Adventure is indeed worthwhile. I didn’t come up with that statement all by myself. That’s a quote by Aesop, but it speaks deeply to my soul. Travel and adventure are among my top priorities. An associate of mine made a comment to me that I travel an awful lot. This person went on to question how I could afford to take so many trips per year. On average, I take about 4 trips annually (This year I’m traveling to San Francisco; Montreal; Philadelphia; and to New York City twice; I might do a third trip to New York if things work out like I want. I had a trip planned to Seattle too, but I decided to push that back a bit, probably into 2021. I’m headed to Baltimore this summer too, but that’s just about 40 miles up the road, so that’s not such a big deal; however, more on Baltimore later.). Another question this person asked (and others have asked me this question too) is whether I travel alone; I also have people express shock at learning that I sometimes travel by myself. The answer is, yes. Sometimes I do travel alone, and that’s okay. To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, the man who travels alone can leave right now; but the man who travels with others must wait till the others are ready to go.
Anyhow, I didn’t tell this person I thought they were being awfully nosy and judgmental. The comments bordered on being rude too. But I kept my composure. I have been working on building up my emotional intelligence; I’m much more mindful of how I speak to people and how I treat people who offend me than I use to be (I am learning to RESPOND rather than to REACT — and I recognize how my words and behaviors can affect others, including my facial expressions.). So, I didn’t tell this person the choice words my old self would have expressed. I still think those choice words, though; I just don’t utter them now. I’m still growing. Instead, I merely gave a few strategies that I use to help me travel cost-effectively and I thought I would share them here with you too, in case you are seeking ways to do the same.
The biggest takeaway from that conversation is, get yourself one or two credit cards that accrue travel points. This person was immediately dismissive. Others I’ve told this to had a similar response. They were quick to give me the side eye. If they had spoken, I would have heard, “Yeah! Whatever.” loudly and clearly. The thing is, this is truly what keeps me on the road so much. Yes, I do pay for some trips directly, but many of my trips are paid for in part or in full by accumulated points.
Think of this. We all have certain bills we pay every month. Car insurance, cable bill, XMSatellite Radio, mortgage, Amazon Prime, homeowner’s association fee, phone bill, Netflix, and life insurance are a few examples many of mine. Depending on your circumstances, you might have some of these or others. Then one day I got to thinking. Rather than pay these bills directly, it makes greater financial sense to charge these expenses to a credit card that gets me travel points and then pay the cards’ balance off each month. You’d be surprised how quickly the points add up.
It’s a great way to earn free or discounted trips. I’m taking a free flight to San Francisco, and I’m flying first class on this trip. All I have to pay is what the airline calls, “Taxes, Fees, and Charges” – which amount to $11.20. We’re talking about $11.20 for a round-trip, first class ticket. That’s a good deal. The hotel is not free but rather is discounted – I didn’t have enough points for a completely free stay. For the three nights I’m there, I’m paying $119 in total for a room (including the taxes) that is typically $149 per night. You do the math. That’s still a good deal even if it isn’t free. It would have been more than $500 if I didn’t have those points. From the outside looking in, it might appear that I’m a big baller. But the truth is, I just know how to let my money take me places. You can do it too.
I mentioned Baltimore earlier. This summer, I’m going to a jazz festival in Baltimore. My points got me a completely free room at the Hilton in the Inner Harbor for two nights. The Amtrak ticket round-trip was free too. All I paid for was the jazz festival ticket, which was $59. Sweet, don’t you think?
There are plenty of cards that accumulate travel points. Some of them partner with airlines, hotels, and rental car companies. Each time you use them, they automatically add points to your partnered and linked account (i.e., Delta Skymiles account, American Airlines Advantage account, Hilton Honors account, etcetera). Other cards accrue points but allow you to apply those points toward plane or train tickets or to rent hotel rooms, and there are even some cards that let you use your points for shopping. Still others let you convert the points into cash and rebate the money back into your checking or savings account – or pay your credit card balance.
Here is one of the first perks that caught my eye. Many of them give you a huge lump sum of points just for signing up. That is lovely. Additionally, some cards will give you double points for specific purchases (one card I know of gives double points at restaurants; an American Airlines card gives double points for any American purchases, whether you buy tickets, snacks on the plane, or gift cards).
As an aside, some programs have many partners. Lyft has a partnership with Hilton, for instance, so you earn hotel points each time you get a ride via Lyft if you link your Lyft account to your Hilton account. I know people who use Lyft several times per week. That will quickly get them free hotel stays. It’s another superb way to get more free or discounted hotel stays. There are lots of partnerships out there like this, for both hotels and airlines. Seek them out.
Want a little chuckle? Here’s a funny little anecdote. Once I got hip to this eons ago, I began gaming the system. I’m not sure if gaming is really the right word – gaming implies you’re doing something inappropriate – but that’s the best word I can find at the moment. Well, here’s what happened. I signed up for my first card after getting a letter in the mail inviting me to apply, and I earned the 30,000 points just for signing up. I kept it the requisite four months as required by the program, then closed the account and opened up another one, earning the 30,000 points. Again. Repeat. I raked up a lot of points doing that. I repeated that three times. That got me my free trip to Minneapolis in 2019, and in 2018, a free trip to Memphis and two free trips to New York City. The rules have since changed. This particular card company now only allows the bonus points for new customers or for current customers who haven’t earned such bonus points in the previous four years. I am not so naive to think they changed the program rules just because of me. I suspect plenty of people were smart enough to do this too. But that’s a thing of the past.
Anyhow, there you have it folks. Like I tell people who ask me, think like a rich person. Learn to leverage your finances to make your life more comfortable. I only wish I realized about it a lot sooner. But, better late than never, right? If you need help getting starting with thinking like a rich person, get this book, Millionaire Mindset. It’s an excellent first step. Rick Dad, Poor Dad is another good one. Also, if you need help finding the right card, check out these informative sites: they do great comparisons of several cards: Travel Rewards You’ll Love, Best Travel Credit Cards, and The Best Travel Credit Cards for 2020. Look them over and identify the card or cards that meet your travel lifestyle and travel goals.
Git er done, and get your travel on…and don’t be held back if you lack a travel companion. Take yourself and enjoy your own company. Hop to it.