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Traveler Interviews

“We have the goal of having children and becoming FIRE”

traveling with points

Welcome to Travel Freedom’s “Traveling With Points” interview series.  We regularly feature travelers who take advantage of points and miles to enjoy adventures all around the world.  You will get a glimpse into the lives of people who are already traveling by using points and miles.  Let’s get it started and jump into our newest interview!

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself

Hi, I go by WkndMom online, and I’m a Biomedical Engineer by trade, financial and travel blogger by personality, and hopefully, in the next few years, a mother by biology. I’m getting married in January 2019 and we’re taking a lot of pre-honeymoon trips before we take our extra extravagant honeymoon. We love to travel and scuba dive so we try to do

traveling with points wkndmom

Kayaking in Lake Powell, part of Antelope Canyon. The water is so beautiful and perfect to swim in after kayaking and visiting Antelope Canyon.

that as much as possible. I’ve been based out of Texas for the last year but am moving back to New Jersey in the fall– all those trips home really helped with racking up the miles. Aside from traveling, my fiancé and I both have the goal of having children and becoming FIRE (financially independent, retired early), so saving money while traveling is really important to us.

 

How long have you been traveling with points and miles?

It’s been just over 3 years since I started collecting miles and points to travel for less. And, as of August 2018, its been exactly 3 years since I first redeemed my points for free flights.

 

How did you first find out about this somewhat secret world?

I found out about miles and points through a friend of mine who loves Reddit.  After we took a trip together and realized it was much too expensive to sustain. She saw something on Reddit and was telling me about how signing up for credit cards to earn the bonuses, then cancelling later was a way to get free or really discounted travel. Skeptical, I did some of my own research and decided to give it a try. From then on, she and I’ve been hooked on finding the right cards to take all the trips we want!

 

traveling with points wkndmom

Admiring the the sand dunes in Coral Pink Sand Dunes park in Utah.

What was the first trip you took using miles and points?

My first trip was to Germany with my soon to be husband 3 years ago. I did a post on it a while ago and the story was also featured on Million Mile Secrets.

Germany on Points & SO Travel – Go Fire Mama Go

What’s the best credit card introductory bonus you’ve ever received?

My most prized introductory bonus was when I heard the 100k bonus that was originally offered with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. It wasn’t all that much spending to earn it, but I’m still spending that bonus!

 

What do your friends and family think of your points and miles traveling?

Ha. They think I’m ruining my credit score or spending a ton of money I don’t have, to travel. Others don’t understand. They think I waste a lot of my time trying to keep up with the programs and earning bonuses. The funny thing is, I’m on my way to retiring early while traveling multiple times a year and after setting reminders, I don’t spend too much extra time keeping up with it all!

 

traveling with points wkndmom

My favorite photo from our time in Peru, the lama posed perfectly to get the ruins in the background. We also saw a double rainbow over the ruins when we first arrived!

What is the best trip you’ve taken? Tell us a little bit about it.

The best trip I’ve taken was to see Macchu Picchu in Peru. I use Scott’s Cheap Flights to keep an eye out for good deal airfare and saw some great prices to Lima, Peru. When I checked out the Chase Travel Portal, the deal translated to points too! So, we booked our flights with Chase points from my CSR introductory bonus and worried about the rest later. We ended up using more Chase Points to stay in a hotel in Lima, but did AirBnb in Cusco before and after the trek to Macchu Picchu. The trek was beautiful. Plus, since it was the off season, it was a private tour for just the two of us! The landscape and wild life was spectacular, and I won’t soon forget it.

 

traveling with points wkndmom

Mr. WkndMom and our guide during the trek through the mountains to Macchu Picchu. No, that’s nothing funny with the camera, the clouds and mountains actually looked like that!

How often do you travel now, compared to before you knew about traveling with points and miles?

I’m certainly limited to my vacation days, but I definitely travel a lot more than I thought I would. Because I got into this hobby right after I got my first full time job, I never had a chance to not take vacations. My fiancé, though, went from never traveling and losing his vacation days every year, to taking multiple vacations per year and seeing everything with me.

 

What are your upcoming travel plans?

