For our May Expert Interview, we chatted with Joe Cheung. Joe describes himself as a middle aged proud father of two high school science teacher. He really enjoys traveling and has traveled a lot in his life, especially while living in Hong Kong in Junior High. He and his wife and honeymooned in Spain and Italy, which is when he realized that traveling with people he loves is something that makes travel so great for him. In 2011 he discovered miles and points as a way to travel and started his blog, As the Joe Flies, soon after that. We enjoyed our chat with Joe and hope you do, too!
Tell us about your blog. What’s the most interesting/helpful post there?
I started As the Joe Flies in the August that my wife was pregnant with our first child. I started the blog with the pretty standard thoughts of “oh, my friends keep asking me about traveling with points, so I should write a blog”. It started as a basic points blog and organically transitioned to family travel and miles and points as my family began growing.
I personally think my posts about my thought processes while planning travel and/or traveling are fun. I write about my personal experiences and don’t think about it as a way to market my site. I think about the stories that I have when I travel. A lot of my posts are raw and honest about concepts like: “am i really doing things the right way?”, “am i signing up for cards that i’m not going to use?”, “do I pay too much in annual fees?”. To me, getting credit card points are easy, but using them for a family is tough. I like to take a dive into best uses of points for families. I’ve been writing a lot more about Disney lately. Always loved Disney as a kid, but could never could convince wife to go. Now, with kids, she wants to go. One of my most helpful posts is a recent one about saving money at Disney with an annual pass.
What’s your favorite thing about traveling?
There are 2 things that I have always loved about traveling:
- I love being in a different place and seeing other cultures. Italy and Spain stick out to me as prime examples. I don’t speak Italian or Spanish, yet I had a blast on our honeymoon trying to figure everything out.
- I have begun to appreciate travel even more since my kids were born. Traveling puts you in situations you would never be in. Driving on the other side of the road. Being lost in a foreign country. These things challenge you on different levels. I’m a teacher so I try to put students in places where they can think outside of the box. I love coming home from trips and seeing how much my kids have grown and learned. There are so many differences between traveling with my kids over the summer for 2 weeks than when we spend 2 weeks at home. They grow up so much and it’s a joy to see.
How often do you travel internationally per year?
Before miles and points, it was once or twice a year on average, some years more than others. After miles and points, it’s been about 3 or 4 times. We had a bit of a bell curve, 5 was the max before kids. Now, with kids that number has gone down some again. Our 4 year old has been on 7 international trips: Italy, Germany, Turks & Caicos, Aruba, Hong Kong (twice), Taiwan, and the UK. With our son, we slowed down to 1 international trip/year. We just returned from 8 days in Hong Kong. 8 days is short to travel that far, but with miles and points we were able to fly business on Cathay Pacific direct from our home in Boston.
How did you first learn about using points? What was the first card you opened?
The December before we got married we were at a bar with some of my friends. I think it was a going away party or something. One of my friends told me about flying first class on their honeymoon. I thought it sounded risky, it would kill my credit, etc. – all the typical questions ran through my head. I don’t know what happened, but the next December it finally kicked in. I had the regular Chase Sapphire card, so I upgraded to Chase Sapphire Preferred. Then we applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred for my wife. And that’s where it all began.
What’s the most amazing trip you’ve taken with points so far?
They are all so great. The most memorable was the first one, when my wife was pregnant. We had just started accumulating points and miles and didn’t know if we were going to get to travel like this again. My wife was going to China on a grant for research for work, so we were able to book Lufthansa first class to China on United miles with a connection in Munich. They gave us a day room in the Kempinski hotel before our next 14 hour flight to Beijing. The return was in Delta business, which was good, but no Lufthansa first! This was our first flight using points and was definitely the most memorable.
How did you get the points you needed, how long did it take to get them?
We opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred for my wife and each opened a United card. It was 140,000 points for the Lufthansa flight. We then opened a couple British Airways cards to use for Bali, Singapore, and intra-Asia flights. We were able to upgrade our paid flight back with Delta miles from a prior card.
What do you say to people when they ask “how does this affect my credit”?
Well, first of all, I’ll show you my credit score if you don’t believe me. I used to not really understand how my credit was calculated. I’m still sure there are nuances that I don’t understand, but if you’re paying off your balances every month and if you you’re responsible, your credit will not be negatively impacted in a significant way.
How many cards do you apply for a year?
Back in the day, is was about 15 for me, 10 for my wife. Since having kids, it’s been only about 10-15 per year for me and 1 for my wife. She’s a real stickler!
When was the last time you got a new credit card, which one did you get / why?
I opened the Citi American Airlines card recently to replenishing my American Airlines miles, which I drained on the Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong.
Is reward travel hard or do you think anyone can do it?
I don’t think anyone can do it. The standard blogger answer is anyone can do it. You need a certain mindset about it to be successful. You need to have a mental architecture that can organize things in certain ways. There isn’t a “right” way, but you need to have time and mental energy to do it and the space to find a way that works for you.
An example: I have friends that I’ve helped to take trips and all they can mentally process is me telling them which cards to sign up for and how to book. They can’t do it on their own.
The goal for my blog is to make it easy for someone save money. One example is a recent post on travel rewards for non-hackers. Maybe you can’t go nuts like some of us, but you can still save some money when traveling with your family.
Where can we find you on social?