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Welcome to the Award Travel 101 Podcast Sponsored by Thrifty Traveler


Founded in 2013, the Award Travel 101 Facebook group teaches members how to travel the world using points and miles. Today, our community of over 50,000 people from around the world share, teach and learn how to travel anywhere on any budget. More than just a recap on award travel news and strategy, the Award Travel 101 Podcast offers a glimpse into the stories and lives of our Award Travel 101 community members. Each week we will update this page with the latest episode information and show notes.

  • Episode 0 – Intro to the Award Travel 101 Podcast
  • Episode 1 – How To Win Your Battle With Points and Miles
  • Episode 2 – Marriott Bonvoy And The Struggle Bus
  • Episode 3 – Meet A Points and Miles Addict Who's Afraid of Flying
  • Episode 4 – Can I Redeem Miles for Ambulance Rides?
  • Episode 5 – Marriott May Bonvoy You But Still Get The Points
  • Episode 6 – Never Pay Full Price For Gas
  • Episode 7 – What Happens to Points After Death?
  • Episode 8 – Life Behind the Keyboard
  • Episode 9 – Do We Know How Many Miles an Award Ticket is Going to Cost?
  • Episode 10 – Christmas in May
  • Episode 11 – What It's Like to Marry A Points Nerd
  • Episode 12 – When Loyalty Programs Behave Badly
  • Episode 13 – Bonvoy-age to the Perfect Anniversary Trip
  • Episode 14 – Getting MileagePlus'd and Spending $10k at a Dollar General
  • Episode 15 – Best Ways to Save on Car Rentals and Gas

 

Episode 0 – Intro to the Award Travel 101 Podcast

For our very first episode, you'll get to learn more about Award Travel 101 founder Richard Kerr. From falling in love with travel after moving overseas as a teenager, to joining the Navy. Find out how starting a family lead to learning how to maximize award travel redemptions and eventually running a Facebook group as his full-time job!

Today’s episode timestamps:

  • 1:03 — Richard's introduction to travel
  • 2:30 — Richard takes off to the US Navy
  • 3:45 — Points and miles enter the picture
  • 5:20 — The founding of Award Travel 101
  • 7:28 — Richard moves to points and miles as a full-time job
  • 8:50 — The Award Travel 101 podcast is born

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Episode 1 – How To Win Your Battle With Points and Miles

“Three days after you leave the hospital with a broken back, and chemo, and serious multiple myeloma, you decide you're going on this around-the-world trip?” 

The Award Travel 101 community is built around sharing and learning knowledge on how to travel the world with points and miles. A side effect of the community has been the stories of people that meet and interact every day and their stories made possible by a Facebook group. This week we introduce you to Mr. Ike Stanfield of Texas who is currently battling aggressive multiple myeloma cancer. In February 2019, Ike posted to Award Travel 101 that he was cashing in his points and miles and taking a solo trip around the world to Singapore, Delhi, and Doha in first and business classes.

During the show, Ike walks us through some of his daily battles that might delay his determination to see his bucket list destinations. Despite the fact that Ike broke his back just one week before he was supposed to leave for his trip, he persevered through pain and surgery and still completed his around the world points and miles trip. Make sure to listen to his inspiration and words of wisdom as he walks us through each part of his two week adventure.


Today’s episode timestamps:

  • 3:30 — Meet Ike
  • 8:45 — Ike's health diagnosis
  • 12:30 — Ike's around the world itinerary
  • 17:00 — Getting treated well at the Hilton Singapore
  • 19:30 — “What did you reflect on while you were there?”
  • 22:30 — Ike's advice for those facing challenges
  • 28:30 — Ike's words of wisdom

Today's Guest


Ike Stanfield is a retired American Airlines employee from Corpus Christie, Texas. In 2017, he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and has undergone and continues to undergo multiple forms of treatment to battle his disease.

