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Topic Title: Cheap Surf Trips
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Created On: 02/28/2017 03:56 PM
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 02/28/2017 03:56 PM
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occy

Posts: 92
Joined: 02/20/2012

So, I have been a long time reader of this forum, longer than my current username has been around. I forgot my last one, but nevertheless I have not contributed much over the years. I have received lots of good info, laughed a lot (Finster), and wasted a good amount of time here, so I feel a slight urge to give back in a way.

I am a 36 year old, average surfer from North Florida with a wife and twin toddlers. I have a 9-5 and am lucky in that I get 3 paid weeks vacation. I call it a good month if I get to surf 3-4 times locally. So, I generally always try to spend my vacation time at a warm place with waves. 

About 7 years ago I stumbled upon a way to make my vacations cost a lot less. And I am talking about a ton cheaper, to the point where I sometimes just call them free trips. It's called "churning" by many in the "hobby." There is a Reddit community dedicated to it with 70,000+ readers here: https://reddit.com/r/churning  

In a nutshell, it is possible to earn hundreds of thousands of airline miles, bank points, and hotel points, that can be used to offset surf trip costs to the point where they are virtually free. The easiest way to accumulate these valuable points at a fast rate is through credit card sign up bonuses. There are hundreds of different bonuses available at any given time. The smart "churner" applys for credit cards with the most valuable rewards bonuses, uses the points/miles for trips that they want to take, and closes or downgrades the cards that have annual fees before they come due. 

I have taken around 10 trips now where I reduced my out of pocket cost by half on the low end, to almost 100 percent. It takes some time and organizational skills but I beleive most people could do it as well. I won't get into too many details right now but if you read a little about it, like in the wiki on that Reddit forum, I will be glad to answer any related questions you might have. There are milions of tiny details that can limit or enhance the benefit you are able to receive, but overall if you have good credit, are not applying for any big loans in the near future, and have a little time to read the possible value you can gain for travel is endless.

My plan is to answer anyone's questions here, make recommendations from experience, and give examples of what is possible. I definitely get satisfaction from helping people plan their perfect trip. If this was the 80's I would consider being a travel agent. But, I must say that my intentions are not wholly altruistic here. I stand the chance to benefit, while helping others earn points and miles, by receiving referral credit if someone signs up for a card that I also own. The referral credit is almost always a small bump in points or miles from the company for that recommendation. I will never refer someone unless it is the best current deal and fits with that individual's goals. 

If ways to reduce surf trip costs does not belong in the surfing forum, please move to NSR. This took me a long time to write, I will expound later.

I'm headed to Costa again in 2 weeks with the fam and friends - flying on AA and BA points, staying at the Andaz Papagayo and the JW Marriott Guanacaste resort with points, and used Citi TY points for the Avis SUV rental. Will report back with details.

Thanks for reading, I know this is not for everybody.

 



-------------------------

Ask me how to take almost free surf trips anywhere.



Edited: 03/01/2017 at 02:15 PM by occy
 02/28/2017 06:41 PM
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dingpatch

Posts: 12001
Joined: 07/24/2003

I used a "similar" strategy by using "organizational skills" to pay attention to miles and/or points opportunities coupled with business travel. Am Ex Membership Rewards + Delta Skymiles + Hilton Honors all add up in no time. Took the wife to Hawaii 4 times for 2+ week trips. Flew First Class and stayed at Hilton. Mostly only paid "fees" and Taxes.

The company I worked for issued me a corporate Am Ex and I already had my own personal Am Ex Gold Card. I paid the annual out-of-pocket fee to have both on my Membership Rewards account. The company booked my travel and charged the Delta tickets and Hilton rooms to my Corp Amex. Corp paid the "rack rate" for flights and rooms so the totals added up quick. I'd pay all my meals and "per diem" against the Corp Am Ex and the company would reimburse me. Am Ex points could be used for personal miles or Hilton points. The Am Ex points, Skymiles and Honor points added up quick. Similar situation with National Car rentals Emerald Isle membership.

