Claus Lauter: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Why We Travel Podcast. Today we want talk about travel hacking, about working with points and how to get the most out of it. So as a guest on the show today, I have Julia Menez. She is a point strategy codes as coach a speaker and host of the Travel podcast.
After traveling to more than 30 countries before the age of 30 and saving thousands of dollars each year with points and miles, ju distills the strategies from top award travels around the world in the Gu Priest and creates Instagram videos about credit card benefits such as trip protections and luxury travel opportunities.
Hello, Julia. How are you today?
Julia Menez: Hi, I’m doing well. I’m excited to chat with you.
Claus Lauter: I’d glad to have you on the show. Julia, tell me a little bit about your travels. First of all, what was your very first childhood memory of
Julia Menez: traveling? my parents immigrated from the Philippines to US before I was born.
They met in the us So my first international trip was actually when I was six. We took a family vacation to the Philippines, and I just remember that flight, that plane seemed giant, especially as a six year old. Like, your feet aren’t gonna touch the floor. They’re probably not going to extend all the way to the seat.
That was just a really magical experience for me, and I think really sparked the wanderlust.
Claus Lauter: Totally relate to that. My first travel experience is very, very similar to yours. [00:02:00] So now you have been traveled quite a bit, 30 plus countries, and you were diving into the topic of travel hacking and using points for your advantage.
So that’s a very specific topic and obviously on everyone’s list to travel the most of what you get. And we wanna dive a little bit more into this. So give me a broad overview of what it actually means to collect points.
Julia Menez: Travel hacking and the style that I teach it is leveraging the different loyalty programs from hotels, airlines, and credit card companies.
I’m based in the us. Most of my content is for us but we like to collect points largely through the co-branded credit cards and the different bank credit cards that let you transfer points to different airlines and different hotels. then we also will collect points through some different strategies as well, whether.
Different tools and apps and dining portals and shopping portals on the websites. There’s so many different ways to earn points and miles and then redeem them for really amazing flights and.
Claus Lauter: Okay, give an example. If somebody has not even started with it, what would be an entry point [00:03:00] to get started?
Julia Menez: I always tell people to work backwards because sometimes people hear about travel hacking and they get really overwhelmed really quickly.
They’re trying to study 30 different cars and which one’s the best for them and what are the benefits of all of these different cards, and it’s much, much easier if you instead work the other way around where instead of saying, I’m gonna get these cards and see what I can do, pick a place that you wanna go to.
And then try to price out how much is this gonna cost in points? Who even flies this route? What kind of points do I need? And then let that drive the moves that you make and what cars you get and what portals you are focusing on. for example, I’m based in Las Vegas there’s not a ton of direct international flights from here, but there are a ton from Los Angeles.
So if I wanted to fly from Los Angeles to Japan, for example, , there are lots of different tools to do this. One is award logic, and you can just search, Hey, I wanna fly from Los Angeles to Japan. Who flies there? How many points is it gonna cost? what kind of points do I need? And then that will tell you what kind of cards you need from there.
Claus Lauter: Okay, so [00:04:00] talking about tools, so it’s not just going to a website of an airline and finding out how much it is. So there’s tools out there helping you with that. How does it work? How do you use these tools?
Julia Menez: You could go to every airlines website, but there’s probably at least 30 airlines that you wanna check to cover all of the major partners, so that is really overwhelming.
Such a time commitment to do all of those different searches, especially if you’re pretty flexible on travel dates. That’s a lot of searching. With award logic, all they do is it’s like a search engine and you just tell them where you’re flying from, where you’re flying to, and the different dates, then you can try different date combinations, airport combinations.
for example, if I’m not flying or if I’m not finding. From Las Vegas, I’ll search for Los Angeles instead, then it will search all of the different airlines for you. And it’s going to tell you who all flies those routes. Because flying from Los Angeles to Japan, you could do United, you could do Singapore Airlines, you could do Ana Airs, you could do Japan Airlines, I think flies that route.
you have a lot of different options.
Claus Lauter: Okay. Now collecting points is one thing. Spending points is another thing. [00:05:00] So how do you start collecting before you can start spending? Obviously you need to collect what’s the best way there.
Julia Menez: Most people are gonna get the most points through credit card signup, bonuses, so a lot of credit cards have something structured where you get 50,000 points or so.
