“I Wasn’t Always Responsible With Credit Cards…”

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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:   Travel Hack Guy

Richard writes Travel Hack Guy to share his travel stories and tell folks how he earns miles.

Travel Hacking - Interview With Richard
My Server Julian and Me on the Carnival Liberty.  My Very 1st Cruise in January 2012.

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

I started collecting miles in February of 2014.  I feel like I’m late to the game when I see how long others have been collecting miles.  However, it’s never too late to start!

I got into the game because I had visited a seminar back in October of 2013 that tried to get me to purchase a travel membership for thousands of dollars and promised 70% to 80% off what ordinary folks would pay.  Just for visiting the seminar my partner and I were promised 2 round-trip airline tickets.

Since I wanted to go to New York City in the spring, I thought this would be an easy way to get free airline tickets!  I filled out the forms and sent them in and of course nothing ever came of it.

Therefore, I started to look for alternative methods in February to fly out to New York City and stumbled upon a few travel blogs.  Had I never visited that seminar I probably wouldn’t be here today earning gobs of miles!

One of my favorite quotes is, “Everything happens for a reason.”

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

I started my blog because I initially wanted to help friends and family understand how I was earning miles so fast.  I’d post on Facebook that I just booked another ticket and for how much.  Of course this is always going to turn heads and get people asking questions!

Therefore, I created Travel Hack Guy so I can have a central location where I can post about my experiences!

My blog is special because I’m still very new to the game.  I can offer insights on what’s been working for me.  Having a fresh set of eyes is always good because a new person can bring other ideas to the table!

Travel Hacking - Interview With Richard
The Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, North Carolina.  My 3rd Visit in September 2014

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

Sign-up for a credit card!

This is the easiest and fastest way to earn miles.  The key thing is to watch for credit cards that offer large sign-up bonuses from time to time.  Whether you’re looking for a card that offers a low spending requirement or a high spending requirement, you’ll be sure to find one!

I was fortunate enough to get in the miles game right when you could get 100,000 miles with the Citi American Airlines Executive card when you spend $10,000 within 3 months.  This is a perfect example of how you can earn enough miles for a round-trip Business Class ticket over to Europe via a credit card.

If you’re new to the game or you don’t feel comfortable with such a high spending requirement, then there are other options out there like the American Express Delta Gold card.  American Express just ended their 50,000 SkyMiles promotion, but this credit card only required $1,000 in purchases within the 1st 3 months.

For most people this option is feasible because just by putting your regular monthly bills on the card you can meet the spending requirement in no time.  You’ll then be on your way to earning your 1st free airline ticket!

Travel Hacking - Interview With Richard
9/11 Memorial in New York City in May 2014

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

Back in July, I traveled to London for the 1st time with my friend and his brother who are from Germany.  Because I had signed-up for the Citi 100,000 American Airlines offer, I was able to book my 1st First Class ticket over to Europe!  For me, my vacation starts the minute I walk out the door.

I never thought in a million years I’d be able to fly First Class over to Europe.  This was an excellent start to my vacation which made it memorable forever.  The difference between First Class and coach is the difference between night and day for me.

I was promptly shown to my seat and offered a glass of champagne.  Whenever the stewardess noticed my glass was empty they were right there to top me off!  A menu was also left with me the entire flight.

Any time a stewardess caught me opening up the menu they were kind enough to ask if there was anything they could get me.  I really hope my readers will get to experience First Class at least once in their life!

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

Growing up I’ve always tried to find a way to “work the system.”  I don’t think my family was surprised once I told them I found a way to earn airline miles at a faster rate.  They just viewed it as another adventure of mine.

Of course my friends wanted to know the ins and outs and how they can get started.  The game is always changing and I read up every day to stay current on the topic.  I try not to tell people what to do verbatim, because the next day it may not work for them.

Instead, I like to give my friends and family the tools and websites that I used to get into the game.  That way if they decide to venture off on their own they can.

Travel Hacking - Interview With Richard
Mahana Bay in Honolulu, Hawaii. My 2nd Visit in January 2010.

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

There are so many credit cards to choose from.  Practically every airline has a credit card, but it’s hard to decide which ones to sign-up for.  Up until this year I had no idea that you could use your miles with 1 airline to book an award ticket on another airline.

I found this trick especially useful, because when a large credit card sign-up offer comes along you don’t necessarily have to pass on it if that particular airline doesn’t fly out of your main hub.

The perfect example is British Airways and American Airlines.  British Airways doesn’t fly out of my airport, Minneapolis, but American Airlines does.  By collecting British Airways miles, I can book an American Airlines award ticket on the British Airways website.  I never knew this!

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

Dining out.  Thanks to MillionMileSecrets, I discovered that Delta has a dining program.  Just for registering in the program and spending $30 at a participating restaurant, I was able to collect 2,500 Delta miles.  The Delta miles dining program allows you to register up to 5 credit cards.

Whenever you eat at a participating restaurant you collect Delta miles.  I registered my American Express Delta credit card so I can double dip my earnings!  I’ll earn miles from the Delta dining program and then Delta dining from American Express.

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

Diversify your miles and points because airlines can devalue their miles program at any time!  I was just a few days away from getting ready to book an AAnytime award seat when American Airlines changed the amount of miles needed from 125,000 to 175,000 miles for a 1-way ticket!

Thankfully I was still able to find a SAAver flight a few days later.  Had I diversified my miles I could have turned to another airline to book my award ticket.  In the end everything worked out.

Travel Hacking - Interview With Richard
My 2nd Time Cruising. This Time It Was on the Carnival Breeze in January 2013.

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

I wasn’t always responsible with credit cards.  It’s true, I struggled with charging things I couldn’t afford.  I learned my lesson fast, once I started receiving collection calls.

I was even sued for 1 of the accounts and legal papers were served to me at my doorstep!  In the end I actually settled my debts through collection companies.  It took years to be able to qualify for a credit card again.

I now treat credit cards like debit cards.  I log into my accounts and make multiple payments throughout the month to bring my balances back to $0.  If I can’t afford it, I don’t charge it.

I never want to go through that again.  You live and learn.  What can you do?

Any parting words?

Don’t dig yourself into a hole that you can’t crawl out of.  If you’re new to the game, start off slow and steady and spend as much time as you can studying.

When I first started, I was literally spending 3+ hours a day reading on forums and blogs.  There’s so much information out there to decipher that you can’t possibly learn everything in 1 night.

You’re bound to make mistakes.  All you can do is learn from them.  I was approved for the American Express Platinum card and shortly after my partner read up on the benefits he decided he wanted to apply for it.

Had I logged into my American Express account, I could have sent him a referral link to collect 7,500 AMEX Membership Rewards points upon his approval.  Instead I had him go directly to the website and apply.

I tried calling American Express, but there was no way to collect the 7,500 Membership Rewards for referring him since I didn’t use my referral link.

If you don’t get approved for a credit card, always call the backdoor number for a reconsideration!

A simple Google search will bring up a bank’s backdoor number to get a live human to review your application.  I can’t tell you how many times this has come in handy.

Richard – 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!

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