 

Resources

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Episode 2 – Marriott Bonvoy And The Struggle Bus

“The blogs are being told policies before Marriott reservation agents even know whats going on and certainly before front desk agents.  No one knows what’s going on.” 

The Marriott and Starwood merger has been anything but smooth and leadership of the combined portfolio continues to display tone deaf responses to loyal customers. This week Richard and Ed Pizzarello discuss the continuing struggles of the new Marriott Bonvoy program, how it got to where it is, the current state of trying to be a Marriott Bonvoy loyalist and what Marriott can do to right the ship.

Today’s episode timestamps:

  • 1:12 — Happy Travel Day
  • 2:21 — Bonvoy Merger Disaster
  • 3:51 — Problems attaching award certificate for an award night? Points advance bookings and more
  • 5:19 — Marriott is broken master thread
  • 6:55 — New Bonvoy Co-branded card discussion
  • 7:34 — Marriott's tone deaf responses
  • 10:33 — Has anyone never needed a passport to make a hotel reservation? Probably not
  • 18:07  — What could Bonvoy and Lolo Jones have in common?
  • 20:18  — “Bonvoyed”
  • 24:00 — Is there hope? What Marriott needs to do to improve

Today's Guest

Ed Pizzarello founded the Pizza In Motion blog on the Boarding Area network. He's considered one of the preeminent voices in the loyalty program space and is a successful entrepreneur.

 

Resources

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Episode 3 – Meet A Points and Miles Addict Who's Afraid of Flying

“I was a few rows behind anyone with my kids and I just jumped up and ditched my kids and ran to the nearest person and sat down and said “Can I please hold your hand?! I'm just so afraid!”

Do you get nervous flying? Or, even worse, do you let that fear keep you from traveling?  This week Richard chats with Toni Southam, a long time Award Travel 101 moderator and Paul Borish, a licensed counselor who specializes in helping those with a fear of flying. In the episode Paul and Toni offer some different ways to tackle this fear and other resources to help find what can work best for you. Tune in to hear Toni share what it’s like to be both a points and miles addict and afraid of flying.

Today’s episode timestamps:

  • 2:20 — Meet Toni, mother of four and points and miles pro.
  • 4:54 — Meet Paul, a licensed counselor who specializes in travel anxieties.
  • 7:43 — What's a typical flight like for Toni?
  • 11:52 — How can you separate rational and irrational fears?
  • 15:30 — How did Toni's first flight after working with Paul go?
  • 19:43 — Paul describes a typical timeline for recovery.
  • 22:30 — Tactical Breathing
  • 24:35 — What kind of emotional support animal is Paul?

Today’s Guests


Paul Borish, MA, is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and long time travel hacker in PA.  In his private practice, he specializes in treating fear of flying (aviophobia) and other travel related anxieties. Utilizing a combination of tele-counseling and in person services, Paul works with clients all over the globe.

Utilizing the motto, “Whatever it Takes,” Paul works with each client to assess and then treat their specific fears, phobias, and anxiety. Those who have not succeeded through traditional counseling, weekend workshops, self-help books, and DVDs have found success and met their goals working with Paul. To learn more about his services, or to schedule a free 20 minute consultation, check out his website travelerspsych.com or reach him by email at paul@travelerspsych.com

Toni Southam is a moderator for the Award Travel 101 community and travels internationally with a family of six using points and miles. Despite her love for travel and points, her biggest fear is heading to the airport and taking a flight. Paul has been coaching her to help her anxiety.

 

Resources

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Episode 4 – Can I Redeem Miles for Ambulance Rides?

“Your child strapped to an ambulance gurney is a sight no parent wants to see.”

This week is a special episode where Richard, as promised, shares a glimpse of what life is like when you run a Facebook group for a living. Tune in to hear the recap of a day which included a surprise ambulance trip to the hospital for his two year old. More than just the fear of the unknown (diagnosis), there’s a fear of finances. Richard highlights the importance of not only having a financial plan, but a support network you can turn to when you find yourself in need.

