I’ve had quite a few conversations with friends about how can we benefit from our daily spending and use the power of our credit cards and other tools to travel the world for free, and accumulate great cash back at the same time.
I’ve been inspired to put together this blog post to share how my family takes advantage of points, cash back and more to reap advantages from our daily spendings.
It’s been about 4 years since I’ve started to really use credit cards to accumulate points and other tools to gain rewards. It was a learning process and I’ve just recently made it a habit where every purchase I make, I make it with an intention of knowing if I can reap other benefits from it.
Over the last 3 years we’ve been able to save over $8,000 in airfare and hotels, paying with points and I truly wish I had started accumulating points and being smart about my credit card habits sooner. Some of our savings include six round trip flights for free from Washington DC (IAD) to Sofia (SOF), Bulgaria where my family is from (usual price of one round trip ticket is ~ $1,200) As well as booking hotel stays for free during vacations in Florida and Germany.
In addition, I’ve accumulated close to $500 from other apps that give me cash back on grocery shopping, gas, and more. And I like to use those to pay for some “me time” – nails, massage, shopping, coffee treats, basically all the things women tend to feel guilty about especially after having children! I’m that mom, but knowing that it didn’t come out of my pocket directly, makes my “me time” even sweeter.
I’m no expert, but I’ve learned a thing or two. I’ll also provide you with some links where pros share their experience and where I learn from all the time.
So the tools I use to accomplish my goals:
I’ve just opened a Marriott Bonvoy Visa as they were running a really lucrative deal in points (100K points) and I want to earn free hotel stays and get status as Marriott is one of my preferred hotel chains to stay at. I can’t speak to the power of this card yet, as I have not reaped any benefits from it at this moment.
I should also mention that I don’t open credit cards just to get the sign up bonus, unless it makes total sense. The credit cards above are the only ones I’ve opened in the last 3 years and I’ve slowly, but surely been able to really benefit from all they can offer.
2. I’ve had a Discover card for over 10 years so I use it from time to time to get 5% cash back on certain categories, they run different promos for different months. Like I think right now is 5% cashback on all gas purchases. I use this card to accumulate $ which I then redeem for gift cards, as they have lucrative deals like pay $20 for a $40 gift card to different restaurants, stores etc. But I use this sparingly, as I like earning more points for travel as it’s a higher dollar value for me.
3. I use Ibotta to earn money by scanning my grocery store receipts or to shop at stores where they offer a good cash back. I don’t shop just to get cashback, but if it happens that I need something then it works out great. Sometimes if I need something from Amazon, let’s say if you do it through their app, they will give you % back or sometimes it’s money like get $10 if you spend $50 dollars at Macys or Kohl’s etc. If at that time I need something from those stores, it’s a win win as most of the time you can stack these savings with coupons that you would use. I’ve accumulated way over $200, for about 6 months now using Ibotta.
I do understand that using such apps is selling your info for market research, but honestly I feel like there is nothing for me to hide as I buy everyday things and truthfully our spending habits are already well known by the merchants and credit card companies unless you’re paying cash at stores, so personally I don’t mind.
4. I use Ebates to earn money when shopping online. it’s a chrome extension you install on your computer and when you visit a site it tells you right away if there is a cash back opportunity. It’s great because you don’t have to go hunt for it and it tells you on it’s own. I’ve earned $221.81 and I’ve helped my mom earn over $100 as well.
5. That brings me to another point. Refer your family members and friends and earn cash back by doing so. It’s a great way to maximize your return. I’ve made accounts for my mom and dad on Ebates as they get free cash and I get free cash by making a purchase through their account 🙂 Win-Win!
6. I’ve recently started using two apps to get cash back on gas purchases and let me tell you it adds up. They are called GetUpSide (Use code 3MEHP to get $15cents bonus) and TruNow (Use code AFPVTN).
- GetUpSide is for when you need to get gas and you check the app/claim reward before you stop at the gas station that is participating. It’s something great like 30+ cents a gallon 🙂
- TruNow works a bit differently. This one is for when you’ve bought gas and you scan your receipt at a later time, so you and still get cash back.
- I also have Fuel Rewards for Shell Stations and you can earn great discounts at the pump especially if you shop at Giant. Just having Fuel Rewards and linking your Giant card you can benefit from 5 cents off every gallon you pump. Over time it adds up, trust me.
