How we got paid $200 to fly to San Francisco

This week, Venessa and I are taking a short trip to San Francisco. We don’t travel often, especially not by air. It’s bad for the environment, I don’t like what the government has done to our freedoms, and there are so many places in the Pacific Northwest that I haven’t explored yet, it seems like a shame to go somewhere else.

Largest caggage at the local fair

But every once in a while we get a travel bug that can’t be satiated by our environs. This one was prompted by some junk mail I got a few months ago. It was one of those frequent flyer credit cards offering a 50,000 point signup bonus. Equivalent to two free flights, they said.

A side note on credit cards: I have 2 rewards cards (REI and Amazon) and a Schwab cash-back card that just got bought out by Bank of America so I’m going to cancel it. Trent from The Simple Dollar has two good rules governing rewards cards:

1. It doesn’t matter what rewards card you have if you’re carrying a balance. If you won’t be able to pay your balance in full every month, cut up that card.
2. The best rewards program is the one that most closely matches what you buy and where you buy it.

Since I don’t buy airplane tickets very often, why’d I sign up for this card? Here’s the story:

I looked at the airline’s website and saw how many “points” out of my signup bonus a trip for 2 to San Francisco would cost. Then I looked at the same trip in dollars. It was $600, more than twice as much as the cheapest flight to San Francisco from Seattle, offered by Virgin America.

So here’s what I did. I signed up for the card anyway, and got the 50,000 points. Then I went over to the “other ways to redeem your points” section of the website, and spent all the points on $500 worth of Amazon.com gift cards. (I can’t believe they let you do this.) Amazon is a big enough website that their gift cards are extremely liquid, and we use it frequently enough that the cards about have the same value as cash for us anyway.

We booked the Virgin America flight for $300, and pocketed the $200 difference to use as spending money on the trip. After the gift cards came, I called the credit card company and canceled the credit card. I’m sure my credit score took a hit for this, but I don’t plan on borrowing money any time soon (if ever), so it’s not a problem. I even got the yearly card fee refunded since I had the card for such a short time. Never hurts to ask.

I might take a break from posting here since I’m not taking a laptop on the trip. See ya!

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