The one thing about the airline membership miles that most people don't know about/realize is that you can earn miles by dining and shopping! No, not shopping" in the seat-back catalog. Most of the major carriers have dining and shopping programs as part of their "miles" programs. With Delta it is Skymiles Shopping and Sky Dining. So, , , , let's say, you need a new lawn mower and you were going to go to your local Home Depot/Lowes/Sears, etc tomorrow morning to buy one. Don't do it. Go online to your airline's "Miles" site and go through their shopping site which connects you directly to the Home Depot/ / / / WEB site. Use your Gold Card and buy the mower you want; you get your Gold card points AND 1, 2, 3, whatever amount, of miles per dollar spent. The store will send you an email in the morning when your mower is ready to pickup! So, mower cost $350, so you get 350 card points, and generally at least 350 miles, all for a mower you were going to buy anyway! And, I always racked up points and miles by getting my printer paper and ink supplies from Office Depot through Delta Skymiles. Same as Home Depot; order tonight and go and pickup in the morning. All kinds of online shopping opportunities.

Dining is another mile maker. AA and Delta give 5 miles per dollar spent on the total dining check. Join the program, register your credit card(s), go and eat at participating restaurants. Now, I'm not going to drive to Titusville to get a burger and a 'special" of 10 miles per dollar, BUT. Let's say you go out for lunch a couple times a week at work. What would you rather do; drive 2 miles to Burger King, or drive 2 miles to the diner that gets you miles? A $10 lunch (includes tip) at the diner gets you 50 miles. How many miles does BK give you?

Edited: 02/28/2017 at 06:51 PM by dingpatch
 02/28/2017 07:47 PM
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BLat

Posts: 980
Joined: 10/28/2010

Does anybody have experience with the BOA Alaska Airlines CC? Trying to take the lady on a Hawaiian vaca in December and I'm thinking about opening this card for the bonus + flight companion benefits. Thoughts? 

 02/28/2017 10:43 PM
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ww

Posts: 13836
Joined: 08/17/2007

I had a disastrous year with dental expenses.  At least they contribute to going to Australia.

 03/01/2017 05:53 AM
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Mr. Long

Posts: 361
Joined: 12/17/2006

For your next trick, figure out how to get miles/points on the $100 "road" tax that the cop demands, when he pulls over your SUV loaded with gringos. ;-P

-------------------------
Little Penquin: A winner is someone who doesn't knock me off my surfboard; Tank's definitely not a winner.

Little Penquin: He's a dirty trash can full of poop.

--Surf's Up
 03/01/2017 02:11 PM
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occy

Posts: 92
Joined: 02/20/2012

@dingpatch: Sounds like you know your way around the miles and points game somewhat. Getting employer cards or reimbursements is great. I wish I was so lucky. Shopping portals and dining programs are another way to rack up points as you have mentioned, but they are not the fastest or most lucrative way to accumulate them. As you indicated, if you were going to shop and eat there anyway then it is a no brainer. I always go through a portal before shopping online, but I can't say that I have taken advantage of the numerous dining programs, mainly because the eligible restaraunts in my area suck. On road trips I try to hit them up though. 

For shopping portals it is sometimes better to go for cash back rather than miles. I use cashbackmonitor.com eveytime before shoppping to see who is paying out the best rebate. It lists cash rebate portals along with the popular airline and bank portal rates. Tip: a lot of times it is possible to "double dip." That is, go through the portal to buy an e-gift card, then go back through to buy merch using the gift card. Some are starting to crack down on this though, so don't do it if you are buying expensive stuff. Also, one of the things I have been doing a lot lately is using a link through my JetBlue account to earn 3 miles/dollar spent at Amazon. This is better by far than the other portals on most categories of goods.

