“We Roll the Money We Save on Travel into Our Food Budget for Michelin-Star Restaurants”

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Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers. Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!

Miles & Points Interview:   Points and Miles Beyond Hawaii

Ryan and Taryn write Points and Miles Beyond Hawaii to introduce points and miles travel hacking to the people of Hawaii and share special experiences that can only be afforded when travel costs are reduced to (almost) zero.  You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Points And Miles Beyond Hawaii
Ryan and T at Kiyomizudera in Kyoto

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

We’re in the fourth year of a 3-year experiment with points and miles.  Prior to this, we did the financially “responsible” thing: 1 credit card, 1 debit card, and cash.

We were inspired by our extravagant honeymoon in Japan (Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Nara), and wanted to replicate the experience without the expense.

Points And Miles Beyond Hawaii
A Shot of Our Trip Essentials: Passports, Global Entry, and Ryan’s Itinerary

Ryan is the true instigator in this and started combing through the various blogs and sites – including Million Mile Secrets – until he had the knowledge and confidence to start their experiment.  T is a willing participant as long as she gets the awesome travel.  This experiment has become a part of our daily lives with no end in sight.

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

We had so much success with travel hacking, we created our site – mostly to share our stories and help our friends and family do the same.  People in Hawaii are financially conservative and, if we’re generalizing here, all carry the same credit card and collect the same miles (the Barclaycard Hawaiian Airlines World MasterCard and Hawaiian Miles).  We wanted to show people there was another way to travel on points and miles beyond Hawaii (hence the title of our blog).

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

Get in the game.  Keep informed.  Take every opportunity. 

This is how we earned 180,000 American Airlines miles after $3,000 in spend (and 2 years of annual fees) on the Barclaycard US Airways (no longer available) and Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MastercardThe information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

This is how we earned a bonus 20,000 Alaska Airlines miles that magically appeared in our accounts after they acquired Virgin America.  This is how we earned a 150,000 American Express Membership Rewards Points via targeted offers for business charge cards (Platinum and Gold Rewards) and another bonus 20,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points for agreeing to “pay over time.”

Points And Miles Beyond Hawaii
Ryan and T at Dinner During an Onsen Stay in Hakone

This is how we won 111,000 IHG points and a $50 debit card after sending in 188 handwritten entries in an IHG and MasterCard promotion.  Just get in the game.

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

The food.  We roll our entire savings from travel hacking into our food budget and have dedicated our recent trips almost entirely to eating and drinking.  Japan is arguably the food capital of the world, from comfort food to high cuisine, from desserts to adult beverages.

On our 2014 6-day Tokyo trip, for instance, we ate at 6 Michelin-rated restaurants.  On our 2016 8-day Kansai trip, we ate at 10 Michelin-rated restaurants.

Points And Miles Beyond Hawaii
Ryan and T at Lunch at Fujiya 1935, Osaka

Highlights have included world-class restaurants like Ryugin, Ca Sento, Mizutani (since closed), and Narisawa.  Fun fact: at every 3-star Michelin restaurant we’ve been to in Japan, the head chef has come out to personally thank us and pose for pictures.

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

Mostly, our friends and family treat our hobby with suspicion.  Ryan has begged friends and family to go earn “free” trips and has met quite a bit of resistance.  That being said, once someone sees how easy and rewarding it is, they become points and miles evangelists themselves!

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

We don’t actually have that much time and opportunity to travel, what with full-time jobs, 2 young children, and everything that comes with it.  Therefore, Ryan makes elaborate itineraries to maximize our time and opportunity to see, experience, and, especially, eat great things.  The tools and tricks we use to track and earn points and miles may help us get to places, but what we do when we’re there defines the trip.

Points And Miles Beyond Hawaii
Our Pilgrimage to the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery Near Kyoto

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

While earning points and miles via dining is common, Ryan discovered several restaurants near his workplace that had enrolled in multiple loyalty programs.  For a time, he was quadruple-dipping during lunch and earning approximately 23% back in points, miles and free food.

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

We regret not starting with Chase cards as we’re currently shut out of some very lucrative cards due to the “5/24 rule.”  Ryan also regrets not starting this hobby much sooner in life.

Points And Miles Beyond Hawaii
T and the Buddha Meet, Sensoji Temple, Asakusa

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

Well…we eloped to Vegas and made an elaborate Hangover-themed wedding slideshow (featuring Caesars Palace) to surprise our families.  And during our first travel hacking trip to Japan, we made another one with a Lost in Translation theme (featuring the Park Hyatt Tokyo).

Points And Miles Beyond Hawaii
Ryan and T Reenacting Lost in Translation in the New York Bar, Park Hyatt Tokyo, Shinjuku

Any parting words?

We are much indebted to the travel hacking community.  We haven’t really been updating our site recently, but we hope to inspire some people to travel in the same way that we’ve been inspired.

Ryan and Taryn – 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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