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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: The Dessert Engineer
Nanette and Johnny started writing The Dessert Engineer to share Johnny’s dessert creations, but it turned into a way to document their travel adventures.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
I started applying for travel credit cards around 2005. Back then I only applied for 1 card per year, cancelled it when the annual fee came due, and moved on to the next card.
Then I got married in 2008, and wanted to travel more with my husband. One day as I was flipping through a travel magazine, I stumbled upon an article that featured a few travel bloggers who collected miles and points from multiple credit cards. I visited their websites and learned the tricks of how to accrue points and miles more efficiently.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
We launched The Dessert Engineer in September of 2011 as a way to celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary. If you notice, the title of our blog has nothing to do with travel because we started it to showcase my husband’s dessert creations. My husband, Johnny, is a structural engineer who loves to bake; hence I nicknamed him “The Dessert Engineer.”
Since we started to travel more and more, I decided to chronicle the trips that we take together as a couple. Thus our site encompasses all of our adventures, from local explorations to faraway travels to baking.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Currently we are still relying on credit cards to generate most of our hotel points and miles. I usually time our applications so that they coincide with upcoming major purchases and increased sign-up bonuses.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Like a lot of other people, there’s not just a single trip that leaves a long-lasting impression. I grew up in Indonesia, and when I was a 1st grader my family embarked on a 2-week guided tour exploring the entire island of Java. We had the opportunity to visit a batik factory, ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples in Central Java, and various beaches and volcanoes.
In my early teenage years, my grandparents and I spent a week in Bali experiencing everything that the island had to offer. The time spent with my grandparents was so valuable, especially now that my grandfather is no longer with us.
Johnny and I also choose travel as a means to create a stronger bond in our marriage. We easily forget material gifts, but we always reminisce on our adventures finding quirky roadside attractions, preparing freshly caught crabs on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and staying at a luxurious cottage in New Orleans where the great naturalist John James Audubon once lived.
For Johnny, some of the moments he enjoyed the most from our recent getaways include swimming with the manatees in Florida, SNUBA-ing and horseback riding in the gorgeous turquoise waters of Turks and Caicos.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
We don’t regularly discuss our hobby of collecting points & miles with friends, colleagues and family members. However, the topic does come up when we are asked why we always seem to be on vacation. Last year at Thanksgiving, Johnny invited his family over to our house for dinner, and his uncle responded by saying he didn’t even know we owned a house because we were always out of town.
Frequently, Johnny’s co-workers do come to him asking for advice on hotels, airlines and various credit cards. Meanwhile, our parents are often the recipients of a certain office-supply store rebate checks.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
When applying for business cards, oftentimes you won’t get an immediate decision. You then have the option to call and speak directly with an agent to expedite the process. We used to do this, which resulted in being grilled with numerous questions about the business.
Lately, we no longer bother to call and just take our time waiting for the result. So far we have been approved every single time regardless of whether or not we contacted the bank.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Last year, Johnny and I each received 12,000 points from the Marriott Rewards Plus Points program (this promotion has ended) by tweeting and following the social media accounts of Marriott hotels around the world. These are just a few examples of the many opportunities that are available out there.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
One of the reasons some people are reluctant to own credit cards is because of their hefty annual fees. It turns out that fees are sometimes negotiable, and that credit card companies are willing to do their part to keep you as a customer.
Also, we don’t apply for credit cards at regular intervals. There are times when we would get a new card every single month for 3 or 4 months in a row due to unusually large sign-up bonuses or an unexpected large spend. At 1st I wasn’t sure how this would impact our approval rate, but as long as we apply from a variety of companies we seem to do just fine.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Johnny and I have diverse interests and hobbies. As I mentioned above, he’s an engineer with a knack for baking (and cooking, of course). He also loves to go fishing and has an unexplained affinity for Jeeps.
I am a classically trained pianist with undergraduate degrees in economics and music. So how did we cross paths? Johnny and I were introduced by a mutual friend that I met in a traditional Indonesian dance group.
Any parting words?
As a long-time follower of Million Mile Secrets I almost never miss reading the Friday Interview series. Daraius, Emily, and other travelers who have been featured on this blog have all been inspiring in 1 way or another. Thank you, Daraius, for giving our blog recognition and for letting us share our travel tips and experiences with your readers.
Nanette and Johnny – 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!