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Category: Travel

How to Earn Extra Rewards and Savings on What You do Anyway

As people pursuing Financial Independence, it becomes more and more important to cut expenses. However, when you do spend money, you can ease the hurt on your wallet by making sure you are earning back points and rewards as well. In this post, we’ll list a few ways to get more from your spending and doing right now.

Grocery Discount Programs

Start simple and sign up at your grocery store’s rewards program. Do continue to shop around for groceries, but be sure to pick up the discounts on those purchases you need them.

Use Rewards Credit Cards

When you are not trying to earn a travel reward, it is still a good idea to put your spending on a credit card for both tracking and the rewards. You should be aiming to get at least 2% back on each purchase, so use at least a Citi Double Cash card or a Paypal Mastercard. If your credit score isn’t good enough for those, try going for cards with 1.5% back like the Capital One Quicksliver card or a standard 1% cash back if you have to.  Remember, you need to also pay your credit cards in full each month and not get into credit card debt.

Cell Phone Discounts Just for Working

While you are still working, check and see if your company has a cell phone discount. All you have to do is put your work email address into the discount site (search online for the one for your carrier) and see if you can get one. If not, talk to your HR or IT departments and see if they can get you a discount (generally these cost the company nothing to sign up for). Here are a link to a few of the US carriers and their discount programs:

Get More Cashback/Points When You Shop Online

If you need to shop anywhere online (when you aren’t buying used items) or even book a hotel, don’t just head straight to the site. A lot of shopping web sites have partnerships with airlines and other cashback sites, so you could be earning a few extra points with your purchase. To see which ones, checkout Cashback Monitor, which aggregates all of the cash back portals and shows you which site will get you the best points/cash back. You then can visit the highest cashback shopping portal they link to and collect some cashback/points on what you are buying.

Cashback Monitor
Before you buy anything online, look for more points through Cashback Monitor.

Use a search engine with Rewards

I shock most of my friends when I tell people I use Bing rather than Google. Why do I do that? Simply for Microsoft Rewards, which give you points for searches on your desktop and mobile devices. These points generally add up and can be used to get gift cards at Amazon and other retail outfits. If you are feeling a bit more altruistic, you can also use Goodsearch or Ecosia, they will pay money to charity when you use them to search.

A collection of gift cards on the Microsoft Rewards portal.

Restaurant Rewards

In case you are going out to eat, you can also earn cash back and points in a couple of different ways, mainly by adding your credit card to a rewards program. Ask Sebby did a great job breaking down the variety of apps that can be stacked to gain cash back at restaurants including Yelp Cash Back and restaurants on the Rewards Network, which powers most airline dining programs. Keep in mind, though, you can only tie one credit card with one Rewards Network program, so you can’t for example get American Airlines miles and Southwest miles on the same card. However, you can get Yelp Cash Back and the miles on the same card though.

Amazon Smile

Something slightly more altruistic is going through smile.amazon.com rather than regular Amazon.com. By going there, Amazon will pay a charity at no cost to you for every dollar you send on Amazon.com. This is also available in the UK as well.

More Travel Points

Here’s a couple of extra rewards you can get for travel:

  • Using Lyft for Delta and Jetblue miles: Lyft has partnerships with both Delta and Jetblue where you will gain points for rides you take on Lyft, though Jetblue only gives you points on airport rides to and from.
  • Earn points with Airbnb: Airbnb doesn’t offer their own rewards points, but as Head for Points mentions, they do partner with airlines like Delta and Qantas.
  • Mileage Plus X: For in store shopping, check out using Mileage Plus X for extra United Airlines points at select stores.

Any other tips I may have missed out on? Please let me know in the comments below.

Travel Rewards 101: British Edition

Travel Hacking Tool Kit

I covered travel rewards a few weeks ago and commenter Mr. Robot asked:

This sounds pretty awesome but I’m guessing this only applies to US residents and not European?

The answer is yes, though with some caveats:

  • Two of the major flexible rewards providers, Chase and Citi, do not offer credit cards outside the US.
  • The sign-up bonuses are not nearly as good as the American cards.

