Miles and Points 102 - Loyalty Programs and Strategies (Ep. 28b)

UPDATE: COVID-19 has played havoc with travel and this has left many of you with cards and points you haven't been able to use - and now the annual renewal fees are hitting. Thanks to Raul for turning me on to this article in MONEY magazine, talking about some of the strategies you might consider with those cards...

Now on to the episode:

On last week's podcast, we talked all about foundational miles and points strategies with credit cards. This week, we take it a step further focusing in on airlines, hotels, car rentals, and their loyalty programs. We also hear our guest Brandon Neth of FinanceBuzz.com giving strategies for double, triple, even quadruple stacking offers to get maximum benefit. Get ready to learn a ton!

  • Strategy for signing up for airline miles
  • How to earn extra points
  • How to avoid email offer overload
  • How to handle expiring points. Should you buy them?
  • Hotel loyalty programs vs co-branded credit cards and best use
  • The value of being loyal and earning status
  • What hotel status means
  • Weighing Hotels.com/Booking.com (Online Travel Agency or OTA) vs buying through loyalty program
  • What do when staying at a hostel, Bed and Breakfast, boutique
  • How do you choose which credit card to pull out when traveling
  • Finding $25,000 a year
  • The power of the sticky note
  • Buying every day items as the secret weapon
  • When I'm being loyal and getting points but rates seem higher for car rental loyalty programs, am I actually getting value? And how to make sure you do get value.
  • The advantage of Costco
  • Different ways to stack discounts and points including up to 4 times.
  • Shopping portals and gift cards
  • What ever happened to Diner's Club and where can you save on dining?
  • Dining rewards programs through airlines and hotels
  • How the economy affects points and miles
  • United Excursionist Perk and Easter Island


Next week, Scott Keyes of Scott's Cheap Flights gives us the lowdown of finding great fares. Make sure to subscribe to Travel Fuels Life on your favorite podcast app!

Show Notes


Drew (00:13):
Hello everybody and welcome to Travel Fuel's Life, the show we share stories, tips and inspiration to help you live a travel lifestyle. I'm your host, drew Hamish, and I got to tell you one of the most frustrating areas about miles and points for me is first choosing the right loyalty program and then figuring out how to leverage those to my advantage. And then making sure that I'm not just signing up for something that's more expensive than using my current techniques of just looking for the lowest price. So it's time to continue my conversation with Brandon net of finance buzz.com, and we're going to move from credit cards onto airlines, car rental and hotel loyalty programs. And again, we're going to take this from a very beginner level because part of the reason I wanted to have Brandon on the show was to get some foundational information so you don't have to feel overwhelmed when you start hearing terms and concepts and all that stuff being thrown at you.

When you start talking to other people about miles and points. I get bogged down when I get into all of that stuff and if it's a confusing program or it's a confusing concept, sometimes I just don't take advantage of it. And there's so many incentives out there that I think we need to be able to get past that. So arm ourselves with some knowledge. So from the comfort of my loveseat here in my living room in Greenville, South Carolina, it's time to pull up the laptop, jump on the worldwide web and listen to the second half of our miles and points talk with Brandon Neff. Okay, so is there a strategy, because let's get a little bit into loyalty programs and how those work in different instances. So for instance, with an airline, do you just automatically go out and sign up for any airline as soon as you get on it? You're going to be part of their loyalty program at that point?

Brandon (02:10):
So for me personally, I have every major airline in the us at least I signed up for early on. And the reason for that is because it does a couple things for you. If you do fly that airline by chance you can credit miles. So when you fly, credit card points are not the only way to earn points. You can earn the same points by flying or staying at a hotel, but if you don't have a, let's say you fly on United. If you fly on United, you don't have a United account yet, will you miss out on those points? So I do think it's important to sign up for a, at least in the us, if you're US based, sign up for every major airline in the us, there are points and frequent flyer program because it doesn't cost you any money, it takes a couple minutes.

