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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 With Q
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I learned about points and miles in late 2014 after receiving a text from a friend on Christmas morning. The text told me to find The Points Guy on Twitter, and specifically, his tweet about a mistake fare from New York (JFK) to Johannesburg, South Africa.
At the time, I had no idea about The Points Guy or what a mistake fare was. Several years and many hours of research later, I’ve been able to experience amazing trips and cultures thanks to miles & points.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
There are incredible blogs out there providing tremendous resources for learning about the miles & points hobby. My blog is a way for me to help people who are new to the points and miles space, while being more creative with my content through writing and video.
All of my content focuses on providing information that I wish I had when I started learning about miles & points.
For example, I took my first trip with points and miles to Southeast Asia in 2016.
When I started my blog, I took a look back at how I booked that award flight, and used what I know now to provide readers with insight into how to book a similar trip.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
I’ll cheat here and provide two:
1. Be Patient
Credit card companies’ rules and policies are making it more difficult to quickly generate large quantities of points and miles, compared to in the past. Before applying for any credit card, I’d suggest mapping out exactly what cards you want to apply for over the following 6 to 12 months.
Because, for example, Chase prevents customers from receiving certain personal Chase credit cards if they’ve opened more than 5 cards, from any issuer, in the past 24 months (excluding Chase business cards and these other business cards).
You need to have a game plan!
2. Learn How to Maximize the Rewards You Already Have
Airlines are part of alliances that allow you to book award flights on their partner airlines. And collecting flexible points, like Chase Ultimate Rewards, gives you more options.
United Airlines charges 120,000 miles to fly round-trip in Business Class from the US to Europe. But instead, you could book with Korean Air miles. Because they only charge 80,000 miles to fly round-trip in Business Class from the US to Europe on their partner, Delta.
Knowing about that partnership alone saved me 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points on a recent ticket to Europe!
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
My trip to Southeast Asia in 2016 was a complete culture shock. I’ve never been so far out of my comfort zone and it felt amazing.
My girlfriend and I flew out of New York (Newark) to Bangkok, Thailand. Then back from Singapore to New York (JFK).
Along the way we visited Phuket, Thailand, Siem Reap, Cambodia, and Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. The people were incredibly welcoming, the food was delicious, and the experience is one I’ll never forget.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
My close family is risk averse and skeptical about having multiple lines of credit open. Lately, they’ve asked about which credit cards they should apply for, how they can travel like my girlfriend and I do, and where we’re heading next. This makes me think they’re warming up to the hobby.
My close friends are also starting to get into miles & points, but haven’t made the plunge. They’re extremely curious, but very cautious like I was. It seems extremely risky when you’re new to it!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
There are several! For flights, I start backwards with my search using Wikipedia. I’ll look up the Wikipedia page for the airport I want to fly into and what airlines fly the route I need.
Then I use Google Flights for a high level view of whether the route is actually flown. I also use AwardHacker to get a grasp of the points and miles I should consider. And lastly, I’ll search “best points and miles to fly to X city or country” for blog posts covering the topic.
I’ve also found Great Circle Mapper to be an excellent resource for award programs based on the distance you fly.
For hotels, Award Mapper is a great place to start.
Lately, I’ve been using a new feature from Google. Here’s how it works…
Search the country or city you want to travel to on Google. On the right hand side of the Google search page, you’ll see an overview of the destination, and directly below the overview it says, “Plan a trip.”
What’s great about this feature is that it reduces the amount of time needed to research your trip. If you click the compass, bed, or airplane icons below “Plan a trip,” the icons provide you with recommended travel guides, hotels, and flights.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
This actually happened recently!
I was reading a Million Mile Secrets article covering Joseph’s “The 5 Cards I’m Using the Most Right Now.” From this post I learned that through March 31, 2018, you can earn 5% back (5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1) when you use the Chase Freedom through Android Pay, Apple Pay, Chase Pay, and Samsung Pay. On up to $1,500 in combined bonus category spending!
I’ve never used Apple or Chase Pay before, so this was great to know. Because until reading this article, I’d only planned to use my Chase Freedom card for gas, internet, phone, and cable expenses.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
There are 2 things I wish I’d known about in the beginning:
1. Chase’s 5/24 Rule
The Chase 5/24 rule was instated after I began collecting points and miles. And because of it, I was ineligible for the 100,000-point sign-up bonus on the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. Having the foresight and knowing that authorized users count towards this rule would have been helpful.
2. The Award Travel 101 Facebook Group
This particular Facebook group is led by Richard Kerr, a Senior Points and Miles Contributor for The Points Guy. I wouldn’t know half the information I know now without him. I highly recommend checking out the group.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I research and write about points and miles in conjunction to my day job. I’ve found that the more effort and time I put in, the more rewarding the hobby has become.
Michael – 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!