We have three trips coming up: La Jolla, CA, Cancun, MX, and island hopping through Hawaii. Even though La Jolla is a work trip for me, so I’m not paying for any of it, we were able to get Mr. WkndMom there for free because I have the Southwest Companion Pass. We’re also going to Cancun on 2 for 1 flights thanks to the SWCP where we’re planning to stay in an all-inclusive resort for a scuba adventure. Hawaii will be our super extravagant diving liveaboard honeymoon and we found discounted flights that we booked through CSR points for free too!

 

traveling with points wkndmom

A view of the Grand Canyon, North Rim. Some pretty crazy thunder and lightning was happening behind the camera but you couldn’t tell looking out over the canyon.

What is your best tip for people just getting into traveling with points and miles?

Set a single goal and get there with Chase points. They are the easiest to earn and use, and they are very versatile. You can’t go wrong starting with them because they also transfer to many travel partners. At first it may seem weird that you’re getting all of this for free.  Remember, you’re being rewarded for borrowing money and paying it back!

How can people follow you?

People can sign up for my email list on my website at http://gofiremamago.comand follow me on my Instagram: @GoFIREMama

 

Thank you Wkndmom

Thank you for letting us dig deep into your travel experiences.  Your vacations all sound amazing! Macchu Picchu is definitely on my Bucket List.  Also, I’d love to join you in becoming FIRE!!!

 

Would YOU like to share your points & miles journey on Travel Freedom?

We would all love to find out how YOU travel using points and miles!  If you’d like to be considered for a future “Traveling With Points” interview, please EMAIL US.  We’re always happy to hear more success stories in the points and miles community.

Photos courtesy of Wkndmom

“My Goal is to Visit Every Country in The World”

janice lintz travel interview

Welcome to the first episode of Travel Freedom’s “Traveling With Points” interview series.  We will regularly be featuring travelers who take advantage of points and miles to enjoy adventures all around the world.  You will get a glimpse into the lives of people who are already traveling by using points and miles.  Let’s get it started and jump into our first ever interview!

Tell Us a Little Bit About Yourself

My name is Janice Lintz

I am passionate about travel and good food.  I travel for food.

I am divorced and have two grown children, ages 24 and 20.

I live in NYC.

I grew up traveling.

 

How long have you been traveling with points and miles?

Since American Airlines (AA) introduced points, but I grew up with a mother who always chased the deal. She once booked the Eastern Airlines promotion where we could fly anywhere Eastern Airlines flew for 21 days as long as we went in the same direction. It was an incredible trip to Bermuda, Jamaica, Las Vegas and Mexico. We looked like jet-setters when we were just a typical American family.

 

How did you first find out about this somewhat secret world?

Someone told me about the AA card when AA introduced it. But I upped my game when I met a couple at a safari lodge in South Africa who told me I could get two free Park Hyatt nights from a sign-up bonus. I had never heard of sign-up bonuses until then. I was obtaining points from regular spend. Learning about the sign-up rewards was a game changer.

 

What was the first trip you took using miles and points?

We flew to Nepal using points. Although, at the time we could only fly to Frankfurt on AA and then we had to pay for the flight from Frankfurt to Kathmandu.

Whats the best credit card introductory bonus youve ever received?

Recently, the Ritz Carlton bonus was initially three-nights free at a four-star Ritz-Carlton. The Ritz-Carlton Aruba fell into this category. My status at the time entitled me to free breakfast, and the front desk clerk insisted my stay included a resort credit. The hotel knew it was my birthday, so they upgraded my room and provided me with special treats. A standard room alone would have cost $1,908, but I paid nothing. My fantastic stay was an incredible use of my certificates. Plus, I received the travel credit and the other perks. Sadly, the card no longer exists.

janice lintz traveling with points

Near Aruba’s Natural Pool which is a “must see.”

Although, years ago, AA used to give free night certificates with AA awards. For some bizarre reason, we never used them. But once we returned home from France and our home’s construction wasn’t finished. The contractor didn’t get around to installing the staircase. So we had to move to a hotel.

