Video: How one woman travels the world on credit card points
Dr. Erica Miller's suitcase is a fixture in her bedroom. Youthful and energetic, the psychologist-turned-author and inspirational speaker doesn't let the fact that she's 82 deter her from adventures -- adventures she funds largely through credit card reward programs. In fact, her upcoming travels are more exotic than ever.
"I'm going to the Himalayan mountains in April, to the Himalayan mountains in Tibet, so this is one trip and I've got another one in Madagascar," says Miller, who travels the world on credit card points.
Growing up in Romania and spending her childhood in a concentration camp, Miller doesn't take her freedom to travel lightly.
"I live life fearlessly and because of yesterday," she says. "I so am grateful and appreciate the present."
And she has learned to seize every opportunity. Owning and running several rental properties that come with high monthly expenses, Miller has mastered the art of turning every payment into rewards points and in turn, traveling the world in luxury. Her points do more than just get her free flights. She has enough to be choosy -- only business class cabins and luxury hotels for this adventurer.
"I never wait in line so people look at me and I say, 'Yeah that is me, a little girl from Romania, from Transylvania, gets to live the life of a movie star,'" she says.
Miller credits her daughter with being the original points mastermind in the family, and she taught her mother some important lessons. "It's a crime to pay cash or check," she says.
Whether it's a utility bill or insurance, Miller pays for everything with her credit cards, and uses the card that will give her the most points for each specific purchase.
She also buys everything she needs through online shopping portals that offer cash back or points with each purchase. They're the same brands and stores you would find at the mall, except here you earn your way toward the tropics with every deal.
And, when it comes to looking for new cards offering big sign-up bonuses, the rule of thumb is: "Not less than 50 thousand points, that's what I'm hearing," Miller says.
Don't waste a credit card application on a small bonus -- wait for the big ones. Otherwise it will take longer to reach your travel goals.
And of course, pay your credit card bills in full each month -- otherwise, interest charges will eat up the value of any rewards you earn.
But perhaps the biggest tip Miller has and one that she is walking proof of: "It's never too late to start," she says.
- Video: Maximizing points with off-peak travel – Peak season varies depending on where you want to travel. Make your points go further by booking travel during low season ...
- Video: Giving back with your card – Some credit cards let you donate your rewards to the charity of your choice, with no work on your part ...
- Card or cash? When traveling abroad, you often need both – Credit card or cash? When you travel abroad, you need both plastic and local currency, as some places take cards and some are cash only ...