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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: Mining for Miles
Mordechai writes Mining for Miles to tell readers about the best uses of miles & points and maximizing their credit card spending. You can join his active and thoughtful community on Facebook. And check out his destination pictures (and memes!) on Instagram.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting miles & points when I got my first real job – after college! I grew up thinking credit cards were the devil and would saddle me with enormous debt. I’m happy I was able to prove myself wrong.
My first rewards card was the Chase British Airways Visa Signature Card, when the bonus was 100,000 British Airways Avios points after spending $20,000 over the course of a year. I took me time, but I put every single purchase on my card – and moving and planning a wedding didn’t hurt either!
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
Like a lot of people in this hobby, I got started because I would take amazing trips for nearly free and my friends and family wanted to know how we traveled in Business and First Class for pennies on the dollar. I wanted to add my unique voice to the already crowded space.
As a kosher traveler, there are lots of far-flung destinations that lack kosher food. I like to focus on that (when applicable) and how you don’t need to let availability of restaurants limit your travels and wanderlust. On top of that – food is often part of another culture and destination – but you can still integrate your trip into the culture without eating the local cuisine.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Never. Use. Cash. (Or debit).
Credit card acceptance has only been increasing. Put every purchase on a credit card. In fact, you probably spend more than you think and this will put you on the track to earn the lucrative sign-up bonuses and more.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I actually have two!
1. I feel when traveling to a new destination it’s great to be there for festivals or certain times of year that are significant to the locals.
Enter Cherry Blossom season in Tokyo, Japan, April 2016.
Amazing culture, people, and such an appreciation for the beauty of the cherry blossom.
2. This past Thanksgiving I was in London. At the Tower of London I ran into none other than Tywin Lannister (from Game of Thrones) – Charles Dance – who was kind enough to take a picture with me.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
I was introduced to the miles & points hobby by a family member and I was extremely, extremely skeptical. But, after some coaxing and coaching I was hooked.
I would say it’s the same with my family and friends. The most rewarding part of blogging is helping people – in particular – helping family and friends who don’t know who to reach out to otherwise.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I like to say that understanding award programs and their multitude of rules and exceptions requires you to be a lawyer!
On top of that, award programs are constantly changing, devaluing, and (sometimes) re-valuing. My favorite tool is AwardHacker – its easy to use interface means you don’t need to memorize how many miles you need to fly from New York to Seychelles (or anywhere else). As a bonus, the interface shows active routes from your origin to destination.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Refer-a-friend bonuses are a great way to get a few extra miles or points. The hard part is that you only know someone used your refer-a-friend link when you get the bonus posted on your statement. What a nice surprise (and thank you!).
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Credit scores and what makes up a person’s credit score and overall credit health.
There are a lot of misconceptions about credit scores. Part of being a responsible user of credit cards (and points & miles) is to acknowledge the credit score/health component and work it into every aspect of applications and new accounts.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I love science fiction, particularly Star Wars. Though I haven’t had the chance to fly the Star Wars jets by ANA, it’s the one thing I’m looking forward to doing most.
Any parting words?
We all have different travel goals, be it destination or aspirational travel. At the end of the day, do what’s best for you – not me, not your friends – but for you. On top of that, you know your spending habits and capabilities better than anyone else. Use that to dictate new credit cards, annual fees and more.
Mordechai – 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!