Welcome to the first “Where In The World Is” interview! Simply, ten questions about the best game of all time – miles and points! My first guest is someone I’ve known since middle school summer pool days – Rory Heim.
1) Who are you?
Joe! I’m offended. Who am I? Write me an intro.
Sike, here is my intro: I’m an engineer, so I’m always looking to optimize whatever situation or opportunity presents itself. I’m also very curious and like to figure out how things work. I’m currently living in Colorado, having moved here for snowboarding and my first, post-college job.
2) How did you find out about the world of miles and points?
I happened to be perusing Facebook one day and saw a post you had shared about how you got to travel all the time . I knew you had been to Europe a bunch, and I think before seeing that post I had creeped your FB page to marvel at all the traveling you had done, and wondered how on earth you did it (what your job was/how you afforded it). Since you were sharing a post that seemed to promise to explain your travel secrets, I went ahead and read it.
(Here’s the post Rory is talking about. While it hasn’t been updated in a long time, the information about credit scores, reports, points, etc., is all still extremely relevant and correct. You can also go to the “All About Credit” page for a more succinct and modern version.)
It was a bomb article. There are a few articles on the internet that I am a huge fan of because they explain a complicated theory or process very well, and that article is one of them. After I finished reading it, I explored the site a little more, and slowly came to the realization that YOU had written that article. I know I hit you up right after I read it, congratulating you on having written such a well-developed in-depth post, but seriously Joe, it was really, really good.
So, after just looking through my FB messages to you, I read your post on January 3, 2014, and applied for my first reward credit card the next day.
3) What convinced you the game of miles and points was safe?
That’s a good question. I’ve always been willing to do unorthodox things, so it never really struck me as that risky. Your post explained how credit works and is calculated, and that you hadn’t run into any problems, so I:
- wasn’t totally worried about my credit score
- trusted that if you could do it and obviously understood how it worked, that I wouldn’t royally fuck it up.
I was pretty interested and I ended up learning tons of stuff. Useful stuff, I would argue.
Having played the game for a year, now, I’ve roped my girlfriend into getting a card as well, because I am convinced it is safe. “Safe” here being a relative word that could describe numerous activities, among which I would include shooting guns, or driving a car, or eating peanuts. You can mess up royally in each situation (Hi George Bush!), but if you are smart and do the right thing, you’ll be fine.
(Playing the miles and points game is 800x, give or take, safer then shooting or driving or invading Iraq, IMO, and as with almost everything in life, being responsible is most of the battle.)
4) What’s been your greatest success in terms of earning miles?
I’ve been pretty lucky with this. For the past year, Amazon payments worked, so that was an easy $1,000 per month, but I also had a bunch of work reimbursements – plane tickets, hotel rooms, buying technical books for the office; it really just worked out.
Nowadays, I’ve cut back my work spending, and Amazon Payments is down (R.I.P, indeed), so it’s a little bit harder. I’ve picked up the Target REDcard, which is even better than Amazon Payments, but it still makes me bemused and mildly nervous. All of the online manufactured spending is so simple, but actually going to Target, talking to a cashier and loading a prepaid card with $2,500, in three transactions of $900, $900, and $700, makes me just laugh and think “What on earth am I doing?” I’m sure the cashier feels the same way. (Doubtful, honestly. My dad once bought $9600 of Vanilla Reload prepaid cards at CVS and the cashier didn’t say anything. Again, $9600! At CVS!!) It’s such a novel, funny scheme to me, but the rewards are soooo good. I’d never spend $800 on a flight for a 2 week trip to Germany, anyway, and now I don’t have to.
5) What about burning miles?
The one I am most proud of so far is the trip to Germany I just booked (Actually, half of. I’m still waiting to book the return flight, so knock on wood). I’d been amassing as many Chase UR points and United miles as I could get my hands on just to have, but my girlfriend and I started planning a trip to Germany a few months ago. I looked up different award charts for airlines, and different credit card offers to see how we could get there and back for free. I ended up getting an American Airlines 50k bonus offer, and Lane is currently waiting on her card so she can meet the minimum spend. We’re not going to get to Germany solely on the AA miles, because I can’t manufacture 20k points in the next month, but by spending 60k United miles, we’re flying to Germany for $11 in economy, and are going to fly home business-class with all of our AA miles. (Awesome!)
6) What was your dream vacation prior to points/miles? 7) What about now?
I’m going to combine these two questions, as I think I can give a better answer if the follow up question is also presented.
First, my dream vacation is a permanent vacation, which is something I’m working on figuring out how to achieve. My dream life is being able to do whatever I’d like to do on a whim, whether that’s go live in a ski town, live at the beach and surf, go hang out with friends – really anything that comes up. The key to achieving that for me is to reduce my dependence on things that cost money. If my lifestyle requires almost no money, I won’t need to work 40 hours, giving me more time for random stuff.
Now that plane tickets can be almost free, I think it really opens up a ton of options for international travel once I’m driving around the Americas in a van. (I like this idea!) I could drive to Moab and dirt bike around and then fly to Asia for a week’s adventure. The possibility of free travel allows for surreal situations that I am super, super excited about, like living on the beach in Belize for a few months and then flying to the Alps to go snowboarding. (I have similar daydreams.)
I can now live opulent lifestyles for basically pennies. (I admire the plural, here. Way to dream!)
8) Weirdest thing you have done to get miles/points?
Going back to the burning question, by far the weirdest thing is to tell a cashier to ring my card up for $900, and then once the transaction is complete, tell her to ring it up for $900 again, and then another $700. Spending $2500 in 5 minutes is something I would never do, so watching the cashier watch me complete the transaction is pretty damn amusing.
9) What would you not do for miles?
Spend money. So far, I’ve been able to get cards with the annual fee waived for the first year. I think I’m going to run out sometime, but being able to rack up miles without spending any extra money feels great. I saw that you had evaluated a certain card that carried a $450 annual fee and found it worth the money. I’d need to go back and read your analysis, I have no doubt it was worth it, but I have this terrible aversion to spending any money on this game. Not spending any money makes it so much more free (duh), but the fact that it is 100% free makes it so much more of a game, or a test of my skill at collecting miles, as opposed to something I deem “worth the money.”
10) What’s your next trip?
Germany! One of my best friends lives there, now, and my old roommate lives in Amsterdam, and Lane’s high school foreign exchange student is getting married. And we’re going for free. And we’re going for 2 weeks. And flying home in business class. It can not get much better than that.
That’s really my first trip on miles and I already really can’t wait for another free, wild trip. I’m so stoked that you wrote (and shared!) that post. It’s really opened up a lot of options for me that I didn’t know I had. Honestly, if everyone we know who was doing rad shit was as eloquent and open with their exploits and schemes, I think we would all be further towards whatever goals we’ve got.