Ever since my post on How I Can Afford to Travel Long-Term, I have been inundated with messages and emails asking me more about my money saving secrets. So here’s one I haven’t let out of the bag too much – until now- I’ve utilized reward credit cards, allowing me everything from the ability to receive points towards free flights to getting discounts places I wouldn’t have gotten discounts otherwise.
I don’t think I’ve made it any secret, but a big factor in my ability to stretch my hard-earned dollars into more travel, is through utilizing one of my own reward credit cards, which allows me to earn frequent flyer points. Thanks to my credit card, I managed to get first class flights to New Zealand back in 2009 and a last-minute round-trip flight from Sydney to Cape Town for my trip to Africa last year, all for only the cost of taxes. Since I started using my credit card’s frequent flyer rewards system – I’ve saved myself in excess of $25 000! Not too shabby for a former waitress who was making $8.25/hr.
If you compare various reward credit cards, you will see that frequent flyer points are not the only benefit you can gain by using them. Another perk that my credit card allows me is discounts on stays at certain hotels, preferred rates for car rentals and even better deals on travel insurance. All of these help me stretch my travel dollars and keep me on the road longer.
As with all credit cards (reward credit cards or otherwise), you must stay vigilant and not spend beyond your means. A common mistake a lot of people make with credit cards is thinking that it is free money. That is what the banks would like you to think – but just because they offer you that extra $1000, $5000 or $15 000 credit line, doesn’t mean that you should spend it all – especially if you don’t have the money to pay it off. Remember to always pay off your balance each month and avoid accumulating interest. Once you get into the red, it’s a slippery slope into debt. And nothing will send you packing to the comforts of your parents’ basement as quickly as credit card debt.
Thankfully I’ve always had a good grasp of my money. Call me cheap, frugal, or anything else to that extent, but I really don’t care. While many of my friends have had years of struggle with student debts, credit card debts, and loan repayments – stuck at home working the same old boring 9-to-5, I’ve been off seeing the world, doing everything from jumping out of planes to working with lions. While they’ve been stuck in debt, I’ve managed to take advantage of reward credit cards and use them to my benefit, resulting in me getting to see more and more of the world, for less than what it should have cost me.
So there you have it – do your research; compare different reward credit cards to see which one(s) will benefit you most. Keep in mind some cards may have annual fees or may require you to have a certain amount of available funds first, in order for them to consider giving you their card. But when they do, spend (within your means) and reap the rewards – literally.