So now that the dust has settled and our family zone defense has been set up after the third child, I’ve spent some time the past few weeks taking stock of my current miles and points earning strategies. Let me start by saying don’t take these as recommendations. My goal for this article is for you, the reader, especially if you are potentially a parent with limited time like myself, to have some food for thought about your miles and points earning strategies.
I’ll outline three earning strategies that I’m using regularly and three that I’m mostly ignoring these days. To provide context, as a father of three, my time outside the house alone has become extremely limited. The free time I have exists mainly at home – kids napping, asleep for the night, etc. I probably get the most “work” done after 9 PM.
So, my strategies are tailored to what I can do online without making too many detours. I can probably afford one 15 minute detour a day on average after I drop of the kids but I prefer not. Also, I haven’t stepped foot in a Wal-mart in three years and have no regrets. Let’s take a look at strategies I’m using/not using.
Since all these strategies are viable (even the ones I don’t use), when applicable I’ve tried to list some sources for those getting started. Feel free to add in the comments!
Strategies I currently use
1. Credit card sign up bonuses
Try as I might, I can’t get away from çredit card sign up bonuses. They still remain the fastest way to earn miles and points since I can clear spend naturally. At this point I generally only clear one card bonus at a time which I can more or less do naturally. Plus I use #2 and #3 below to help clear bonuses.
One thing to note, I’ve finally managed to get away from what I can best describe as credit card sign up bonus hype. I try to make sure I have a goal in mind before earning miles and points, which means passing on “great” offers sometimes. Example, I decided to pass on the American Express Hilton Aspire card since it didn’t fit with our current travel plans (through 2019). I can’t take on another $450 card!
If you want to learn more about credit card sign up bonuses, you pretty much can find information at any miles and points blogs. Just beware of the hype and make sure the latest it card works for you.
2. Gift card reselling
I hit gift card reselling hard in Q4 last year, mainly because it dovetails very nicely with my need not to leave the house. You can buy and sell giftcards from the comfort of your home office (online arbitrage). In generally, I stick to deals that are breakeven or slight money makers and take home the points (this of course is very easy in Q4 when lots of gift cards go on sale for the holidays). I also generally only buy when I know that I can sell immediately, reducing the amount of money I need to float.
I have taken a break from gift card reselling, partially because of some of the liquidity concerns at The Plastic Merchant, my preferred vendor. I plan to still use them but also diversify to other platforms when I get back into it (which I should have been doing all along). But if you’re interested in getting into gift card reselling you should follow people like Doctor of Credit, Danny Deal Guru, and Miles to Memories on Twitter, they generally post deals. Then it’s up to you to figure out whether you can sell them at a good enough price to justify the points you earn. The Plastic Merchant has great deal alerts as well, provided they have figured out their issues of course.
3. Ticket reselling
One of my newest miles and points earning strategies is ticket reselling. Like buying Justin Timberlake tickets and selling them for a profit. The pros of ticket reselling is you’re likely making more money than you are with gift card reselling. The cons are you have a lot longer float time with your money and a lot more risk, especially if you don’t understand the market economics of concert tickets.
To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t resell tickets without my partner, who does the majority of the work for a share of the profits. And I generally stick to stuff that I figure won’t have a problem selling (Hamilton) and don’t get too greedy about profits. Another real danger about ticket reselling is you have to float large amounts of money for long periods of time, which I personally limit pretty severely. So I’m not raking by any means, it’s more of a trickle.
If you want to get in on this, I’d highly recommend reading Miles Per Day, he is all about ticket reselling these days (when he’s not getting shut down). I do worry that market saturation will eventually take its toll, but I guess we’ll see. I don’t resell tickets aggressively, so I wouldn’t personally recommend this as a primary miles and points earner (because I don’t have enough experience with it to say either way).
Strategies I currently stay away from
1. Product reselling
Reselling products using Fulfillment by Amazon or even Ebay seems pretty lucrative. I have friends who have been doing it for years and of course my partner in crime on the Saverocity Observation Deck podcast, Trevor of Tagging Miles, makes reselling a good side business. But I have neither the time, organization skills (what little organization energy I have gets applied elsewhere), or even space in my house to deal with reselling. If you want to get into reselling, definitely check out Trevor’s site, but make sure you’re in it for the cash profit, not just points and miles. (Or so I hear.)
2. Manufactured Spending
Like I said, I refuse to go to Wal-mart, so my MS options have been limited for years. I hear rumors Wal-mart might be even tougher now too. My two main avenues of MS died within the same month and I feel no strong pull to get back into it for now. If something comes along that I can do in my pajamas, I’ll get back into it, but I can’t be running around town all day.
If you want to get into MS, my best suggestion? Attend one of the ubiquitous frequent flyer slash miles and points junkie meetups. While some meetups are better than others, as long as you’re willing to reach out a little you should be able to find like minded people and that can help you get started. If you’re a family guy or gal, Dia’s Family Travel for Real Life conferences attract more hardcore MS people than you might think – and I appreciate the family bent of those conferences.
3. Bank bonuses
I spent one year signing up for a bunch of bank bonuses. Hands down they probably present one of the simplest ways to earn cold, hard cash, but the reality is I just didn’t enjoy all the housekeeping. Keeping track of all the accounts, cancelling them, not cancelling them, paying attention to bank mergers, etc. etc. Plus 1099s and all that jazz. So I’ve given up chasing bank bonuses for the time. On the other hand, if you’re interested, bank bonuses sometimes provide more value than credit card sign up bonuses. Cash also has the added benefit of being able to do crazy things like pay your bills. Doctor of Credit posts bank bonuses all the time and updates that list every month, including niche local ones. Be sure to find the ones that make the most sense to you if you choose to go down this route.
Just…no. Unless you enjoy gambling, in which case be my guest. But crypto = gambling. Also, tough to generate credit card spend or points buying crypto anyway (though not impossible, I hear?). Never gamble what you can’t afford to lose, when the fun stops, etc. etc. (Full disclosure I have been known to enjoy gambling from time to time).
Remember, your miles and points earning strategies (and burning strategies) should be tied to your local opportunities. Make sure you earn the miles you use, and what works for you may be completely the opposite of what works for me. But hopefully this at least gives you some food for thought, especially if you’re just starting out.
What preferred miles and points earning strategies do you use? Let me know in the comments!