I can appreciate that this post title doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but allow me to explain how I balance two of my favorite things.
There are tons of blog posts out there about how to save money for travel. Typically, these posts are focused on long-term travel – the kind where you quit your job to travel the world for a year. Long-term travel sounds amazing – and I commend every single author of these posts for making financial sacrifices to do what they love, and fulfill a dream. Kudos.
As cool as it sounds to travel the world for a year or more, I’m 100% aware that right now, long-term travel just doesn’t fit with my lifestyle. So I travel when I can, while working full-time – and living my life as usual.
Bottom line: while I do have one big long-term travel goal, I’m not really on a mission to save up like crazy for an imminent trip.
Ergo, I live my life as usual. Meaning I still shop. But I do love having my shopping habit contribute to my travel fund in a meaningful way!
OK so how does this work? Let me dish. I’ll even break it down into steps.
Step 1: Get a Decent Credit Card
If you don’t already have a credit card that earns you miles or points, GET ONE. NOW. And I’d definitely recommend getting a card that earns hotel points, because I find that they are much easier to redeem than airline miles.
Personally, I love my Starwood Preferred Guest Amex because I think that Starwood has one of the highest value reward programs out there. They have a great variety of hotels worldwide, and I love the W and St. Regis brands!
But one of the reasons that I REALLY love this card is that not only can you redeem your points for hotel rooms, you can also transfer your points to pretty much ANY airline frequent flyer program out there. So, so awesome.
ALSO – SPG Amex recently partnered with Uber, so if you link your Uber and SPG accounts, you’ll get extra points for each dollar you spend on Uber. So for example: if I spend $100 on an Uber SUV and pay for it with my SPG Amex, I’ll get 100 points from my Amex, and another 100 from their partnership. It adds up fast!
I pay EVERYTHING I possibly can through my Amex to get even more points. Cable? Internet? Cell phone? Home alarm system? They all get charged to my Amex, and I just pay it off monthly. This adds up to quite a few points every year.
Finally, SPG Amex allows you to redeem your points for gift cards, if you choose. Including Nordstrom. Which is cool.
Step 2: Earn Tons of Points while Shopping Online
I discovered the Mileage Plus Mall a few years ago, and I haven’t looked back! It is pure genius. Now I buy pretty much EVERYTHING online via the Mileage Plus Mall so that I can get extra points for my purchases.
The Mileage Plus Mall is part of United Airlines’ Mileage Plus program. When you go to an online store via the Mall and then make a purchase, you will automatically earn anywhere from 1 to 30 points per dollar you spend. Just for using a certain link to get to the store! It doesn’t cost anything, and you don’t have to use a certain card. You just have to be a member of United’s FF program.
And they have pretty much any store you can imagine. J.Crew, Macy’s, Saks, Banana Republic, Amazon, Kate Spade, Bloomingdale’s….and on, and on, and on. Seriously, it’s amazing.
So anytime I need something (or don’t need, as the case may be), it gets purchased through the Mileage Plus Mall. So for example, let’s say I decide to buy a new sundress for a wedding this summer.
I spend $150 at Nordstrom, so I get 150 hotel points with my Amex. Since I went to nordstrom.com via the MPM, I also get 3 miles per dollar on United.
So a total of 150 hotel points and 450 airline miles! Not too shabby.
And this even goes for household goods, too, since the Mileage Plus Mall includes stores like Target, Amazon, Drugstore.com, etc.
The Mileage Plus Mall comes in extra handy during the holidays, when pretty much everyone’s gift gets purchased through MPM. The number of miles and points I rack up is pretty great.
Step 3: Travel
Between the two steps above, and my work-related travel, I usually have enough points every 12-18 months to take a great vacation! My husband and I have spent a week at the St. Regis Princeville entirely on points, and also used points for hotel rooms for one week of a two-week trip to Asia.
This year, we’re going to NYC for an October wedding, and using hotel points for four nights in Manhattan, plus air miles for one of our plane tickets.
I love how it all adds up if you are strategic about shopping!
Do you have any other tips for earning points and miles? I would love to hear them!
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