Suddenly, I remembered having a stack of free night certificates. We took the pile and booked a room at the newly opened, first W Hotel, on Lexington Avenue in NYC. The room was so tiny that we had to be upgraded multiple times to fit four people in the room. The manager wasn’t happy that we were about to camp out in the hotel for about a month for free. Plus, my children didn’t fit the profile of the W’s demographic. The manager agreed to let us stay for a week. My daughter still remembers marching down the elevator in her school uniform and wondering why everyone wore black?

 

What do your friends and family think of your points and miles traveling?

My children and friends think I am insane but yet, they can’t believe the trips I take. My daughter has zero interest in obtaining sign-up bonuses, but she is happy to join me on trips.

As good as I am, I think my mother was better than me. She would never leave a point on the table. When my mother died, she was so frustrated that she couldn’t use or gift us some points, that she used them to obtain gift cards. She refused to draft a will, but she left a stack of gift cards for my brothers and me.

 

What is the best trip youve taken? Tell us a little bit about it.

janice lintz traveling with points

In Burundi, dining at Cercle Nautique De Bujumbura and request the table on the terrace to dine adjacent to the hippos. Does it get better than this?

After my divorce, the judge stuck me with substantial legal bills despite me being the non-monied spouse. I have never carried debt in my life. So, I slashed every expense. I sold my car, cut chords and eliminated shopping to pay-off the six-figure debt. I am never one to waste a crisis and view obstacles as opportunities. One attorney permitted me to pay him using credit cards and didn’t charge me interest. So, each payment to him resulted in a sign-up bonus. In about three years, I earned over two-million points in sign-up bonuses alone excluding free nights. The points and sign-up bonuses have enabled me to take incredible trips.

My most recent trip was epic. I traveled for seven weeks in East Africa and the Indian Ocean. All of my international flights were on points. I went to Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia for transit, Burundi, Zanzibar, Rwanda, Uganda, South Sudan, Comoros, Mayotte, Madagascar, Zambia, Mozambique, and Malawi. My goal is to visit every country in the world, and this trip added quite a few new destinations.

janice lintz traveling with points

Above: In Zanzibar, go to The Rock Restaurant for an incredible meal at one of the coolest restaurants on a rock. Pro-tip: You may need to walk through the water in low tide so don’t wear a long dress and bring swim shoes.

I transferred Amex points to Aeroplan for Ethiopian Airlines (ET) flights, since Aeroplan allows one stop in addition to an open-jaw. My flights were EWR>ABJ>ADD>BJM and then LLW>EWR (airport codes).

Plus, ET had an overnight in ADD with a free hotel. Although, the hotel was disgusting, so if I ever transit again, I would pay for my room next time. Free is not good when the sheets and carpet are stained.

Planning the trip was complicated until I discovered an outstanding site, AwardEx.io. Its a game changer and simplified the process for me.

For flights, I used Citi Thank You points when flights weren’t available on points, or the airline like Rwandair didn’t participate in a frequent flier program. Plus, I saved 20% off the airfare while earning points when available. Amex had a terrific 25% transfer bonus to Flying Blue before the program changed this summer. One of the best cards which is not well known is the MERRILL+ Visa Signature. It came with a 50,000 point sign-up bonus. But the real benefit is that the first 25,000 points are

janice lintz traveling with points

Seeing the gorillas in Rwanda was my number one bucket list item. Can you believe how close I am?

converted to $500 when booking a $500+ flight. The only issue is finding an agent who understands the program. I used the bonus to pay for a pricey plane from TNR>LVI.

US Bank’s Radisson card provided two free nights at the Radisson Blu in Kigali, Rwanda. I used points plus spend at the Park Hyatt Zanzibar so that I would still receive points, and get a better rate for my points.

Both properties were outstanding. I also used the Citi fourth night free program for my hotel in Mozambique toward the end of the trip when I knew I would need a little R&R.

For small hotels, I purchased gift Hotels.com gift cards when they were on sale to stack the discounts with coupons or free nights. I saved at least 20% on my stays. Calling or

janice lintz traveling with points

My Capital One Venture card paid for my pricey Microlight flight over Zambia’s Victoria’s Falls.

emailing properties directly sometimes saves money but not always. Sometimes, the OTA’s have better prices.

Also, thank you Capital One Venture card for an experience of a lifetime. Microlighting above Victoria Falls

 

How often do you travel now, compared to before you knew about traveling with points and miles?

