Saturday, November 12, 2016

Mastering the magic of traveling for free

Everyone likes to get something for free, and travel experiences are among the most coveted. For Greg Davis-Kean, who calls himself a Miles Master, booking travel, hotels, and activities with airline miles, points, and reward programs—no dollars!--is a fun challenge that has taken him all over the world.
“It’s easier and quicker to earn miles in ways other than flying,” the Michigan resident said when I talked with him recently. “Although some people think it’s too much trouble, I have found it’s so worth the effort. I can’t believe everyone isn’t doing it,” Davis-Kean added as he shared some of his secrets with me.

Take a lovely vacation for free with Miles Master tips.
A dream vacation

Davis-Kean recently returned from a luxurious Caribbean vacation on Necker Island, a 74-acre island entirely owned by Sir Richard Branson, for which he spent seven months accumulating 1.2 million miles. Branson is Chairman of the Virgin Group, and his island in the British Virgin Islands is part of the Virgin Limited Edition portfolio of luxury properties. The whole island operates like a resort where up to 28 people can book individual rooms at certain times of the year.

Davis-Kean’s trip was an award listed on Virgin Atlantic Limited’s website, and he decided it was worth pursuing. “I just liked the challenge to do this,” he said of the exclusive excursion. “What I didn’t expect was that the trip exceeded my expectations.”
What’s the trick?

Credit cards are a great source for
accruing points that can be
exchanged for travel.
How did he collect such a massive amount of miles in a relatively short time? He juggled credit card miles, bonuses, and other miles-earning schemes (all legal, of course) to rack up more than a million miles.
His first tactic is to apply for credit cards that offer large sign-up bonuses. “Be sure you’re getting the best offer because these change frequently,” he said. Check his blog , The Frequent Miler, for up-to-date information and tips on current deals.

 “There’s no downside to signing up,” he explained. He does keep good records on his 30 plus cards to know when the free first year is up (when the annual fee kicks in), so he can decide whether to keep or cancel the card or downgrade it to a non-fee card to preserve credit at the issuing bank.
“Focus on transferable points programs such as those with Chase bank, American Express, and Citibank,” he said. Flexibility to transfer points to airline programs makes them more valuable, and you might even get bonus points at the time of transfer.

Another trick: “Look for credit cards with category bonuses. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers three times the usual points for travel and dining expenses. Although there is a hefty charge for that card, annual credits reduce the effective rate considerably. The American Express Everyday card is his preferred card for groceries and gas.
Upgrade your hotel stays with points
for free nights.
With hotel cards, Davis-Kean suggests accruing points to use for free-night stays. “That’s a better deal than putting those points on an airline card,” he said. Sure, you might have to pay a small fee, but if you choose wisely, having a hotel card can be worth a lot of money. For example, the annual fee for an IHG card (Intercontinental Hotels, Holiday Inn, and more) is just $49, but you get a free night every year—and where can you stay at a nice hotel for just $49?

Making it work
What started as a hobby for Davis-Kean has turned into a full time career. For the last five years he has produced a blog where he shares tips for readers.  Whether you’re just curious or have gotten hooked and want to take your project to the next level, read his blog at 

Greg Davis-Kean, Miles Master
“These tips keep my wife in top-tier status,” he said with a bit of humor. He also keeps up with new offerings and techniques by reading other blogs that discuss maximizing points and miles. Even if you can’t spend the time and effort that he does, you can still reap plenty of benefits by just being aware of and taking advantage of offers that are widely available.
So what’s next for Davis-Kean? He’s looking at a safari-based trip to Africa.

Photos from free sources




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