So that's the first thing. The second thing is quite frequently if you are a member of their program and you haven't used it, you get special offers. So you get better signup bonuses for these cards or you get a spendy, fly this airline and fly with us and we're going to give you X number of extra points because we want to earn your loyalty. Things like these pop up. And a lot of the times you're going to just be taking regular trips that you're taking anyway and run into one of these fantastic deals and really, really end up in the positive. So my advice is yes, sign up for these programs, understand them, and then kind of double dip. And that means two for one, use their program plus a credit card all together and you can really just start stacking points and free flights and free, we're talking flight flight heavy right now, but there are programs like this for hotels as well. So cover your flights and your hotels,

Drew (03:46):
Right? So being in a business where I'm in email all the time and I've just become very averse to signing up for any kind of newsletters. When you're talking about these offers coming through, how are you getting those offers through their emails that they're sending out? And if so, how do you keep yourself from going insane or missing a really good offer?

Brandon (04:13):
Being a part of a community? So yes, I mean they come and I'm the same way. So I'm in digital marketing one way, shape or form, and I get thousands of emails a day. So I love things like Feedly, right? So if you have Feedly, you can get set up different websites, their information gets pushed to you. So if you're on my website, finance buzz.com, we post about it, you can get a notification or if you're in a community like our group, I would say within the last year there hasn't been a real big deal that has come out or a real big opportunity that hasn't hit our community within a few hours. I don't think a big one has been missed because everybody is doing the exact same thing as you. They're wanting to maximize or wanting to share. So that's the way I really like to do it. I think I build communities, I love communities. I think they're beneficial to everybody. So that's the way I would do it, especially if you're adverse emails because yeah, you're going to run into 'em. If I'm honest, most of my loyalty program emails go to my catchall email address, not my main one. So I'm the same way. But

Yeah, that's a good way to do it is utilize others' eagerness, I'll call it other people's eagerness to be involved and watch what they do and learn

Drew (05:27):
Well, and of course I learned about it through fp z, the southwest new card that's coming out. So I'll post the links to that and to your financial buzz website too so that people can follow up on all of that. One other question on airlines before we move on, and that is about expiring points because I've signed up for different airlines and this was before I was very aggressive and American Airlines is a good example of that. They sent me an email and it says, your points have expired and you can buy them back. Is there any value to buying back your points?

Brandon (06:07):
At times, yes. And at times, no. So this is a very, very good question. So quickly, if you are worried about this, there is a program called award wallet and award wallet will put all your points into one place for you. And if something is about to expire, they give you a notice beforehand instead of after the fact like American does and make you pay for 'em, right? Because there are ways you can keep your points alive, either spend on your credit card or you can buy a small amount of points up front. So there's different ways to keep them alive and that's how I suggest doing it first. But if you do run into a situation where they have expired doesn't make sense to buy them, it depends on you if it's a thousand or 2000 points and it's not going to get you anywhere, probably not.

But if you have a really large points balance, we had a story in the group, kind of an unfortunate one. Somebody's father had passed away by the time the estate got settled, his points had expired and he had something like 3 million points we're talking wow, big, big value at 3 million points is close to $30,000. So his points had expired and they had to go through this whole back and forth the airline, they ended up getting lucky. So if you do run into a situation like that, yeah, absolutely it makes sense to buy him back again, the key is don't let him expire. And if you're going to do it and you're going to buy them back, you just, it's a math problem. Does it make sense for me to spend $300 to buy these back or are they only going to see me $200 on a flight? So it's just like anything, you just got to do the math and it's case by case. If you have a question, feel free to reach out to pretty much anybody in the community and we can help you out and help try to answer it for you.

Drew (07:50):
Okay, so let's talk about hotels, because there seems to be two ways to go on hotels as well, one being loyalty programs and the other one being Marriott has this bonvoy card that I keep hearing about over and over again and I keep getting offers from other hotels that I stay at that say, get our credit card, use the points. And to me, hotels and their points are a total mystery to me. I have no idea where to even start with this. What would be your entry?

Brandon (08:24):
I've heard this.

Drew (08:24):
Yeah, what would be your entry suggestion for somebody who is just baffled by hotels and because I use hotels.com and I use hotels.com because I know that every 10th hotel is free and I can price shop. And to me, and to me there's value in that, but I keep feeling like I'm missing something by not doing these hotel credit cards. So what is the deal with those?