Today's episode timestamps:

  • 3:00 — Signs of concussions
  • 7:05 — A sight no parent wants to see
  • 10:15 — The cost of health insurance
  • 14:15 — The power of community and a support system
  • 16:30 — Wrapping Mary up in bubble wrap & Recap

Resources

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Episode 5 – Marriott May Bonvoy You But Still Get The Points

“We have one complaint came from a member who had over 1,300 nights with Marriott…That's an average of $266,000 they have spent with this company and due to tech glitches they lose lifetime status and benefits? It's a bait and switch.”

If you've said or heard the phrase “I've/You've been Bonvoyed”, chances are high you've been burned by Marriott's problem-plagued SPG merger and new program rollout. The stories of former Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Ritz-Carlton members missing nights, points, waiting for hours on hold, and more are endless. This week Richard is joined by Mister M, Shubhayan Mukherjee, co-founder of Bonvoyed.com! Yes folks. You know that there are more than just a few customers on the fringes that are upset when a website launches dedicated to helping members get the support they aren't receiving.

Today's episode timestamps:

  • 1:30 – Starting out on a positive note with some of the good parts of Marriott Bonvoy
  • 12:00 – Three ways to use those Marriott Bonvoy Points
  • 13:50 – The Mysterious Mister M
  • 16:22 – Bonvoy'd goes viral
  • 18:00 – The problems are everywhere
  • 25:00 – Is there an entitlement issue?

Resources

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Episode 6 – Never Pay Full Price for Gas

“Let me show you how I make a profit when I head to the pump a lot of the time these days.”

This week Richard has got a jam packed episode with more information than you'd ever think you'd want to know about buying gas. To start things off, he's got his list of the top programs, stacks and apps that not only get you super cheap gas, but could actually pay you for filling up! He's also joined by Daniel LittleGeneral Manager & Head of MarketingNorth America for Shell. The both get to chat about the history of fuel loyalty programs, the differences between programs in different countries and some previews of what's to come from the Fuel Rewards program.

Today's episode timestamps:

  • 2:03 – How Richard makes a profit filling up his tank
  • 5:13 – A new type of gas payment
  • 11:40 – The gas app no one knows about
  • 18:35 – What's unique about Fuel Rewards
  • 23:50 – Technological updates for Fuel Rewards
  • 26:55 – Is it worth driving out of our way to save a few cents a gallon?

Today's Guest

Dan Little, General Manager and Head of Marketing North America, for the Retail Division of Shell Oil Products US (SOP US) is responsible for overseeing Shell’s retail marketing programs in North America, including the development and implementation of Shell’s branded fuels product portfolio, consumer loyalty and payment programs, retail technology platforms, including the mobile payment and connected car initiatives, and the supporting brand advertising, communications and digital marketing activities

Resources

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Episode 7 – What Happens to Points After Death?

“My husband and I were saving up for a big trip for our family. Over half of the points we were planning to use would be from his accounts. Due to his unexpected passing, are all those points gone or can we still use them?”

What happens to our points and miles after we die? On Feb 6th, Greta Anderson posted that very question in our Award Travel 101 Facebook group. Her husband passed unexpectedly at the age of 43, just days before leaving for one of two trips they were planning with points and miles. Greta so graciously shares her experience with Richard on how to secure not only your loved one's points and miles but also how to protect their identity.


Today's episode timestamps:

  • 1:10 – New features at AwardWallet
  • 3:45 – What's AwardTravel Advanced?
  • 9:05 – What happens to points and miles after you die?
  • 14:30 – A hotel program going above and beyond vs. one doing the bare minimum
  • 20:20 – Protecting your credit and identity of those who have passed
  • 27:00 – The importance of passwords and wills

Resources

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Episode 8 – Life Behind the Keyboard

“So I told my wife and son: ‘Hey I'm gonna be a blogger!' and they were both scared out of their minds by the idea…”

You might think that a full time job writing a travel blog, or perhaps managing a Facebook group dedicated to points and miles, involves all fun and no pain. Besides the illusion that these folks are just swimming in free points and miles, there's a lot that goes into interacting with people from behind a keyboard. One of Richard's very own heroes in the points and miles world, Greg Davis-Kean of Frequent Miler, joins him this week to chat about the real life of those who blog about travel for a living.

