I am targeting this post at the beginners who are probably wondering how us “travel bloggers” are able to fly and stay for next-to-free. A few years ago I was in the same place as you, I did not believe that you could travel for anything less than the posted cash price. Even in the few years that I’ve been actively obtaining points, the ways in which we earn points has evolved in major ways. Here is my strategy for continued point earning in 2017:
Before I start, here is a map of my 2015 travel, of which 90% + was paid for with points. I will do over 55,000 miles in 2016 for pennies-on-the-dollar.
Traveling for next-to-nothing is 100% possible. What is not possible is traveling for ‘free’ without putting in effort and taking the time to learn the ‘earn’ techniques. If you aren’t taking the time to learn and implement the earning strategies, there is a good chance you are missing out on free travel opportunity. I want to inform and then motivate you to start earning in 2017.
If you have read any “points earning” blogs you have certainly seen post about eBay. (you won’t see it discussed much on “points” blogs that heavily push credit card referral links) You see, eBay is one of the largest eCommerce sites for people to resell all kinds of goods. eBay comes into play by allowing you to purchase mass quantities of goods, which earns you points, and then resell those goods to ultimately pay-off your charges. (the word is: liquidate)
By simply charging gas and groceries to your airline credit card, you aren’t on the fast-track to free travel. Even if you spent $1,000 a month on your credit card each month, that means you are only earning 12,000 airline points a year or $240 in cash-back with a card like the Citi Double Cash card. I hate to break it to you, but 12,000 points in one year isn’t going to get you very far, pun intended. If you are trying to take your family on a free trip with 12,000 points, fah-get-about-it.
eBay reselling allows you to purchase TONS of merchandise and then resell it without actually “buying” or “consuming” the goods. You are effectively shifting money around and earning a nice chunk of points in the meantime. I purchase roughly $8,000-$10,000 in merchandise to resell on any given month ($15k on a busy month).
Even at a measly 1 point per dollar, I am earning about 120,000 points per year from buying my goods to resell, though I get way more than 1 point per dollar.
120,000 points is easily enough for two people to Europe round-trip in economy or one person round-trip in business class. (lie flat seat). Once you master earning points the next step is mastering the best use of your points. More on that in another article.
Here is another one of those buzzwords you may see on travel/points blogs, “gift cards”. To the average person, gift cards are a way to send a gift without giving out straight cash. To a points-fiend like myself, gift cards are another form of currency. Like any currency, money can be made when buying and selling between currencies.
You see, almost every time you make a purchase, there is opportunity to earn points. By purchasing gift cards and then using those gift cards to later buy your merchandise for reselling, you are increasing the number of transactions which, when leveraged, increases your earning potential.
Take the Chase Ink card, it earns 5x Ultimate Reward points on utilities as well as purchases at office supply stores. What do office supply stores sell that should interest you? “gift cards” [in Spongebob’s voice as he makes a rainbow with his hands].
If you are purchasing a large number of gift cards at 5x points, you can really start traveling for next-to-free. Ultimately, these gift cards will be turned back into cash in the form a withdrawal from PayPal into your bank account. How will the money get into your PayPal account you may ask? You will use those gift cards to purchase goods and then resell the merchandise on eBay. (for cold, hard, cash)
Are you starting to connect the dots?
This is the big unknown for many, and likely the greatest area of risk. Everyone has their own strategy on which goods to purchase, that will later get sold on eBay. (or Craigslist or Amazon FBA). One thing does not differ between strategies however; earn and stack as many bonuses as possible in every transaction, also try to make as much profit as possible.
You’ve surely heard those Ebates commercials taking about making extra money for just shopping online. Well, the concept is valid but you wouldn’t earn much from your organic day-to-day spending. Buuut, if you are buying thousands of dollars in goods per month which will later be liquidated, then yes, you can earn healthy cashback from Ebates. (and other shopping portals)
These shopping portals use referral links to track you and then earn money from a given retailer, such as eBay. eBay will then pay, let’s say, eBates 2.5% for all transactions conducted using their link. Ebates will share some of that commission by giving you 1% for using their links on eBay. See how I earned 12x AA points via a shopping portal, enough for a one-way to Europe, here.
An example item that I purchase often (to later resell on eBay) are high-end DSLR camera bundles. For whatever reason, camera bundles are heavily discounted while the individual components rarely are. Also, manufacturers like Canon will often slap on YUGE rebates, up to $350-$400, which goes to the original buyer, that would be you. (or me)
Once you receive the camera bundle, you can then resell the individual components on eBay, such as the body, lenses, included photo printer, etc at a modest profit.
Show me the money
This is how a recent “camera bundle” deal worked out. Keep in mind that some deals will net more cash and some will net more points.
• I purchased a Canon camera bundle on Adorama for $879, no tax or shipping.