Our family, including my grandmother always traveled extensively including when I was younger. After my siblings and I were grown, my mother was away so frequently; it was hard to remember her schedule. Travel is part of my DNA. The points have enabled me to continue traveling.

I travel when I can leave. Sadly, my divorce while final, continues after eleven years. Even on this trip, I was served yet another motion. It is mind-boggling how a person who has money can use the judicial system to torture another person. Traveling provides me freedom. Hence, I am writing a book, Passport To Freedom.

 

What are your upcoming travel plans?

My goal is to travel to all 193 UN countries and the Traveler’s Century Club’s (TCC) 327 destinations. To date, I have visited 116+3 UN countries and 160 TCC destinations.

I am in the process of planning my future trips, but one of my tours is to see the polar bears in Churchill, Canada. Again, the flights are on points.

 

What is your best tip for people just getting into traveling with points and miles?

The process can seem overwhelming. But, its best to start small. I always recommend a person who can manage credit, pull their three credit reports and go over them with a fine tooth comb. Make sure the information is correct. You don’t want a bank to decline you for inaccurate information. My credit report said I worked in a pizza shop and had a lien in Lewiston, NY. Neither was correct.

If there is wrong information, then contact the reporting agency. If they don’t correct it quickly, then file a report with the CFPB. It’s online and thanks to Senator Warren. The reporting companies resolve the issues rapidly. Then start with the Chase cards while you are under the 5/24 mark. But read a few 101 Points guides for guidance after you get your feet wet.

 

How can people follow you?

On my website: janicelintz.com and on Instagram @janicelintz

 

Thank you Janice

Thank you for letting us dig deep into your travel experiences.  Your trip to Africa definitely sounds epic!  Can’t wait to find out more about your book in the future…

 

Would YOU like to share your points & miles journey on Travel Freedom?

We would all love to find out how YOU travel using points and miles!  If you’d like to be considered for a future “Traveling With Points” interview, please EMAIL US.  We’re always happy to hear more success stories in the points and miles community.

Photos courtesy of Janice Lintz

Million Mile Secrets Interview: Never Before Released

travel bucket list

This weekend our Miles and Points Success story was featured on Million Mile Secrets! I’ve always been a big fan of Million Mile Secrets. They were one of the first travel blogs I started reading. They helped me learn how to travel with points. Before being featured, I answered all of their Interview Series questions with the hopes of getting it featured on their website. Unfortunately, it turns out they’re not currently featuring those interviews. Instead of wasting all my answers, I figured I’ll share them here on Travel Freedom!  So, here are my answers to the interview series questions from Million Mile Secrets travel blog.

 

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

-Million Mile Secrets

It all started with a root canal. When I saw the jaw-dropping price of my dreaded root canal back in 2012, I quickly started looking for a way to make some of that money back. While searching the internet for credit cards that offered cash signup bonuses, I came across a travel blog that caught my interest. It was the one and only Million Mile Secrets and it’s intriguing author Daraius, who explained to me, how I could get much more value by earning travel points instead of cash back.  

 

I had never done as much traveling as I’d wanted to do, simply because it was so extremely expensive, and I didn’t make much money following college. I jumped at the opportunity and applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, and I’ve never looked back! It’s known as the “best first travel credit card” and is one that I often refer people to when they’re getting started. I’m now twenty-something credit card approvals deep, have earned nearly 2 MILLION miles, and have saved tens of thousands of dollars on travel. That’s not even the best part of it! I’ve had the chance to experience places and activities that otherwise, I would not have been able to. The world of miles and points has absolutely changed my life for the better!

 

Why did you start your blog?  What’s special about it?

-Million Mile Secrets

Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to traveling using points, and more specifically points earned through travel credit cards. Most people’s first thought when they’re introduced to traveling for nearly free, using points and miles, is “What’s the catch?”. I help people who are similar to myself, who deserve to travel, get past these common misconceptions. My goal is to teach as many people as possible how to enjoy the perks of travel, without spending much money at all.