Today's Episode Timestamps

  • 1:00 – How Richard was first inspired to start Award Travel 101
  • 6:20 – Getting hooked on points and miles
  • 9:30 – What led Richard to leave the Navy and start managing a Facebook group
  • 16:45 – What does it take to keep blogging year after year
  • 22:45 – When you meet an online troll in person
  • 29:25 – The newest member of Award Travel Advance
  • 35:00 – Geekiest thing Greg has done to earn points and miles

Today's Guest

Greg Davis-Kean

After business travel opened his eyes to the perks of frequent travel, Greg turned to online travel forums and blogs to find ways to keep his elite status with less travel. After getting hooked to the world of points and miles, and developing techniques to maximize earnings with every dollar spent, within six months, Frequent Miler was born and he had a new full time career.

Resources

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Episode 9 – Do We Know How Many Miles an Award Ticket Is Going to Cost?

“It's exciting times in the world of miles and points…but I'm not terribly excited…more so nervous as a cat in a room of rocking chairs…”

In this world of made up currencies where the points don't matter, there have typically been published award charts, especially for airlines. This meant that there'd be standard rates for how many miles it would cost to go from A to B. Planning a trip, you'd have (in theory) a specific goal for how many miles and points it would take to fly in the cabin of your choice. Now? That's not so much the case.

Following Delta's lead, United has announced this fall they will switch to “dynamic” award pricing. Other airlines have begun to either do so as well or are rumored to be getting ready to announce similar news. So, the question is now: “Do we know how many miles an award ticket is going to cost?” Tune in this week to get some great insight from points and miles expert Ed Pizzarello and find out how to best plan your next trip even if it seems like programs keep on moving the finish line.

Today’s episode timestamps:

  • 4:48 – The shift to “variable redemption values”
  • 8:55 – The next airline rumored to drop their award chart
  • 14:30 – Why 2x miles on one card and 1x miles isn't a clear comparison
  • 21:40 – Why Richard is using a cash back card right now & how he's earning 3.75% back
  • 28:20 – Why Ed says not to burn off your balance right away

Today's Guest

Ed Pizzarello founded the Pizza In Motion blog on the Boarding Area network. He's considered one of the preeminent voices in the loyalty program space and is a successful entrepreneur.

 

Resources

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Episode 10 – Christmas in May! Time to Start Holiday Planning

“If you aren't looking to book those peak holiday dates way ahead of time, then you're gonna be the one who says ‘these miles are useless, I can't use them to go see Grandma'.”

Many out there work hard to save up points and miles only to be frustrated at a “lack” of availability when it comes time to redeem them during peak travel dates. Whether you're traveling with kids and just trying to get yourself home for the holidays, attempting to book award travel when the rest of the country (or the world) is traveling can be challenging. This week, Summer Hull AKA Mommy Points from TPG Family shares her best tips and tricks on how to maximize your award travel redemptions during holiday seasons.

Today’s episode timestamps:

3:25 – How can you plan travel a year (or more) in advance?

7:40 – Are there “off peak” destinations to travel to on holidays?

13:30 – Why you might want to start thinking about holiday 2020…not just 2019

19:20 – Researching how your vacation house rental codes & a new AwardWallet tool

22:25 – How to book award travel “speculatively”

 

Today's Guest

Summer Hull, aka, Mommy Points

While studying social work at NYU she started racking up frequent flyer miles flying on deals, often visiting friends and family back home in Texas on breaks and long weekends. By the time her two girls came along years later, she had a full-blown love and appreciation for what miles and points could do for families looking to experience the world on a budget. Summer launched the Mommy Points blog in 2011 to show families that miles, points, and loyalty programs weren’t just for the business travelers, but they were for families, too. In the summer of 2018, Mommy Points was acquired by The Points Guy where it lives on as a component of TPG Family. In addition to continuing the Mommy Points column, Summer now is the head of TPG Family content.

