“I Want to Help My Readers Live a Happier Life – Enjoying Experiences Rather Than Things”

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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:  Zen Life and Travel

Katie writes Zen Life and Travel to share the perks and benefits of collecting credit card points, airline miles, hotel points, elite status, and more.  You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest!

Zen Life And Travel
Having Fun at St. Pete Beach, Florida

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

I officially started collecting miles & points in January 2016, so I am a relative newbie.  A friend of my husband’s first turned me on to the hobby and gave me some suggestions on where to start reading – Million Mile Secrets was the first blog I read and is still one of my favorites!

My first card was the Chase Sapphire Preferred with a 50,000 point bonus.  From the moment I got my shiny new (metal!) card, I was hooked.  I made a few excel spreadsheets to keep everything organized and never looked back.

Zen Life And Travel
My Husband and I Recently Completed Our Open Water Diving Certification in Key Largo, Florida

The next month I got a targeted offer for The Platinum Card® from American Express with a 100,000 point AMEX Membership Rewards points bonus, so I definitely started out strong!

Since then, I have opened 12 cards (between my husband and me) and earned 775,000 miles & points from sign-up bonuses alone!

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

I started my blog because, as a stay at home mom, I needed a creative outlet.  I love writing as well as sharing my travels and miles & points strategies, so a blog seemed like the perfect answer.

My blog is unique for 2 reasons:

First, because I keep things simple.  I created a Miles & Points 101 reference page with a 3-part beginners guide and simple breakdowns of different types of points including Chase Ultimate Rewards and AMEX Membership Rewards points.  It’s a great reference for those just getting into the points and miles game.

Zen Life And Travel
With My 3 Year Old Daughter, Ellie

The second unique aspect of my blog is that I also focus on  happiness, or what I call “Zen“.

I want to help my readers live a happier life  – enjoying experiences rather than things.  Every day I try to focus on slowing down, being present in my life and appreciating where I am and what I have.  It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.

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

The number 1 answer is credit card bonuses – obviously!

But, I think you can maximize your points earnings by paying attention to bonus categories like the Chase Freedom 5X point categories or 2X points on travel and dining offered on a number of cards.  Knowing the ins and outs of each card in your wallet is a simple, but effective, strategy for maximizing every dollar spent.

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

It would have to be a family trip to Maui in January 2013.  We went on a boat ride one day that included snorkeling.  I was TERRIFIED of being in the water and had no intention of participating in the snorkeling.
Zen Life And Travel
Snorkeling in Maui

Somehow, my family convinced me to try it and, after a bit of panic when I first got in, I ended up loving it.  I was so proud of myself on the boat ride back and had one of those “life is good” moments that I will never forget.  Since then I have snorkeled in Bermuda and even got my scuba diving certification a few months ago in Key Largo, Florida!

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

Most of them think it’s pretty cool, but too much work!  I have a few of them collecting Chase Ultimate Rewards points now but that’s about where it ends for them.  When I geek out about how to earn points their eyes glaze over!

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

I like using Cashback Monitor to check which shopping portal has the most bonus points available.  If I am going to buy something anyway I might as well get as many points as I can for each dollar I spend.  The extra points really add up!

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

Earlier this year, Marriott ran a promotion offering bonus points for following them on various social media channels.

I ended up with 1,600 extra Marriott points for a couple of minutes of my time.  I only found out about this promo because I read a bunch of travel blogs.  It pays to keep up to date in the miles and points world!

Zen Life And Travel
Enjoying Our “Babymoon” in Bermuda a Few Months Before My Daughter Was Born

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

I wish I had put a little more effort into a strategy.

I knew early on I wanted to purchase a Marriott Travel Package (with Southwest Points to earn the Companion Pass – I will be getting it at the end of January), but other than that I was picking cards somewhat randomly.  This led to a couple of dud choices that took up slots in my wallet that I should have been using for Chase cards (The “5/24 rule” is no joke!).

The other thing I wish I understood more in the beginning was that a point is not a point.  The value of 1 Chase point isn’t the same as 1 Hilton point or 1 Starwood point.

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

I am a huge Cleveland Cavaliers fan!  My husband and I watch every game and make it up to Cleveland for a few games each season.  Earlier this year we were able to go to Game 4 of the NBA Finals and the Championship Ring Ceremony!

Zen Life And Travel
Celebrating Our Anniversary at a Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 Playoff Game

Any parting words?

Thanks Emily and Daraius for having me on the blog.  I hope I can continue to inspire my readers to explore new places, try new things and collect lots of miles & points.  Live HappyTravel More!

Katie – 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!

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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