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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: Getting My Points High
Bethany writes Getting My Points High to share her obsession for traveling using miles & points. She also wants to help others learn how to collect points to travel anywhere in the world for almost free. Visit her site to enter to win a $25 Target gift card!
You can follow Bethany on Twitter.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
Toward the end of college I applied for my 1st Chase Southwest credit card to earn a few free flights. Over the next few years I had similar experiences with the Delta Airlines and US Airways branded credit cards. I didn’t start applying for lots of cards until January of 2013, so I have really only been at this for ~18 months now.
I spent 11 months traveling abroad on a trip called the World Race, living in 11 different 3rd world countries doing mission work. You can read more about that trip on my World Race blog. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but certainly an unforgettable experience.
When I was living in India my final month and preparing to come back to the States, I knew that:
1. I wanted to spend the rest of my life traveling as much as possible
2. I needed to sign-up for a new credit card since I was coming home broke.
Through an internet search I stumbled upon a few points and miles blogs (including Million Mile Secrets!), and I was instantly hooked on travel hacking.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog a few months ago because many of the people I know had little knowledge of travel hacking and I would always get a lot of questions about how my husband and I travel so often. So it started as a way to inform my family and friends without having to answer the same questions over and over. Although it has inevitably led to even more questions, I’m happy to help them travel for cheap!
I think what’s special about my blog is that I am also a business traveler so I try to write about ways to maximize business expenses to earn as many points and miles as possible for personal use. I also write about a variety of promotions, specifically hotel promotions, because I don’t tend to be loyal to 1 particular chain.
My current philosophy is quantity over quality. I’m just trying to get as many free nights as possible for as little out of pocket!
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Credit cards are the obvious answer here. Of course the big payoffs come in the sign-up bonuses, and my husband and I each try to sign-up for 2 to 4 new cards every few months.
I’d also recommend doing a quick search for any promotions before booking upcoming travel. For instance, if you need to book a rental car anyway, figure out which company is offering the best promotion to earn free rental days or even airline miles. Often times you can earn bonus points through booking through a portal or even a company’s phone app.
With many of the hotel promotions it is easy to rack up free nights, if you are willing to switch hotels each night. Sometimes a quick Internet search and being flexible can help you earn thousands of bonus points and miles.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
After I completed the World Race, I flew to China to spend the period between the American New Year and the Chinese New Year with my long-time boyfriend, who was living in Xi’an, China at the time. We flew down to Thailand, my absolute favorite place in the world, to backpack for 3 1/2 weeks. While walking on the beach 1 night on Ko Lanta Island, Caleb proposed!
What made it even more memorable is that we spent that night in a treehouse hostel that had a very “commune” vibe to it. That was obviously before we had enough points to stay at fancier resorts like we do now, but it was certainly my favorite and most memorable travel experience!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
My parents are actually getting into using credit cards to earn miles & points themselves to an extent, though I still have to do most of the work for them. They certainly enjoy traveling for almost free on their Southwest Companion Pass and booking cheap motels for 3,000 to 4,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points a night.
My in-laws are joining us for a European tour during Oktoberfest, and their flights and 90% of our hotel rooms are on points as well. So hopefully if that trip is a success they will be convinced! Many of my friends have started travel hacking, but of course many others still think we’re a bit nuts.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
For me the easiest way to stay on top of hot deals is through Twitter. I work full-time and am constantly traveling, so it’s hard to keep up with my own blog, let alone read all the other great travel blogs out there every day.
So I follow all my favorite bloggers and travel companies on Twitter and then at the very least I know if I do a quick scroll I can get caught up on the big miles and points news from the day. On my phone I “favorite” tweets I am interested in and then go back later when I have time and read the posts in more detail.
Follow me @pointshigh!
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I stayed at a Country Inn and Suites property during a work trip and the stay was less than satisfactory to say the least. I sent a very polite email to Club Carlson’s customer service, outlining some of the issues I faced. They very generously credited my account 38,000 points, the equivalent of a 1 night stay at that hotel.
Because I have the Club Carlson Visa card and can use the bonus award night feature, I was able to use those points to book a 2-night stay in the French Quarter of New Orleans during Mardi Gras next year!
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
That signing-up for lots of card can actually greatly increase your credit score if done correctly!
Both my husband and I have had the same experience in that our credit scores have gone up dramatically since we began applying for multiple rewards earning credit cards. Of course this is not everyone’s experience, and I’m sure the longer we do this the more it will catch up to us, but in the short term our scores have been affected more positively than negatively.
The effect on credit scores is the number 1 concern of people new to this game, and I’d like to reassure everyone that if you are responsible and organized you can earn thousands of dollars worth of free travel while also maintaining, or even improving your credit score.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
My husband and me are both itching to travel full-time again and our pipe-dream is that we’ll be able to take 1 more longer-term, epic trip around the world before we settle down to start a family.
Our hope is that we’ll be able to travel for 6+ months solely on miles and points! This dream is a few years away from becoming a reality, but I’m sure the closer it gets more and more of the focus of my blog will turn to sustaining a life of globe-trotting primarily on miles and points.
Any parting words?
My blog is named “Getting My Points High” because of the ecstatic feeling I get from saving so much money! This blogging thing is more time consuming than I expected. So unfortunately I haven’t been as consistent as I would like to be with my busy schedule.
Readers can always tell when I’m on a points high myself though because I tend to post several things in a row, then there’s a nice lull until the next post. It’s a work in progress! Cheers to those of you that are able to continually post new content for us readers on a daily basis, and thanks for all your hard work!
Bethany – 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!