 

Resources

 

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Episode 11 – What It's Like to Marry A Points Nerd

“I can't count the number of times you've come into the room and you're like ‘I just found…' or ‘This is a once in a lifetime trip!' when you literally say that about everywhere…and just said that yesterday.”

For the miles and points obsessed, occasionally you'll find couples that are equally into maxing out their earnings and redemptions. More often than not however, there's typically one of the two that's more into it than the other. Less common is when that one who is obsessed decides to turn that obsession into a full time job via a Facebook group. Enter Richard & Emily Kerr. This episode is a one on one interview with Richard's “better half” where she answers some of the Award Travel 101 group's best questions about what it's like being married to a points nerd, how they met and her favorite trips they've taken using points and miles.

Today’s episode timestamps:

  • 3:30 – How Richard & Emily met
  • 10:04 – What's on Emily's Bucket List?
  • 13:00 – Their favorite trip as a couple
  • 19:15 – Tips for keeping young kids occupied on a plane
  • 23:20 – How to help your partner know which credit card to use where

Today's Guest

Mrs. Emily Kerr is the better half of Award Travel 101 founder Richard Kerr. Born and raised south of Atlanta, Georgia, she graduated from Georgia College & State University in 2008 with a Bachelors in Economics. Emily is not very enthused about points and miles but gladly puts up with and supports Richard's antics on a daily basis. She keeps busy raising the Kerr's two and four year old, teaching Yoga at the YMCA and serving in a variety of volunteer organizations in the Kerr's hometown.

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Episode 12 – When Loyalty Programs Behave Badly

“People are so bad at complaining…I'm complaining about how bad people are at complaining…that's where we are right now.”

It might come as no surprise that in this world of made up currencies where points don't matter, loyalty programs may not always follow their own rules – or will change them whenever they feel like it. Sure, there are those moments when a considerate customer service representative might take you by surprise and waive a fee, or open up availability. More often than not however, it's easy to feel like the deck is stacked against you.

Complaining can only get you so far. Or, more likely the case you may only have so much time to spend complaining (or fighting for what's right). How do you know when programs are actually acting badly? And, when you do find that moment, what are the best ways to plead your case while having an actual chance at finding resolution or receiving compensation?

Today’s episode timestamps:

  • 2:00 – The feng shui of rooms at Nobu at Caesar's Palace
  • 4:38 – What's bothering Richard this week?
  • 7:47 – When “the system is down” for more than a month…
  • 15:47 – Examples of when loyalty programs behave badly
  • 20:48 – When a travel company actually does the right thing
  • 24:40 – How to positively use emotion to complain
  • 32:30 – What to remember when you need to interact with customer service reps

Today's Guest

Ed Pizzarello founded the Pizza In Motion blog on the Boarding Area network. He's considered one of the preeminent voices in the loyalty program space and is a successful entrepreneur.

 

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Episode 13 – Bonvoy-age to the Perfect Anniversary Trip

“I know this is frustrating, I know what we told you was wrong, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Was it just last week we were discussing what to do when loyalty programs behave badly? Sigh. Ed Pizza from Pizza in Motion is back this week to recap with Richard on what has been a very interesting week. Aside from some issues with the Award Travel Advanced Facebook group, Marriott has “Bonvoy’d” the Kerr’s 10th Wedding Anniversary trip to Europe. Tune in to hear an absolutely puzzling story of 12-hr Twitter responses, wrong information and just the totally bizarre inability for Marriott’s customer service team to fix their (self-admitted) mistake.

