Should you have gone to Points University YVR? Uhhh...Yah.

Cover Source: Fear Of Missing Out

My mind is buzzing. Europe in First Class for $200. Hawaii round-trip for $60. Dubai and Asia in a Suite in the Sky for under $400 simply through a couple of credit cards. Then on the next level, program sweet spots for minimizing points used, advanced search tools, getting around annual fees, US cards for Canadians, Status matching, geo-arbitrage, and more.

I just got back from Points University in Vancouver, a conference for specifically Canadian reward travel enthusiasts. Basically a massive nerd session on how to travel the world at a fraction of the price by maximizing loyalty and reward programs. I was skeptical of the program at first. The biggest names in Canadian travel blogging were there but after doing this for almost a year now, I felt like I had a pretty good handle on it. This kind of arrogance and stagnant learning is a feeling that now screams lunacy but I think I know where I went wrong.

An old roommate once told me there are three different types of knowledge.

What's at the End? Oh... Source

  • Known Knowns: Things we know that we know
    • ie The world is flat
  • Known Unknowns: Things we know that we don’t know
    •  ie What is over the edge at the end of the flat part?
  • Unknown Unknowns: Things we don’t know that we don’t know
    • ie Oh shit, the world is round, I didn’t know that.

Is the world flat? NO! You are missing the point (no pun intended).

This conference was all about the third part. Teaching you what you didn’t know you didn’t know. And I loved it.

There were 8 sessions from super knowledgable, super relevant speakers in the miles, points and travel world.  Here were some memorable moments and absolute gems of info from the PointsU conference that I took home with me.

Brian Wong - KIIP.ME


Brian Wong, super engaging babyface entrepreneur graduated UBC with a Bachelors at the age of 18 but is now founder and CEO of a San Fran tech company. Brian spoke about how loyalty programs are evolving with technology and what to expect in the future.

Some gems from the talk:

  • Instead of rewards defining behaviour, we will see behaviour defining the rewards.
  • Data and tech advancements will allow rewards to be offered to us in a way that is personal to us and meaningful.

Matt Lau - Pointshogger


Matt Lau and Viola Ng run PointsHogger which is a super useful travel blog for wrapping your head around program changes, the current credit card options,  and comparing the cards based on what rewards they offer. They also cover unique programs like ViaRail deals, and have in depth profiles on almost every program.

Some gems from the talk:

  • Credit Score and Credit Cards
  • The 4 major types of cards and how to pick one for your goals
  • Trends for this year and diversifying your card arsenal

Ricky Shetty - Daddyblogger


Ricky Shetty is a super resourceful, outgoing dude who started a blog out of a passion for travelling and parenting his newborn kids (both under 5yo). He spoke about how he built his blog, what the key ingredients for a successful blog are, how to market it to your audience, and how to make money off it.

Some gems from the talk:

  • Ricky talked about his process for getting a tourism publicity week comped (complimentary/free) in a Westin in San Francisco with dining credits, and free tickets to all the major attractions for his family of 4.
  • Using Social Media and Youtube to build a brand.
  • Ricky films and edits all his trip videos on his iphone. He has over 2,000 youtube videos, some only 7 seconds long of his kids playing in the massive pool at the hotel. It’s a lot of content in terms of quantity, but it doesn’t need to be professionally edited and the “realness” of it adds to the character and authenticity for families. For examples of just how simple your youtube videos can be, check out Ricky’s Youtube.. Super entrepreneurial dude with great advice and examples.

Ari Charlestein - AwardMagic


Ari has been booking frequent flyer awards professionally for over 8 years and knows the ins and outs of all the programs. Ari shared some misconceptions with award travel and some sweet spots he has learned during his career. Awesome speaker with a world of knowledge in his brain.

Some gems from the talk:

  • Alitalia is actually a sweet redemption to Europe (80k) in fancy class despite the bad transfer ratio from AMEX
  • Some amazing first class redemptions intra-asia on some of the nicest fancy class in the world with BA Avios.
  • A perfect mix of great intro content for beginners and advanced content for experienced folks.
  • Where to search for every award to find best availability
  • If you don't want to bother searching the award, pay for an expert to do it

Allen Chao - TravelWithChao


“Chao” as he prefers to be called, is a solid dude. Super knowledgable and a real engaging, straight shooter approach to travel hacking. Chao doesn’t have a blog, he is just a super advanced hacker who met his wife travelling in Finland and hacked his way from a $50 voucher to 500,000 miles each year. Chao is an absolute boss at RBC and BA Avios.

