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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: US Credit Card Guide
Physixfan, ThunderFat, and skysniper write US Credit Card Guide to help folks choose credit cards and use miles and points like a pro.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
skysniper: I switched from cash back cards to travel credit cards in late 2013, when I 1st realized miles and points can be worth A LOT more than cash back. Since then I started earning miles and points from credit card sign-up bonuses.
ThunderFat: I fly from China to the US several times a year. Long-haul international flights always make people tired, especially in coach. In mid 2014, I learned that we could use miles and points for almost free flights, even in Business and First Class!
Before 2015, I mainly collected miles by flying. But after United Airlines switched to revenue based awards, I couldn’t earn enough miles to book award flights. Then Chase came to my rescue!
By signing-up for the Chase Freedom and Sapphire Preferred, I was able to transfer my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines, which quickly gave me lots of miles for travel. I also earned a lot of United Airlines miles from online shopping portals like MileagePlus Shopping and the MileagePlus X app.
Of course nowadays I do a much better job accumulating points. I have AMEX, Citi, and Chase cards in my wallet. So I now have many airline miles and hotel points. And I only pay for taxes and fees, car rentals, and food, because my flight and hotel nights are covered with points.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
physixfan: When I started learning about rewards credit cards and loyalty programs, I spent a lot of time reading forums and blogs. The forums and blogs have high quality content, but they are usually not so friendly to beginners who are learning.
The information is too loosely connected. So I started US Credit Card Guide, to introduce credit cards, miles, points, and loyalty programs systematically to help beginners get started.
When you search for credit card info you can get many outdated webpages. I want to maintain an updated website with the latest information for every single post on my blog.
Also, when you want to find the highest offer for a specific credit card, you need to do a little research. I want to make it easy, I will guarantee the offers on my blog will always be the highest people can find. And also remind my readers if there will possibly be a higher offer in the near future.
skysniper: The most special thing about US Credit Card Guide may be that our team is a group of geeks. So in addition to writing articles, we build useful tools to save people time!
For example, we made CreditIntro, a tool that calculates the rewards of different credit cards combinations based on your spending. So you can easily choose the credit cards that maximize your rewards.
We also want to answer the questions like, “What is the best offer for this card?”, “Should I apply for it now?”, so we plot historical offer charts for each card on our blog.
ThunderFat: In late 2014, I wrote a credit card guide for beginners on a Chinese social media, and physixfan saw it. We found that we are both interested in this hobby so he invited me to join him as a writer on his blog.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
ThunderFat: Spend money! No kidding. You have to spend money to get miles, but the crucial point is to spend money wisely. We can get more miles if we carefully plan our spending.
For example, when shopping online, try to find a shopping portal for earning more miles. If you have a major purchase ahead, find credit cards that also have high spending requirement. But also remember to try to stay away from purchasing unnecessary goods.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
ThunderFat: We don’t have as much travel experience as many people from the US, because we’ve only been here for a bit more than 2 years. But I did get to take 2 trips I’ve been wanting to take for a long time.
My 1st time using miles for redeeming Business Class on long-haul flights is definitely at the top of my list. It was in February 2015. I successfully grabbed a seat on United Airlines from Chengdu, China, to San Francisco to New York.
At 1st it hurt spending the miles. But after landing in San Francisco, I totally changed my mind. Miles should always be redeemed and enjoyed, or you are just waiting for their devaluation.
And in the summer, I needed to go back to the US from China, this time I decided to try using my American Airlines miles.
In most cases, people use American Airlines miles to get a seat on Cathay Pacific, but I saw an American Airlines Business Class seat available and immediately called to hold it.
I was happy to try American Airlines’ new cabin layout. And again, all I paid were the taxes and fees.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
physixfan: My family is happy when I use my miles and points to get them on international flights! They don’t have a lot of money so they can’t afford to buy paid international airline tickets.
skysniper: Initially my friends didn’t quite understand why I have so many credit cards and spend so much time on miles and points. But after seeing the close to free trips I’ve earned, they ask me for advice on which credit cards they should get 🙂
ThunderFat: After I showed some friends how this hobby works, they got onboard with me and they are trying to get their friends interested too. My wife is so busy with her work so I help her manage credit cards, rewards accounts, and redeem free travel for us. Happy wife, happy life!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
skysniper: As mentioned above, I highly recommend checking historical offers before applying for a credit card. If there’s a card that sometimes offers a much higher bonus, you may want to wait for it.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
physixfan: Back in 2013, I didn’t know about this wonderful hobby, and the Citi Forward (no longer available) was my 1st credit card. This was one of the only credit cards I could get without any credit history. At that time, I treated it as a 4% cash back card on dining, entertainment, and at Amazon.
Then I realized that with the help of the Citi Prestige card, I can use the Citi ThankYou points I earned with the Citi Forward card at 1.6 cents per point on American Airlines flights! That’s an 8% return! So the points I stockpiled with my Citi Forward card, turned out to worth much more after a little research!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
skysniper: There are 2 things I wish I knew in the beginning.
First, earn miles and points for ANY flight or hotel stay, even if you don’t think you’ll use them. I lost tens of thousands of miles and points this way.
Second, American Express often sends great targeted offers. So check for better offers before applying for an AMEX card.
ThunderFat: This may sound stupid. But I’ve collected a lot of Air China miles. Because at that time, I thought I could transfer Air China miles to United Airlines. Now they are expired…
So make sure you understand how airline partners work.
I also recommend collecting miles and points in just a few rewards programs. If your points are spread out in too many different accounts, you may not be able to use them.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
physixfan: Many people are surprised when I tell them I only started building a credit history 2 years ago when I moved the US and I already have 20 credit cards!
Any parting words?
ThunderFat: I really hope people won’t abuse the perks we get with this hobby so we can keep a healthy miles and points community!
physixfan, ThunderFat and skysniper – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!