38: Are credit card miles and points worth the effort?


I explain how you, with varying degrees of time commitment, can find great value!

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Rough Transcript:

You’re listening to the Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast. I’m your host, Justin Vacula, here to help you travel the world at next to no cost through credit card points, miles, benefits, and rewards. Make money, save money, and take advantage of great deals!

Visit my website at HurdyGurdyTravel.com to contact me, find me on social media, read episode transcripts, and support the show with donations and use of referral links! More information at the end of the show…

Thanks for joining me for episode 38: Are credit card miles and points worth the effort? I explain how you, with varying degrees of time commitment, can find great value!

One common objection I hear when I mention credit cards to people outside the credit card space is that it’s not worth the time. Usually, some don’t appear to be open-minded when they could instead ask about what returns look like, how much time is needed to gain enough points to cover a flight or hotel room, or even why I’m so enthusiastic about credit cards – this thing I and others refer to as the credit card hobby.

That it is a hobby is an important phrase. I have fun thinking about how to maximize value. I look forward to upcoming travel. I’m excited when a plan comes together and pays off. I’ve met new friends through online credit card spaces. I’ve traveled to places I never would have imagined going to because the cost would have been high if paying out of pocket. Some may similarly be enthusiastic about researching stock trends and investing, playing golf, playing poker or engaging in other interests when making money is possible.

The credit card hobby has so much to offer and, if done well, it’s not just gradual gain for one flight a year as some believe. What can credit cards give? The biggest appeal to me is welcome offers worth more than $500 in value (it’s one of the reasons why I have so many cards), but it’s also free meals, airport lounge access, hotel room upgrades, free casino statuses attained without gambling, merchant credits from retailers like Dell (I have $800 in credits for 2020), cell phone credits, shipping credits, free Uber rides, airline statuses, hotel statuses, and so much more. 0% intro APR offers, especially on business cards, can also be great benefits – effective loans of, at least for me, about $15,000 dollars for a year I can use to make even more money.

Of course, not all, especially those with multiple jobs, children to take care of, and other responsibilities may not want to dedicate significant time to the credit card hobby and that’s okay. Surely, too, there are people who dedicate more time to the credit card space than I do. Your level of involvement is up to you, but I’m very confident that substantial gains can be had even with little effort. I suggest people start small and gradually build based on their comfort.

At a very basic level, one can target the lowest-hanging fruit by just signing up for a new credit card and putting their usual everyday expenses on it to reach welcome offers. What might that look like – maybe a new card every three or four months or even six months? Maybe it takes a few minutes to complete an online application. Use a new card for purchases, a slight change in habits, and keep track of your spending progress towards welcome bonuses. Use different cards for category bonuses depending on the purchases and get rebates ranging from around one to ten percent on everything you buy.

High spenders will easily hit signup bonuses especially with a handful of large transactions. I recently paid taxes using a credit card – a slight fee, well worth it, for about $4000 in payments which would satisfy the minimum spend requirement for many credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, referral link on my website, which gives 60,000 points as a welcome bonus for a $95 annual fee. Once every two weeks, I pay my credit card balances in full – just a few minutes of logging in to bank portals and making payments. Easy wins!

Today, related to credit cards, I visited a local bank which is offering a $300 signup bonus for depositing $2000 into a checking account and maintaining the balance for 90 days. It took an hour to open the account, fund the account, and maintaining will be super easy – that’s a fantastic return on my time.

With traditional work, one is often trading time for money in jobs they don’t like, strict schedules, deadlines, and many other unappealing elements. Here, well, it’s not like I’m super excited about opening a bank account, it’s not as fun as playing Dungeons & Dragons, but the payoff is well worth it for me.

Maybe someone making seven figures a year won’t be as eager to open the bank account, but it’s not like everyone in the credit card hobby is struggling to make ends meet – some have very cushy jobs, investments, and bank accounts. In many ways, the credit card hobby diversifies income and allows for opportunities outside the traditional clock. Some friends in the credit card hobby are especially grateful they join me during this time of pandemic as they’re off of work and have some free time. I would be a fool to pass up on a close to $300 an hour proposition especially now with extra free time during the pandemic, how often do opportunities like that come about?

What about some other low-hanging fruit? Using my Cash App debit card, referral link on my website, I saved $7.50 buying a $75 Amazon gift card for future purchases while I was at a grocery store I’d be at regardless of the deal. A separate transaction which took about two minutes…that play was worth about $225 an hour if done multiple times. I uploaded the gift card code to my Amazon account and found the deal through looking at the app itself after I saw a story on my Facebook feed, easy win. On the way home, without taking a detour, I stopped at a Walgreens location to use the deal once more for another easy win.

