Homeless Man Lives off Frequent Flier Points

Free nights at hotels keeps Jim Kennedy off the streets.

ByABC News
March 11, 2010, 2:04 PM

March 11, 2010— -- The recession has led a lot of Americans to find creative ways to survive. For Jim Kennedy, an unemployed 46-year-old California man, that's meant using his 1-million-mile-plus stockpile of hotel and airline points to keep a roof over his head.

Since being kicked out of his foreclosed home on Jan. 17, the former corporate development manager has relied on all those miles accumulated during years on the road to find a place to stay -- a Holiday Inn Express here, a Hampton Inn there and a Motel 6 in between.

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Wherever he can find a room for points, Kennedy stays. He switches hotels, sometimes staying up to a week in one location, depending on the availability of free nights or where he needs to travel for interviews. Hotels often charge different rates, even when paying for points, for different nights and Kennedy shops around for the best bargain.

Finding a hotel that offers a free breakfast is a bonus, though he notes that the free breakfasts can get monotonous. A lot of hotels, regardless of chain, seem to get their food from the same supplier, so even the powdered eggs taste the same.

"You get tired of the same options every day," said Kennedy, who was at first reluctant to let his identity be known because his 85-year-old mother doesn't know that he lost his job 19 months ago. He said she has no money to help him and "she worries a lot."

He searches for hotels with free Internet service so he can send off resumes, and also looks for "a place with a microwave and fridge so I can buy frozen dinners."

Even the entertainment options are important. Kennedy says he knows which hotels offer HD TV and how many channels they provide. .

Sometimes the hotels have an unpleasant and surprising fee tacked on: $10 to park at a hotel near Disneyland, $20 to park at an airport hotel.

"That's three, four days of my food budget," Kennedy said.