Mr. JumpStart and family

Why We Travel Hack.

The JumpStart family works hard to achieve high credit scores, but it isn’t about borrowing money.

Our mortgages are a few years old, and have pretty low rates.  I just bought a car without a credit pull, because I paid cash.  We declined the Stafford loans offered for my son’s tuition.

Our family wants a high credit score, so we can get credit cards, resulting in credit card bonuses.  I am against credit debt, credit card fees, and paying credit card interest.

On the other hand, I open as many cards, as the banks and my credit score allows.  I earn points without plans for their redemption.  I have Hawaiian, Alaskan, and British airways miles, but I’ve never been on any of their planes.  I’m always collecting points to add to our travel options.

A common criticism of travel points is that blackouts, rules, and limitations make them too difficult to redeem.  These criticisms aren’t unfounded, because banks, airlines, and hotels make up some crazy rules.  However with some research, patience, and flexibility, great trips can be redeemed.

It is getting close to Christmas, and my daughter JS Jill wanted to go to NYC at Christmas time.  Mrs. JumpStart and I have been several times, and took the kids once, but all our trips happened during summer unemployment season.

Despite our tight budget saving for Jack’s tuition, we are headed to NYC in a few days.  This is why we travel hack.

Recently Amtrak extended service to Roanoke. Bank of America has a couple of Amtrak cards and I was already prepared with Guest Rewards Points in 

my account.  After redeeming points, 3 round-trip train tickets were totally free.

Hotels in NYC are always expensive, and they get even pricier around Christmas.  We booked 2 rooms for 2 nights at the Times Square Sheraton.  There are many options for the necessary Starwood Points, and there have been Starwood, Marriott, Membership Reward, and Ultimate Rewards bonuses over the years.  We’ve got points in all those programs, and the points can be transferred around.  My cash cost after the Starwood points redemption was also 0$.  Yes, they have my credit card info, but the Sheraton doesn’t get to charge me.

In addition to the free hotel, I have Platinum status with Starwood hotels.  My teaching career certainly didn’t give me the required 75 nights for status.  Platinum status was earned with credit cards.

The train takes a little longer, but it has a few advantages.

  • No security check. Less security means our cooler will be filled with ice, wine, drinks, and food.
  • The train arrives in the middle of Manhattan, and we’ll probably just walk to the hotel.
  • No airport parking fee.
  • Flights get cancelled or delayed, but the train is reliable.

JS Jill is bringing a friend, who had to purchase her own train ticket.  Jill’s friend spent more on her return train ticket, than we spent on 3 train tickets and 4 hotel nights.

Some people will bring up “opportunity cost” and argue that my trip isn’t really that cheap. They’d argue I could have earned cashback bonuses and 2% cashback on all my credit card spend.  They might point out that my 180,000 Ultimate Reward points stash could be cashed in for $1800(don’t tell Mrs. JS), and invested in the market.

Those critics are right.  I could have used credit cards to add to my savings, but I love to travel and I don’t care.

Mrs. JS, JS Jill, Jill’s friend, and I are headed to NYC!

Upcoming posts will likely include

pizza, cheesecake, or bagels!

Posted in Credit cards, Local (Roanoke), Trip Report.


  1. See this is where I’d love to get to with travel hacking. I have 2 rewards cards but I’m not hacking yet because I’m still getting my using credit within my budget sea legs. I just did my last post on the very real struggle. I’m in NYC now so I think your points were put to great use. This city makes me happy. I hope y’all had a blast.

    As for the opportunity cost of redemption, I’d disagree with anyone who says to redeem for cash. It’s the lowest redemption value around at 1:1. At least with travel the points can actually increase in value depending on what you get. Plus, if you were going to travel anyways, then it’s a great use for the points.

  2. I need to learn travel hacking. I feel I’ve learned so many other FI tips and incorporated them into my life. But currently, we are just getting 1% points for cash on our old Wells Fargo credit card. Silly us! That is one of our New Year’s Resolutions for 2018. Happy New Year!

    • When I began blogging, I decided not to regurgitate the methods I’ve learned from other travel bloggers. Check out Frequent Miler, Mommy Points, Frugal Travel Guy and/or Points Guy.
      Earning the bonuses is key. Flights are more difficult to redeem, but can have great value. Hotels are pretty easy to manage. You can go as fast or slow as you want, but I always try to have a new card ready before a big purchase. Thanks for visiting Susan.

Leave a Reply