Of course I don’t stop at one bank account or credit card, I keep going. I want to have as many credit cards and bank accounts as I can get to reap great returns. I don’t take on too much at one time (I don’t want to be overwhelmed) and the hobby has built-in speedbumps due to different bank rules and the amount I can reasonably spend at a time. My gains have been great and continue to come. Since June of 2019 when I started keeping track, I’m up about $40,000 in value through points, miles, and freebies including gas, groceries, and meals…and this isn’t my sole focus.

I don’t, shall I say, spend my time on propositions which don’t make financial or time sense; I’m mindful of expected value. Just the other day and even today I could have gone to a casino to pick up $15 in match play, but that would have taken me about an hour and 15 minutes. I didn’t have stops to make on the way and this was outside my usual travel circuit. However, in the coming weeks, I’ll gladly take a slight detour which will likely take about 15 minutes of time to generate about $60 of expected value per hour.

I’m not going to waste my time with credit cards like the Apple Card which offer me little to no value compared to other cards I already have. I’m not going to get a credit card with a special 3% category return for purchases I won’t often make in large scale when I have far better options or when I can just wait for new, better offers. It goes on. I’m mindful of what my expectation will be and often pass on offers which don’t make sense.

As one scales up by adding new accounts and taking on more creative ways to reach high-spend goals, complexity and time required increases. However, I’m happy to put in that time, again in this fun hobby which generates tangible gains well worth the effort. I log into accounts usually once a week to pay cards in full. I keep up-to-date on credit card related news through following several groups, websites, podcasts, and YouTube channels.

There are some risks, especially if one is not financially responsible, and some mistakes like missing payments can be costly, but those financially responsible and reasonably organized should be fine. I don’t sweat the small stuff too much like maybe only getting 3x points back on a transaction vs. 2x points or forgetting to activate an offer, but even with some small mistakes one should still be way ahead…and I think that my track record is really good with great payoff.

One  higher-level play, for example, allows me to gain and use grocery rewards to pay next to nothing for gas and groceries. It’s really nice to fill 25 gallons of gas at the pump for $0 a gallon – a savings of about $63 dollars here in Pennsylvania right after I leave the store with a grocery order also paid for with rewards. A bit of research and collaboration makes it happen.

I utilize my networks to analyze new opportunities. I keep organized by using spreadsheets, notes in the Evernote app, the Awardwallet app, and great programs like TravelFreely which keep track of my cards’ signup dates and annual fees. When I must call banks to cancel cards or ask for retention offers,  I aim to multitask by calling which preparing dinner or driving. I’m happy to put in the little effort to make great returns also on my own time and my own schedule.

I don’t ask for much, my wants are little, and I enjoy a frugal life. I find a good deal of freedom and fun through the credit card hobby. I really look forward to more regular travel when the pandemic clears ready to go with close to 800,000 points with both Delta and Hilton and more to come.

I don’t look to get rich through credit card related efforts, but recognize that it’s had a major impact on my life. How many say travel is too expensive and neglect to do so? How many spend a large sum of money on travel and then return to the paycheck to paycheck hamster wheel? How many hours do you need to put in at your job for that dream vacation when instead you could have saved all of that money through little effort with credit cards?

More financial and life freedom is possible with some really easy steps for those who can be disciplined about their spending and organized. Consider this a hobby, a side hustle, a game, whatever, there’s a good payoff if you plan and play well. Even if for some reason you won’t eventually get 20 or more cards like I have, you can experience great returns starting small and adding more to your plate when you are comfortable. As always, I’m here to help save you from making mistakes and with my guidance you can save doing much of the research I’ve already done. I’m happy to offer consultations through my Patreon page at patreon.com/justinvacula that’s j-u-s-t-i-n-v-a-c-u-l-a!

Thanks for listening and stay tuned for more content!

Visit my website at HurdyGurdyTravel.com where you can contact me, read episode transcripts, complete a free credit card questionnaire to receive tailored recommendations, follow me on social media, listen to past episodes, and subscribe to my mailing list.

Support my work through PayPal, the Cash App, and using referral links by visiting the donate tab on my website. Visit my Patreon page to support my efforts and receive perks including special one-on-one private consultations, a custom podcast episode, and the ability to ask podcast guests your questions!

Subscribe on YouTube at Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast; like my Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast Facebook page; follow HGtravelpodcast on Twitter; and follow Justin Vacula on Instagram.

Schedule a free 15-minute consultation with full-time business coach and YouTuber Cakeologi who can help you formally establish your business, build business credit, and get premium business credit cards. When you select from various paid services after the free consultation, I will receive credit for referring you. Listen to Cakeologi on episode twelve of my podcast. Visit his websites at cakeologi.com – that’s c-a-k-e-o-l-o-g-i and burstbiz.com – b-u-r-s-t-b-i-z and tell him I sent you. E-mail him youtube@cakeologi.com

Visit my other podcast at stoicsolutionspodcast.com where you can find practical wisdom for everyday life inspired by the ancient philosophers of Greece and Rome.

Thanks to generous patrons and fans of this podcast who help support my work. Have a great day!


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