Money for Nothing

4.25.21 

One of the biggest lump-sum expenses connected to our dream of moving to Europe is actually getting there. Travel is expensive. There are ways to do it cheaper. For instance, we have a little pop-up trailer and we go camping from time to time. The gas costs money, of course, as do the campsite rental fees, but it’s a lot less than air travel and hotels.

But just try pulling a pop-up trailer behind your car from Denver to Portugal. It’s a long drive, resulting in a lot of wear and tear on the car, not to mention the water damage.

Air travel is really the only way, so we needed to find cheaper ways to do it. Of course everyone’s heard of the websites like priceline.com, cheapflights.com, etc. But often, those websites didn’t really do much better than the original travel sites like Expedia and Travelocity.

Several posts back, I mentioned that, when we started out on the venture of moving to Europe, we subscribed to tons of newsletters about moving and investing overseas. One of the ones we subscribed to was by a young guy named Matthew Kepnes, who goes by the name “Nomadic Matt.” Matt lives to travel and has worked out hacks for just about everything associated with traveling.

He presented a few of his favorite websites for booking flights, one of which was skyscanner.com. Recently, that site presented me with the opportunity to fly from Denver to Washington D.C. for $73, round trip! I’ve been needing to go to D.C. for research for a book I’m writing. Never having been there, I need to see, primarily, the Library of Congress, as this is a main location in my novel. This was my chance!

Sadly, I found that the Library of Congress still was not open to the public, due to COVID. So, scratch that idea. Within days, I got notices that the price was going back up.

One of the things Matt makes use of, probably more than anything else, is the concept of travel points. To that end, he published a list of his favorite credit cards that offer points as rewards.

Both Linda and I have debt that we’re trying to clear up before we make our move. Because of that, I had pretty much steered clear of credit cards since they’ve gotten me into trouble in the past. I have only one credit card now, one that I’ve used for travel and emergency. It still had a balance on it that I’d been working on for the last two and a half years from our honeymoon. To that, most recently, I added the cost of the AMMO program.

Aside from that, I’ve been resolved for years to spend only the money I have, and avoid the credit trap. I use my debit card for everything.

So, given my love/hate relationship with credit cards, I was reluctant to sign up for another one. But to make use of Matt’s travel hack idea, I chose a credit card that he said was his favorite, the CapitalOne Venture Visa card. The main thing about it that interested us was “unlimited 2 miles per dollar on every purchase.”

So I signed up and was approved right away. It arrived a few days later, and besides the miles, the card itself is pretty cool. It’s the first credit card I’ve ever seen that is actually made out of metal. (Much sturdier for breaking and entering, if you were into that sort of thing.)

My plan is to use this credit card for absolutely everything that I would normally use the debit card to pay for. Then, when the payment is due, I’ll use my debit card to pay off the balance every month, thus avoiding the high interest rate. Then, all I’ll be left with will be the miles that I racked up with all those purchases in the previous month. In the next year and a half, those miles will add up!

Linda’s planning on doing something similar. She hasn’t decided if she wants to get a different card, one that has rewards that might be somewhat complementary to those that I get with mine, or the same card with identical rewards.

But two miles for every dollar spent? That’s pretty cool. On daily/weekly expenses of groceries, gas, insurance premiums, too frequent Amazon purchases, etc., I spend around a thousand dollars a month. So, in one month, I can rack up enough miles to get from Denver to about two hundred miles into the North Atlantic.

Okay, okay, I know that’s not the way the miles work. I just needed a setup for that joke.

Still, getting those miles will help. Obviously, it will take a lot more than a month of spending to actually be able to get all the way to Portugal, or else we’re going to get pretty wet.

In that case, we might as well just pull the trailer.