 

@Blat: I currently have 2 personal BOA Alaska Visa Signature cards and my wife has one. This used to be one of the most "churnable" cards ever. One blogger, millionmilesecrets.com I beleive, got approved for 5 in one day. The new reality is that you should be able to get approved for a new one every 90 days. There is also a business version of the card. The current 30,000 mile offer for spending $1k in 90 days is the historical best offer for this card. Sounds like you have a good plan. One thing that I know is you cannot use the provided annual companion fare of $121 cannot be used in conjunction with a miles reward ticket. You could however use miles to get from Orlando (MCO) to Whales Vagina (SAN), then buy a revenue ticket and use the companion fare to get to Hawaii and back, or vice versa. With the card you also get a free checked bag for up to 6 passengers traveling on the same itinerary. Alaska miles are flexible and can also be used for tickets on their "partner" airlines, like AA. Alaska also just bought Virgin America so their reach/route network is expanding. They just gave everyone who had a Virgin America Elevate account 10,000 Alaska miles for logging in to their new account. That's a huge freebie. And, Alaska Airlines allows you to include a free stopover on many award tickets. 

Here is my link to the Alaska card:

https://www.applyonlinenow.com/USCCapp/Ctl/entry?cid=4009281&GV2=H|184|172856703&GV3=H|422|andrew%20maltby&mgmReferrerId=172856703&mgmReferrerSessionId=148838806923902

Keep in mind that the Signature card (the one you want) has an upfront $75 annual fee. I will be cancelling mine when the annual fee comes due.

Here is a newer guide on miles to Hawaii:

https://www.milevalue.com/the-cheapest-ways-to-get-to-hawaii/

and a more in depth look at possible Alaska miles usage:

travelisfree.com/2015/05/06/best-use-of-alaska-miles/

 

@ww: I kind of thought that you might be churning. If you're into traveling on the cheap, I will send some deals your way.

@mr. Long: Squeezing the boardbags into the cab instead of on top always helps me. I also slap some stickers on the rental to make it look more local. I have shelled out 20 many times and 40 once for no seatbelts, but never $100. 

Anyone else have surf trip goals they need help with?



-------------------------

Ask me how to take almost free surf trips anywhere.



Edited: 03/01/2017 at 02:18 PM by occy
 03/01/2017 07:17 PM
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jettyparksurfer

Posts: 379
Joined: 07/25/2009

Its definitely not for everyone.

 03/05/2017 10:50 PM
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surferclimber

Posts: 995
Joined: 01/23/2011

IMHO for anyone trying this points thing for first time or just new to it I'd suggest to use the points thing for the hotels as that seems to be generally the biggest cost in travel yet they seem easier to get on points??? From my experience with points hotels are straight up free on points while many airlines charge fees on top of fees... I  think it boils down to the fact that airlines only have a fixed number of planes / seats and their business model is to not fly empty as each flight costs $$$ but on the other hand it isn't such a big deal for hotel to give away free room yeah sure lost revenue but I don't think hurts as much...

 

Anyways thanks for posting the good info - is a lot of good freebies out there with travel points!!!



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get up early and go surf - it'll make that hangover go away and/or make the workday more tolerable :)

 03/06/2017 08:57 PM
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occy

Posts: 92
Joined: 02/20/2012

Good thoughts sc. For a lot of places you might want to go, lodging is the highest expense. If you are not adverse to staying in a chain hotel, and can find one close to where you want to be, this major expense can easily be free or close to it.  A lot of bank points are also very versatile and can be used to cover boutique or local accommodations.

Here are a few examples of what can be had for 1 or 2 credit card sign up bonuses:

We did Cabo last year and stayed at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos all inclusive. We stayed 5 nights for free and were upgraded to a huge 1,248 sq/ft suite that was $1,200/night. You can walk to zippers, the rock, old man's, and the estuary. It was the best food and drinks I've ever had and all free. My wife and I both used our 2 free nights that come with the Chase Hyatt visa card and then used some extra Hyatt and Chase ultimate rewards points for the 5th night.