If you spend $3,000 in three months, those numbers. Vastly different between cards, but that is going to be how you get most of your points. And then every few months you can just open a new card. Some of them don’t even have any annual fees. as you’re collecting all of these different points, A lot of people are afraid to open credit cards in the first place cuz they’re like, what’s my credit score going to do?
But it actually does help your credit score if you have more credit available because of the concept of credit utilization, they want you to keep that percentage of credit that you’re using divided by credit that you have available. You wanna keep that pretty low. as you open more and more cards, it actually really, really boosts the credit score for a lot of.
Who are in this game. There’s tons of different ways to earn points and miles. The easiest and fastest is with signup [00:06:00] bonuses.
Claus Lauter: Okay, so you collect , your points on these different cards, and then once you got to the point where you wanna spend your points, what’s a good strategy in regards where to spend your points.
This is airlines, this is accommodation, hotel chains. What’s the best strategy?
Julia Menez: Yeah, so it’s very important for people to know that not all points are created equal. If you have a flexible currency like Chase or American Express, or Built or Capital One or something like that, I would probably aim to get at least 2 cents per value out of each point.
So that means if I am transferring over a thousand points, but I’m gonna aim to get at least 2 cents of value out of each point. Whereas with different currencies like Marriott and IHG and Hilton, you’re probably only gonna get half a cent per point when you do those valuations.
So, That’s the threshold that I would tend to aim for. And then as far as the best transfer partners to transfer them to, I like to use my American Express points for international flights. I get a lot of value out of them that way, and I like to use my chase and my built points transferred over to Hyatt [00:07:00] Hotels out of the Big Four, Marriott, ihg, Hilton, and Hyatt.
Hyatt is the one that’s going to have an award chart rather. Have their points price be directly correlated with their cash price. And so by having that award chart, they actually make it possible to have different sweet spots where you can get a lot of outsize value out of your points. So I’m really Team Hyatt for hotels for that reason.
Claus Lauter: Team Hyatt. Here we go. So when it comes to points, miles, there might be other terms for it. What should you aim for? Is there anything specific you go for, or is it just different names for the same Thing?
Julia Menez: as far as what type to go for, I would recommend starting with the flexible one. So Chase American Express City, capital One and Built because they transferred to lots of different partners.
If you’re going for United Miles only, you can only really use that with United. Whereas if you have Chase points, you could use that with H Ed United. Southwest Jet Blue Air Canada, they’ve got [00:08:00] about 14 partners. I think American Express has a lot of different partners as well, and it’s going to have some in common and some that are different between the different banks.
So for example, almost everybody is going to transfer to Singapore Airlines, but if you wanted to transfer points directly into American Airlines, then built is the only one that’s going to. .
Claus Lauter: What’s the biggest mistake that you see, people doing with points?
Julia Menez: I think a lot of people are like, I don’t really know what to do with these.
And there’s a big mistake in the redemption side, but also on the earning side. So on the redemption side, people will redeem points for magazine. Or room buds or just like household appliances cuz they just don’t understand the value that you can get when you’re transferring them for travel redemptions.
So that’s one common mistake that we hear about. And then from the earning side, a common mistake is people will get one credit card and they just put everything on there and never go for another signup bonus ever again. And like we mentioned, most of your points are gonna come from your signup bonuses.
[00:09:00] If you can rotate what cards you’re getting. You don’t need to get 20 cards right off the bat, but one or two , new cards every year or so. You can get a lot of points that way. .
Claus Lauter: Okay. With these cards, are there any downsides that you need to look at?
Julia Menez: This hobby is only for people who can pay off their credit card bills in full every month.
Otherwise, if you are carrying a balance from month to month, you’re gonna get charged interest on that balance. And these credit cards have some of the highest. Interest rates of any cards on the market. That’s part of how they can offer such lucrative rewards is the banks are expecting that most people are not able to pay off their bills in full.
in order to make this hobby worth make sure that you can pay off your bill in full every month. And that way all the points pretty much feel like they’re getting, pretty much feel like you’re getting them for free. Whereas if you have to pay. Those interest payments are going to negate the value that you’re getting out of the points.