 

The Travel Freedom blog is just the beginning of the story…  Travel Freedom is a work in progress to become a larger travel company. It will eventually include travel courses focused on traveling with points, a mobile forum for talking travel with other like-minded travelers, and we will be a travel products manufacturer.  Obviously, not all of these Travel Freedom features have rolled out yet, but they are in the planning stages. We just launched the beta version of our course titled “1-2-3 Travel 4 Free” and it’s currently available absolutely free of charge.

stand up paddle board hawaii million mile secrets

Ryan, stand up paddle (SUP) boarding along the Maui coast

 

Starting a travel business is a mix of both worlds that pique my interest. Both, entrepreneurship and traveling with points, have been in my heart for the past few years. I continually learn and grow within each of these topics, so it only makes sense for me to take a shot at joining the two in an attempt to build an everlasting business. Having a business also allows you to apply for business credit cards that can get you even more free travel.

 

What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?

-Million Mile Secrets

Spend more money! No, just kidding… That’s a bad idea unless you can really afford it, and even then you can still get a lot of free travel, so why pay. The one single thing that will ALWAYS bring in the most miles, is applying for new credit cards. Always be earning an introductory offer. If you aren’t currently busy meeting the minimum spending limit for a new credit card, you’re probably not doing it right.

 

Just think of it this way: on your next $3000 of purchases, you can earn 3,000 miles (1x miles per $) on a card you already have, or alternatively you can earn 53,000 miles (~17x miles per $) or more if you’re earning an introductory offer! I’ll take the introductory offer after introductory offer, please!

Million Mile Secrets Hiking

We love to hike, especially when there’s water to jump into at the end!

 

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

-Million Mile Secrets

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit all of the main Hawaiian islands (some multiple times) thanks to miles and points. Each time I’ve visited, it’s cost me only about $11 per person due to a little trick. I’m sure some of you know about it. Using British Airways miles to book direct flights on their partner, Alaska Airlines, from the west coast to Hawaii. It only takes 25k miles plus the taxes and fees which currently comes out to $11.20 for a round trip!

 

British Airways is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, which means that there are multiple credit card offers that will give you two or more round-trip flights to Hawaii. This is actually the most common thing for friends to ask for help with, and I’m happy to help them. Everyone needs a little (or a lot) of Aloha in their life!

 

Some of the Credit Cards That Earn or Transfer to British Airways

 

Million Mile Secrets Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is one of our favorites.

As great as Hawaii is, it’s actually not my most memorable travel experience. My absolute best travel experience that is insurmountable, was flying to Virginia to meet my now wife, for the first time. We met through mutual friends, and had been talking 24/7, but lived a whole country apart. I was falling for her, so decided to put my points to use and go meet her in person.

 

We continued to hit it off and the rest is history! About a year later we drove her belongings across the country to begin living together in Oregon and got married in 2017. It was by far the best value per point I have ever, and will ever get through traveling with points! (PS: It was also my first flight ever in first class – that’s all that was available)

 

What Do Your Family and Friends Think of Your Miles & Points Hobby?

-Million Mile Secrets

Friends and family are usually very intrigued, but also somewhat skeptical.  It often comes down to misconceptions about credit that they have. I find it unreal what percentage of people have absolutely no clue how their credit score really works. Every time I tell someone I’ve had 30 different credit cards in 6 years and had my credit score climb, they seem stunned. The ones who can see past their credit misconceptions, and see how often my wife and I travel, want to get started earning miles and points for themselves!

 

I find that most people don’t really want to put in the effort to learn how to use points for travel for themselves. This is why I’m building a course to make learning as easy as possible. My friends who decide to jump in seem to have great success. For instance, my sister-in-law decided to use credit card points for her Hawaii honeymoon.

million mile secrets honeymoon

Sean and Amber on their two-island Hawaiian honeymoon! Congrats!

 

With a little guidance, she decided to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. She put all of her wedding expenses on it. Within a month, she earned enough points to book their flights to Maui and Kauai, saving nearly $1,500 (that’s a lot of extra Mai-Tai’s they can afford now)! It’s definitely rewarding to see others find the power of points and knowing that I had a part in pointing them in the right direction.

Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?

