How would you like to take exotic vacations, fly first class and stay in fancy hotels for under $100? People are making it happen using a technique called credit card churning.
But a local man is taking card churning one step further and using it to help reunite families around the world.
Dr. Seth Stanton is an optometrist who works at the Daughters of Charity Health Center. He’s also a credit card churner.
Churners are people who get dozens of credit cards to play the rewards system by racking up hundreds of thousands of points.
“I’m probably somewhere in the vicinity of 3 million points, miles whatever at this point,” Stanton said. “I use those to fly first class around the world … I flew to Hong Kong in first class and it cost me $20.”
It’s not easy. Credit card churning is a time-consuming process, but you don’t have to charge large amounts of money to pull it off.
“You have to spend some money, it’s not like you can just do this and not spend any money at all and you also have to keep track of what cards you’ve signed up for and what cards you have used the points on and how to use the point,” Stanton said. “It’s a fair amount of work. I have some spreadsheets and I do some research on it.”
Stanton has about 30 active credit cards right now.
He is active on car churner forums, where people like him share tips on how to amass even more points and bonuses, but one day he saw something on there that changed his life.
“A guy who wrote a post on this forum about how he had used about the same amount of miles it took for me to fly to Hong Kong in first class … he used them to unite a Pakistani Christian family in Italy,” Stanton said. “The whole family had been persecuted for being Christian. The father had fled. He’d walked, hitch hiked, ridden trains from Pakistan to Italy.”
The man was granted refuge asylum and after nearly two years was told by the Italian government that he could fly his family in to Italy, but he had no way to pay for their trip.
“The guy who did this … wrote this story about how he had basically used these miles … that he could’ve used for a trip like flying to Hong Kong, but he brought a family back together in safety for the first time in forever,” Stanton said.
That gave him an idea. What if a bunch of churners used their miles to do the same thing, but on a larger scale.
“And so we formed our own non-profit … Miles 4 Migrants,” he said.
In just one year, Miles4Migrants.org has reunited more than thirty families, flying 81 people out of countries -- many of whom were persecuted for practicing Christianity. Stanton remembers one in particular: A client in Belgium who was forced out of Afghanistan.
“The reason why he’s separated from his family is because he worked for the US military and after we left whatever region of Afghanistan he happened to be in, he was threatened for his life for working with us and he had to leave,” Stanton said. “I felt like we probably owe it to him to at least be back with his family somewhere safe and it looks like the US government won’t do it… so why don’t we do it?”
His family was reunited. Their story is on the Miles 4 Migrants website, but they can’t show their faces for fear of what might happen to other family members if they’re identified.
Stanton says that helping families I warn torn countries reunite and start a new life is worth more than any exotic vacation.