Mile Madness and more

Mile Madness wraps up

Last weekend, we celebrated the Mile Madness tournament with a celebration event in Charlotte, NC.  Mile Madness was a competition held in March to see who could earn the most points, miles, and dollars through manufactured spend (spending in ways that earn rewards but result in getting all or most of one’s money back).  Each contestant was limited to a starting pool of $5000 (which they supplied) and could not spend more until they had cycled the money (i.e. done something to spend the money and then get it back).  Rather than participating, I judged the tournament, and Matt from Saverocity organized both the tournament and the celebration event. 

In Charlotte, I rewarded the winners in various categories with small bags of peanut M&Ms which I hurled across the room.  While I nearly decapitated a few attendees, I believe that no one was seriously hurt with the possible exception of an M&M or two. 

We also declared the overall winner to be The Miles Professor.  The Miles Professor somehow managed to accumulate the equivalent of almost $5000 in profit for the month.  Even better, she spent less time on task than any other contestant.  As a result, she earned (based on Fair Trading Prices) an estimated $348 per hour!  She discusses some of her MileMadness techniques here.

Please check out the updated MileMadness Scoreboard for full details.

Regarding the MileMadness event

Approximately 100 people bought tickets to the event.  Some of the contestants and a few manufactured spend gurus gave fantastic talks.  Outside of the presentations, we mingled and talked and shared secrets.  It was my opinion, which was shared with everyone I asked, that this was the best miles & points gathering I’ve ever attended.  To see what others have said, here is a list of posts about the event (borrowed from Travel Blogger Buzz):

Why was this event so great?  I can think of a number of things that made it special:

  • Terrific speakers and attendees: From my point of view, every one of the speakers was interesting, insightful, and often very funny (I’m not including myself since I didn’t watch my speech).  The audience was highly engaged throughout, and were great to talk with during breaks.
  • Narrow focus: Everyone there was interested in manufactured spend.  When everyone in the room shares a common interest, you’ll find you always have a lot to talk about!
  • Limited size: Other miles & points related events, such as the Chicago Seminars and Frequent Traveler University, often have 400 or more attendees.  We limited this one to just over 100.  It made a huge difference.
  • One room, round tables: All of the presentations were held in a single room with a bunch of round tables throughout the room.  With this configuration, people mingled more within their table than they would have with rows of seats.  And, more importantly, we all shared the same experience.  At larger events, there are usually two or three talks going on at any one time in separate rooms.
  • No sponsorship or profit: We sold tickets for the sole purpose of getting enough money together to pay for the event.  And, we used discounted Hyatt gift cards to stretch those dollars further (Matt @ Saverocity lays out the full finances and other behind the scenes planning info here).  By not seeking or accepting sponsors, we avoided any sense of of being “sold to” during the event.

Will we do it again?  You bet!  It was so much fun that we’re already working out the details of the next one and will announce it as soon as we can.

What about other events?

Despite the fact that I loved the Mile Madness event.  I still always enjoy the old standbys.  Frequent Traveler University (FTU) is usually held twice per year at different locations.  And, the Chicago Seminars is held every October, near the Chicago airport (ORD).  These events are best for beginners, or for those who enjoy meeting and talking with other frequent flyer and miles & points enthusiasts.  For those more advanced, FTU is starting an advanced series to be held in Chicago in July, and again in September.  Both are sold out, but this thread discusses how to transfer tickets so you might be able to buy one from someone else if you’re eager.  I will not be at the July FTU Advanced (my family will be in Switzerland at that time enjoying the points and miles we’ve accumulated).

For those who are interested, here is my upcoming presentation schedule:

  • September 26-28: FTU Advanced. Chicago
  • October 17-19: Chicago Seminars
  • Mile Madness #2: TBD (note: I put this last because the date is not set. It does not imply that it will necessarily occur after Oct 19).
  • FTU: TBD

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

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Comments

  1. Snickers just don’t have the same ring to it as peanut M&M’s.

    Overall – it was a great event, great to have had the chance to participate and attend. I think you well summarized the other mile and point events as well.

  2. I remember the feeling of fear as these M&Ms flew, and other people started throwing them like an English guy trying to play baseball… hurling stuff full force in completely the unintended direction. I could see chandeliers crashing down and all I could think was…. I forget to make them check that little box.

    It was a great time, and I look forward to the next one!

  3. What did you personally learn? Glad to see Matts post. I’ve always assumed the organizers/speakers of such events make good money on these events. I take it from his summary that no speaker received a profit? What about other events; do you get paid to speak at some? I think that’s important to mention if were going for full disclosure (and its motivating to know when a speaker is going to speak just because their passionate and not paid).