Brandon (08:51):
So hotel cards are, they tend to fall into the co-branded that I spoke about because typically Chase will issue the Hyatt card or American Express issues, the Hilton card, so on and so forth. So you mentioned there's kind of two different, there is the loyalty side and there's the credit card side. And I would actually argue that they're the same thing, they're the same program because your credit card points and your stay credit nights go into one account. So you want to do both of these. For me, the way I travel, I'm a believer that there is no value in being loyal. So I am not loyal to Hyatt or Marriott or Hilton for example. I am loyal to who's going to give me the best deal at that time and where my points are going to go the furthest. So for me, my general advice is open a credit card for the hotel program that you think you'll use the most.

Focusing on the Chase issued hotel cards upfront because again, of the 5 24 rule and use those points, see what brand you like the most. If you decide that you want to stay loyal to one program, which a lot of business travelers do this, it makes sense because their company will say pick a hotel. That's where we're always going to book you. So it's easy. So if you run into that situation, I get it totally normal, pick a brand, understand it. But once you pick a brand in general, if you are liking the brand, you're starting to earn status because hotel status can be some of the most valuable travel hacks there is out there because you can get crazy incredible upgrades. You can get free nights, you can get free breakfast, you can get free appetizer, you can literally have a butler. If you get to the point and you sit at the right hotel, there'll be a butler in your room that'll do pretty much anything in Florida, ya.

So we've got people that go to the Maldives and stay at these three, four, $5,000 night hotels on point some miles and don't put anything out of pocket and they have a personal butler. So there's a lot of value to be had here. So pick a program if you're going to travel, and I would say pick a program if you're going to travel a lot for your company, if you're not going to travel a lot for the company, be it what we call a free agent, be sure that if you go through this process that you waive the booking.com or the hill to hotels.com versus booking direct. The reason you want to book direct, yes, you don't get your 10th night free like you mentioned, right? But you do get what they call elite level perks. So if you book through hotels.com and you go into a Marriott and you're part of the Marriott loyalty program, that stay does not earn you points for that stay.

Let's say that you are one of their top tier people and you're supposed to get free breakfast or an upgrade, you won't get either of those things. If you book through a third party, you also won't get credit. So the way you earn status is if you stay X number of nights per year. So if you stay 20 nights and all those 20 nights were through booking.com, none of those count towards status. So it that's at the end of the day, this is marketing, right? Yeah. The Marriott is paying hotels.com to bring you in and the way they're saving money and justifying that marketing cost is by not giving you the end user all your perks and benefits of being loyal. So if you go direct, they don't have to pay booking.com and they can give you those perks and benefits. So for you, you just got to sit down and weigh it out.

I can tell you for me in general, if it is not a major brand, so I was just in Budapest and you mentioned I stayed at a hostel. Yes I did. If there was a major, it was, yeah, it wasn't a perfect experience, but it was an experience. Yes, I do love hostels, but if you're staying at a hostel or you're staying at a boutique hotel or something that does have a major Points of Miles program, I recommend using hotels.com or booking.com or Expedia or whoever that's called an OTA online travel agency. So use an OTA because you're going to get that 10% back. Essentially you're 10th night free and you can go through a shopping portal which is going to get you additional cash back or points. So you go through a shopping portal, you use your credit card and you get their whatever it is, their incentive for booking through them.

So you're essentially triple dipping. You're getting three different ways of saving for these small boutique hotels that don't have a loyalty program. So it's the best way to do it right now, if you're going to stay at a major chain like a Marriott, a Hilton, or a Hyatt, typically I suggest that you book direct, but if you're not going to stay at those hotels, but maybe once a year booking dot com's probably a better idea. So I say goes back to every situation's a little bit different. How do you travel? How often do you travel? But for me personally, that's my strategy. Small boutique and hustle. I book through a third party. If it's a major chain, I book direct.

Drew (14:00):
Well, it's funny because as I was driving up through Scotland, I realized when I got to Inverness and I saw a holiday in Express, I thought, I haven't seen a branded hotel and I don't know how long because I was driving through Space Side and I was driving through aisle of Sky and all of these places where there aren't branded hotels, you're going to find a lot more of these that, so for me, hotels.com was working perfectly for that sort of thing. But yeah, it's great to know that you could have a strategy where you use both, you just choose which one works best for the trip that you're going on that particular time. And that brings up the other question, which is how do you decide between your Chase Sapphire Reserve card, your American Express, your, you've got all these cards, your pocket, and sometimes one's going to give you more bang for the buck that for the other. Do you have some kind of a system set up in your mind when you're setting up a trip where you say, okay, I use this card for these things, I use this card for these things and so on and so forth?

