Reader Profile – November, 22 2002

Reader Profile – November, 22 2002

Bobby Finken is a battle-tested and highly decorated veteran of the miles and points game. Now a husband and father of three, he’s finding that a big mileage account doesn’t go quite as far as it used to when he started in 1987. But having accumulated over 15 million points and miles, he has learned a thing or two along the way. Most of his miles came from promotions, and he gives FlyerTalk credit for over 1 million of them.

He points out that while most people are concerned with their frequent flyer miles, they often don’t look at hotel awards. After all, your lodging can cost more than your airfare.

Bobby, your thoughts…?

If you haven’t enrolled in hotel programs and excelled at using these programs, then you’re missing out.

It thrills me to see people learn about the programs and to begin to share other promotions with others.

There are few people who don’t enjoy travel, so why don’t they accumulate miles from something like a credit card or telephone company?

What I love is to go to Hawaii with my wife and children.

It’s not right to change award levels without grandfathering those miles, or to charge fees to change frequent flyer tickets.

What happened to promoting travel with promotions? Where are they this fall?

I don’t want to leave miles or points on the table because I forgot about a promotion.

When it comes to explaining the benefits of frequent flyer programs and hotel programs I can ramble for hours.

I’ve earned miles mainly by flying and using all the double and triple miles promotions, but also by using other means.

Why should there be limitations on award seats when a plane is not full?

If I can help somebody gain more miles or points, I have helped them enjoy a vacation.

The ability to travel for free is a huge benefit. It enables one to travel to places that would otherwise be impossible because of the cost. I used to go to Hawaii every year on points and miles; $7,000 would have been impossible.

It’s amazing, the promotions of the late eighties and nineties: Four thousand, five hundred miles for car rentals, triple miles, six flights for a free ticket, three car rentals for a free ticket on American, threshold miles, Marriott Reactivation bonuses, etc.

The first thing a new traveler must do is seek out FlyerTalk and get up to speed on how to do this gig.

Everybody should know that through devaluation you will loose hundreds of thousands of miles unless you use them before they raise the award levels.

I think the boom is over for accumulating huge numbers, because airline partners can’t afford huge bonuses. An example would be car rentals going from 500 miles to 50 a day.

I did something: I learned from the airline programs and used those same skills to ramp up my hotel points.

A good rule is to call the hotels directly when told no reward nights are available.

I’ve always thought that my miles where my traveling 401K — like money, you’ll never have enough.

If I had to pick an airline, I’d pick one that has the best flights for me. Miles are great, but flying to another hub takes an extra three hours inbound and outbound. After a few years this will get very old.

How much money have the airlines collected by selling billions and billions of miles? Most people think they’re free. Great business — collects up front and then allows them to be used only if a flight is not full.

When I started it was a simple 500 miles for cars, 500 for hotels. It required no research. Now it can be a job making sure you’ve got all the deals.

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