    • Speakers at this event were given only free tickets to the event. We paid ourselves for travel and lodging. At FTU and Chicago seminars we are given a free ticket to the event, free lodging, and reimbursement for travel (up to a limit). No one is making money by being a speaker

  4. Dang, I should have participated. I was raking in 600k+ Thank You points a month during the home stretch…before the promo ended.

    • ..I want to add though, that valuing Thank You points at 1.25 cents is not really fair as far as cashback is concerned. Sure, in small quantities they’re useful to book plane tickets at that rate, but who can spend $5k a month on plane tickets, every month? When cashed out, they were worth slightly under 1 cents due to the costs of the convoluted TYP – > WM store credit -> GC -> MO process. If MilesProfessor actually took out cash this way her hourly rate and earnings would go down significantly.

      • Yes that’s true but even if she earned 5x cash back she would have easily won the challenge and the numbers would still be impressive. Please do join if we ever do a similar challenge in the future!

      • With a low enough TYP valuation, I would have used my 5% cash back cards instead of ThankYou points then so my hourly rate would drop 19% only on the transactions where Citi ThankYou points were concerned. I would never do something as inefficient as the Walmart path to turn points to cash, as you may have guessed 🙂 So the hourly rate would be around $300, I suppose. But the total profit would be $3915 so the Citi point valuation wasn’t the deciding factor. But mainly the tournament was just really fun!

        • I wish there was another way to cash out those TYP more efficiently. There’s only so many paid flights and mortgage checks I could order per month and to me liquid cash is worth way more than the points.

          No I have the AMEX BC card so it’s a lot easier to make use of the cashback.

  5. Still recovering from a case of whiplash I received ducking all those flying M&Ms. Wish I could have hung out longer on Saturday.

  6. Too bad you are trying to keep costs down – otherwise you could commission some frisbees made of Swiss chocolate!

  7. OK, so it’s childsplay to abuse 5x cards. One of the participants did that did that won. Shocker. The awards presentation morphed into a seminar which seems to have been a grand success. Continue with the seminars. Deep six the tournament. Sensationalizing this stuff isn’t smart.

    • Totally agreed, the tournament helped kill the use of Paypal MC + Square Cash. The separate pieces were out there and some of us were surfing under the radar just fine until everybody had to pile on with “MILES PROFESSOR USED THIS KILLER TRICK THAT WON MILE MADNESS AND MADE ALL THIS MONEY”. Thanks a lot, guys.

  8. Sounds like drinking water from a fire hose…………I hope the hedonism was at least ethical…………..while great 2500 miles for 1 day for a West Coast fan is a stretch when competing with a Turley wine event…………Go West young man, go West!

  9. Greg, Firstly, thank you so much for the help you provided in making CLT possible. As well, I wanted to add that I too have a perpetual motion notion I have carried around for a while… Anyone remember old Looney Tunes cartoons where one character –maybe Sylvester the Cat or someone, strapped a refrigerator on his back whereas the ice box was open and a fan was in front of it so snow could be blown out in front of him and he had skis on so he could make snow and ski on it as he went down a hill faster? Maybe it was the Coyote. lol I dont recall.

    Anyway all the presenters were awesome and congrats again to Miles Prof for winning the contest! It was NOT a public event that blew deals–nothing in the CLT arena did that. Our DO was more about talking about WAYS to MS, not just yapping about things that should be kept off the radar.

    It was friendly, open and progressive and any person of any level of MS could meet people and learn or teach something. I loved it and I think it was how these things are supposed to be. Other DO events I have been to are boring in comparison!

    I am a speaker at the CHI DO in mid Oct and would love to do another of our special Deaux like around Vet’s Day because my Oct is booked up and so is ThanksGiving, and once Dec hits, it’s kids ski programs and such. hint hint– if at all DO-able.

    :)MM

    • Thanks MM. You did a lot to help make CLT successful! I haven’t looked at the latest Chicago Seminar agenda, but I asked Rick to move things around since he originally had us scheduled opposite each other and I didn’t want to miss your talk! Regarding dates for the next DO, we’ll definitely try to work with your schedule

      • I don’t want to miss yours either so yeah I am glad he moved things.
        .
        Anyway… it was a pleasure to do this and I loved it! Dont change nuthin just cuzza me but yeah, if it’s possible, then great. i am there to help out any way I can.
        .
        :)MM

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