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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: Miles Momma
Faith is a stay-at-home Momma who has a passion for traveling and exploring the world. She’s also a die hard mile and point collector, so I was looking forward to our chat on Friday!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I first started collecting miles and points when I was 18 years old. I went to work for my father’s company and began traveling extensively with him. I started open up lots of frequent flyer accounts and hotel loyalty cards. I began learning the ins and outs of booking travel as I was my father’s executive assistant (aka grunt worker).
Believe it or not, my first business trip was to Honolulu. I know it’s hard to imagine but we really did business there; on the beach of course. I remember having several meetings out under the cabana tree at the Westin Moana Surfrider Resort & Spa. Back then I really had no idea of the differences between the hotel brands and categories. I just knew it was a real fancy hotel we were staying at.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I began blogging back in 2010 because I wanted to share my miles and point knowledge with all my friends and family. I wanted to show them how they too could afford to travel the world like I was. In 2011, I decided to go public with my blog. After receiving much interest, I had an idea and decision to expand my blog into a complete resource website with the blog as just a part of the site. After months and months of work, I launched the Miles Momma Mile & Point Resource site in April of 2012. My readers love it and I’ve received very good reviews.
The Miles Momma is meant to be a resource site for mile and point collectors and travelers. A resource you can use on a daily/weekly basis to help you find mile/point deals, travel specials, and stay up on promotions.
I am continually expanding the site and adding new content as well as updating information. The Miles Momma blog adds daily deals, promotions, and travel industry news for readers. I believe my site stands out because it is not just a blog but a resource site.
I believe the Miles Momma blog also is different as it is geared towards the leisure non-business traveler. As a leisure traveler myself, I look for ways to earn miles/points without actually flying, staying in a hotel or renting a car. The typical business traveler earns their balances in a much different ways than the leisure traveler. Thus, these are the deals I write about. I don’t write about Mommy stuff though.
I keep it straight to the topic of earning & burning miles and points. I’m a hard core mile & point hound and I love to write strictly on this subject. I think there are plenty of other Mommy bloggers talking about traveling with children. My niche is leisure non-business travelers. So if you are just an average non-business traveler like me you won’t have to sift through other mile and point blogs to find the deals that you can actually do. You can subscribed to the Miles Momma blog and you’ll have deals feed to you daily that you can do from the comfort of your own home or local area.
There are some great business mile and point bloggers out there and I don’t intend to cover those deals highly. Although if there is something really lucrative like the recent Club Carlson promotions for example, I will always cover those hot deals. Loved my mattress run this year. Just now booking some nights in Ireland with my Club Carlson points.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
If you have excellent/good credit you really should get involved with credit card sign up bonuses. I’m sure you’ve read that before because it is what every hard core collector is doing. Even if you aren’t hard core (yet!), you can really have so many free trips and fun adventures from the piles of miles/points you can earn through these bonuses. If you are concerned about ruining your credit, just dabble a little and see for yourself the effect. This is how I started, cautiously and then I began to get very aggressive.
My scores have remained excellent for years and even in the last 5 years since I’ve been extremely aggressive. I currently have scores of 794, 779, 782 with 15+ open cards at the moment . They all have no balances on them. No debit. Something I am very proud to say. This helps huge. I always pay cards in full each month. You can see my scores in the last 2 years in this recent article “Good Credit Equals Free Travel”. Check it out! Feel free to email if you need help or have questions.
If you don’t have stellar credit, there are still options for you. I would get into every checking account bonus offer available. We have seen some good ones this year from Citibank, Suntrust and Bank Direct. I hope we will see more still to come. MM has just given you a huge tip about how to maximize the Bank Direct checking account. There is a ton of American Airlines miles to earn there. You can also earn miles from Perk Street Financial checking for your everyday checking.
My last tip is to read a variety of mile & point bloggers. No one is always going to cover every single mile/point deal out there. Open a google reader and add subscriptions to all your favorites. ( I hope you’ll consider adding me – www.milesmomma.com )This is a great way for you to daily scan for the deals that you can do and things that interest you without having to visit each individual blog or site. Visiting each individual site takes a lot of time and we all know our time is limited.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I’ve had so many great adventures so far in my life but this question is easy to answer. My most memorable trip was my honeymoon 12 years ago. My hubby and I did it up right! My husband always dreamed of going on the longest honeymoon he could possibly afford. So we did just that! We spent a month in the South Pacific on the tiny little island of Rarotanga.
