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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: Points Fitness
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started collecting miles back when I was in my teens. My dad opened miles accounts for the family, and we traveled once or twice a year. Then, while I was in college (around 2006 and 2007) I started traveling a little more, until one year and without any intention, I hit United Premier Silver status.
So I started to look a little more at what could be done with miles at that time. I still collected most of my miles by flying. Up to this point, I had maybe 1 or 2 miles earning credit cards, and worried for my credit score.
Then ~4 years ago, I seriously started leveraging many methods to earn miles, and have held United Premier Platinum status since.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
When you realize the amazing things that can be done with miles & points, you start telling everyone. Friends, co-workers, neighbors, random people even… I saw how people that had no hope of traveling now could afford it and all because of the little I had shared. So I thought, well, if I’m going to give advice to some, I might as well to many.
As for the push I needed to actually do it, that came from Rene of Renes Points. He’s a good friend of mine and has been an awesome resource for me these last several months (thanks Rene!). This is one thing about travel bloggers, there’s a great camaraderie among them which made it that much easier to want to join in.
My blog focuses particularly on flying with United Airlines and its partners. Though I fly out of Chicago O’Hare these days, I flew United Airlines for some 15 years out of San Juan and I guess there’s some sort of emotional attachment there, since they were my first airline. As everyone knows though, United Airlines’ last 10 years have been rocky.
But they’ve been great to me even in their worst times, so I want everyone to know that there’s a lot of value to tap into with United Airlines and its partners! Besides, things are getting a whole lot better in the past couple of years, except for a few (major) PR nightmares (for example, #leggingsgate).
Lastly, I’ve been a fitness buff for years, and even ran my own gym for a while. So during my travels I’m making sure to visit several gyms and review them in my blog, so other fitness buffs can use that as reference when traveling abroad. I throw in some info about staying active while traveling as well, good fitness equipment to travel with, and things like that.
Hence the name of the blog, Points Fitness – Fit for miles and travel. It’s about being fit points-wise and also physically, as both are important to enjoying travel.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Not just the most lucrative, but the easiest really – credit cards. Though I earn miles in many other ways, there’s no comparison to the amount to effort ratio that one gets from credit cards. If at this moment you can’t be applying for credit cards, does that mean you can’t earn tons of miles and points?
Absolutely not. It’s just a matter of getting creative and spending a bit of your time doing so.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Oh man, this is tough. You know what I mean. One experience that jumps out because it was just so cool was being on a hot air balloon over Cappadocia, Turkey, and picking apples while in the air and then eating them as we kept going about our flight. It was so awesome!!
Needless to say, those were the best apples we ever ate in our lives. But again, I think there’s a long list of first place finishers for most memorable experiences. Tomorrow I might talk about a different one.
With miles & points, you’re not restricted to one most memorable experience.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
At first, they thought it was crazy that at one point or another I had 15+ credit cards open. Also, they were a bit skeptical that there was NOT a catch to all this. But little by little, as they kept learning more, they ultimately used points to travel themselves!
Many of them follow my blog, and are now avid points and miles collectors. And the ones who aren’t just call me up to help them on their next trip.
As it’d be expected, a switch goes off when someone flies First or Business Class to Europe for the first time, paying almost nothing for it. There will always be those who just aren’t interested. I won’t ever understand this, but that’s okay too.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
For me it’s been the United MileagePlus X app, since I mostly collect United Airlines miles, aside from transferable points. I’ve earned so many United Airlines miles and with such a great redemption rate.
I wrote an article particularly about triple dipping with Starbucks purchases – and we drink A LOT of coffee. Whenever you can double dip or more, you know you’ve got a great tool in your hands.
Just this past quarter, my earnings were at a ratio of 4.7 miles per $1!! And that’s not even the best I’ve done. It’s unbelievable to me that more people don’t talk about it. I regularly do in my blog.
This one is actually a great tool also for those who can’t apply for multiple credit cards and want to collect miles.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I think for me it was medical expenses. I wrote a post on the benefits of having a medical plan that includes a Health Savings Account, which allows you to pay yourself back for expenses that you’ve paid for with your credit card. It’s a no-brainer that I think many are still unaware of.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I knew of ExpertFlyer, and that what the airlines may show as available is not necessarily all that’s available. I think I could’ve gotten some better value or product on multiple occasions was I aware of this from the beginning.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I think when people see bloggers that have traveled the world and have a bunch of pictures throughout the world, they may assume that this is their main job. Well, I have a regular full-time job, and I’m not required to travel often, so I’m not a frequent business traveler either. The same can be said about my wife.
Yet, we’ve always figured out how to make time to travel and everyone can do it too, within their own circumstances. It’s just a matter of good planning and strategizing. One thing we’ve done is take short weekend trips regardless of distance.
The balance between work and life is a big thing nowadays, so it’s important that you sit down with your boss and be frank about your travel goals. Our main problem when we travel is who’s going to take care of our 3 birds (one African Grey Parrot and two conures) while we’re gone!!
On a personal note, I’m from Puerto Rico and my wife Irina is from Moldova. We love the gym and eating healthy. Go Seahawks! Go Cavs! Go Cubs! Go Kings! Vamos Vamos Rafa! Vamos Barza!
Any parting words?
I suppose I can conclude by saying that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, you probably can travel more than you imagine. Just give our suggestions a try. You’ll have the most enriching experiences and memories that’ll last forever.
Oh and one last thing, give United Airlines a try, you might just be surprised in a good way. (I’m sure I’ll get a lot of love from this).
Again, thank you Million Mile Secrets! I look forward to more miles & points for years to come!
Ricardo – 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!