-Million Mile Secrets

Oh yeah!  The power of the partner! I mean that in two ways, and I’ll explain each…

 

First off, using airline partners for booking can save tons of miles, and I’m all about efficient use of miles and points. For instance, the partnership between British Airways and Alaska Airlines allows me to regularly fly from the west coast to Hawaii for only 25k miles! I also plan on using a similar partnership to fly from the East coast to Ireland for the same amount of miles.

 

Second, having a points travel partner can pay off big time. Whether that’s a friend, a family member, or a spouse, it can help you both travel easier. If you have two people working together, that means you have twice as many credit card offers available to you. Where I’ve found this to be insanely profitable, is with the Southwest Companion Pass. If you haven’t heard of it, you need to study up. It gives you a free companion on EVERY flight for the year you earn it, AND the following year.

i learned about the southwest companion pass from million mile secrets

Year 5 and 6 of Having a Southwest Companion Pass! B1G1 FREE FLIGHTS!!!

 

So, say you earn it in February of 2018… That means you have buy-one-get-one-free flights using either money or miles for a whopping 23 months! Oh, and the Southwest Companion Pass can be earned as easily as signing up for two Southwest credit cards… I’m not sure how this deal still exists, but it does! My wife and I trade off earning it every two years so that we almost always have one between the two of us.

 

What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?

-Million Mile Secrets

When I first began my journey in the world of traveling with points and miles, I would sign up for every single travel blog giveaway I saw. Surprisingly, I ended up winning the grand prize of a contest on Facebook that gave me 100,000 SPG points (Now part of the Marriott Bonvoy program)! I couldn’t believe it when they emailed me to tell me that I won. I figured it must be some sort of scam, but followed through, and I really did win. Those points went on to give me thousands of dollars worth of travel both through their hotels and their airline transfer partners. RIP SPG…

million mile secrets las vegas pac-12 tournament

We cheered our Ducks on at the PAC-12 Men’s Basketball Championship in Las Vegas

 

That actually wasn’t the only giveaway that I won. Within a year I won somewhere between 5-10 giveaways from different travel bloggers. I even won two separate giveaways run by Million Mile Secrets! If I remember correctly, one was a pack of Italian products from one of their vacations, and the other was a Swiss Army digital bag tag and travel garment sleeve! So thanks again, for all those giveaways, MillionMileSecrets!

 

Remember, there has to be a winner, so why shouldn’t it be you?!? These events helped give me the mindset “you won’t get it if you don’t ask for it”. I’ve found that it never hurts to ask for an upgrade or a discount. Whatever you ask for, may possibly be given to you!

 

I dare you to ask for a discount at Starbucks…

 

What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?

-Million Mile Secrets

Have a Plan! When I started out, I jumped in without much of a plan at all. I wanted to earn as many points as possible but didn’t know what in the world I was going to spend them on. If I were to go back, I would make tentative travel plans and then work backward to get whatever credit card works best for that specific vacation. I’ve found that miles and points are always changing, so it’s best not to hold onto them for long periods of time. They may become devalued while you hold them, or a better offer for those same points may arise.

 

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

-Million Mile Secrets

I have an avid interest in bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. I’ve been involved in the space by learning and collecting crypto since 2013 when a friend informed me about it. Since then, I’ve had a wild ride of ups and downs with my crypto investments and ventures. Now, if I could just figure out a way to combine travel and bitcoin to create a new business!!! Let me know if you have any ideas…

 

I also love playing sports, but I’m getting to the age where my body doesn’t like staying in one piece when I play. My favorite sports are basketball, football and more recently soccer (thanks to Allison who played in college). Golfing is also a lot of fun and my body has an easier time keeping up with it.

million mile secrets bitcoin

 

Any parting words?

-Million Mile Secrets

If you’re someone who is interested in travel and has a good credit score, take advantage of traveling with points! SERIOUSLY!!! With the high prices of travel, and the willingness of banks to hand over free points, you might as well be getting something out of your good credit! There is basically an unlimited amount of points and miles out there for the taking. It might as well be you that takes them!

 

Earning points through travel credit cards has changed my life in ways I would have never expected. From flying to Hawaii by myself for a few days “just because”, to flying across the country to meet who would end up being my future wife, in first class. These are things I never would have imagined doing just ten years ago because I literally wouldn’t have been able to afford them. If you have an itch for travel, go ahead, jump right in. I’ll take a wild guess that you won’t look back!

