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Easy ways to save and make extra money for travel

Valley of Fire, Nevada

Valley of Fire, Nevada

Each year, Johnny and I set aside a certain amount of money for us to take trips to dream destinations.  Since we consider travel an important part of our life, we continuously try to come up with fun and simple ways to earn extra cash, miles, and points to add to our vacation fund.

Here’s a list of some of the things we do to make our dreams a reality:

1.  Swagbucks

As a rewards program, Swagbucks is unique in that it is engaging and uses social media extensively to interact with its members.  In addition to doing searches, completing surveys, and watching short videos, Swagbucks also provides other fun activities to earn points, such as playing trivia and solving puzzles to find special codes.  The “swag bucks” you earn can be redeemed for merchandise or gift cards for stores such as Amazon.com, Paypal, Target, Walmart, and numerous others.

2.  MyPoints

With MyPoints, our favorite activities to accumulate points include:

– signing up to receive BonusMail e-mails, which contain promotional offers from their advertisers.  You’ll get 5 points for simply clicking on the link, and even more if you decide to go through with the offer.

– trying to qualify for surveys.  MyPoints will give you 50 or more points after finishing a survey, and will reward you 10 points even if you don’t qualify.

– printing and redeeming coupons (for example coupons.com) through MyPoints.  Since we are already in the habit of using coupons to purchase groceries and personal care items, we try to print them through MyPoints to receive an additional 10 points per coupon.

MyPoints offers a large selection of gift cards for you to choose from once you have enough points.  There are Visa Prepaid cards; Paypal credit; and gift cards for Amazon.com, restaurants, and department stores just to name a few.

3.  shopkick

It’s an app that lets you collect points (kicks) for walking in and scanning items at places like Target, Best Buy, supermarkets, drugstores, and department stores.  You then redeem the kicks for various gift cards.

4.  MySurvey

We love participating with this particular research company because its surveys relate closely to our daily activities.  We have been asked to keep a journal of beverages we consume, try new personal care items, and give our opinion on banking products.  MySurvey rewards its participants with cash and gift cards.

5.  e-miles

As avid travelers, we always look for ways to generate hotels points and airline miles.  e-miles is awesome because just by spending a few minutes each week reading and responding to marketing messages on its website, you get to collect miles that can be transferred to your favorite airline or hotel loyalty program.  If you don’t feel like exchanging your free miles for hotel points or airline miles, there are other options to choose from, such as Amazon.com and Starbucks gift cards, and magazine subscriptions.

6.  Before you do your online shopping, visit websites that will let you compare shopping portals with the highest cash-back, points, and miles bonus.

Whenever possible, Johnny and I make our purchases for non-perishable items online.  We also try to remember to go through a shopping portal to earn extra cash, points, or miles.  Many of you are familiar with websites such as Ebates, BigCrumbs, and ShopDiscover.  However, these portals often assign different percentages for the same store.  For example, I would like to buy clothes from XYZ Department Store.  On that particular day, for XYZ Department Store, Ebates will give 4 percent back, BigCrumbs 3.5 percent, and ShopDiscover 5 percent.  We can spend a lot of time checking each shopping portal to see which one gives the highest rebate. Since it’s not efficient to do so, and because we might overlook a portal, we use the following sites to help us compare and find the shopping portal that we should use:

ev’reward, Cashback Holics, Cashback Monitor, and CashReporter.

And finally, don’t forget that you can earn cash back for travel-related transactions, such as car rentals, hotels, Travelocity, Orbitz, CheapCaribbean.com, and many others.

7.  Be rewarded for opening new checking/savings accounts and credit cards

We regularly check websites such as Maximizing Money, Doctor of Credit and Hustler Money Blog for the latest updates on bank account and credit card sign-up bonuses.  One of the things that we like to do is when we anticipate upcoming large expenses, such home and car insurance payments, we apply for a new credit card that gives a good sign-up bonus.  This strategy helps us meet credit card minimum spend easily, and in the process be rewarded with extra miles and points.

8.  Buy gift cards at a discount

A lot of our friends are amused by our obsession with gift cards.  The truth is, we love to buy discounted gift cards and use them for daily spend.  For instance, since Johnny has a long commute to work, we are always trying to figure out ways to reduce the money we spend on gas.  One of the easiest things to do is to buy discounted gas gift cards.  So where do we purchase our gift cards from?

– from websites such as Gift Card Granny and Cardpool, which sell gift cards at a cheaper price

– from grocery stores, drug stores, and office supply stores, using credit cards that give extra points for shopping at these types of places.  These stores also from time to time run special promotions, for instance Staples will give you rebates for buying certain gift cards.

9.  Recyclebank

The name says it all – you get compensated for learning how to sustain the environment.  There are various articles on its site to give you ideas of how to take better care of our planet, and everyday you can pledge to do a “green” action.  If your community happens to participate in the program, you’ll also earn points for recycling at home.

10. ibotta

Getting rebates for everyday purchases is made really simple with an app like ibotta.  All you have to do is once you buy the item, scan it and take a picture of the receipt.  Submit both using the app, let the money accumulate to a certain amount, then get it sent to your PayPal or venmo account.  I regularly use ibotta to get cash back on groceries.  Stores featured on the app include Target, Walmart, Best Buy, CVS, Sam’s Club, and many others.

What are some of the things you do to save money, and/or earn additional cash, miles, and points for travel?  

Disclosure: This blog post contains a few personal referral links.  Content last updated on March 1, 2015


7 thoughts on “Easy ways to save and make extra money for travel

  1. Great list! It’s a nice change from the typical suggestions of skipping Starbucks coffee and never going out to eat.

    My recommendation is related to #7 on your list. If you live near a ‘hub’ airport and travel a lot, I think it’s a good idea to get the credit card associated with that specific airline. We live near Newark and have the United Credit Card, which definitely pays off every year (even with the annual fee). We charge almost all of our purchases to the card and then pay the full balance each month. In addition to earning miles, we also get two free checked bags and two tickets for the lounge every year. Since we have kids, it’s harder to pack light and we’ve found it’s much easier to check our bags and have both hands free to carry them when needed.

    Posted by travelswithcurley | January 25, 2014, 12:11 am
    • Thank you for sharing this excellent advice, Jennifer! My husband and I actually also do the same, although for us it is the Delta Amex card since we live in the Atlanta area. BTW, have you heard of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card? This card may actually help you accumulate United miles even faster, since you can earn double points on things like dining, hotel stays, car rentals, etc. You then transfer the points to United. The current sign-up bonus is 40k points. You can always let me know if you have any questions. Have a wonderful weekend :)

      Posted by fallequinox2006 | January 25, 2014, 2:03 am
      • No, but I will definitely look into the Sapphire card because my husband is looking for a new card. The 40K sign-on bonus would be fantastic! Awesome tips – keep them coming.

        Posted by travelswithcurley | January 25, 2014, 10:05 pm
  2. Great tips, I had never heard of shopkick, or anything like it before. Sounds like one of the easiest ways to make some spare travelling cash!

    Posted by Chasing the Donkey | January 25, 2014, 9:02 am
  3. I just have a boring old savings account! I’ll definitely look into some of these.

    Posted by Jess | January 31, 2014, 11:00 am
    • Having a regular savings account is a great first step! It took me a while to feel comfortable and to trust using various money-making websites and applying for bank accounts/credit cards to make a bit of extra money. But it’s definitely paid off.

      Posted by fallequinox2006 | January 31, 2014, 11:53 pm

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