Brandon (15:08):
Yeah, absolutely I do. And again, that's just a matter of spending a little bit of time and educating yourself. And I know there's probably a lot of people at this point saying, man, this sounds like I'm spending a lot of time learning, but you got to look at this as an investment. You really do. Because I'm not exaggerating when I'm saying $25,000 a year in value is pretty damn easy to get from this. I don't know anybody that would go out and invest 20 into a stock or bond or an ETF that isn't going to do a little bit of research if they're talking $25,000, right? Right.

I mean realistically. So understand that yeah, this is anything and it's going to take a little bit of time and effort, but once you get over that initial learning curve, you're going to get there. So to answer your question, yes, I do have a plan for me. Again, I sit back and it's just a math problem. I'm booking something travel related, I means I'm going to earn three x on my Chase Sapphire reserve versus one x on my American Airline card. So that's a pretty easy decision for me. If I'm booking an airline though, let's, let's give a very specific example. Let's say that I am flying on United Airlines. I have a United Airlines card that earns what we call an a bonus category. So you're going to earn extra points on that if you use your united card on a united flight, say, let's say just, we're just going to give an example here, this isn't real, but let's say you earn six points per dollar spent, but you also have your Chase Sapphire reserve, which earns three points per dollar spent because it's travel.

Anything that goes on your CSR travel, you get three x six x six points. Sounds a lot better than three points. But again, we go back to that, what is a point worth? There's different types of points. So for me, because I know what a chase ultimate reward point is worth, I value that more than I value the United Points. Plus by using your chase Sapphire reserve, if something goes wrong, let's say your bag's lost, you get a hundred or your bag's misplaced, you get a hundred dollars per day with the card automatically. If your bag's lost, and I've used this multiple times, or let's say your flight's delayed, there's a storm, you're stuck overnight in a hotel. Well, if you used your Chase app by reserve, you're going to get $500 to cover your hotel food and other expenses because that's an included protection in that card.

That doesn't come with other cards like the United Card. So those all go into the factor, which card am I going to use? It's again, another, I know it's not a definitive answer, it's case by case, but understanding what comes with each card, really, you make these decisions and then day-to-day spending, right, you we're talking mainly travel, but you have groceries, you have gas people, these are the things people spend on, you just pick For those situations, I typically just spend on which card earns the most. A lot of cards earn three points per dollar on gas or four points per dollar at grocery stores. Just sit down, do the math, and guys, don't be embarrassed. If you need to put a little sticky note on your card and write gas or groceries, do it. We all do it. I don't care who you are, you're going to forget every now and again, my wife, she walked her processes, she walks through me and she's like, I'm going to the grocery store. Which card do you use? She hands me a handful of cards and I handed

Drew (18:29):
It to her,

Brandon (18:31):
How will you do it but blame 'em if you need to. No big deal.

Drew (18:35):
Well, I think the thing that is overwhelming about this at the beginning is that you're trying to make all of these decisions all at once, but after you've been doing this for a while, I imagine when you go buy your groceries and every time you go buy your groceries, you keep grabbing a specific card that your brain is going to click on that and soon you're just automatically grabbing that card and using that particular card.

Brandon (18:58):
Yes, absolutely. You're a hundred percent. And the other thing is you don't want to jump all in at once. You're not going to jump in tomorrow and open 35 credit cards and try to go at it. Right? It's got to be gradual. It's like anything. So you start out slow, you ask questions, you learn and you start building out your portfolio and you start building out your understanding. So yeah, like you said, you get to the point where it's literally second nature most of the time.