 

If you’re interested in traveling like us, be sure to join our Travel Tribe newsletter below. It will help you learn how to earn and redeem points for free travel. We also run some pretty good giveaways that you’ll only hear about there.

Free Travel | Airport Lounges | Elite Status | Hotel Upgrades | First Class

free travel

Travel Freedom will regularly feature interviews with people like you, who are using credit card reward points and miles for free travel. The purpose of this series is to get a glimpse into the life of a rewards traveler. They will demonstrate how free travel, using rewards points and miles instead of money, is real. They’ll show us how they’ve done it and how free travel is possible for anyone, including you.

 

This interview is with Ryan Kangail, the founder of Travel Freedom and an experienced rewards traveler.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi, I’m Ryan. I’m from Eugene, Oregon where I’ve lived for most of my life. My biggest interests are my wife (obviously), traveling, sports, entrepreneurship, and cryptocurrency.

 

As you may know, I’m the founder of Travel Freedom where I try to help people like myself, use miles and points to gain access to free travel (or at least very discounted travel). Travel Freedom is fun for me because I get to combine two of my passions: travel and entrepreneurship. It also helps me stay up to date with the world of free travel.

travel for free

 

How long have you been traveling with points and miles?

I’ve been traveling for free with the help of rewards points and miles since 2012 and have never looked back. My life has changed quite drastically due to my ability to access free travel.

 

How did you find out about the secret world of free travel?

This is a bit strange, but I’m sure many people who find the free travel community finds it in a wide range of ways. In 2012 I had a cracked root in one of my teeth, which meant that I would need a root canal (eventually led to an implant -ugh) which was going to cost a couple thousand dollars (double ugh). I was dreading both the procedure and the cost I was going to incur. But, I had remembered seeing ads for credit cards that would give you a chunk of money for opening an account, so I went to my good friend Google… After searching, I ended up coming across a few travel blogs which featured free travel, using credit card rewards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

I started reading them religiously and decided to apply for a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card so that I would receive 50,000 points from the introductory bonus after paying for my root canal. (the bonus at the time)

 

Through my research, I also found out that using credit card points toward travel gives you a significant bump in the value received from the points. For instance, I used those Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel and my points ended up being worth about 2.5 cents each. That made my rewards bonus worth a total of $1,250!

 

If I had instead redeemed those Ultimate Rewards points as cash back or for gift cards, they would have given me a value of just $500.

 

Looking back, I’m not too mad that I had to have a root canal and implant. Yes, it sucked, but it opened my eyes to the world of traveling with points and miles. It has allowed me to travel infinitely more than I would have been able to without this knowledge.

free travel credit cards

 

What did you use those first Chase Ultimate Rewards on?

I took a vacation to Maui, Hawaii!

 

As a child, I visited Hawaii a few times because my grandparents lived on Maui for about ten years. I fell in love with the islands then and had been wanting to revisit them as an adult. I was able to book my own round trip flight using just half of the points I earned through the Sapphire Preferred rewards bonus.

 

Since then, I’ve gone back to Hawaii more times than I can count on my fingers, visiting all four of the major islands. My wife and I even spent our honeymoon island hopping. We love Hawaii and will probably visit once a year for the rest of our lives. If you haven’t been, I suggest you go see what it’s all about. The best part is the flights usually cost about $11 because we use reward points.

 

Have you ever had an amazing or crazy story come from traveling with points and miles?

I’ll tell you two stories from my journey through free travel. One that almost happened and one that really did happen.

 

First, the one that almost happened…  If you’re involved in the free travel community for long, you’ll learn that airlines and hotels sometimes have what are referred to as “mistake fares”. Which are when something goes wrong with their pricing for a short period giving extremely good rates for flights or hotels. Travel bloggers often post these to social media and they are usually corrected by the airline or hotel very quickly.

 

So, one day while I was at work I got a notification on my phone that United Airlines had flights to Hong Kong that were possible to book using just 4 United miles (the equivalent of about 8 cents). I quickly found some dates that I thought I would be able to travel on and booked a round trip flight to Hong Kong.

