Pedro Pla and Grace Cheng are a fascinating couple. They make their living telling people what credit cards to sign up for, being credit card geeks themselves. The duo are the husband-and-wife team behind GET.com, a credit card comparison site that they founded in 2011.
The couple’s preoccupation with getting the most out of their credits cards is rivalled only by their passion for travelling. In 2007, they set out on a year-long journey around the world, during which they toured five continents (excluding Antarctica and Australia/Oceania), while running their startup full time.
Come January, they will embark on another Round The World trip, this time with their two children – ages two and four – and with air tickets completely paid for (well almost, they only had to pay taxes and fees), using air miles earned from credit card spending in the past year.
Over tea one rainy morning in Sentosa (the island on which the couple lives), Ms Cheng tells me wanderlust had hit them again late last year. “We got the idea to travel the world with our children, but knew it would be very expensive. So we wondered how we could do it for free.”
Accumulating a million air miles then became the couple’s goal for 2016. Ms Cheng says that in the past, the couple had redeemed their credit points more frequently for short-haul flights as they accumulated, and sometimes for cashback and shopping vouchers.
But for this year at least, they resolved to put them all towards air miles.
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Mr Pla, a Spaniard and now a Singapore permanent resident, reveals that it took a lot of “military-precision” researching, planning and executing. As the couple did not belong to the top rungs of frequent flyers who would routinely fly every other day or do mileage runs (that is, buy a ticket, board a plane, and then fly across the country solely for the purpose of obtaining frequent-flyer miles) as some travel bloggers do, they maximised their credit card usage to collect the most points and miles possible.
Ms Cheng calls the operation a classic case of “travel hacking” – earning a million air miles solely through the strategic use of credit cards, and, without spending more than they had to. I ask which cards they had used to bring home the points. Mr Pla replies “a mix”, which included cards by Citibank and American Express.
The couple reached their goal in September, taking only nine months. By then, they had obtained over a million air miles, of which 960,000 were redeemed for four Round The World tickets on Business Class with Star Alliance, to travel to the same five continents they did in 2007.
Mr Pla says that’s some S$76,000 worth of air tickets! Taxes and fees, which they had to pay, came up to about S$8,000.