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Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where renowned mile and point gurus share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Rom’s Deals
Rom writes Rom’s Deals where he shares his secrets on becoming a savvy traveler and spender, so I was looking forward to our Friday chat!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I’ve been collecting miles only since the summer of 2011. My wife and I were planning for our wedding last year and I was in charge of the honeymoon and paying for the wedding. I looked for ways to save on our honeymoon and found some travel blogs and Flyertalk.
I read how people were going on their honeymoons for close to no costs and I was interested. Our wedding reception took credit card payments in multiple payments so I could easily meet spending requirements for 5 to 6 credit cards. We decided on going to Kauai, and I started collecting points and miles to go there.
After spending only 50,000 British Airways Avios points and a couple Starwood and Hyatt points on hotels, I was hooked!
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started my blog because I wanted to share with people unique ways to earn points and share about unique ways to spend less. I wanted to share with people my actual experience of applying for credit cards, spending, and traveling. I want to help people come up with innovative ways to earn thousands of points.
I also wanted to share tips on how to take advantage of deals and various tricks to make travel cheaper such as traveling with one backpack, hand washing clothes, taking public transportation, eating at supermarkets, renting apartments.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
The obvious answer is credit cards. With certain banks, you can keep applying for cards every 91 days to be conservative. Once you meet the maximum amount of cards you can have, (for me it was 4) wait until your annual fee is up and apply for a new card. Then call the reconsideration line and ask to replace your old card with your new card.
I have successfully applied for 18 credit cards in a little over a year. Apply for 3 to 4 cards a day to receive only one hard inquiry.
Take advantage of the 5x bonuses from Chase to rack up points very quickly. Use the Chase Ink Plus or Bold to pay for your cable bill and phone bill monthly, which alone pays for your annual fee. Also, if you can find Vanilla Reload cards, you can load your Bluebird card and pay your credit card bills with it. Also, max out your Chase Freedom 5x bonuses.
For example, this quarter you can get 5% back from Best Buy and Kohl’s. You can buy Amazon Kindle gift cards at Best Buy to easily spend money on Amazon. You can also earn 15x points right now from Kohl’s because you get 10X from the Ultimate Rewards Mall and 5X from Chase Freedom. Finding new ways to max out 5X bonuses is one of my big focuses.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Since I’ve only been collecting points and miles for a little over a year, I’ve taken a honeymoon trip to Kauai and Europe mostly with points. Both travel experiences were memorable, but Italy definitely has to be the most memorable. I booked an Airberlin Business Class flight from Los Angeles to Rome and Paris to Los Angeles.
We followed Rick Steve’s guide to Rome, Cinque Terre, Florence, and Venice. Cinque Terre has to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.
We stayed in Cornigilia at a B&B overlooking the ocean for 75 Euros! I woke up at 7am one day to go hiking along the coast of Cinque Terre and it was one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. We also stayed 3 nights at the Park Hyatt Vendome and had their $75 breakfast buffet for free with Hyatt Diamond Status.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
My wife rolls her eyes when I talk about it, but recently she’s been more receptive because she reaps the benefits. After impressing her with the Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris, she has little to complain about.
My family constantly travels to China and Taiwan for business and leisure. They find my hobby very useful because I book trips for them or give them advice how to collect miles. I recently booked a complicated trip for 4 people to visit both Japan and Taiwan for 90,000 US Airways miles each.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I use both Mint and Awardwallet to track my finances and miles. With Mint, I can track my spending on my 20+ credit cards. I also use Tripit to keep track of my travel itinerary and confirmation numbers. Finally, I keep an excel spreadsheet of all my credit card showing application dates so I can know when to sign up for my credit cards.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I once bought a jar of jam for about 8 bucks, which yielded 1,500 UA points. I also loaded up my AMEX prepaid card with lots of Vanilla reloads and made periodic payments to my wedding reception venue. I also bought a few XBOXs and PS3s during black Friday and resold them for a small profit, but that helped meet my minimum spend.
I’ve also bought a few concert tickets for small profits and meeting minimum spend.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish that I would have applied for my credit cards in a more orderly fashion. I was not aware of the two or three browser trick in the beginning. Therefore, I received many hard inquiries at the start of this hobby. Now I recommend applying for multiple credit cards on the same day every 91 days or more.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Even though I travel in business class, I still only bring a backpack to travel. Sometimes people give my wife and I weird looks because I look like a low budget backpacker in a premium cabin. I love the mobility of backpacking because I can save even more money by taking public transportation and travel more efficiently to many cities.
I love snowboarding, backpacking, and the outdoors. I love combining multiple hobbies together, such as using points for a snowboarding trip. I am also a CPA who contemplated on starting a CPA business, but points and miles have taken over my interests.
Any parting words?
Take advantage of every deal out there and travel more. Don’t wait for retirement to start traveling, do it now with points and miles! I’ve collected
Rom– Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!