With his online camera store business thriving, Allen Walton often has more than $1 million dollars in business charges in a year. As a result, he’s racked up millions of points on his American Express cards.
Allen Walton has built his online camera store SpyGuy to seven-figure revenue and hired one employee since he founded it in 2016.With his business thriving, the e-commerce entrepreneur, who lives in a suburb of Dallas, often has more than $1 million dollars in business charges in a year. As a result, he’s racked up millions of points on his American Express cards. He has gotten so good at earning and redeeming points that he has even started a side business called FlyGuy, where he will teach other business owners how to use their points for world travel.
Walton has found many creative uses for his points. Every year, he travels to Thailand for the DCBKK, an event for e-commerce entrepreneurs in Bangkok at the Conrad Hilton.
“It’s an insanely nice hotel,” he says. “We talk about business, entrepreneurship and living an unconventional lifestyle.”
Walton has also used points to pamper his family and friends. Before COVID, he used points to treat his parents to a U2 concert during the band’s anniversary tour. He’s also used points to pay for a trip every summer with his brother and their spouses.
The last time, they flew into France, then headed to England, Scotland and Spain. They’ve also traveled to Asia, where they visited Cambodia, Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam. And on another trip, he sent his mother to Asia. “She’d never been before,” says Walton.
So how does he pull it off?
Diversify your cards
He often gravitates to his American Express Business Gold because it gives him 4 points for every dollar spent on shipping and advertising and because Amex has many airline transfer partners. But he doesn’t want to put all his points in one basket.
“There might be a trip you want to do that isn’t possible with Amex points,” he says. “You can transfer Amex points to Hilton and Marriott. Chase partners with Hyatt.”
To ensure his trips are memorable, he also uses The Platinum Card® from American Express, which gives him Gold status with Hilton. That allows him to stay longer in the luxury hotels he books. “Some will let you check out at 3 or 4 p.m.,” he says.
Put everything you can on your business cards
Walton runs every expense he can through his business cards – from professional services he uses to routine business purchases. The list includes his bookkeeper, online advertising, expenses related to the e-commerce software he uses, office supplies and postage.
“Any operating expense, I’ll put on a credit card,” he says.
There’s a bonus to putting all of his charges on his cards: easier bookkeeping, with the majority of his purchases on the cards.
Choose transfer partners wisely
Walton gets the most bang for his rewards buck by transferring his American Express points to British Airways or Flying Blue, the loyalty program for KLM and Air France.
“When I transfer to British Airways, there’s usually a transfer bonus,” he says. When he flies on British Airways, he can book on 14 major airlines through the oneworld alliance.
Sometimes he finds creative ways to increase rewards he reaps from his points. Last year, Walton decided to move 2.5 million American Express points to British Airways because of a 40% transfer bonus.
“I got around 1 million for free because of the transfer bonus,” he says.
There is a risk to this approach.
“If you sit on the points too long, they get devalued,” he says. But that’s all the more incentive to plan for his next trip early.
Avoid redeeming points for cash
Given how many points he racks up, Walton looked into redeeming some of them for cash to buy furniture for his home, thinking it would save him money, but he opted not to do it.
“Turning points into cash is not a very good value,” he says. “It’s pretty terrible, actually.”
He mostly sticks with using his points for travel.
Pay bills on time
Walton is scrupulous about paying his credit card bills to ensure he doesn’t lose points he earned or incur charges that would eat into their value.
“If you don’t pay the balance at the end of the month, the points gain doesn’t matter anymore,” says Walton. “You’re losing all of the benefits because of interest and late fees.”
But if you stay current, there’s probably no better way to travel luxuriously on a shoestring budget.