals that earn rewards automatically. Just set it and forget about it. Santander Extra 20, Serve and Bank of America Better Balance Rewards come to mind. My time is limited. If something can be automated, that is the perfect deal.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
That depends on your tolerance for multiple credit cards and the time you have available for earning, knowledge level, etc.
For a beginner, I would probably recommend the Discover it® Cash Back since Discover will double cash back at the end of your 1st 12 billing cycles for new card holders and folks who previously registered
There’s no annual fee and the card introduces you into the world of maximizing spending and shopping portals. It can be a real gateway card.
For someone who is already maximizing their spending, they can move on to applying for lots of credit cards, earning the sign-up bonuses, and using the correct shopping portals for different online purchases.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
My wife, 2 kids, and I went to the West Coast of the US for 3 and a half weeks last summer. The airfare and majority of the hotels were paid for with points.
We went to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Disney, Yosemite, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon. Out of that incredible trip, Yosemite was by far the crown jewel.
Yosemite is vast with different climates. There are waterfalls, giant sequoia trees, beautiful lakes, forests, meadows and much more. Going in the summer made me want to go back during the winter just to see how different the place can be.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
At 1st they all thought I was crazy. Now, only most of them think that I’m crazy. 🙂
At 1 point, I was able to help my brothers-in-law earn enough miles for 5 round-trip tickets from New York City to Tel Aviv during the height of the season (value of about $6,000!). Then, the rest of my wife’s family acknowledged points and mileage were for real, even if not for them.
My family has slowly come around too. None of them are interested in doing any of it themselves, but they are willing to add me as an authorized user on their new credit cards. I do the spending for them and they earn cash and miles they wouldn’t otherwise be earning.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Paper statements, autopay, and spreadsheets.
I spend so much money on different credit cards that I have difficulty keeping track of everything in my head. I spent well over $100,000 on credit cards last year. Most of it was creative. And I’m on pace to destroy that number this year.
Once I activate a card, the 1st thing I do is place the card on autopay so that I am never late on a payment. If you are late by mistake you can usually call to ask for adjustment to the late fee.
I don’t want to log into every account every month and check every credit card statement. Therefore, I always order paper statements when possible. I won’t look at online statements monthly.
I also keep spreadsheets of my activities so that I can figure out if I am missing something.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I am always amazed at how lucrative it is to double or triple dip. Recently, I was targeted for 4X eBay Bucks in my account. I didn’t have anything to buy.
- 1.1% cash back on the purchase through a shopping portal
- 8% in eBay Bucks
- 5% cash back
- 3X United Airlines Miles through the United Airlines Shopping Portal
That’s a trick I picked up. Very lucrative and I never would have thought of it on my own.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Shopping portals, especially with mega bonuses. They can be incredibly lucrative for purchases you will make anyways. I always check a site like Cashback Monitor that tells you about all the latest shopping portal deals..
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I am married with 2 children and have a full-time job (I am a dentist). I don’t have as much time as I would like to devote to this hobby since I have many other religious, familial, and professional obligations. Even if you don’t have too much time, get involved. You might be surprised where it takes you.
Any parting words?
Do what is comfortable to you and what you understand. Just because a friend tells you it is possible to earn 500,000 points in 1 week, don’t follow his advice until you completely understand all the steps and risks involved.
This is a hobby that can help you the rest of your life. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
Oren – 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!