Everyone knows that we’re all about that cheap life over here at Shut Up and Go. Damon and Jo notoriously say, “If it’s free [or cheap], it’s for me.” That said, it’s 2019 – well, 4 months until 2020, but let’s NOT think about that yet… Okay, back to what I was saying: it’s 2019, so there’s no reason why anyone should be breaking the bank or dropping their entire savings on travel that can be done for less! There are ways to go on those spring break extravaganzas or little weekend getaways for cheap or, sometimes, for free!
We’re about to have a conversation about points. Mhm – think about this as an express finances talk that you’re about to have with your travel parents, who have been through the trials and errors, so that you can FLY! No pun intended. Well, maybe the pun was intended just a tiny bit!
WHAT ARE POINTS?
REWARDS? FREE MONEY? ALL OF THE ABOVE? To put it simply: when you make a purchase, you’re often rewarded points. After a certain amount of purchases, you will accumulate a ton of points, and you can often use them for discounted flights or for other travel perks. Our friends at Upgraded Points break down all of the best ways to earn and use your points.
Think of it like your favorite coffee shop that has a loyalty program. For every 8 coffees that you buy, you get a free or discounted one. But now, replace coffee with flights or with train rides.
THEN THERE ARE TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS!
If you’re seriously traveling out here, definitely consider getting a card like Chase Sapphire that’ll reward you for using it. Damon Dominique, traveler and co-founder of Shut Up and Go, just dropped a Youtube video about living a nomadic life, and he speaks highly of travel cards and points. Check it out here.
Speaking of Damon, we’ve got the inside scoop from him on his views on points!
When did you first learn how to use points, and how?
D: 2018 was the year I realized I was only hurting myself by taking all of these flights for work, but not adding in my six-digit frequent flyer code. It was literally just free money waiting for me to use; All I had to do was insert the code. I am still by no means an expert on points‘ systems, but that should be enough to tell you that you don’t have to be a points-aficionado to take what you deserve from the system.
Everyone tells you to stick to one airline alliance, which is ideal so that you can track all of your points and loyalty within one alliance (basically get to a more advantageous level quicker), but many times staying within your alliance can cost you hundreds of dollars more. To me, that never made sense, because the flight you would obtain from earning the frequent flyer points would be more or less the same amount as what you just spent on staying within your alliance. It’s really a math game.
Try to stick to one, or maybe two alliances, but have the third one also just in case (it doesn’t cost to get a frequent flyer number).
What has been the craziest trip you’ve booked on points? How much would it have cost you if you booked it with actual money?
D: I’ve booked many trips with my points: Paris, Hawai’i, Miami, Tel Aviv, São Paulo. Any time I want to travel, I check how many points I’ve earned from my credit card and I also check each of my accounts on the alliances (United with StarAlliance, Delta on SkyTeam, American on OneWorld). We’ll get more to that later.
The more you start using your points, the more you realize when you’re getting a deal. 7,500 miles for a domestic flight is really good. 12,500 is still really good. If you start getting up to the 20,000 mark for a US to US flight, that’s pushing it. Going abroad will almost always cost you between 20,000 points and 80,000 points. Knowing if you’re getting a good deal is tricky because you never know the exact mile to dollar ratio. Or at least I don’t. For the most part, the flights I’ve used my points on were equivalent in price to the regular ticket; it’s just that you’re now getting the flight for “free.”
To reiterate, using points that you’ve earned is already a deal (not using them would mean you’re just paying for a flight you didn’t need to).
Were you scared of using credit cards to earn points?
D: I used to be that guy who said things like, “Well if you don’t have the money to buy it in cash, then you shouldn’t buy it all” – then I realized it’s all good as long as you pay off your credit card on time. And on top of that, you’re “building credit” – a popular concept in the United States that basically means you are reliable and you pay back money that has been loaned to you. And on top of that, if you have your frequent flyer systems set up, you could be earning flights just by using your credit card like you would be doing anyway. That being said, I still have slight anxiety every time I swipe my card – not because I won’t have enough money, but because I think we’re all just groomed to believe that we should be using credit only when we really need to, for emergencies for example. That’s no longer the case.
Have you ever used points to book flights for someone else?
D: Many times for our company Shut Up and Go. We’ve got personal credit cards and business credit cards – all of which are racking up points. It’s all about taking advantage of those sign-up bonuses when getting a new card. When we created Shut Up and Go LLC, we had to open up a few new credit cards and in doing so and in meeting the credit card spending requirements, we were able to get lots of points that we use on our employees. More on this in the next question.
What’s the ULTIMATE hack you’ve found when using points?
D: Not an ULTIMATE hack, but in order to make this process more seamless, I have a note in my phone’s notepad with not only my frequent flyer numbers for the three major alliances (Delta within SkyTeam, American within OneWorld, United within Star Alliance), but Jo’s numbers as well in case we travel together.
