“Outline a Plan Before You Start Earning Points Haphazardly”

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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:   MoneyTravelLife

Ryan writes MoneyTravelLife to help readers stretch every dollar.

MoneyTravelLife - Interview With Ryan
The View in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Ryan’s 1st Trip Abroad Since He Was 18

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

I started collecting miles and points in January 2014.  If you had to read that twice and think January 2014 is a typo, rest assured that I am super new to the miles and points hobby.  I started after learning about FlyerTalk from a co-worker.

I’ve always traveled a little for work but never focused on miles or points.  After learning I could travel for free on just points, I was determined to make this work for me.  I started with the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard.  I used the $440 worth of travel credits against a trip to the Dominican Republic with my wife.

Why did you start your blog?  What’s special about it?

I started my blog because I enjoy writing and sharing my thoughts.  I also wanted a way to explain my expedition into credit card points and miles with friends and family.  Sometimes it’s hard to explain while having a beer and pizza.  I wanted to create a place where people could not only read what I’m doing, but I could also share links to where I’m getting my information.

MoneyTravelLife is special because I share more than just miles and points information.  I also share information about other things in life.  I’ve shared budgeting articles for my sister’s benefit.

I’ve shared mobile phone plan reviews at the request of friends.  I even share wine reviews because I think it’s fun.  My blog is a helpful resource for beginner points enthusiasts like myself but it’s also about saving money and experiencing life.

What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?

I really wanted to come up with a witty response for this question, or at least something different from every other response.  The obvious answer is signing-up for credit cards.  There is simply no easier way to get more miles.

However, I think it’s important to remember to link EVERY single credit card to a dining rewards program so you never miss out on miles from random meals.  I get a kick out of seeing miles post when I had no idea the restaurant was part of the program.

MoneyTravelLife - Interview With Ryan
Smokestack on the Brewery Tour at My Favorite Craft Brewery in Kansas City, Missouri

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

Unlike most other bloggers, I didn’t grow up traveling the world.  I live in the Midwest and went to Branson, Missouri, annually.  Other than that, I didn’t travel much.

My family went to Florida every few years for a longer summer vacation.  I went to Michigan a few times in college.  However, until I started my career, I had never been west of Kansas.

I was only out of the US 1 time, when I was about 6 years old on a Disney cruise in the Caribbean (unless you count the time I crossed the border to Canada on a road trip…I was in Canada for about 30 minutes).

Therefore, I don’t have a breadth of experiences to choose from.  However, my favorite trip was the trip with my wife to the Dominican Republic.

What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?

They’ve asked questions and sought advice but none of them have been interested in scaling it up to the level most of us operate.  Mainly, they are looking for advice on getting just 1 card.  I don’t try to push it on anyone.

I was very nervous to get into this hobby and don’t think many people can stomach the organization necessary to stay on top of multiple credit card applications.  One person who loves this hobby is my wife because she gets to travel.

MoneyTravelLife - Interview With Ryan
The Lobby of the Raphael Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri

Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?

It’s hard to come up with something new or different here.  Like many other bloggers, I think AwardWallet is a big help.  It’s a common response to this question, but it is truly a blessing.

Also, I keep a spreadsheet with all my credit cards listed.  It helps me track payment due dates, minimum spending requirements and next eligible card sign-ups.  You have to be organized with this hobby.

What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?

A while back I was thrilled to get 8,000 miles from Spirit Airlines for complaining about other airlines (this deal is no longer available).

Spirit doesn’t really fly out of my home airport so the miles were useless to me.  However, I used the miles for 6 magazine subscriptions.  This is not how I would have ever expected to earn or redeem miles.

What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?

I am constantly learning new things about this hobby.  The main thing I wish I would have known to have a plan for the miles before you earn them.  I’ve signed-up for 10 cards so far this year but haven’t really identified what I’m going to do with my points.

I’ve thought about a trip to Europe with an emphasis on England but that doesn’t work with my wife’s schedule.  Now, we are thinking Bora Bora but I’ve collected too many various point currencies whereas I only need 2 different currencies for Bora Bora.

Bottom line:   It’s most beneficial to outline a plan before you start earning miles haphazardly.  I started off with a strategy but that strategy has already changed and I’ve only been doing this for 10 months.

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

I’ve mentioned this before but I think it’s most surprising that I never really traveled as a kid.  I still have only been to a handful of states and even fewer countries.  I also never really worried about credit card points until recently.

I’m proof that you don’t have to be a hardened traveler to get into this.  Everyone can figure it out if they just take it slow and stay organized and focused.

MoneyTravelLife - Interview With Ryan
Our Room in Punta Cana

Any parting words?

I appreciate the opportunity to do this interview.  This interview series has always been 1 of my favorite weekly reads related to miles and points.  I thank your readers in advance and hope they’ll give me a try in their blog reading rotation.  Thanks for reading!

Ryan – 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!


Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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