However, it’s totally possible to travel hack a free trip with cards. I thought I’d take the opportunity to demonstrate one with the same tools I used before in my previous post, though with different cards. This time, we’ll take a trip from London, England to Prague, Czech Republic.

Travel Rewards 101: Planning Your First Trip Using Travel Rewards

Travel Hacking Tool Kit

As I’ve mentioned in my New Year’s Resolution/intro to the Pillars of FI post, travel rewards were basically my gateway into the FI community. After I had made my first trip to London, I sat at the airport and got curious about optimizing travel spend.  Sure enough, a couple of web searches lead me down the travel rewards rabbit hole and then the FI rabbit hole.

So what am I talking about with travel rewards? Basically, the idea is earning and building up enough miles to fly and stay at hotels for a heavy discount. You maybe saying, “doesn’t it takes forever to earn flights and stays at hotels even if you are a frequent traveler?” and you are correct. However, we can boost our points balances in a big way using one simple method: credit card sign up bonuses. You simply get the credit cards you need, earn the bonus by meeting the spend requirements, and that trip is yours.

(Important: Pay your credit cards on time and in full. Do not go into debt and spend more than you normally would to meet the minimum spend requirements. Everybody who advocates this method of earning points recommends this as debt avoidance is paramount to hitting FI.  The interest payments will immediately wipe out any gains you made from the bonuses.)

How can we do this? I’m going to demonstrate how I use four travel tools to plan a trip with flight and hotel paid for. In this example, I’ll pretend I’m going to fly from Seattle, Washington to Honolulu, Hawaii for a 3 night stay. Then I will show you a tool find a credit card for this trip and finally a way to track your points progress.

Car Ownership: The True Cost and Why I Sold My Car

car - black mercedes benz

Let’s face it: you probably need a car, but you probably don’t need your current car. If you commute to work, run errands, or do anything else, then a car makes your life significantly easier. But do you need a flashy, expensive car to accomplish those things? Having said that, do you really know how much your car is costing you? If you knew, would you still be driving it? Would you downgrade?

Look, I am not going to tell you to sell your car and only ride your bike everywhere. I am also not here to shame you for owning a car. Financial Independence is about creating the life you want to live. If cars are one area of your life you do not want to change, then that is ok! All I hope to do is expose you to some of the hidden costs to car ownership. This post aims to give you my perspective on car ownership, what it truly costs to own, through specific examples from my life. My hope for you, dear reader, is that my experience will help you evaluate your current car situation.

If I had to summarize this post in one little TL;DR blurb, it would be the following: your car’s hidden expenses are costing you much more than the obvious expenses. With that, let’s dive in!

Intro: Allen’s 2018 New Year’s Resolution

Welcome to Thefiguys.com. I started documenting my personal FI journey on my personal blog in 2018. Now that I am documenting it here, I’m reposting my 2018 New Year’s Resolution: Achieve the Pillars of Financial Independence though slightly altered (and probably improved).

Achieve the Pillars of FI

So I’ve been blessed to be able to make and save a decent amount of money. It has allowed me to live comfortably in a new country for a bit of time. However, I started to wonder what else I could do with my money. It doesn’t make sense to spend it on things I don’t need or want, but I felt like there were better ways to save it too.

I had read about personal finance before. I then started reading more advanced finance techniques with goal of achieving Financial Independence or FI for short. As I’ve read more and more about what people have done to achieve FI, I realized I stumbled upon a rather big topic. Luckily I found the Choose Fi podcast and found an episode they did called The Pillars of FI. This episode summed just about everything that needs to be accomplished to achieve FI.

Since I heard it right around New Years, I decided to make achieving all the pillars my new year’s resolution for 2018. Yeah, I think I’m kind of cheating a bit, because I’ve already done a few of these things. And no I won’t achieve FI this year, but I think putting these things in place will get me closer to that goal. However, I felt like I should just try to put these steps in place for a good foundation now. Let’s review shall we: