I’ve “met” Leticia a couple of years ago. She emailed me and said that she has been following my blog quietly for many months and found it beneficial for her specific situation. Her family of three is on a tight budget, and affording travel isn’t easy.
She mentioned that she could relate to me because she also happens to be an immigrant who left behind family and pretty much her entire life in Uruguay.
We’ve kept in touch ever since and often commiserated on how many miles it takes to visit our folks back home. So, when I started this interview series, I asked her if she would be willing to participate. She said yes, and was also kind enough to share some photos of her country.
1) What motivated you to research miles and points hobby?
I had a friend who was doing a light version of the “hobby,” applying every now and then for credit cards that offered bonuses. But I was always very weary of credit card debt so I didn’t want to do it.
One day in 2014 my husband mentioned that he had heard about a guy that was in the news for getting tons of frequent flyer miles by selling some coins. I thought it was hilarious, so I googled that piece of news. That’s how I found a few different miles and points blogs. The coin deal was long gone, but credit card bonuses were and are still around.
2) What are the biggest challenges you face trying to navigate miles and points hobby?
Right now it is figuring out how to use miles with partners. I have never done it and I know it’s a big part of the game. Also, rules change constantly, so it’s hard to keep up with everything that’s going on in the miles and points hobby.
Another thing that is sometimes difficult to deal with is the fact that in order to get the most points/miles I find myself doing things that go against the lifestyle that I try to maintain, such as buying local and using cash to pay small businesses, and avoiding doing any transactions that involve Walmart.
This summer I felt bad when I used a card to pay a woman at an art fair. She told me she preferred cash. I had chatted with her and told her about an upcoming trip. Then I explained to her that using credit cards is how I got the miles for those trips. I never feel bad about “taking advantage” of the banks, but I do feel bad about not helping small local businesses.
3) What’s your favorite trip that was made possible solely due to miles and points?
This is an interesting question. I started collecting miles and points because I wanted to go home more often. But the best trip we did on miles and points was not home, and it was mostly done with Amtrak, so it’s a bit different. Here is the report that Leana published about it.
I imagine most people just like to use their miles to get somewhere fast and enjoy the destination. This was the opposite since the train journey was a big part of the fun. For that trip I used my Ultimate Rewards that I got from Chase Sapphire Preferred. Both deals are dead for me now because UR points don’t transfer to Amtrak anymore, and CSP because of the 5/24 rule.
I also used my Capital One Venture and Barclaycard Arrival Plus points, plus Southwest Companion Pass to get us back by plane. Southwest Companion Pass is probably dead for me too because of the 5/24 rule. That’s what I meant when I said it’s hard to keep up because of so many changes.
4) How often do you think about miles and points?
Embarrassingly, every day. Not in an obsessive manner though. Sometimes.
5) What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done to earn miles or points?
I did big manufacturing spending when it was easy, with the Target Red Card (dead deal). That’s how I got Southwest companion pass which would be impossible now, not only due to 5/24 rule but because there’s no way I can put 10K of spending in three months unless I do manufactured spending.
Then I tried to keep doing some MS but it ended up being too complicated. I had to drive to a specific mall to buy a certain gift card and then drive to a Walmart that was quite far away, beside the fact that Walmart gives me the shivers. So I did that for a while which was crazy for me.
But compared to what other people do for MS this was not crazy at all. I know folks who do “Manufactured Spending trips.” Seriously, they drive or fly to different cities to get their stuff done. Other people do that for a living!! Now that is crazy.
6) How does your family feel about this hobby?
I’m the one who does it but my husband loves it. Other members of our family have some idea on it but are not very sure of the details and haven’t asked much.
7) Do you ever wish you never found out about miles and points? Why/why not?
No, I don’t. I would if I got into unmanageable debt because of it. I truly think it’s a double edged sword when a person finds herself having thousands and thousands of dollars of credit lines available. You have to be very, very cautious.
So far it has worked for us so I’m happy I figured it out as we’ve been able to visit my family in South America every year since then. The last time I paid for a trip down there, I used ALL of the money I made teaching a college class for an entire semester. That was an extra job I took that was too much for my busy schedule, so there you go!
8) If you could give one piece of advice to someone who is just starting out, what would it be?
Read a few of blogs suggestions and reader’s comments. Apply for a couple of cards and see how you can manage your debt. Have some sort of a plan before you apply for cards.
However, like Leana said, sometimes you may plan your vacation according to the type of miles and points you have, but sometimes the miles and points you have my steer you one direction or another. Although I have a bucket list of favorite places I’d like to visit, I love traveling so I wouldn’t mind changing plans if there’s a better deal to a different destination.
Huge thanks to Leticia for this interview as well as all the beautiful photos!
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Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.