Drew (19:20):
Right. Okay. So one of the programs that I got through Chase Sapphire Reserve was that you could sign up for National Car Rental and be in their Emerald program. Love it. The first time I used the Emerald program, I went to Hawaii and I, I'm a big guy. I'm six foot six, so I need lots of leg room in a car and the size of the car matters. So I'm always looking for something that's a full size or intermediate. And so I go online and I'm looking at their program and it says that I can choose any car on the lot. Well, I end up going to book a Maxima, but they didn't have any Maximas when I got there. And I ended up with an Altima, which is actually smaller but still fits me because that's what I normally drive. But I noticed when I started looking around to book for car rental elsewhere, because the whole thing about this program is that you can build up and get free rentals down the road somewhere. Yep. I'm looking though and I'm realizing that if I use Kayak or I use Price Line, I could actually get the car for a lot cheaper, sometimes significantly cheaper. And so it got me thinking, am I actually just paying for this amount of perks that I'm getting? Is that free car rental that I'm paying for out of this particular, am I paying for it out of this particular time? I mean, have you seen value in car rental loyalty programs? And if so, which ones have worked for you?

Brandon (20:57):
So another, I feel like a lot more about this and you're pretending to ask

Drew (21:02):
Some really good questions. I'm trying to learn. Yeah, yeah,

Brandon (21:05):
No, you're doing a great job. So that's one of the biggest questions for most people is like when I get these points, do I actually get good value out of them? Is it going to cost me more money for a rental car or is it going to cost me more money for a flight than if I was to do it on my own? Yes and no. You always got to do the math. You always got to look at different, got to look at a couple scenarios. So just make sure you do your research. Now, I'll tell you in your specific situation with a rental car, with Chase you, with your Chase staff, fire Reserve, and once you get into status, let me go that far. When you get status with a rental car agency, you don't always have to go direct. So you don't have to go directly through Chase or directly through National in order to get this, you can go through a third party site and when you show up because you have that status, it's automatically attached to your rental agency or your rental program or your rental number.

You can be upgraded so you can go find the best deal and still be upgraded. So that's a possibility. So there are a lot of really interesting ways to maximize rental cars. My first job at a college was actually Enterprise Rental car. So this is kind of near and dear to my heart. I know the Enterprise program, which is now owns a lot of other people may not know, but it's the delusion of Choice. Herz and Enterprise owned almost half of all car agencies in the world, just so you know. Yeah. So anyways, it's the delusion of actually having been a choice. So I know the program really well and what I can tell you is with, as much as I like enterprise, their program's terrible and all the companies underneath them in general, their programs are not real great. I suggest the way to go about this every single time is simply to shop for the best deal instead of worrying about loyalty with rental cars, find the best deal because of the way they just don't have the return.

Hotels and airlines do so go to, actually, believe it or not, Costco has some of the best prices out there. So if you're a Costco member, always look at Costco really, really good. And they also don't charge you for an additional driver at Costco. So if your spouse or somebody else is with you, they don't charge you. So that's a huge value. Another place I really like to go is Auto slash So Auto slash is really good. They're kind of an aggregator. So you go in, you put all your information in, you say, I'm going to Hawaii, I'm going for four days. They ask you some questions about what loyalty, if you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve or if you have Triple A, fill out those questions. And then they shop, they aggregate all the information from all these different sites and then they send you an email and they say, if you want to, here's the price we found.

And you book click on the button, it takes you directly to the third party site. It's a lot of the time it's Priceline because they have a really good deal and a really good partnership with Priceline and you book. And that's the way I like to do rental cars because I don't see enough value in loyalty programs typically to book direct. Okay, so look for the best price and then because you have status already, you attach that to the reservation and you get the perks of the status anyway, so you're kind of double dipping. So that's the way I suggest rental cars almost a hundred percent of the time do that route. Perfect.

Drew (24:18):
And then we talk about double dipping. Do you have any other strategies besides the ones that we've talked about that you might want to give people an idea about to try to maximize their points?

Brandon (24:31):
So double dipping or stacking commonly referred to in the hobby is just ways to earn points and miles or discounts in more way than one. And one of my absolute favorite ways is to use a discount code. So it's pretty easy to find a coupon code for almost anything out there. Flights are a little different, but hotels, rental cars, and we're talking just in life in general as well. If you got to buy a new computer or you need to go to the grocery store, always do this pro process, look for a discount, then you go through a shopping portal, something like Ebates or Cashback Monitor or Fat Wallet, there's just all these different programs out there that it's a shopping portal where you earn, they make a commission. So you click on their link, you go and you buy, let's say you go and you buy a thousand dollars, well, they get about whatever it is, let's say 3% back from the site that you went to because you click through their link.