Like I mentioned earlier, we are going to Costa and are staying at the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa for part of the time. It sits just north of Avellanas and little Hawaii. Rates in the high season are typically $400+/night, but you can also stay there for 35,000 points per night and the 5th night is free. Right now the easiest way to accumulate Marriott rewards points is through the SPG American Express credit cards. The bonus right now is 35,000 points after spending $5k in 6 months. But, these points are multiplied by 3 when transferred to Marriott points. Marriott is in the process of aquiring Starwood. So, for meeting the minimum spend on this one card you can get 3 free nights at this beachside resort with waves. If your significant other also gets the card and bonus this would net you 7 full nights here. Here is my link to apply: 

SPG personal Amex (35,000 point bonus offer)

This card would also be best for another place I have been looking into staying at: Marriott Courtyard Aguadilla

This property sits very close to some nice breaks and is only 10,000 points per night. That means if you got the SPG card and the bonus points, you could stay here for 15 nights, FREE. If your SO gets one as well, or you also get the business verion that would be worth 30 free nights here. I'm hesitant to even write about this, so please don't tell everyone.

Yall let me know where you want to go surf...

 



-------------------------

Ask me how to take almost free surf trips anywhere.



Edited: 03/07/2017 at 07:13 AM by occy
 03/07/2017 07:26 AM
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SgtHulk

Posts: 648
Joined: 04/07/2011

I cant imagine open and closing dozens of cards or so many cards in a short period is good on the ole fico score

 03/07/2017 07:49 AM
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Waverider969

Posts: 281
Joined: 11/20/2011

What about the Barclaycard,  50,000 signon and 2mile for every dollar on ALL purchase ? Seems like a good deal? No?

 

 03/07/2017 07:51 AM
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dan

Posts: 3081
Joined: 07/24/2003

Originally posted by: SgtHulk I cant imagine open and closing dozens of cards or so many cards in a short period is good on the ole fico score

 

My exact thoughts.  

 03/07/2017 07:04 PM
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occy

Posts: 92
Joined: 02/20/2012

Opening and closing credit cards does not necessarily harm your credit score. That is the popular belief, but it is not grounded in fact. You don't have to, and shouldn't take my word for it. Please go research what makes up your FICO score(s). 

myfico.com is a good resource and should be studied even if you never plan to have a credit card. You will see that not having credit available to your name is a much bigger detriment than having a lot. A new credit inquiry can temporarily lower your score a few points, but if it results in a new account that is consistently paid on time, it will likely result in raising your score. 

10 percent of your score is made up of "New Credit." This portion only looks at inquireies from the last 12 months. It, along with credit mix, are the smallest components of your score. The biggest factors are payment history, amounts owed (utilization ratio), and length of credit history. Those along with your credit mix make up the other 90 percent. When you delve into the anatomy of those elements it will become clear that the more credit you have, the longer you have it, and the ratio you use and pay off, is everything.

I have 21 open credit cards right now and a 832 FICO score 8. It was in the high 700's back when I bought my house and only had one or two cards. There are enough examples out there like mine, if you look, you will see that "conventional wisdom" in this case is not entirely accurate.

 

The Barclay Arrival Plus card is not a bad card to have. I personally did not keep it past the first year. I downgraded it to the no annual fee version, which I will hold on to for a long time or product change to another card in the future. Holding on to no annual fee cards for a long time helps increase your average age of accounts and boosts your credit score.

The 50,000 point bonus ($525+ in travel) is a pretty good bonus and is easy to use. The way it works; charge a travel expense to the card then erase it with points worth 1 cent each, is straightforward. You then get 5% of the points you used added back to your account. I am a little sour on it now because back when I got it, the point rebate was 10 percent, and the charge only had to be $25 dollars or more to be eligible, now it has to be $100 or more. 

A bonus worth $500 is still pretty good, but there are better cards to get first if you are just starting out. The 2 points per dollar earned is just slightly better than a straight 2% cash back card as long as you cancel or downgrade before the annual fee comes due in 12 months. Let me know your travel plans and maybe I could help you find a better option.



-------------------------

Ask me how to take almost free surf trips anywhere.

