As Tiffany wrote about yesterday, we’ve made some decisions when it comes to bringing on contributors, which has been quite an adventure. I’m sorry it has taken so long, but the truth is that there were so many great people we got to interact with as we went through this process. Tiffany did the bulk of the work (which I’m grateful for), but even of the people I spoke with, I thought every single one of them would make a great addition.
It also made me realize how different everyone’s skill set is when it comes to blogging. Some people were great at dissecting programs and situations. Others were amazing storytellers. Others were just all-around engaging. This is why I’d like to eventually bring on people beyond this initial group, because I think there are other unique perspectives that need to be heard.
Over the coming days and weeks we’ll be introducing a few people who will be joining the team. I’m really excited because I couldn’t feel more confident in the people we’re bringing on, and I’m so enthusiastic about the unique perspectives they’ll bring.
So let’s get started. First, I’m excited to introduce someone who didn’t even apply as part of this process, but rather who we sought out, and who agreed to join the team. This was separate from the job we publicly posted, but I didn’t want to introduce a new voice while we were doing sample posts and such.
Spencer isn’t new to writing about miles & points, and having seen his work elsewhere, I was so impressed by his writing style. Spencer will be writing primarily about miles, points, and credit cards, and I’m sure you’ll find his content useful whether you’re new to miles & points, or whether you’ve been playing this game for years. The reason I think he’s so great for this is that he has the ability to simplify complicated information. He’s an amazing writer, and I find his thought process on things easy to follow.
I read a lot of miles & points sites, but when I started reading his stuff and connecting the bylines I said to Tiffany “this guy is good, how can we get him to join our team?” The rest is history.
Miles, points, and credit cards, are the core of this site, and having someone like Spencer will nicely balance the content we’re going to be getting from the contributors — someone with an international perspective, someone with an amazing knack for storytelling, someone with a great analytical mind, and more.
You’ll start to see Spencer’s work on the blog in the coming days, and can expect a few posts from him per week.
As I’ve said from the beginning of the process, the core of this blog won’t change. I love what I do, and I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I don’t expect contributors to replace me, because I’d be bored out of my mind if that happened. Instead, I hope that having more contributors will allow me to spend more time on fewer posts. Often I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel, just churning out posts in a way that I can’t keep up. That’s not because I’m trying to fill the blog with fluff, but rather because I want to be a “one stop shop” for all things miles & points. With these upcoming contributors joining the team I’ll have time to focus on writing more detailed posts.
In hopes of you guys getting to know Spencer a bit, below is a short Q&A with him. Over the coming weeks we hope to do a Facebook Live with him, and you’ll see his first post go live on Monday.
How did you get started with miles and points?
After years of working in politics — a world not known for vacation time — I found myself at the U.S. Travel Association (of Daily Getaways fame). Still political, but they emphasized taking your vacation days. So, I started hunting for cheap fares.
A few months into the job, I saw a link to VFTW in our daily press clips. Gary had written a piece about the Open Skies fight. I started clicking around VFTW. Saw something about points. Made a mental note to look into it again.
Maybe a month later, I decided to figure out how to fly up front — 6’3” doesn’t fit in economy. From there I started reading anything and everything I could find about award charts, credit card rewards programs, routing rules, etc etc etc.
I’ve been told reading about this stuff 4 hours a day for 6 months wasn’t the most normal thing I’ve ever done.
You’re involved in various communities within the miles and points world — what are some of the biggest mistakes you see people making with miles/points?
Two things I see a lot:
1) people put all their energy into learning about earning and forget to learn about how to redeem for max value.
2) seeing a big number as a sign-up bonus and assuming it’s better than a smaller sign-up bonus. as an example, when the United card offers 50k and SPG offers 35k.
I get it. It’s easy to see a bigger number and just go for it. I think this kind of ties into #1. If you understand the value of SPG and how the program works, you might see things a bit differently.
What’s your favorite redemption you’ve made?
Favorite redemption… that’s a tough one. I still think back to the first award I booked. I had earned 60k AA miles from the Citi AA Plat Select and used those miles to book the Etihad Apartments for AUH-MEL (when they still had an A380 on the route). I figured, why use 90k for JFK-AUH when I can only use 60k? This was pre-AA deval, of course.
Favorite credit card sign-up bonus you’ve taken advantage of?
My favorite was probably the Cathay Pacific Asia Miles Visa. As someone who earns points with a purpose, the sign-up bonus on this card allowed me to book a round-trip business class award between New York (JFK) and Vancouver (YVR).
If you ask me, 50,000 miles to fly on Cathay Pacific’s 777-300 on a transcontinental route is totally worth it. Might even be the best way to fly across the continent. Though, I still need to try JetBlue’s Mint product!
You’ve done quite a bit of writing in the miles and points space — what do you enjoy most about blogging?
Taking what seems complicated at first and showing people what’s possible with just a little effort.
I joke about how awful economy is but it’s all goal-dependent. The number of people I’ve talked to just trying to afford a family vacation is staggering. I just want to help people travel how they want.
One of your specialities are the more esoteric foreign frequent flyer programs that many people think are too complicated — why do you like them?
While they may have some quirks that can make booking a little bit more difficult, you can really stretch your points if you learn how to leverage these programs.
Take Asia Miles as an example. You can book a simple one-way business class award on Qantas from LAX to SYD for 70,000 miles. Round-trip is only 120,000 miles. The fun doesn’t stop there though.
If you book a round-trip with one direction on Qantas and the other on American Airlines, your award will be governed by its Oneworld multi-carrier award chart. A round-trip in business class would only require 135,000 miles.
When you consider that Asia Miles is a transfer partner of Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points and SPG, this is a great way to book a trip to Australia from the west coast.
For your own personal travels, are you most into airline loyalty programs, or do you care as much about hotels?
I’m definitely more focused on airline programs. I feel like there’s more creativity in putting together amazing flight redemptions.
That being said, it’s still fun finding hotel sweet spots with 5th night free awards or even using the Citi Prestige 4th night “free” benefit. Part of me wants to go to Chennai, India just to book a 5k per night Park Hyatt
Value aside, what’s your favorite premium cabin product you’ve flown? Does that award go to Etihad?
Ooh, that’s so tough. As a people person, my interaction with the crew really shapes the experience in-flight. My first Etihad experience in the Apartments will always be tough to top.
I was the only one in the cabin and the butler, Johan (from South Africa), did everything he could to make it a special flight. They even made each main course and paired them with wine so I could get the full experience. I was fat and happy after that.
My favorite lounge experience was in Garuda Indonesia’s first class lounge. The first class lounge attendants were spectacular. Specifically, Larizka and Harry took me on a tour of the new terminal since I had a long layover.
We popped into the domestic business class lounge to check it out—it has a freaking movie room.
The whole terminal is so modern and has a totally different feel than the old terminal, and it’s massive!
You can follow Spencer on Twitter @spencerformiles — we hope you enjoy his posts!