Utilizing points and miles
for First-Class experiences
around the world
How I started
Points and Miles. That is what allows for the first-class and 5-star travel experiences I desire to achieve on my wish list. Flying experiences for me are half the excitement of a trip, if done correctly. These are experiences I would never use (or have enough to use) cash to pay full price for. Example: Singapore Suites one-way (JFK-SIN): 140K points or $30,000 cash? I’ll use my points, thank you. 🙂
I’ve always loved travel. Since a child I would order travel brochures (pre-internet days) and have a library in my room of information to look at. We took a few trips as a kid, but nothing like the experiences I have today. One summer I was bored, and my working parents didn’t have much money, so I called around and got us all round-trip airfare and an Omni hotel stay in Chicago for under $500. Back then I think agents on the phone had more leeway giving discounts if you asked for them. Of course, this was waaaay before the internet ever existed.
So how did I get started accumulating points and miles? Well, my first mileage card was a Continental Visa back in 1997. If I remember correctly, I think I earned maybe 5K or 10K bonus miles from that offer(??). I could have earned zero. I don’t remember. And my second major card in 2001 was the (then) new Starwood SPG AmEx , which – until the Marriott merger – was the best overall credit card to use.
Back in the mid-2000’s Chase Bank offered personal & business checking accounts which earned Continental OnePass miles for signing up and using their debit card. I started when they offered a 10K bonus, and left when they discontinued the program offering 25K per sign up. I would open, close & open accounts every 6 months…not knowing I was a “churner” before the travel blogosphere created that term. I just kinda figured it out for myself reading the terms & conditions, and a helpful banker who liked travel too and was benefiting from my opening accounts each time. I eventually earned over 200K Continental OnePass miles from opening those bank accounts.
Up until the late 2000’s I was using points and miles to fly coach internationally. That is until I finally flew my first business class flight from CDG-IAH. From that point forward, my goal was to always fly in the front in lie-flat seats and experience what I believed could never be attainable in my lifetime (using cash).
That first business class flight is how I got the itch to figure out how to keep accumulating more points and miles. I then found some basic travel websites (think Excel-like tables) listing out available points & miles opportunities. That is where I discovered the US Mint dollar coin churn, and then the AmEx BlueBird debit card churn (via Walgrees/CVS). Those were a lot of work, but continued helping my addiction of accumulating points and miles for future travel experiences.
Today, after spending more than a decade of taking advantage of bonus opportunities, spending every dollar on credit cards (and always paying them off every month!), and accumulating millions of points and miles, I now find myself only applying for offers that are worthy of a credit pull and keep my balances growing. Sure, I believe in burning my balances before they devalue. However, I personally like to keep a hefty balance to take advantage of travel deals and opportunities when they present themselves. And with miles I’m generally looking 9-12 months out planning future trips when seats are available. So keeping some balance is necessary for my booking strategy.
Over the last decade I’ve accumulated enough to travel when I want, wherever I want and at anytime I choose. You too can do this with a little work (nothing is easy & free) and some patience. Most importantly…DON’T BE GREEDY…or you will ruin this fun for the rest of us. And more importantly, never apply for ‘joint credit’ and always pay your credit card balances off every month.
Thank you for reading about me. I’m excited to have you following these shared experiences. And look forward to running into you at an airport lounge and boarding with me ‘to the left’ with lie-flat seats and unlimited champagne. Happy travels!!