Some gems from the talk:

  • Booking one ways separately to slash fuel surcharges and optimize.
  • RBC accounts and cards to avoid annual fees and earn a tonne of RBC rewards
  • RBC eMall tips and tricks including stacking Airbnb promos.
  • Sweet spots, short hauls and Scandinavian hubs for reduced fees and taxes
  • Part payment for earning miles back when you spend them for business class redemption
  • How to convert Aeroplan to RBC without losing points


Boris Remes - Canadian PointsU

How to shortcut to Elite Status & Status Match to maintain it

Boris started his travel hacking career redeeming 12,000 pts for a necklace. Now he flies his family first class around the world. Every time Boris spoke, he told me something I didn’t know about RBC, AMEX, Hotel Programs, and more. And I saw the whole room violently scribbling down notes as he spoke. Super knowledgeable dude with a ton of experience who wants to create a solid community.

Some gems from the talk:

  • Crediting your Star Alliance miles to other airlines to get Star Alliance Gold in less than 25,000 miles instead of 50k with Aeroplan.
  • Airlines that status match and how to do it
  • Cards that offer status
  • Taking advantage of promos in other countries for status earn and bonuses
  • How to get US Cards as a Canadian to maximize US signup bonus offers

Jeffrey Kwok - Canadian Kilometers

How to Travel the World on a budget

Jeff is a wizard. I get the feeling he knows almost every trick in the book. His session was flagged as confidential so I won’t reveal too much here, but Jeff was really behind the idea of establishing your own community and network of people so you can learn from each other. Everybody has something to offer in this group and if we work together, we can all benefit from the amazing tricks and tips that come up. Jeff flies almost exclusively in fancy class (“except maybe SEA-YVR if I absolutely have to” haha). There was a recent error fare of $65 roundtrip from YVR-LAX and when most people were umming and ahhing about whether to buy it, Jeff bought 5 of them, one every few weeks for the next few months for little weekend trips away and positioning flights to take award flights to more luxurious locations. A wealth of knowledge and an expert on ExpertFlyer.

Some gems from the talk:

  • How to piece together your itinerary searching segment by segment and using routing rules
  • Hotel Codes, Guarantees and promos for maximizing free stays and discount luxury
  • Getting creative with family members and ‘helping them’ sign up for loyalty programs
  • Other international tools for cell phones (ChatSim), avoiding bank fees (TD US Account), etc.

Forrest Lin & Jeff O’Neill - FlyClever

When Cash is King: Revenue Fare Hacking

Jeff and Forrest are experts in finding, manipulating and booking flights with money instead of points. Sometimes it makes much more sense to do that than to use points and miles and they demonstrated some of the tactics they use when they find cheap flights for their clients throughout the world. This is super interesting to me as I do this for my own clients and it was cool to see a couple new ways to search.

Some gems from the talk:

  • Hidden City Ticketing for super cheap one way flights (Skiplagged), or even better, how to find them on your own
  • Combining round trips and one ways for positioning
  • Finding infrequent routes with cheap fares
  • When cash fares make sense and how to decide
  • How to search to find the lowest price

What Else ?

Aeroplan and AMEX were present at the event so there was a lot of hat tipping and shh-ing and generalities as would be expected. One doesn't discuss escape plans when the warden is around, does one? But I found it to be very well done on that front. Nothing aggressive or witchhunty, but nothing kissing the butt of the loyalty folks, they didn't even speak or have a say, they were just attendees. And the reps were actually super interested to get feedback so that's a great sign. The reps weren't present for the drinks at the bar afterward though, and I must say this is where discussion and sharing of tips started to get very interesting...

PointsU is headed to YYZ (Toronto) at the end of 2016. I strongly recommend getting on board if you have an interest in travelling but don't want to pay full price for airfare/hotels/boss experiences. If you are advanced or a beginner, this seems to be the best place for a Canadian to go to learn more. I'd say a huge unadvertised benefit was that there were real people you could talk to about tips, tricks, successes and failures, and you could feel the hum of a massive movement growing. As a great man once said, do yourself a favour and check this out. PointsU is going to be big, and you just don't know what you don't know?!