Want to know more about the Faces of FlyerTalk?
Peter (pbailey19), a software engineer, looks at this game of miles and points like any analytic person would; it’s a big equation. Any equation has a solution. There is logic, reasoning, and a basis for all actions. I had a great time talking with Peter and was especially intrigued with his take on the “fear of applying for credit cards”. Peter, thank you for sharing your perspectives and experiences with us all. We’re thrilled to you be a part of “Faces of FlyerTalk”.
When did you find FlyerTalk and how did you find it?
After getting serious about the potential of frequent flyer miles in early 2011, an intense Google session led me to some of the mainstream mileage blogs (such as The Frugal Travel Guy) and the FlyerTalk website. It’s amazing how much quality information is available on the Internet, just waiting for a spark of interest to start a search.
Do you consider yourself an infrequent, fairly regular, or miles and points addicted reader?
“Addict” is such a strong, unpleasant word, with negative overtone … um, excuse me, Lucky just updated his Twitter feed. WOW! Look at the size of the lime slice in that Diet Coke. Uh, sorry … next question?
How often are you on FlyerTalk, and what forums do you typically visit?
While I follow about twelve blogs with religious fervor, I honestly haven’t been active on FlyerTalk as much as many other travelers in the community. Originally, I used to mostly-follow the MilesBuzz forum, to keep track of the latest offers and promotions. Now, I spend most of my time following the United MileagePlus forum, trying to learn about the ins and outs of United’s rules. Living in Denver, I’m somewhat hub-captive to United, which has been a … ahem … “mixed experience” over the past year, to say the least.
Do you travel for business, leisure, or both?
My flying is close to 100% for leisure and family visits. Every now and then, I’ll have a chance to travel on business, and I’ve always been able to keep the miles. Actually, a rare business trip in January 2011 just happened to trigger a free round-trip flight award from Southwest, and that prompted me to pay more attention to frequent flyer programs.
What credit cards are you carrying in your wallet right now, and which ones do you recommend to friends?
I have both my Chase Ink Bold and my Chase Ink Plus, my Chase Freedom, and an American Express Prepaid card … which will soon to be joined by the new Bluebird card. Oddly enough, a friend at work, who knows about my mileage-gathering fetish, just asked me for advice on getting a new credit card, and I recommended the Sapphire Preferred. It’s lost a little of its luster with all the exciting new cards that have come out in just the last six months, but it’s still a solid card for somebody getting introduced to the mileage game.
What’s the single most successful thing you’ve done to acquire points and miles?
Getting over the fear of credit card applications. For most of my life, I’ve been the type of person who owned one credit card, and rarely, if ever, applied for new cards. I have an excellent credit score (which is paying off handsomely now) and have always protected it fiercely, so I was leery of anything that could potentially damage my credit report. The idea of applying for five credit cards at a time, or fifteen in a year, would have seemed like irresponsible madness to me just a couple of years ago. But just like anything else, it’s just a matter of managing your cards responsibly, and the payoff is oh-so-very, very huge.
How many miles / points have you accumulated in the past year? In your lifetime?
While 2012 has been a little slower than 2011 – I was lucky to get interested in what was undoubtedly a bonanza year – I’ve still earned over 700,000 miles (air and hotel) this year. Note, that’s not just from credit cards. Since I’ve started at the beginning of 2011, I’ve earned almost 1.8 million miles and points, all without mileage running.
Do you use a tracking program to keep track of your miles / points? Which one?
I’d never keep all of these balances straight in my head. I use AwardWallet, backed up by several custom spreadsheets. It definitely helps to be comfortable with computers in this game. I’ll also put a plug in for Mint.com, which greatly simplifies the task of tracking my spending.
How does your spouse / partner / family / friends feel about this hobby?
