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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: Heels First Travel
Last week we heard from Keri at Heels First Travel blog. Today it is time to chat with her friend Jeanne!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I was originally a coupon-er. My first deal was Frappuccino Bars for 16 cents when I was just a teenager. As soon as I was old enough to apply for a credit card *coughcough* years ago, I got a points based one.
I was always trying to figure out the best combination to get the most cash back. I thought it was incredible that I was getting all this money just for my normal spend. Of course, back then as a college student, getting $40 cash back was a HUGE deal to me.
I started getting into travel because I traveled for work a lot. One day, someone showed me AwardWallet and I logged in and saw just how many miles I had. I looked at what those miles could do for me. That was a lot more than getting $40 cash back! I was hooked then and haven’t turned back 🙂 Keri has been helping me a lot along the way.
Why did you start your blog ? What’s special about it?
I never paid too much attention to what airlines I flew until I started flying for work. It was rough spending all that time in coach, so I eventually became determined to be an elite. I made a plan and last minute, got greedy and went for platinum.
Keri cheered me on and eventually joined me for one of my trips. She was already way into travel and mostly did it as moral support. As we were doing this, we had crazy successes and even crazier misadventures, so we thought it would be nice to share these stories along with the tips we’ve picked up along the way.
I think what makes ours special is that we aren’t the experts, so we are learning as we go. We give tips based on mistakes we made ourselves, and I think that makes it easier for people newer to travel to follow along.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
I know most people would say putting every purchase on carefully selected credit cards, but I’d say even more so–taking advantage of point bonuses through online shopping portals. If you do most of your shopping online (like I do) these can be even more lucrative than just paying attention to everyday spend.
On Evrewards, you can search the name of the website you are buying from to find the most lucrative portal to purchase through. For example, Sephora is 5 points per dollar through the Ultimate Rewards mall (and I can use any credit card afterwards).
That purchase would have just netted me 1 point per dollar with my favorite credit card (and I can still receive that bonus along with my purchase through the Ultimate Rewards mall). But if I could only pay attention to one, I would search EvRewards every time since it nets me lots more!
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I’m still banking my miles for a dream vacation next year, but for now, I’d have to say a mileage run Keri and I just did to Hawaii. We were in Honolulu three hours and grabbed cocktails at La Mariana Tiki Bar. And then we flew back to DC.
We were traveling for 36 hours straight and the only reason we knew the date when we landed in Dulles was because we were headed to the MegaDO Launch Party in just two hours in Arlington, VA. Even though we were exhausted, it was AWESOME to come off a mileage run like that only to get high-fived by everyone instead of looked at a little odd by our non-travel friends. (Though the one “down side” was Keri won 1K status at the launch party, so maybe the mileage run was more in vain for her! 😛 )
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
They’ve been surprisingly accepting of my crazy travels. I love flying in and of itself, so I think my previous excitement every time I got to fly helped things a lot. My mother used to want to be a flight attendant and loves being on a plane too, so I think she understands more than most.
And my friend Keri, well, I think she takes the hobby further than I do! (Though I’m getting close :P)
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I already mentioned the website I love, EvRewards but I used to forget to do it. Now I’ve placed all the sites I use for this sort of thing in my bookmark tool bar so that the links are staring at me all the time. I don’t forget to use them anymore!
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I had minor surgery once and there was a hold up in my insurance. (long story short, having multiple insurances can confuse things!) I finally paid everything on my credit cards just to get it taken care of and was surprised when I received payment from my insurance company almost immediately.
I didn’t quite think about the point potential until all the points posted afterwards and I did a double-take at my AwardWallet balance!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
That points are points. Once I started going for loyalty points, I thought I was supposed to only earn points on that carrier/hotel. So I would pass up opportunities for 10x points per dollar to get 2x points per dollar on the carrier I was loyal to.
Then the US Airways Grand Slam came along, and I had no way of using any partner points to transfer into US Airways to get many hits on the program. I also began to learn different ways to transfer points in between different programs. This made me realize that when I can get a good stock-pile in something, go for it, as long as it isn’t taking away from a trip I am saving up for.
Currently, I’m really greedy with my Ultimate Rewards Points, so I feel guilty when I go for 15% cash back instead of 2x points per dollar.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I was a competitive athlete for a winter sport and did most my travel growing up for that. Since those events required focus on the sport itself, I never really got to see things while out and about.
The first time I ever traveled off the East Coast to actually visit an area and see things was when I was 20 to Prague, Czech Republic. I just never guessed my first real travel off the East Coast would be eastward rather than westward! I’ve only really started visiting states to the West in the last few years. But I’ve been racking states up lately, and can’t wait to check out Wyoming sometime soon!
Any parting words?
Always remember that you do not have to participate in ALL the tricks and tips people talk about to get involved with travel and points. It can be overwhelming sometimes and even small changes in behavior can make a huge difference for you.
I was speaking to someone last night who had used the same credit card for her entire life. She is really comfortable with the way it works, having the one bill, and only having to worry about one company. I do not blame her for not wanting to apply for credit card after credit card!
But when I told her about the little things you can do with shopping portals, her eyes lit up. She didn’t have to worry about switching anything–just adding an extra step that gets her miles in addition to the points her card picks up for her. So start small and add things as you feel comfortable.
If at some point, a deal just doesn’t seem worth the time, effort, or routine change, don’t worry about it!
Jeanne – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!