Claus Lauter: Good point there. Now with the cards, if you have them and you wanna, transfer points, is that possible or do [00:10:00] they stay with you and there’s no way to transfer them to someone else
Julia Menez: for transferring to another person? It’s going to depend on the card. , for example, the Chase Sapphire. You can transfer them to family members who have the same mailing address as you.
And then there’s different ways to do it too, where sometimes you can just make bookings for people where you don’t have to transfer the points into their account. I have top tier status with H Ed. I’m the globalist member. there’s a that you can fax to Hyatt, I think. sometimes I think they accept it via email.
Where you just fill out a physical forum to say, I wanna transfer points from one account to another, or I can just make bookings for people from my account if I wanted to gift something to family or friends. And then from there, they can all of the different benefits that I get as a globalist.
It’s called a guest of honor booking, where even if they don’t have any status, because I book it for. They’re treated like they have status, which means they get free breakfast, they get free upgrades. If there’s suites available, you get late checkout until 4:00 PM so lots of different [00:11:00] perk. . Okay.
Claus Lauter: Now we’re talking mainly about United States of America here, the usaa.
do you have any experience with other countries where it works there
Julia Menez: Largely it’s gonna work best in the US but there are also point creators who talk about this in Canada. Ricky John from Prince of Travel actually hosts something called the Travel Summit, where he brings together American Canadian creators and from other countries as well to talk about points and miles programs in the US and Canada. There’s Emmanuel Beer from Flight Hacks. He focuses on Australia content. There’s Ali from O Travel Geek who is based in the UK and talks about UK content. And then Kathleen Porter Christensen is an American who lives in the UK most of the year, so she writes for the Points, guy There’s lots of Canadian creators who are all speaking at the travel summit or attending the Travel Summit, it does work in different countries. I think Singapore might have a few, and Germany is going to be the best one out of Europe, but largely it’s going to be US, [00:12:00] Canada, a little bit of Australia, a little bit of uk.
Claus Lauter: Okay, , if you’re not in any of these countries, then you look into details to find someone who can help you there. So I understand you are a point strategy coach, so you help people going deeper into this topic. What do you do
Julia Menez: there? So whenever somebody has a particular trip that they wanna plan, or they’re looking for how to earn a lot of points because they’re trying to coordinate multiple people within the family on how to earn points and redeem points, I can help them with that.
It’s very popular with people who are booking a honeymoon and have a lot of wedding expenses because then I can show them here’s how to allocate your wedding expenses onto different cards. And then from there, you are going to have enough points to get a h. For free. So that’s a very popular use case with points.
Claus Lauter: Okay. Was just about to ask you, who’s your perfect beside of couples getting married? Anyone else who is among your clients?
Julia Menez: Yeah. Business owners who have a lot of business expenses and don’t really know how to maximize their points. If you have a lot of business expenses, you could [00:13:00] easily get top tier status.
Some airlines and some hotels without ever having to fly or stay there, you can just put all your business expenses onto their co-branded cards. And then for the couple vacations that you take a year, you will be treated like royalty on, for example, American Airlines. it doesn’t have to be this much, but around $200,000 a year for your business, you can get top tier status with them.
With Hyatt, I think it’s around $120,000. We’ll get you top tier status if you have the world of Hyatt business credit cards, so that’s amazing. Use case as well is for business owners who have a lot of spend, and that can be restaurant owners. Anyone who has a store where you’re paying for a lot of inventory, you can get points on all of those.
Claus Lauter: Okay. Sounds great. So I understand it’s a, , relatively complex topic, but the benefits that you can get out of it are amazing. and having someone on your side like yours, , would definitely help , to squeeze most out of it. So where can people find out more about you?
Julia Menez: So, I mostly hang out on Instagram at Geo Breeze Travel.
You can also [00:14:00] find. Anywhere that you listen to podcasts on the Geo Breeze Travel Podcast, we interview a different person every week about their point strategy because there’s so many different ways to live a travel hacking lifestyle, and I really hope that you all go and check out the podcast and find somebody on there whose life resonates with you and whose points and miles and even personal finance style resonates with you
Claus Lauter: as.
Sounds great. I will put the links in the show notes, then you just one click away. Ju thanks so much for your time. I think that was a very insightful start into travel hacking into, building up a point strategy and, , talk to you Perfect.
Julia Menez: Thank you so much.
Leave a Reply