 03/08/2017 05:57 AM
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Waverider969

Posts: 281
Joined: 11/20/2011

ok I'm a bit confused here. If you cancel a card (like before the fees are up) don't you loose the points? Where do you take the points? Do you have to have another card with the same airline partner or something?

 

 03/09/2017 07:27 AM
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SgtHulk

Posts: 648
Joined: 04/07/2011

So what in your opinion is the best card to start with.  Chase Sapphire?

 03/09/2017 09:44 AM
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occy

Posts: 92
Joined: 02/20/2012

Waverider, it really all depends on which exact points or miles you are talking about. Most of these rewards programs have a lot of rules and are made to be confusing so that the masses don't always use the rewards in the most valuable way. A general rule of thumb is that "bank points," like Chase, Citi, Barclay, BOA, and Amex will expire if you close a card and it is the only one that you have from that issuer or family of cards. To preserve bank points, the best thing to do is to downgrade to the no annual fee version of the same card or get another card that earns the same points. With co-branded cards, like the hotel or airline specific cards, when the points are earned they are then transferred into the respective program and are considered relatively safe. Closing the card you earned them with not have an effect, once they are automatically deposited.

Sgt, there is not necessarily one "best" card to go with, because everyone's financial situation and travel goals are different. That said, the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred card is generally accepted as one of the best. The new Reserve card is considered a premium card and has come on to the scene with the huge bonus (100,000 points). These points are worth a minimum of $1500 towards travel expenses, or $1k cash. But, they are worth multiple thousands of dollars when used "correctly," by transferring them to some of the travel partners, like Hyatt, United, Southwest, or BA. Unfortunately, a few months ago the online app for this bonus was pulled and you now only have until 3/11 to apply in a branch. The Preferred version used to be the top dog until the Reserve came out. It earns the same valuable points, but the best bonus is usually 50,000 (worth a minimum $625 toward travel or $500 cash), as it is right now. Let me know what your travel plans are and I will advise whether or not the Chase Sapphire Preferred would be a good fit. 

When trying to find the right card, it is always best to work backwards starting with your desired destination.



-------------------------

Ask me how to take almost free surf trips anywhere.



Edited: 03/09/2017 at 02:47 PM by occy
 03/09/2017 02:16 PM
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surfsail

Posts: 3352
Joined: 07/28/2003

ww - FYI I did a combo surf/medical tourism trip to Costa 3+ years ago..

I spent overall (all travel related expenses; car rental, hotels, airfare, board fees, food etc - for wife & I - plus my dental bills) were 50% less on the US pricing.. and a lot quicker..

Not a bad effective 'all expenses paid' 10 day surf trip (Playa Grande/Negra/ Guillones) trip in the process.

First spent one morning at the clinic talking schedule, pricing & procedures. Took off and surfed for 10 days, got implants in on Monday morning & was on a plane Thursday lunchtime.. Most days had no more than 2 hours of 'chair time' - played tourista sightseeing around the San Jose area, volcanoes etc etc w/ the wife..

Very happy with the dental results - I have had no problems at all..  

Heard of nightmares with the same dental work done locally in Brevard..

 03/09/2017 09:30 PM
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e11even

Posts: 55
Joined: 02/20/2014

Occy,

Thanks for all the info and starting this thread. Thanks for the heads up on the chase reserve card ending in a few days. One question. would you suggest applying for the chase card or the SPG card if mainly wanting to use the points for travel to costa rica to use the points for hotels and/or car rental, flights. The chase card has a higher AF at $450 compared to the SPG AF at 0 first year and $95 second year?



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-

 03/10/2017 02:20 AM
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ww

Posts: 13836
Joined: 08/17/2007

Surfsail, one implant failed, yanked out, more expense to redo.  Dentistry in CR should be quite competent, not that I know anyone in the business.

 03/10/2017 06:49 AM
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Waverider969

Posts: 281
Joined: 11/20/2011

Thanks Occy for info.

Correct me if I'm wrong but the Chase Reserve card has an annual fee of $450.  Ouch!!

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