Rarotanga is one of the Cook Islands. If you aren’t familiar with the Cook Island, they are fourteen little specks on the map in the South Pacific. Hard to find unless you look closely. The island is surrounded by a lagoon, which extends more than a hundred metres to the reef and then drops off to deep water. It is the perfect places for snorkeling and water exploration. This island is extremely small; only 20 miles around the island.
We spent our days combing the beach for shells, snorkeling, hiking the jungles and just relaxing. There is no night life here. Just a slow mellow pace of life. After a few days all the locals know you. We rented a little house on the beach. We were literally steps to the water from our porch. It was the perfect places to just escape from the real world.
Here are a few pics to give you an idea of what Rarotonga is like in case you need to escape from your world.
I believe I found our place. Wow! Take a look here. When we stayed here 12 years ago they had just built this little studio on the beach. Looks like they have 4 little places now! The price of course has gone up too but still cheap for a place like this. Believe it or not we paid $325 per week to stay back in 2000. We couldn’t even find anything to spend our money on, so we returned with lots of savings and a boat load of shells.
This picture only gives you an idea. It’s hard to truly capture the pure beauty of this island. If you are looking for somewhere to just check out of life for a while Rarotonga would be the ideal place. You would never regret your choice to visit a place like this. The memories as still very vivid in my mind. I am planning to return for our 20th anniversary in 8 years. I’m sure it will be virtual the same untouched beautiful place. If you are looking for tours, activities and night life better head to Tahiti.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Most all my family and friends are just simply baffled by my hobby and the travel it affords our family. They want to learn more and figure out how to do it themselves. Some just think it’s too much work and don’t realize how incredible the payoff is. My hubby thinks I’m a bit obsessed which of course I am. I can definitely admit I’m an addict. If they had a support group I’d join. Sounds fun to me! Anyone know of one? Well, my husband does love all the trips and adventures we have so he’s okay with my obsession. He especially liked his 40th birthday getaway to Beverly Hills & Catalina this past February.
You can read my trip report here if you like. We stayed at the SLS Hotel Beverly Hills on Starwood points and got upgraded because of my status (Thanks to my Starwood card). It was a birthday trip to remember; flash hot rod, fancy hotel, helicopter, zip line and more all payed for 100% with miles & points. I detail the exact way I did it on my report. The hubby hasn’t given me too much grief since that latest adventure. It blew his mind! Especially when I told him he didn’t have to work overtime to pay for any of it!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I keep a very detailed excel spreadsheet of all the credit cards I’ve applied for, the ones I’m considering, and the ones I’ve currently got open. I have detailed info on the sign up bonus, min. spends, fees, when to close, etc. I’m always updated this spreadsheet throughout the year when I have activity or a new offer comes out that I want to consider. I highly suggest this type of record keeping for those involved in credit card bonuses. I actually keep spreadsheets on everything. I have detailed budgets on trips I’m currently planning, the points/miles required for each expense, points/miles earned, etc.
I update the spreadsheet as I’m earning, planning and budgeting for a trip. This many not be possible for those not as computer savvy though. In that case I recommend just keeping all your notes for all the promotions and every mile/point deal in a file folder. Always keep hard copies & screen prints of offers especially large ones. I have a huge file folder and go through it now and then to toss old stuff. Keeping good records is so very important in this hobby. If you would like a copy of any of my spreadsheets for an example just email me or you can see one I’ve got up online here. Feel free to email me and I’ll send you some samples of other budgets I use. I use to be an business administrative/financial gal back in my working days so this stuff is second nature for me.
I’ve found UsingMiles to be a great program to track and organize all your programs. What really makes it unique is that you can see all the bonuses offered by loyalty programs too and you can search for award seats if you have the premium membership. I currently have a partnership relationship with UsingMiles in which I am able to offer all my readers the Premium Membership ($29.99/year) for FREE! I would be happy to extend that to all the Million Mile Secret readers today! You can visit my site to learn more about the program.