What they do is they take part of that money they make and they give it back to you. So you get paid to shop that you're going to shop anyway. So make sure you're always using a shopping portal. It's huge value. I've saved thousands and thousands of dollars by doing that. Nice. So coupon a shopping portal, then you are going to use your credit card, which is going to earn you points and miles back. And then you're going to use the company's loyalty program, which is going to earn you additional points and miles back. So if you can stack those four things, your quadruple dipping because you're getting four different types, four different ways that you're saving or earning points back. And that can be done in travel. Again, gas at a grocery store, buying gift cards. Gift cards is another huge way that you can save a ton of money on. Well, just in general in life if you do it. So again, this is something we discuss pretty frequently in our group, but having these little steps make huge differences because instead of it's paying $400 for a hotel now, well you paid $400, but you just earned 50, 60, $70 back in points and miles, so it drastically reduces your cost. So make sure you're utilizing it.

Drew (26:34):
Okay. And one of the things I credit cards really got popular I think around Diner's Club way back in the fifties. And now I think about having a dining specific credit card as something that is kind of in the past, but it's when you're out eating, do you have a particular card that you like to use one over another or do you have any loyalty programs for restaurants that you've used that you've seen any benefit out of?

Brandon (27:02):
Yeah, so rest in peace to the Diners Club because they're not around anymore. A lot of people dunno this, it's ac, it was actually an Amex product. So Dining Club was a subsidiary of American Express. So a lot of people dunno that, but yeah, American Express and Diner Club are the ones that kind of started the program. You're right. And it has died off. And the reason it's died off is because a lot of your cards, again, we're going back to Chase just cause I'm trying to keep it simple, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you earn three x points at restaurants. There are other cards like the American Express Gold Card that earn four points. So I like to, again, do I want Chase ultimate reward points or do I want American Express membership reward points? I look at it, I decide which one I'm going to do and I go to the restaurant again, I will be somebody that's going to be bringing a coupon with me or buying discounted gift cards up front and then using it.

But the one way to really maximize this is dining rewards programs. So pretty much every major airline and pretty much trying to think if there's an exception to this role, pretty much every major hotel chain as well, they have a program that if you click through their site first, so again, it's just like the shopping portals I mentioned before, but instead you're going specifically through a hotel or an airline, you click through, you put your credit card information into their program, and then you go use that credit card at a restaurant that is part of their program, you're going to earn additional points and miles back. So for example, you can use, let's say you use your Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you earn three points per dollar spent for your Chase Sapphire Reserve. But if you signed up for the Southwest Airlines Dining Program, you're going to also earn points with Southwest Airlines and that these programs typically all have signup bonuses, just like credit card signup, bonuses.

So if you optimize it and you can bounce from one program to the other and utilize this over and over and over again, you can be getting 25% back on the money you spend at when you're going out to eat. So nice. And then you can do it, plus your spouse can do it. You can do it for each credit card you have. So it's kind of like this, I don't want to say unlimited, but it's this pretty large infinite loop that allows you to really maximize. So that's the way I like to do it. I don't eat out a lot, but if I do it, I'm going to get a deal.

Drew (29:29):
This is an interesting question cause I feel like we're in a golden age of travel right now because airlines are inexpensive, they're running all sorts of offers. We've got this miles and points thing on. Do you feel like this is, you better take advantage of this while it's going on because it's not going to be around forever? Or do you think that the whole system is working for everybody?

Brandon (29:53):
So I hear this a lot, points of Miles is dying, it's not what it was 10 years ago. And absolutely the thing is get in now. Get in as soon as possible because I don't know any logical business that is going to make their points and Miles program more valuable to you because it's going to cost them more money. So devaluation is a real thing and it's getting harder and harder to do it. So get into it. Get into it now. Don't wait because I can tell you in the last 11 years I've seen with a few exceptions, major devaluations and it's gotten much harder to earn points of miles that said, it's in no way dead. And it is also very, it's attached to the economy. So as you see the economy get better and better, you see companies typically start to pull back benefits, they tend to pull back and devalue because they really don't need to entice people in two points and miles or their loyalty program.

