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Andy Shuman (mnscout) came to the US in 1992 from the former Soviet Union and runs a small consulting firm in Brooklyn, NY. He’s loved to travel for as long as he can remember, and that goes back to really, really old days when his mother would take him for annual summer vacations to Crimea or the Baltic Sea.
Being self-employed is both good and bad for the hobby. It’s good because you can take off without asking anyone, and it’s bad because there is no soup for himself; and by soup he means traveling on his employer’s dime! Running his own business also means that the time he can spend away on each trip is very limited. His favorite destination is South America, but one day he will go on an extended trip to Europe and South East Asia and spend some serious time there.
When did you find FlyerTalk and how did you find it?
Back in the last century from a link on FatWallet or some other consumer board, I don’t remember. But at the time, it didn’t really register, because those FF programs seemed too complicated and not worthy of my time. Only when I managed to get my first mile flight to Rio on Continental did I see the light :). I finally joined nine years ago.
Do you consider yourself an infrequent, fairly regular, or miles and points addicted reader?
Oh, I am an addict, alright!
How often are you on FlyerTalk, and what forums do you typically visit?
Three or four times a day, normally. I typically visit Mile Buzz, Credit Card Programs, Airline programs, Online Travel Booking and Bidding Agencies when I’m not traveling on points, or Trip Reports and Destinations to research where I’m going.
Do you travel for business, leisure, or both?
Nine times out of ten, it’s leisure.
What credit cards are you carrying in your wallet right now, and which ones do you recommend to friends?
I’m kind of spoiled with all the sign-up bonuses I’ve been so fortunate to obtain, so I’m not overly concerned with getting miles for actual spending. Maybe that’s because I’m always busy meeting spending requirements for me and my wife. One particular card I like carrying around, though, is the Amex Hilton because it is so easy to earn Honors points with it. I also use Chase Freedom a lot, but only when they have some interesting 5% categories and sometimes Sapphire for shopping at the UR Mall. Capital One Venture is good too for 2% points back, but I haven’t used it all that much lately. I don’t have Ink Bold because I’m maxed out on Chase at the moment.
As to my friends, unfortunately what I recommend to them doesn’t really matter because they never listen 🙂
What’s the single most successful thing you’ve done to acquire points and miles?
Last year personal and business Capital One bonanza. It coincided with my regular App-o-Rama, so I remember getting close to 500,000 miles and points in one chunk. Those were the times!
How many miles / points have you accumulated in the past year? In your lifetime?
Last year well over a million. Lifetime—really hard to say.
Do you use a tracking program to keep track of your miles / points? Which one?
Yes, I use Award Wallet, and I recently signed up for Using Miles, as well.
How does your spouse / partner / family / friends feel about this hobby?
They think I’m nuts. They won’t say it to my face, but it shows. Except for my wife. She does say it to my face :).
What’s your most memorable trip?
Buenos Aires-Iguassu Falls-Curitiba-Blumenau-Camboriu-Porto Allegro. I took this trip, I think, in 2005. I used AAdvantage miles to fly into BA, had a 3-day stopover there, then continued to Iguazu and used an open jaw to fly back home out of Porto Allegro. That was the old AAdvantage program. I traveled on buses and a train everywhere else in Brazil.
From Iguazu I took a first-class seat on an overnight bus to Curitiba (a very comfortable but scary ride), then a famous train ride to the coastal town of Paranagua. In Paranagua, I ran out of Brazilian Reals and couldn’t even buy a bus ticket (I had gotten really spoiled because everyone takes credit cards in Brazil, just not in that little town). By the time I finally managed to change some money, I was exhausted; I fell asleep on the bus to Blumenau and got off at the wrong stop in the middle of nowhere. Then some good Samaritans brought me to the center of their little town and then found a guy to drive me to the nearest bus station. By the time I got to Blumenau it was already dark, but the next two days were amazing. Blumenau has a huge German community, and I had gotten there right in time for Oktoberfest—reportedly the largest beer festival outside of Munich. It was incredible!
Then I spent a few R&R days in Balneario Camboriu: “our little Rio”, as the locals call it (they even have their own version of the Cristo Statue, quite beautiful). It’s a gorgeous seaside resort with very cheap accommodations, but unfortunately it’s virtually unknown outside of South America.
I’ve had many great trips, but this one is still the most memorable.
What suggestions can you give to rookies and newbies on FlyerTalk?
Well, I think the general attitude toward newbies has improved considerably as of late, but still, this is a community. If a newbie with a couple of posts comes in and wants one tip on how to get that free flight, well, they might still get a few tips here and there. But if you demonstrate you’re willing to put an effort, you’ll fare much better. On the other hand, don’t be thin-skinned if someone snaps at you. Some folks here might have a short fuse, but most are willing and happy to help.
Here is a piece of credit card advice for those newbies who, like me, don’t do a lot of business travel. What I strongly recommend is to think of new credit card sign-ups primarily in terms of a sign-up bonus. No other benefits come even close! Newbies can find everything about credit card applications and strategies in my Amazon Kindle e-book: The Lazy Traveler’s Handbook: Use Frequent Flyer Miles to Travel the World FOR FREE. I also write about some of those things on my Facebook Page.
Are there any particular fellow FlyerTalk members whose advice you follow?
Oh yes! I love reading Rick, AlohaDaveKennedy, Happy, Amolkold, SBM12, and many others; really there are too many to list everyone.
What’s the one thing you’d like to see change on FlyerTalk?
Well, some sections are better organized and others are more disorganized. I would love to see things like FAQs and stickies to be cleaned up and up to date. There are some stickies that go back 8-10 years. Why not cut out and archive the stuff that’s no longer relevant? And then we snap at newbies who don’t feel like reading a 100-page thread :). I know that’s a lot of work, but it would make FlyerTalk much more user-friendly and easier to research.
Have you attended or are you planning on attending any FlyerTalk related events?
I’m going to the Chicago Seminar in October. A lot of good people I admire are going to be there. Wouldn’t miss it for the world!
Oh, and one of these days I will do one of those “DOs”. I don’t know when and where but I will :).
Any other comments / questions / suggestions / advice?
FlyerTalk changed my life and for that I’m eternally grateful. I did travel before FlyerTalk, of course, because I have always had this bug in me, but with all the advice and expertise I’ve been getting here, there is no stopping me :).
I remember doing those international air-courier flights, and I had that whole list of consolidators that needed to be updated all the time because they would frequently go out of business. I did one-way rentals to Florida, and while it was fun, it was also exhausting and time consuming. At one point, I was seriously contemplating using a cargo ship for a “cruise” to Chile. FlyerTalk made all those burdensome tricks unnecessary. But the most important though unintended consequence of learning from FlyerTalk was that I really started taking care of my credit. It had never been terrible, but I just needed this nudge to do that extra work and it helped me a lot in all aspects of my life, way beyond free miles and points programs.
Andy, 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 Andy has shared with us:
Deal of the Day
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