Today’s episode timestamps:

  • 2:05 – Updates on Award Travel Advanced Facebook group
  • 4:40 – Background on their anniversary trip to Europe
  • 9:10 – When you tweet about successful customer service…too soon
  • 13:38 – When customer service via Twitter fails
  • 17:05 – Hyatt to the rescue
  • 23:30 – Keeping perspective & finding a solution

 

Today's Guest

Ed Pizzarello founded the Pizza In Motion blog on the Boarding Area network. He's considered one of the preeminent voices in the loyalty program space and is a successful entrepreneur.

 

Thanks to Our Sponsor

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Episode 14 – Getting MileagePlus'd and Spending $10k at a Dollar General

“An agent informed me she was making an exception and correcting the problem…(by refunding)…me back 65,000 miles and then proceeded to take out 15,000 more.”

After Richard's Bonvoy'd anniversary trip battle of wills, it seems like Ed Pizza is set to give him a run for his money. This week's badly behaving program is none other than United MileagePlus. Ed recounts all the headaches and hassles from spending 9 hours on the phone for a simple route change request, only to have 170k miles just go missing. Just goes to show that no matter your status level, sometimes you can't get any love. This week the fellas also dish up an intro to manufactured spend. Best case example? Richard spending $10,000 at a Dollar General in one transaction! Tune in to hear the benefits and risks associated with this type of earning strategy.

Today’s episode timestamps:

  • 2:00 – Richard & Ed = the new Statler and Waldorf
  • 3:25 – Spending 9 hours on the phone with United MileagePlus
  • 7:45 – Ed is a points hoarder
  • 11:00 – Losing options for booking travel when agents give you the wrong info
  • 17:55 – What is manufactured spend?
  • 19:55 – Who drops $10k at a Dollar General
  • 24:41 – Walking the fine line between legal vs. ethical
  • 27:36 – Risks of manufactured spend

Today's Guest

  • Ed Pizzarello founded the Pizza In Motion blog on the Boarding Area network. He's considered one of the preeminent voices in the loyalty program space and is a successful entrepreneur.

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Episode 15 – Best Ways to Save on Car Rentals and Gas

“There is nothing greater in this world then walking off a flight, scooping up your bag and skipping that massive line of people waiting to pick up their rental car as you head to pick whatever you want to drive from that elite status row…”

Anyone who has rented a car knows that it can be a stressful and confusing process! But, what if if didn't have to be? Richard's got some of the best ways to not only ensure that you're getting the best price, but also how to skip those long lines and save from having to pay for extra insurance. After that, he's joined by Wayne Lin, co-founder of GetUpside an app that scores you unbeatable deals on gas, groceries and restaurants. Learn how to save up to 25¢/gal on filling up, 35% on dining out and 15% on your trip to the market. Last but not least, we wrap up the show with a new segment – “Award Redemption of the Week”! So many Award Travel 101 members share their awesome redemptions in the group that we figured why not offer a shout out here too? Who is the inaugural recipient? You'll have to tune in to find out!

Today’s episode timestamps:

  • 3:10 – Finding the best price for a rental car
  • 8:15 – Why rental car elite status is so good (and easy to get)
  • 11:55 – Using credit card benefits for rental car insurance
  • 17:24 – Meet Wayne Lin, co-founder of GetUpside
  • 31:50 – Can you stack rewards using GetUpside?
  • 34:30 – Redemption of the Week

Today's Guest

Wayne Lin is the co-founder and COO of GetUpside, a startup that personalizes brick-and-mortar commerce to help communities thrive. With GetUpside, consumers see their dollar go further on everyday purchases like gas and food, while merchants earn more incremental profit. GetUpside is available at 10,000+ locations in 31 states across the U.S. Prior to co-founding GetUpside in 2016, Wayne worked at Opower and Google developing digital personalization technology. He holds degrees from Northwestern University in Economics and Applied Math and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Links

Sign up for GetUpside

Best Credit Cards for Rental Car Insurance [2019]

How to Get Rental Car Elite Status for Free

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Welcome to the Award Travel 101 Podcast
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