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.