WTF is a sign-up bonus and why should I care?
D: Any time you are making a major life move – moving apartments, buying a new car, going on a big trip – really any time you are about to drop loads of cold, hard cash, you should do it with a new credit card with a sign-up bonus. Some credit cards offer 50,000 points + for spending $3,000 in the first three months of getting the card. If you’re making one of the above changes and going to be spending the money anyway, you could be earning a few free flights from all of it. You can then use your credit card’s travel booking engine, or transfer the points to a partner like American Airlines, etc. In the United States, a domestic flight on American Airlines can go for as low as 7,500 points. I went from NYC to Miami in July 2019 and it was 7,500 points. When Jo and I went to Hawai’i in March 2019, it was 12,500 each way. Free money people, free money!
Frequent flyer miles and credit card points, what’s the difference? Do they work together?
D: I answer both of these questions in my video How I’ve Been Living This Nomad Lifestyle (at 9:27). Credit card points are easier to understand as you just need a credit card that acquires points and then all of this will happen in the background as you swipe your card. You’ll be earning points without thinking about it. Frequent flyer points are a bit trickier as you must understand that there are three alliances – and the people who win the most have given their loyalty to one. If you’re broke, or only take a few flights a year, I would recommend focusing more on credit card points, since frequent flyer points do expire if you’re not traveling much.
Any advice for someone who’s thinking about using points?
D: I have a why not approach to all these point systems. It takes approximately two seconds to copy and paste your code which in return, racks up points and saves you on costs like luggage, preferential seating, etc.
Those were just a few words from someone who travels for a living, but here are some comments from people who travel for fun!
“Hi Damon & Jo and Shut Up and Go!
As a recent graduate and young professional, I knew I wanted to travel but had limited funds to do so. I had never put much thought into my airline accounts and miles, and continued to fly with a bunch of different airlines. I recently noticed that I had enough frequent flyer miles to take a trip to Vancouver, BC from Texas – even enough to cover a friend’s flight! It was an incredible trip and the fact that I was able to take it without shelling out hundreds for transportation was sooooo worth it. Hope this story helps!
“Hi Shut Up and Go (or is it Shutupandgo) haha.
Living in Canada is traditionally a challenge for people who use credit card welcome bonuses to fund their points addictions, and coupled with our limited airline choices it can be a bit of a challenge.
That being said I have had the opportunity to put my points to good use on two life changing occasions.
The first was to fly from Toronto to Vancouver to attend the going away part of two friends who were moving home to Australia. I landed at 3pm and took off to fly home at 10am the next day and even though I was exhausted I didn’t regret it for a second.
More recently I used my points to book a one way business class flight to Hanoi to start what I’m sure will be an epic 104 day trip from Vietnam to Venice (via the Trans Siberian, some Swiss camping and all matter of things in between). Hitting the “book” button was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done.
I’ve been seriously using points for about 5 years now and they have given me so many great opportunities that I never would have had otherwise.
I’d love to offer a Canadian perspective on the issue!
Thanks for reading,
“Hi guys!! My name is Yuri, I’m from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil but living in Wisconsin, USA. I’m reaching out to you guys today to tell my experience with airlines points and credit cards. It all started 4 years ago when I came to the USA and was able to get a social Social Security Number, which made it possible for me to apply for credit cards. My first credit card here was the Discover It. After that I started building credit and was able to get many others approved, including the Delta Skymiles and American Airlines Advantage. Credit cards and miles changed my life because it makes it so much easier for me to travel for free! I’ve been to Brazil and back to Chicago twice just using my Delta credit card miles and still have enough miles for another round-trip to Brazil (69k miles as of today). I’m also traveling from Wisconsin to Los Angeles this Friday using my American Airlines miles. The round-trip to LA, booked with 1 month in advance to avoid the 20 days before departure surcharge, only costed me 11k miles and $11 for taxes. I honestly don’t know how I would be able to afford traveling without these airlines credit cards bonuses. Not that I travel a lot, but I sure do more than I would afford to. I have about 15 credit cards and by inviting friends to apply for them I get bonus miles. I think that airlines credit cards is a must to everyone who lives traveling like me. I haven’t paid one peny for an airplane ticket (besides the taxes) it has been 2 years.
If you guys want more information on this topic, I’m willing to contribute. And if y’all want to apply for credit cards I can send you invites and we both get bonus points. Thank you for reading and I love y’alls videos. I’ve been watching you guys since the about 4 years ago when I still lived in Brazil.”
Now that study abroad season, fall break, and winter holidays are coming up, please consider taking advantage of the rewards and free things that you can get! For a more in-depth break down, check out Upgraded Points, who are the OG masters of maximizing points!
Now go out and take over the world for a dime!
The Shut Up and Go Team