Whereas in 2008 when everything was really bad, oh man, if you could get credit, cause not everybody could get credit. If you could get credit man. Oh, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Yeah, it was ridiculous how easy it was. So my advice is to get in now, understand the program, learn and win, the downturn happens because I'm a believer there's going to be some sort of correction here at some point in the future position yourself, so you're ready to take advantage and jump in to whatever opportunity comes to you because it's going to happen in my opinion.

Drew (31:31):
Well, tell me from a personal standpoint, now you've been to all of these countries, where are you headed to next and what place are you really looking forward to some today getting to?

Brandon (31:42):
So our next trip, so I actually leave here in three days. I'm going to Travel Con, which is in Boston. It's a travel conference where I'm kind of doing a presentation on points and miles. So I'm excited about that. I really like conferences where I get to meet people and I get to see a new city in a different way because again, I tend to travel pretty frugally, but going to a conference, it's really a different experience. So I'm really excited about that. And then after that I'm flying to Australia. We go to Australia later this year. I lived in, I think I mentioned it earlier, I lived in Australia in Melbourne for a year. So I'm really excited to go back there, see some friends. And I actually haven't been to the west coast of Australia at all, believe it or not. I did the East coast when I was there, so I'm going to go over to Perth, do some scuba diving.

Really, really excited about that. And again, points of miles stack up extremely well in Australia and Australia is so expensive, it just makes the trip so much better. Nice. So excited about that. And then the one place I really, really want to get to, there's two places I want to get out to the Galapagos. It's just the thing with it is really the only way to do it is on a cruise and it's quite expensive and points of miles don't do not stack up real well there. So you actually have to have money. And then the other one is Antarctica. It's the last continent I haven't been to. Oh yes. And again, you got to do cruises to get down there and you can't really do points of miles. So me not being a high earner has kind of helped me back from those two things. So I will make it happen though at some point because I'm one of these people that like to do all the bucket list trips. So I'll make it happen. I just have to talk my wife into it.

Drew (33:20):
Have you done Easter Island?

Brandon (33:23):
I have, yeah. We did Easter Island in 2015 I think it was. Yeah, man, it's magical. Have you been?

Drew (33:29):
I have not been. So did you go by boat or did you fly in?

Brandon (33:33):
So we flew in, we used this perk called it, it's now called the United Ex Excursions Perk. And what it is is when you book an award, so if you use points of miles for a flight with United Airlines, they allow you to fly from one location to the other. So we flew from Portland to Santiago and then we flew from Santiago to Easter Island and then Easter Island back to Portland. And it essentially discharges you one round trip flight, but because of the excursions per, it lets you add it in an extra flight completely for free. So we flew from Santiago to Easter Island completely for didn't cost us a dime, didn't cost us any points, didn't cost us anything. Wow. So it's one of these really cool loopholes. So we were able to utilize that. So it was kind of a no-brainer. And then we stayed at a small boutique hotel. We used our points and it is a very expensive trip, but the way we did it, we rent went out, we rented a motorbike for like $25 a day and we just drove for three days and we saw everything and we were Oh, that's so cool. There was times you're completely alone on an island. You got the statues there, you can just sit there, watch the sunset, it's beautiful. Everybody should do it.

Drew (34:45):
My problem with this I is that I don't flying over water for long periods of time. So even my for That's fair. My 49th state was Hawaii because it was just taking me forever to get the gumption to do that big long flight over the Pacific. And so I was looking, how was I going to get to Australia? Well, let's see, I could fly to Hawaii and then Tokyo and then take the land route down.

Brandon (35:11):
I love it. Yeah.

Drew (35:12):
Or I thought, well, I really want to go to Easter Island. I wonder what a flight from New Zealand to Easter Island would be like because then I could come back around and then I was like, wow, that's a lot of flying over. The ocean is really in the middle of nowhere.

Brandon (35:26):
It is. It's really remote.

Drew (35:29):
Well, I know somebody that went to Galapagos and I'll have to ask 'em some questions about how they did that because that's one of those places I'd love to go to also. But Antarctica is definitely high on my list. I want to go there and I want to go to the Arctic Circle. And there's actually up in Northwest Territories, there is a tour that goes up above the Arctic Circle. You go up the Dumpster Highway and then you get to immerse yourself in the Inuit tribe that's there. So I mean to me really, yeah, to me that would just be absolutely fascinating to get to know a culture like that that's so isolated from the rest of the world.