 

Everything seemed good and I was even ticketed through email. But, with these mistake fares, sometimes the companies will honor them and sometimes they will cancel them. Unfortunately, they ended up canceling everyone’s tickets who got in on this mistake fare, but it was exciting while it lasted. I didn’t get to end up taking an 8 cent flight to Hong Kong, but it made me aware that these mistakes do happen and they often honor the pricing.

 

Now for the story that DID happen. In 2015, some good friends of mine mentioned that they thought their other friend and I would get along very well. They gave me her contact information and we started talking non-stop because there was an instant attraction. The only problem was that she was currently living in Virginia, and if you remember from the first question, I live in Oregon. Yeah, that’s 2,800 miles apart, making the first date quite difficult.

 

No worries, I travel for free with points and miles. I had American Airlines miles out my A*$ from a credit card rewards bonus and some promotions I took part in. So, I booked my ticket to fly across the country for our first official (non-Skype) date.  The rest is history and we are now happily married and thankfully both live in Oregon!

 

*Disclosure: Results may vary – Becoming a rewards traveler does not guarantee you to find your soul mate across the country.

free travel rewards

 

What’s the best credit card introductory bonus you’ve ever received? Do you remember what you redeemed the points for?

I’ve earned a few amazing bonuses throughout the years. The banks offering these credit cards with huge introductory bonuses sometimes decide to run special offers for even more points or miles than usual.

 

The two cards that stand out the most are when I got 100,000 American Express Membership Rewards points for signing up for the Amex Platinum card (learn more), and more recently when I got 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for signing up for their Sapphire Reserve card. Both are premium travel cards that give you access to things like expedited airport security, airport lounges, and elite status at hotels.

 

Both offers earned enough points for multiple vacations saving me thousands and thousands of dollars on travel. For instance, either one of those introductory bonus offers is enough miles to book four round trip flights to Hawaii. That’s a lot of free travel from just one credit card! Also, as mentioned, they both came with airport lounge access, which my wife now refers to as “Princess Traveling”.

 

What do your friends and family think of your free travel using rewards points?

They are becoming more comfortable with it now that I’ve been doing it for so long. In the beginning, I think they were a bit skeptical of how it was possible to earn free travel. They often wondered what the catch was. Now that I travel for free whenever and wherever I want to, for very little to no money out of pocket, while my credit score is just about as good as it can be, they’re starting to ask more about free travel and travel credit cards.

 

What are your future free travel plans?

This year, my wife and I plan on traveling to Mexico with some of our family, New Orleans to see a friend, and California a few times to see family and for a wedding. My wife is a teacher (summers off) and I just started a job that gives me more flexibility to travel, so we also have a lot of time available this summer to make even more plans. We could use some ideas, so send them our way!

free travel points

 

Do you use your miles and points to travel as much as possible, or to travel more extravagantly?

For the most part I try to get the most bang for the buck (or in this case bang for the point). We usually travel in coach and try to squeeze out as much free travel as possible with the points we earn. There have been a few times where we went for the extravagant travel though, flying in first class or staying at resorts that normally cost $500 a night, but those are more occasional. We like to venture out while on vacation, so the features of where we’re staying is less important than just a comfortable place to relax and sleep.

 

How often do you travel now, compared to before you knew about free travel with rewards?

Before I knew how to earn free travel using credit card reward points and miles, I would maybe travel once a year due to the cost of flights and hotels. Since learning about free travel, I would say I average traveling 6-8 times per year. My wife and I plan on bumping that up a bit in upcoming years because we would like to travel as much as possible before we try to have children.

 

What is your best tip for people who are just now learning about free travel?

Make a plan first, and then go for it!

 

When I started out, I just jumped in and got every good introductory bonus I could find without having a redemption plan. I ended up with some points just sitting in accounts instead of being used. Always remember that holding on to points has no value. If you’re going to earn points, there should be an ultimate goal to use them in the near future.

 

How can people contact you?

Right here on Travel Freedom is the best way.

 

I would love for everyone to join our Travel Tribe email subscription. It’s free and will help stay up to date on free travel and the best credit card offers. Also, feel free to send me an email with any questions you may have. I’d be happy to connect with you!

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