Here are some rules I have for myself to maximize my benefits:
- All the shopping I do online I strive to bring me either cash back or bonus points on my credit cards
- I don’t redeem points for gift cards, the valuation is way too low that way when it comes to Chase. However, I do redeem $ rewards earned for gift cards at Discover, when I know that I can use that gift card in the future. Gift cards are also great for giving as a gift 😉
- Always maximize travel miles by joining travel programs for the airlines you will travel with, or the hotels you will stay with. You can also try to earn points at only one specific airline or hotel, if they are in the same program together and allow you to do that. Here is a good one that a lot of people don’t know about – You can earn Delta miles for booking airbnb’s.
- I try to maximize points/cash back by stacking up ways to earn. For example:
- If Discover is giving me 5% cash back on gas purchases, then I’ll use Discover at the gas station this month, this will stack well with using GetUpSide as well. And on top of that if it’s a Shell Gas Station I’ll use the Fuel Rewards as well before I pump by punching in my phone number. So that’s a triple win. 🙂
- To earn extra points for travel, I make sure to shop through the Chase Online Shopping Portal as they have partnerships with different stores/online sites where you get 10X points for shopping through there. So basically I don’t shop online without first trying to maximize my cash back, or points earned from one of my credit cards or programs I use that I mentioned above.
- Don’t be scared of yearly fees on credit cards. Some people are turned away by seeing a $99 yearly fee, but those fees are so worth it, when you think about how much you can save in travel just by making that your number 1 card you pay with for everything. Now there are cards that have much higher yearly fees, but I have not had one of those yet to be able to give an opinion. All of mine are at the $99 level. This rings true especially if you know you’ll have a big bill to pay soon for things like home remodeling. Charging over $1K on your card can easily erase that yearly fee of $99.
- I pay every bill that I can pay without inquiring a fee for using a credit card. The only thing I don’t put on credit is our gas, electric and mortgage as they charge a fee. There are ways to do that, but i don’t get involved with that as the feels outweigh the benefits for me. I also don’t charge something on a credit card which I know I will not be able to pay for later. My husband and I live by the mantra that we don’t want to pay interest on our credit cards, and we’ve been lucky to not have to pay any interest for a few years now. Keep that in mind as well, as the interest rate can be high on some of these and most of the time it defeats the purpose.
The bottom line for me is if you use a credit card for your everyday spending, why not use one that will give you added benefits. A lot of my friends were stuck using credit cards that they had opened right after high school or college out of habit, that provide them no added benefits. They were hesitant about opening another credit card, which is totally understandable. I’ve been in those shoes as well. However, since I’ve started sharing how we’ve been able to benefit, a few of them have already booked vacations for their family at no cost or at a fraction of the cost, and that feeling is so rewarding!
Some other really great resources for you:
- SlickDeals – A website where deal hunters post great deals from different websites, I find really great things on here, especially deals on when I need to restock things like diapers, detergent, toilet paper, paper towels etc. I actually have a notification set on the website, so I get an email when there is a deal about an item I care about. You can save a lot of money in the long run and there is no sign up. Also you’ll find great coupons as well.
- HoneyGold – this is a browser extension as well, just like Ebates which I mentioned above. It tries to apply the best coupons at checkout for your shopping. It has worked many times that it gives me a better coupon than I already had and you can earn cash rewards as well.
- I learn a lot from the Award Travel 101 FB Group: these people are pros at what they do and you can learn a lot from them and also ask questions. I have asked questions a few times and have received great advice.
- Check out the following website to learn more about points travel
- AwardWallet – keep track of your points – https://awardwallet.com/
- Join this newsletter! This guy finds really cheap fairs or fair mistakes and send them out to your email. Last week I saw airfare round trip to US Virgin Islands for $200/$300 https://scottscheapflights.com/
Ok wow that was a long post, but I hope you’ve been able to learn from what we do. Now, I’d love to learn from you as well. Feel free to drop me an email. Let me know what you do to save money and earn rewards.
Full disclosure – some of the links above are my referral links as you get a bonus that way. I’ll also get a bonus if you end up signing up through them for referring you.
Feel free to reach out with questions, comments, etc. Also feel free to share this link with others who can benefit from reading my post.
I believe life is much better when we help each other achieve our goals!
Thank you for reading and I hope you have an awesome day.