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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: Miles To The Max
Caleb writes Miles To The Max to shed light on how folks can travel to their dream destinations for little to no cost!
You can follow him on Facebook.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
Roughly 5 years ago I began traveling for business. I would train and install software for car dealers all over the country. My 1st full year in that career I clocked 39,000 miles domestically.
I received a Delta Silver Medallion card in the mail before I even understood what airline status was all about.
My 1st award flight booking was from Phoenix to Sacramento. Probably not the best utilization of 12,500 Delta miles, in hindsight.
I no longer travel for business, but I did fly 42,000 miles using points last year.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
The main motivator for starting my blog is my friends and family. Many of them were curious how I was able to travel for almost free every month. Since I live a state away from many of them, I figured it was easiest to blog about my savings and experiences on the interwebs.
The thing I find unique about my blog is that it is aimed towards the beginner. Many of the big blogs in the travel world talk a lot about airline status and transatlantic Business Class flights.
I feel that many people benefit from starting simple. I want this hobby to feel fun and simple. Because it really is!
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
The quickest and most lucrative way to earn miles is by leveraging your good credit for credit card sign-up bonuses. When the credit score myths are cleared up and the minimum spending requirements become achievable, you can score big free travel.
My 1st real job was selling cars. In those 2 years at the dealership, I learned a bit about credit and how important it is to maintain your credit score.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
My most memorable experience was in Cabo San Lucas when Hurricane Odile rolled in. Our party was stranded for 5 days with few utilities and no transportation.
After baking in the sun for 6 hours at the airport, they corralled us onto an angel flight to Houston (the 1st time I was excited to be on a United Airlines flight).
All worked out well in the end and I even earned points on my final leg.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Most of my family and friends have been compelled to start collecting points. One of the biggest things I preach is, never allow any free points to go to waste. From online shopping portal purchases to enrolling for an email newsletter, free points should never be passed up.
I know they probably get annoyed when I email them with a 500 point survey offer, but they will forgive me when they are taking a vacation for next to nothing.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I just received 10,000 American Airlines miles from my Barclaycard Aviator Red card as an anniversary bonus. It was apparently grandfathered over from my old Barclaycard US Airways card (no longer available). I did not expect for them to honor that perk the following calendar year.
Around the same time, I received a targeted promotion in the mail offering 15,000 American Airlines bonus miles by spending $500 for 3 months on the same Barclaycard Aviator Red card.
I was also able to get the annual fee waived after 2 calls to customer service.
So I ultimately earned 25,000 American bonus miles relatively easily (10,000 American Airlines miles for card anniversary + 15,000 American Airlines miles for spending $500 per month for 3 months) with no credit inquiry and no mileage run.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I knew about status matching when I was flying on paid flights for business. I would have status on at least 3 airlines and would have earned points at an even greater rate.
I was however, able to status match last year without taking a single paid flight.
I used my Southwest Companion Pass status to match to Alaska Airlines MVP 75k status. I then used my Alaska Airlines status to match to Hawaiian Airlines Pualani Platinum status. Plus, my Alaska Airlines MVP 75k status allowed me to nominate my mother-in-law to Alaska MVP status.
She was upgraded to First Class on both legs of her paid Alaska Airlines round-trip ticket to Hawaii. So she got free First Class on a status nomination from a no-challenge status match. That is why I love the travel game!
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I love sleeping on planes. I intentionally book red-eyes, when possible, so I can sleep the entire flight. On evening flights I can easily sleep from gate to gate.
Any parting words?
There is no wrong or right way to travel. If you are enjoying yourself and in good company, that is what counts. Most of our travel consists of quick weekend trips.
We prefer more frequent trips so that works well for us. Many people think it is crazy that we travel across the country for the weekend. If you are having a blast and you are traveling for next to free, that is all that matters.
Caleb – 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!