A homeless man in Orange County, California is living a hotel version of the movie "Up in the Air," using frequent flier miles and hotel reward points to live in hotels while he looks for a job. Jim Kennedy, 46, turned 7,000 points from United Airlines and $100 in cash into a four-night stay this week at the Holiday Inn Express in San Clemente, according to a story in the Orange County Register.
Kennedy, who earned $120,000 a year for a software company before being laid off 19 months ago, earned loyalty program points by traveling for his former jobs in IT and finance.
He doesn't have the 10 million frequent flier miles that character Ryan Bingham, played by George Clooney, did in the film "Up in the Air," or the 9 million miles that Tom Stuker has with United Airlines. But after using loyalty points to stay in hotels for the past two months, he estimates he can continue it for three more months before the accounts are empty, he told ABC News, which featured his story on "Good Morning America."
Kennedy typically mixes points with cash so he can stretch his pile of points out a little longer. Starwood's Sheraton Four Points, for example, offers some rooms for 1,600 points and $30.
He told ABC News that his loyalty points are about: 85,000 with Starwood Preferred Guest, 400,000 with Hilton Honors, 100,000 Delta Sky Miles, 120,000 Ameican AAdvantage, 200,0000 United Mileage Plus, and 125,000 American Express Membership Reward points.
Cashing in miles for benefits isn't considered taxable by the IRS unless converted into money or bartered or sold.
The single Kennedy was evicted from his foreclosed home in January after being unable to pay the mortgage. He now collects unemployment checks in California, getting the maximum of $450 a week. He budgets $5 a day for food, and looks for hotels that offer free breakfasts. His search for a meal may be closer than he thinks: United Airlines' frequent flier points can be exchanged for certificates to eat at restaurants across the country.
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