• Next, I used the British Airways shopping portal link earning 2x Avios points
• Then, I used my Capital One Venture card for which I earn 2% towards travel charges
• Finally, here is how my reselling profits came out:
$879.00 purchase price
-$350 rebate (takes 10 minutes to fill out, good as cash)
-$355 after fees when selling camera body
-$220 after fees when selling lens #1
-$74 after fees when selling lens #2
-$110 after fees when selling photo printer
+ $230 in profit, I spent about two hours listing and shipping etc (expect longer as you are learning, I’ve been doing eBay for 10+ years)
I addition to the $230 profit;
2% cashback on $879 = $17.58
2x British Airways points on $879 = 1,758
As you can see from this example, not many points were earned but I did make over $100 per hour, so it was worth it, IMO. Also, 12,500 British Airways points are enough for a one-way from the West Coast to Hawaii, for perspective.
Show me the points 1a.
Here is a recent example of some reselling in which I earned a a good chunk of points and a little bit of cash.
First, I bought 4x Visa debit gift cards at Staples worth $300 a piece with my Chase Ink card. Spending $1,200 a Staples earned me 4,800 Chase UR points (5x at office supply stores). I did incur a $9 activation fee per card, so keep those $36 in fees in the back of your mind.
Secondly, I liquidated (most of) those Visa debit cards by purchasing $1,000 in eBay gift cards on Raise.com. Raise is a gift card portal and when I made the purchase, British Airways was offering 4x points on all purchases at Raise. You are capped at $1,000 worth of purchases per shopping portal with Raise. That is 4,000 British Airways Avios points.
This is the most difficult step for people to believe/understand, but try. Over 50% of the goods that I resell on eBay, I actually purchased first on eBay. Yes, there are millions of items in circulation and good deals certainly come and go. I purchased NINE Apple iPhone 5S smartphones in new sealed condition at $199 a piece shipped. For this example, I will just use 5x of those iPhones to make the math easier.
eBay has their own reward program which is IN ADDITION to what you will earn from a portal bonus and Chase Ink 5x bonus. (when making a purchase, not when you are selling). About every other week eBay will run a 48 hour promo window where all purchases earn 8% eBay bucks. (minus a few select categories like bullion). I also earned 1x British Airways Avios points when buying the iPhones (now remember, I paid for these phones with eBay gift cards purchased on Raise). That means $1,000 spent on eBay to buy the iPhones via the British Airways shopping portal = 1,000 more Avios.
Show me the points 1b.
I feel bad for dragging this out but I see no other way to make it easy without being detailed. From my 5x Apple iPhone purchases at $199 a piece, I earned $80 in eBay bucks. Every quarter you can spend those bucks on almost anything on eBay. I use my bucks, which are capped at $500 per account per quarter, to buy AirBNB gifts which then makes my lodging “free” when I travel.
I have three eBay accounts to increase my odds of being targeted for eBay bucks offers.
Let’s break this scenario down:
• Using Chase Ink I spent $1,200 at Staples on Visa prepaid debit gift cards = 4,800 Chase UR points
• $1,000 in eBay gift cards purchased on Raise.com using my Visa prepaid cards = 4,000 British Airways Avios points
• I liquidated the $1,000 eBay gift cards by purchasing 5 iPhone’s from an eBay seller, British Airways 1x points at eBay = 1,000 Avios
• There was also an 8% eBay bucks promo at the time of my iPhone purchases, $1,000 spent on eBay = $80 in eBay bucks
— 4,800 Chase Ultimate Rewards
— 4,000 British Airways Avios
— 1,000 British Airways Avios
— $80 in eBay bucks
Now for the profits.. The 5 iPhones sold in less than 24 hours. I made $98 in pure cash after selling fees and shipping. I didn’t forget about the $36 in gift card fees at Staples, that brings my net profit down to $62.
Transfer points the points you earn
Chase Ultimate Reward points can transfer to British Airways at 1:1. If I transferred my 4,800 UR points earned from Staples, that nets me:
• 9,800 British Airways Avios in total
• $80 in eBay bucks
• $62 in cash profit
This resell was actually really simple for these reasons:
• Just a single eBay listing with a quantity of five phones, saves time for me
• Very popular item, no delay in reselling at a reasonable mark-up
• Brand new sealed items, very low risk of the item being faulty or blemished
• Small item so shipping costs are very low, should one be returned I am only out $6
In total I spent about 2.5 hours from acquiring the gift cards at Staples.com until the last iPhone was picked up at my front door (for free) by USPS. I value British Airways points around 1.5 cents a piece which means 9,800 Avios are worth at least $147. I use eBay bucks to buy AirBNB gift cards, $80 in AirBNB’s is roughly two nights at a reasonably priced listing. $62 in cash is just that, some extra cash for my time (2.5 hours for me).
As I discussed earlier this week, you are able to fly one-way from the US to Ireland non-stop for as few as 13,000 British Airways Avios. Also, 12,500 Avios gets you a non-stop one-way from the West Coast to Hawaii on American Airlines or Alaska Air hubs. 9,800 points made in 2.5 hours + cash means I am pretty close to a one-way to Ireland, cool huh?
Some bloggers aren’t interested in being this detailed because they are worried about their honey-hole drying up. There are many others that are very detailed and helpful so and I recommend you keep googling and learning before starting on this endeavor.
As always, reach out to us on FaceBook and feel free to ask questions.