Originally, I was afraid she’d think I was three fries short of a Happy Meal. I still remember the look on her face when I opened up a box from the US Mint, and explained that I was just going to deposit the coins right back in the bank – for miles! But she warmed up to the possibilities quickly, even supporting me when I was renting cars for the US Airways Grand Slam – that I had no intention of driving off the lot. I think she was always a little skeptical as to whether or not it would ever amount to anything. But she made up her mind that it was all for real this summer, when she settled back in her United Global First seat on a 777 bound for Brussels. She started playing with the power recline buttons, and flipped through the movie selection on her personal video system, not quite believing that flying could actually be like this. Taking a sip of white wine, she looked over at me and said, “Okay, when we get back, you’re going to show me everything you know about this stuff!”
What’s your most memorable trip?
Our big European vacation this past summer. Neither of us had ever been to Europe before, so we decided to do the mandatory Euro Starter Trip, i.e., London, Paris, and Rome. Seriously, we had a hard time keeping the list of cities that small – we’d wanted to visit these places for years. When I was lucky enough to find first class availability on United, in July, I decided to go all-out and plan something special.
Largely thanks to the Grand Slam, I used 250K Dividend Miles to plan two round-trip tickets in first class. Additional credit card applications provided the points for four nights at the Intercontinental Park Lane, four nights at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome (which was fantastic beyond description), and four nights at the Intercontinental De La Villa Roma. All for roughly $300 in taxes and fees.
And for that, we experienced two weeks of adventure and exhaustion and immeasurable joy. Gasping for breath when you open your hotel room’s curtains and see Big Ben right in front of you. Seeing tears on your girlfriend’s cheek when she sees the Eiffel Tower for the first time. Looking off the roof of the Monumento Nazionale in Rome and seeing the Colosseum Holy Crap the Colosseum Holy Crap the actual two-thousand-year-old for-real gladiators-fought-here Colosseum – those are memories we’ll have for the rest of our lives.
Oh, and just to put a cherry on top of the cupcake, we did a layover in Washington on the way home, and visited the Udvar-Hazy Center to see the Space Shuttle Discovery.
What suggestions can you give to rookies and newbies on FlyerTalk?
Take your time – the amount of information can be overwhelming at first, and much of the advice can seem counter-intuitive. The frequent flyer mile ‘game’ has a complicated rule book that’s always changing. Read the blogs. Many of them have excellent beginner guides.
Are there any particular fellow FlyerTalk members whose advice you follow?
I’m a big fan of the Frequent Miler, who I was fortunate enough to meet last weekend. Obviously he’s well known for the now-famous Vanilla Card post, but I appreciate the methodical, measured approach that he takes to strategy generation and manufacturing miles.
What’s the one thing you’d like to see change on FlyerTalk?
While FlyerTalk is generally a very supportive community, there’s something about the Internet that inevitably turns every argument into a pie fight. A flaming bomb-filled pie fight. We’d all definitely benefit if there was less of that. Also, the sheer volume of information on FlyerTalk is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. Several times I’ve come across what seemed to be an incredibly valuable piece of information on airline policy, only to realize that the posting was written in 2002. The stickies are a good solution to this problem, but sometimes they’re not regularly maintained.
Have you attended or are you planning on attending any FlyerTalk related events?
I just attended my very first FlyerTalk event, the Chicago Seminars. It was fantastic to put faces to all the names that I’ve become familiar with over the past two years. And it was great to meet such friendly, energetic people who share my sickness – passion, passion, I said passion.
Any other comments / questions / suggestions / advice?
Understand that the reason for the spirited debates in FlyerTalk – whether or not to mileage run, whether or not status is worth it – is that there are different kinds of travelers. People look for the Best Credit Card, the Best Miles Program – the best strategy for a mom with four kids might not be the same as the best strategy for a road warrior who spends 70 nights a year in a hotel. The best strategy is the one that gets you where you want to go.
The common piece of advice is to read, read, read. Collecting miles becomes easy to the person who invests the time to learn about all the techniques. Before you know it, your problem won’t be collecting miles; it’ll be spending them!
And if you’re ever in Rome, and an over-eager young man tries to give you a free rose … do yourself a favor and just keep walking.
Peter, thank you again for sharing with us. We’ve got a couple of thank you gifts to get to you, and your avatar will now show you, as one of the Faces of FlyerTalk for years to come.
Here are a few pictures Peter has shared with us: