They call him "The Points Guy."
No one likes a bargain as much as Brian Kelly, prolific air mile collector and CEO of thepointsguy.com — at least when it comes to flying first class, that is.
Kelly — who previously worked in HR at Morgan Stanley — has turned his side hustle and passion for flying premium into a revenue-generating lifestyle brand which has become a mecca for anyone trying to get their head around how to start collecting air miles.
Now he spends most of his time — or at least two weeks of the month — flying around the world in some of the fanciest first class cabins, virtually for free.
Business Insider caught up with Kelly to hear about his journey from a Morgan Stanley cubicle to becoming a macro travel influencer.
Scroll down for a look at how he did it.
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Pretty sure I#emo#4oCZ##ll fill this seat out by the time I#emo#4oCZ##m done with 13 hours of a la carte dining#emo#8J+ksA==###emo#8J+Puw==## Singapore First HKG-SFO for 92k Singapore Krisflyer miles and $78#emo#4oC8###emo#77iP## one way. Amex/Chase/Citi/SPG at 1:1 ratio and make nearly all seats available for redemption #emo#8J+kmA==###emo#8J+PvA==##
He told Business Insider: "I'm a huge Africa lover, and South Africa is my favourite overall. I love the animals, the wine country, the people and the food — it's unbelievably beautiful, you really can live like a king even on budget."
"The rush you get from your first redemption will drive you for the rest of your life," he said.
Today marks a sad day in aviation- where the US government used terror as a weapon to hamper competition with the Middle Eastern 3 main airlines- @emirates, @etihadairways and @qatarairways. They lumped our allies the UAE and Qatar in with states that have lax security and high risk of terror. It's totally ludicrous that Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha airports are subject to the #ElectronicsBan considering they're some of the most advanced airports in the world and Abu Dhabi even has US Customs pre-clearance! I agree that commercial aviation terror is a reality we must face- but the actions by the US government to include these three major world airports in the ban is insane. Even the UK government agrees- they instituted their own ban, but it didn't include these airports because the threat isn't there.
Unapologetically proud that we've raised over a million points this weekend for @rainbowrailroad - which will get 14 people out of Chechnya. Pride is fun- especially when you're marching for a cause. Thanks to all who made it an incredible day, especially @miamoretti for the sick beats! #mypointofpride
But it was also just before the global financial crisis hit. "The week I started the markets started to crack," he said.
He managed to hold on to his job because he was hiring employees in the tech department, but at one point his team of six was reduced to just him.
Eventually he turned it into a blog and began furiously posting points advice each night after work. He told Business Insider it eventually frayed his then long-term relationship because he was so busy.
It was shortly after this meeting in 2011 that Kelly had a eureka moment and, persuaded by a friend, realised that he could monetise his site through affiliate advertising.
"At that time I was like a micro influencer, but I was sitting on a goldmine and had no idea," he said.
His first post that went viral made him $30,000 (£22,700) in one day, and overnight he began earning cash from his blog. Several months later, in June 2011, Kelly said he quit his cubicle at Morgan Stanley after receiving a six-figure cheque and off he flew to Asia.
"It means I don't have to deal with all the stresses of a start-up, like legal and accounting, but get to do the fun things like design the floor for our new office space," he said.
He added that "revenues are crazy" and traffic continues to grow by 50% each month.
Domestically, it's JetBlue and their Mint business class all the way. "It's amazing, I fly New York to LA and you get seats right close the door, [and] tapas-like small food plates."
"Google's your best friend," he said. "Teach yourself over coffee on a Saturday morning if you want to take that trip to the Maldives."
7 years ago today I hit publish on my first blog post- a little nervous, but mostly excited to start a fun side project. Since then, 75 million unique visitors have come to the site spending a collective 363 million minutes reading our 12,567 posts! Couldn't do it without my amazing team and lots of love and support from family and friends. But most importantly- our readers! So I'm giving away 7 awesome prizes today at 530pm ET on Facebook Live (including two roundtrip first class tickets to Hawaii!) #emo#77iP###emo#77iP###emo#77iP###emo#77iP##
"No one wants to change a credit card, but you do it in the context of 'This is taking me 1%, 2%, or 3% closer to that trip to Hawaii,' or 'Shopping for the holidays on this credit card will get me 10% there.'"
"These days if a millennial pays for dinner with a debit card they look dumb, it's the same as paying in cash," he said "Ask yourself the question — do you want your bachelor party in Atlantic City, or do you want to take all your friends to Ibiza?"