Brian Kelly — aka The Points Guy — has built a travel empire by telling readers how to get the most out of their frequent flyer accounts. His first rule for August travel? “Don’t stay home.”
InsideHook: So you’re saying it’s not impossible to put together last-minute travel on points? Even in late August, one of the busiest travel times of the year?
Brian Kelly: Definitely not. Using frequent flyer points even on holiday weekends is possible, as airlines are opening up a lot of space last minute — as long as you’re flexible.
IH: Flexible in what way?
BK: Just be open to destinations. Everyone wants to go to Europe in August — which makes sense; the Euro’s low. But — for example — consider a ski vacation in Argentina if you really want the best deal.
IH: What about finding the available flights?
BK: One key thing to know is that airline websites show less than half of what’s available, so it’s not enough to go aa.com; you actually have to call American.
IH: But I thought it was 2015?
BK: It’s counterintuitive: you’d think the airlines would have this technology, but they don’t. This is especially true with partner airlines.
IH: How does that work?
BK: For example, Etihad is a partner airline with American, but not in the OneWorld alliance. That means you’ll never see [award] availability online at aa.com. You have to call.
IH: What if I never bothered to sign up for a points account? Is it too late for me to get something going in time for summer travel?
BK: It’s really not. We’re seeing crazy airline credit card offers — all the banks are competing. And the thing about these credit card deals is that they’ll post to your account shortly after the statement closes in which you spend, and you can actually move up the statement closing date. So if you have to spend $1,000 [to receive points], you can do that, and then move up the date, and then the points are in your account.
IH: What’s the best card?
BK: American Express used to be the big dog, but now it’s Chase. The number one card is the Chase Sapphire card — it’s the one I use the most.
IH: What’s the best place you’ve been recently?
BK: I’ve been to Cuba twice this year. The cell phone doesn’t work. There’s not a whole lot of information out there. You can’t get cash out of the ATM. All of that means it was a total mental vacation.
IH: Are you staying home this August while the rest of the world travels?
BK: Definitely not! [Traveling in high-season] really doesn’t bother me. I’ve got TSA PreCheck, so I make it through the airport on razor-thin margins. Security-wise, I’m through in five minutes or less. Then I’ll hit the lounge, then I’m on the plane. This August, it’s Istanbul, Cappadocia, Athens and Mykonos.