You can join for free through my special link today! FYI, I don’t receive any commission on this deal. Just a mutually beneficial relationship where I promote their service and they promote my resource site. Anyway, I would recommend enter all your programs into their system first. You can then play around with all the great features and tools. You’ll be so happy to see all your programs organized in one place. Not to mention be able to access the benefits of the Premium Membership. Enjoy!
(some may already know this but newbies probably won’t) If are coming home from Great Britain, if you fly home from Ireland instead of anywhere in the UK you will save significant money on the taxes. You must return home from Dublin and not Belfast as Belfast is part of the United Kingdom and will hit you with that huge GB tax. Just a little something to keep in mind when planning a trip in that part of Europe.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Hmm….this is a tough one! I pretty much always know when I’m earning points. Haven’t really got any I didn’t know about. The only thing I could say is that I do love the surprise miles I earn from registering my husband’s cards with all the dining programs. He isn’t into the hobby and will surely not go out of his way to eat at a place because he might earn a few miles. I would on the other hand. So it’s always a nice surprise when miles from his dining hit our accounts. I love it! He has no clue that he is earning anything.
It’s great! So if you have a spouse or significant other that isn’t interested in play the game, just register loyalty accounts for them (as long as there okay with it) and grab all the extra/free miles and points you can for them. I have so many accounts for every member in our family, children included. The only accounts I don’t do for the children our hotel. Doesn’t seem quite right! They really couldn’t check into a hotel and redeem their points if you earned a free night through their account right; unless you can transfer those miles/points to a family account.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I’d know about credit cards and how to earn pile of miles from credit card sign up bonuses. If I were doing what I do now when I was single, boy I would have seen a lot more of the world. Still lots of time, just need a bit more miles/points with the kiddos now! So if you are young and single, keep your credit good and get into the game. I’ve always had stellar credit but I never knew what an asset it was until about 10 years ago! Now I guard it with my life! It is an absolute misconception that applying for credit cards and closing them ruins your credit! Mine has only increased over the years. Small drops when I close cards but always rebounds and never below excellent.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I hated writing when I was in high school. I always dreaded book reports! I’d do anything to avoid writing. Funny! Now I’m a blogger! Who would have thought! I love to write now but it’s probably because I love what I’m writing about! I also disliked reading in school. Now I read all the time because I love what I’m readying which is mostly always travel related.
I love quilting, make crafts, playing or coaching basketball, cycling, gardening and just being at the beach! I’ve been so blessed to be raised on the Central Coast of California and have the beach minutes away. I know now as an adult how good I have it. The little town I grew up in Los Osos is a hidden gem that many tourists never discover. A place Rick Steves I’m sure would write about if he did US travel. I’m thankful to be able to just “travel” to Montana De Oro with the kids and feel like I’m on vacation. Life is good and I’m thankful!
Any parting words?
Where did the name Miles Momma come from you might wonder. Well, I am first and foremost a Momma. Second, I’m a die hard mile and point collector. So there you go! I have two beautiful energy filled boys. I’m home full time with them and love my job! I homeschool too and keep very busy with Momma life and all their sporting and social activities. I love traveling with my children. Children make traveling more fun than you could have ever imagined. People who don’t enjoy traveling with children have just a different mindset I guess. They really do add the spice to the cake; the whipping cream to the sundae; and definitely put the cherry on top. My little boys are such incredible little world travelers. Both were traveling as infants with their first international trips before the age of 2.
So many wonderful moments that were made traveling together as a family. These wonderful memories clutter my mind often as I’m doing dishes or laundry. I’m currently dreaming about my trip to Prague in a week, our family’s trip to the East Coast in October, and our month long adventure to Great Britain next spring. Lots of planning and saving to be done! The adventures our little family has had so far are incredible and would have not happened without the miles and points I’ve earned over the years. I feel very blessed and thank all of my fellow mile and point collectors that have help me gain the knowledge I have today. Feel free to come on over and check out the Miles Momma site!
I’d love to share anything I’ve learned over the years and help you be able to have more adventures with your family. The dream of travel is really possible for the average person or family. We are that family. Single family income (hubby works for AT&T as a splicer), stay-at-home mom……..just average. Not poor and not rich! Just rich in love, friends and happiness! Thanks for reading everyone!
Faith– Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!