Of all the things I mention about going to Asia, this seems to get the most interest out of anyone.
I FLEW TO ASIA AND BACK FOR FREE!
Everyone knows, the most expensive part of travelling is the plane tickets. Even cheap tickets to Asia are five to six hundred dollars round trip. Buy them separate and you’re pushing eight hundred.
I didn’t pay a penny for my tickets. Actually, I made $15 in the process.
I’ll let you in on a little secret I stummbled into a world of people who do what I did all the time. Comparing myself to them, I don’t even qualify for the minor leagues. Some people, who do what I am about to show you, travel around the world every day for free in 1st class.
The secret starts with credit cards.
Everyone knows what credit cards are these days. Everyone knows about credit card points. Credit card points are rewards earned for making expendatures on a credit card. Points are exchanged like cash and are most valuable when exchanged for airfare.
So I spent a bunch of money, earned a bunch of points, and used those points to buy my plane tickets right?
It would be a pretty boring story if that’s where it ended.
Before I explain what I did, let me start with a story about a great man named David Philips.
THE STORY OF DAVID PHILIPS
In 1999, Healthy Choice, a food company, ran a promotion.
They would award customers 1,000 flyer miles for every 10 of their UPC barcodes a consumer sent in. David did a little research. He found the cheapest product, with a barcode, Healthy Choice sold was pudding cups.
David bought twelve thousand pudding cups from ten different stores. When asked what he was buying all the pudding for he said it was for his Y2K bomb shelter. David didn’t want any competition for what would be the greatest miles arbitrage.
David peeled labels as fast as he could. The promotion had aMay 31st deadline. He got his wife and daughters to help him, but they still couldn’t get the labels off fast enough.
He had a friend in the Salvation Army and made a deal with him. David would donate all the pudding to the Salvation Army if they peeled and gave back the labels to David.
Those 12,000 labels earned david 1.25 million miles or about $25,000 in free airfare. Even better, since he donated the pudding, it was considered a charitable donation. David wrote off his entire pudding expense. The whole ordeal cost him $2,500 and he made back $25,000 in airfare.
David spent the next 7 years flying around the world like royalty.
That’s a pretty epic story, but it was a one time crazy promotion. Surely nothing like that has happened since.
THE GOLDEN DOLLAR AKA THE GOLDEN ERA
Remember that time the US Treasury tried to convert paper dollars to coins? They called them Sacagawea dollars.
I remember getting them as birthday presents when I was a kid.
Most people didn’t know the US treasury sold those $1 coins at face value. Shipping was free. Want $200 in golden coins? Pay $200 and the US Treasury will ship them to your front door.
Even better, the treasury was accepting credit card payments for the $1 coins.
Some people in the credit card world, known as The Elites, began maxing out their credit cards to buy as many coins as possible.
A few days later the coins arrived at their door and they hauled them down to the bank to deposit them in their account.
They paid off their credit cards with the coins they bought, and repeated the process.
All the while amassing credit card points.
These guys who were working jobs making $50,000 a year were spending $70,000+ a month on their credit cards!
By the time the Treasury caught on, The Elites had amassed millions of credit card points. Those points granted them lifetime status with the airlines. Many of The Elites are still flying for free today off there gold coin points.
This became known as The Golden Era of credit card arbitrage.
These days the game has become much more difficult. The game is still played, but credit cards and other businesses have added new rules to make the game easier for them to win.
How do the credit card companies win?
The risk with trying to amass credit card points is if you don’t pay off your card in full every month. The interest on your debt wipes out any financial gain from the points and then some.
The credit card companies are banking on it. That’s why they still offer these lucrative point systems. They hope to draw you in with the points and then gut you when you screw up.
Players be warned.
I HATED CREDIT CARDS
I was someone completely against credit cards for a long time. I saw them as a shady business to trick people into debt.
I heard stories of people spending their entire life trying to crawl out of credit card debt.
But for the financially responsible they present a huge opportunity.
Last year, my eyes were opened to this opportunity. Coincidentally, Chase Bank launched a new credit card around the same time. This card is called the Chase Saphire Reserve (CSR).
The CSR card costs $450 per year to use. Many credit cards have no yearly fee. It seemed ridiculous to pay a bank $450 a year to keep a credit card in my pocket.
That’s until I found out about the perks.
First off, the card came with a $300 annual travel statement. Everything from gas to parking meters to airfare counted as travel. Even most penny pinchers spend more than $300 a year on this stuff.
That made the real annual cost $150 per year.
This card came with all sorts of other perks like travel insurance, purchase protection, etc. . It also came with free airport lounge access. Airport lounges are a great place to catch a free meal before, or even after a flight. Lounge access normally costs about $30 a day. I already knew this year was going to include a lot of travel. I’d easily make up the $150 with those perks.
Then there was the biggest perk of all. This is where my story really begins.
ENTER MY STORY
The CSR card was first offered with a 100,000 point bonus after spending $4,000 in the first 90 days. CSR points are valued at least 1.5 cents per point. I found them to be worth more like 1.8 cents. That’s a $1,800 bonus!
The problem was, I don’t spend a lot of money. Not enough to meet the minimum spend anyway.
Offers like the $1 coins in the golden era are long gone, but I found one golden opportunity that worked out beautifully.
Gold Money is a busines that buys and sells gold by the gram and stores it for you in their vaults.
This is kind of like buying a car at dealership but letting them keep the car after you bought it.
It’s similar to a bank account, but instead of holding on to dollars and cents, they hold on to gold.
Like the US Treasury and the Sacagawea dollar, Gold Money accepts credit card payments for gold purchases.
I don’t know when you are reading this article, but at the time I wrote this, the strength of the American dollar pushed gold to it’s lowest valuation in years.
I was very confident that gold was poised to make a comeback. At the very least I didn’t think gold was going to make big dip in value.
With this in mind, I signed up for the CSR card, and my first purchase was for $4000 of gold on my new favorite website.
A few days later, I had the gold transfered into US currency and deposited into my bank account. As soon as the money hit my account, I paid off my credit card balance.
A few keystrokes was all it took.
Gold Money did charge some transaction fees. 1.5% to be exact. That’s $60 for those non math-a-magicians out there.
But, remember how I said I was pretty confident gold was going to go up in value? It did. In the three days my gold sat in the vault, it went up 65 cents a gram. The total value of my gold went up about $75. I actually made $15 off the gold exchange alone.
Three weeks later the 100,000 CSR points showed up in my account, and I spent those points on a one way ticket to Bangkok.