Brandon (36:09):
Yeah. Sounds I had never heard of that. That sounds amazing.

Drew (36:11):
Yeah, so much to see in this world. So are you going to see it all? Is that your ultimate goal?

Brandon (36:16):
I think so. That's my ultimate goal. I can tell you my wife is starting to get to the point. Anybody that can't tell yet. My wife's the boss. Yeah. But she's getting to the point where she's like, let's slow down a little bit. We don't have to go 180 days a year.

Drew (36:30):

Brandon (36:31):
We'll see. That's the goal. But luckily I'm in my mid thirties now, so I think I got a few more years Emmy to travel.

Drew (36:38):
Nice, nice. Well, I am of the opinion don't save it till you retire because it's going to be a lot harder to do once you retire. So it's great that you're getting to see as much as you are now and hopefully we're getting other people that same opportunity with the miles and points.

Brandon (36:53):
Seriously that that's my number one goal here. Hopefully everybody learns and this provides them enough value that they feel inspired and can do this as well.

Drew (37:02):
Well tell us where everybody can keep up with what you're doing and also get more of this juicy information because I know this is going to be a little overwhelming for people and they'll want to dig in a little bit more on some specifics. So where can they do that?

Brandon (37:17):
Sure. So we mentioned the group. So the group is a Facebook group. It's private, but it's completely free to join. We're not one of these groups that try to upsell you in any way. It's called F B Z Elite Traveling Points. There's about 20,000 members in there and if you want to learn anything and everything, that's where you want to be. And that group is actually ran by finance buzz.com and I actually work for finance buzz.com. I am their social media and audience growth manager person, so I'm lucky. Literally my job is to talk to awesome people like this, do podcasts and go out and kind of do PR and get to talk about points and miles, which obviously is my passion. And then personally, my wife and I, we run our Instagram account. It's called Fussy Traveling. We don't do a whole lot with it, but if you by chance have an Instagram account and you want to reach out to it because a lot of people don't have Facebook, they just have Instagram. You can find me there. And then of course we do have an Instagram account called Finance Buzz Travel, which is the pages Instagram account where you can reach out to us as well. So pretty much anywhere if it's social media or if you're on the internet, you should be able to reach out and get ahold of us.

Drew (38:29):
Awesome. Well, I love that when you tell us things that we should pay attention to, you give us examples and help us kind of visualize what it is that you're doing. You made this very easy to understand for something that's very complex. So I appreciate that and I appreciate your time today and helping us come to grips with Miles and Points.

Brandon (38:51):
Well, thank you. Like I said, I wasn't kidding. I admire what you do and everything that I, I've looked into doing a podcast for anybody listening, these people that make podcasts happen are absolutely legendary. There's so much to it that you don't understand. It is not easy. So nothing but praise and admiration to what you're doing.

Drew (39:12):
Well, thank you so much and safe travels to you.

Brandon (39:15):
I appreciate it. Thank you.

Drew (39:18):
Well, I hope you enjoy today's show. Brandon is a great guy and I'm telling you, you need to head out to FB z Elites Facebook group. It's one of my favorite webpages out there. Best Facebook group that I am a member of and I think you should get out there and check that out to find it. Easiest way is to go to our show notes page. Look for episode 28 b@travelfuelslife.com slash podcasts. You'll find the links to the fz Elite Facebook group finance buzz.com website and some of those great sites we talked about during the episode, like award wallet, ebates and auto slash so that you can start maximizing that travel dollar. And if you enjoy today's show, make sure to subscribe to the show and just use your favorite app. You should know how to do that, right? Yeah. You've subscribed to some other shows, love to have you as a subscriber to our show, and that way you don't miss any episodes and jump on twitter.com/travel fuels life to let me know what cards you love, what loyalty programs you can't live without, or just have a conversation with me because I do run the account.

So that's a chance for us to have a little conversation back and forth. Until next time, have a great week. Safe travels and thanks for listening to Travel Fuels Life.

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