Want to know more about the Faces of FlyerTalk?
Larry (BigLar) is another one of us travelers that doesn’t do it on the companies dime. Everything he books is out of pocket;he’s paying for it. One of the simplest and most important things that Larry reminded me of in our conversation is that you need to do what works for you. Whatever airline or hotel loyalty program, you’ve got to pick what makes sense for you. I love SPG, but it may not be for you. Keep that in mind and remember you need to be #1 when deciding how, where, and when. Larry had been a traveler, but says that FlyerTalk really opened his eyes to the possibility of it all. He just booked a trip to Nice, France next year for 9 people … all on points and miles! Larry, 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?
I stumbled across it (back in ’02) when I was Googling this strange thing called “mileage runs”. I had what I thought (at the time) was a goodly pile of airline miles and was always looking for ways to add to the pile.
I thought I was pretty sharp at the time: I knew how to ask for an exit row, I jiggered my flights around to match promotions, etc. After a few days (solid!) of reading FlyerTalk, I realized I was such a novice! But I’m a quick learner.
Do you consider yourself an infrequent, fairly regular, or miles and points addicted reader?
It varies. For a while, over a period of a few years, I was on the road every week, mostly paid for by myself. And of course I’m addicted — what a strange question??!!
How often are you on FlyerTalk, and what forums do you typically visit?
Usually every day, although in the last couple of years, with a downturn in my personal travel, it’s more like 4-6 times a week. I check out Miles Buzz, Travel Buzz, AA, BA, Hilton, Choice, and destinations (mostly UK, France, and Italy).
Do you travel for business, leisure, or both?
Right now my travel (as we define it) is strictly leisure. I put about 800 miles/week on my car, but that hardly counts.
What credit cards are you carrying in your wallet right now, and which ones do you recommend to friends?
- Citi (AA) Visa & MC (spouse)
- Citi (AA) MC, Visa, Amex
- Hilton & Starwood Amex
- Choice Visa
I recommend the first batch (Citi) for getting the bonus(es) for a particular goal. For general use, the Starwood and Hilton Amex are keepers.
What’s the single most successful thing you’ve done to acquire points and miles?
Well, I hotel-hopped a couple of years ago and netted about a quarter-million Choice points. Somewhat earlier (later?) I was able to stack a Choice/NW promo which was netting me 11,000 miles a week for sleeping. This was in addition to the ‘normal’ miles I was getting for NW.
I put ‘normal’ in quotes, because what I was doing (booking multi-segment legs, refusing upgrades to pick up their consolation miles, etc.) is not what most people would consider ‘normal’.
How many miles / points have you accumulated in the past year? In your lifetime?
In the past year, I think I’ve garnered about 200K AA and maybe 100K BA. Lifetime is tough, but it’s got to be at least 2 million in all programs. Maybe more.
Do you use a tracking program to keep track of your miles / points? Which one?
Nope – my accumulation is not all that complicated, although I do have a couple of spreadsheets I use to keep track of promos, especially when I enlist the rest of the family. Sometimes, they even know they’re helping out.
How does your spouse / partner / family / friends feel about this hobby?
At first, they thought I was nuts. After a couple of transatlantic first-class trips, and nights at, say, the Cavalieri, the Chancery Court, the Hilton ADT, and the Marriott Monaco, … let’s just say they look on it in a more kindly fashion.
Friends tend to be just a little jealous, I suppose, but, as I’ve groaned about on the pages of FT, when you try to explain the ins and outs of the various programs, their eyes tend to glaze over and I just sort of trail off.
What’s your most memorable trip?
1. The first one we took as an FT’er: YYZ-LHR-NQY with my wife. Driving around SW UK, Eurostar to Paris (where I really got to appreciate hotel points), driving across France (staying in a 17th century chateau), a little villa on the Med, and back home (in First Class). Quite an intro.
2. Second big trip: Wife, daughter, and me – UD on a 747, DTW-AMS-(stopover)-LCY. A week at the Chancery Court, various Marriotts/Hiltons in SW UK, SOU-NCE. Marriott Monaco. NCE-CDG. 4 nights Hilton ADT. We still talk about it.
3. All five of my kids and their Significant Other’s to Ireland. All flights with miles, 28 room-nights with points. Best vacation of their life (or so they tell me).
4. Last Fall – rented a ‘villa’ on the Riviera, flew 4 kids over, after a week up to Paris and then to London.
My kids like travelling with Dad!
What suggestions can you give to rookies and newbies on FlyerTalk?
READ! And then read some more. Learn how to dummy book. Pay attention to the promos – that’s where the real payoff is, if you need miles/points in a hurry. Did I mention they ought to read everything even remotely connected with their plans/desires?
Are there any particular fellow FlyerTalk members whose advice you follow?
Yes there are. Too many, actually, to enumerate. Just off the top of my head – sdsearch, pinniped, SkiAdcock, Cordelli, a whole lot more. No BS with these folks, and no attitude, either.
What’s the one thing you’d like to see change on FlyerTalk?
In a couple of places, maybe a somewhat lighter touch on moderating. Not much, though. Other than that, I can’t think of much I’d like to see change.
Have you attended or are you planning on attending any FlyerTalk related events?
Any other comments / questions / suggestions / advice?
Just keep up the good work!
Larry, 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 Larry has shared with us:
Citi Prestige® Card
- Annual Fee: $450 fee
- Foreign Fees: No
- Card Type: Bank
The increase to 50,000 ThankYou points for the Citi Prestige card may be a signal that Citi wants back in the game, big time. The sign-up bonus has just been increased to 50K points from the previous 30K offer. An added benefit is a $250 annual air travel credit each calendar year -- so, if you sign up in April, you'll receive the credit this year, and again in January of next year -- which more than covers the $450 first year fee. When you add in lounge access for you and up to two of your guests, you’ve added another $400+ in value. One more benefit worth mentioning is the fourth night free for any four-night hotel stay booked through Wagonlit Travel. And lastly is the $100 statement credit when you sign up for Global Entry and pay for it using the Prestige card. Don’t forget the ever-growing number of airline transfer partners that work with the ThankYou points program.
- $250 Air Travel Credit each year
- Complimentary 4th Night for any hotel stay
- Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.
- Points are redeemable for an $800 flight on American Airlines or US Airways®, a $665 flight on any other airline or $500 in gift cards.
- Transfer points to a variety of travel loyalty programs from airlines to hotels.
- Earn 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels
- Earn 2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment
- 1 ThankYou® Point per $1 spent on other purchases