Friday, January 16, 2015

Slacker Revolutionaries - Free Travel

For me I want radical change in society, but I'm not real keen on getting my skull cracked by cops for expressing that view.  If you're like me, consider other means of enacting change.  Starve the profit beast.  Learn to get what you want without spending money.

One thing that appeals to me is backing off on travel.  Do you know big the travel industry is?  $7 trillion freaking dollars.  Per year.  For perspective, the coffee industry is $8 billion.  So travel is out of hand.  We're spending crazy money on it.

The best solution is to just stop it.  Stay home on vacation.  But then the real world interferes.  Maybe your wife isn't as crazy as you are and wants to be somewhat normal.  Kids aren't buying off.  Maybe there's a wedding across the country and you are going one way or another.

My solution is to plan ahead and do it free.  Nobody profits from your travel.  Sure, airline workers have to do the work that gets you there, but they are paid wages, not profit.  Same for hotel staff.

Here's how it's done, and I'm telling you I literally do this, and have been doing it for years.  Take as just one example an American Airlines credit card.  They always have a promotion going that is something like this.  Spend $3K within 3 months and you get 50K miles.  That's two tickets in the continental US.  Right now you could also get a US Airways card that gives you 50K miles after a single purchase, though in this case there is an annual fee of $89 the first year.  Since AA and US Airways are merging this year you could have 100K miles in short order.  That's 4 free plane tickets in the continental US.

As I said, this is how I travel, but I haven't used a US Airways card to this point.  I just sign up for an AA card, get the bonus miles, cancel the card, wait a bit, then do it again for more miles.  It's easy.

What you might be thinking at this point is "Jon, I thought you wanted us to spend less.  Now you're telling me to spend $3K.  Which is it?"  Not to worry.  You don't actually have to spend the money.  You can employ some tricks that credit card manipulators use, which we call "manufactured spend."

A terrific way is with something called the Target Red Card (the prepaid version).  This is basically a reloadable debit card, but you can go online with your card and pay any bill.  Like your mortgage, your car payment, etc.  And yes, you can pay your credit card bill.

So suppose you want to reach a $3K minimum spend on an AA card.  You go to Target with your Red Card and tell the cashier you want to load $2500 (that's the daily limit, monthly limit is $5K).  Do it again some time later in the month.  Now you've performed the purchase on your AA card that met your minimum spend requirement.  You have a $5K balance on your AA card.  When your bill comes due, log in on the Target Red Card page and pay the bill.  You haven't spent a penny.  And now you fly free.

So you can get your plane tickets from Detroit to LA, but now what?  You're going to need a car, and car rental isn't free.  Is it?  Well of course it is.  Get a Barclay Arrival travel card.  After you hit the $3K minimum spend you'll have over $400 worth of travel credit you can redeem.  Renting cars is one way to spend that credit, and there are other ways.

Hotels?  Get a Hyatt card for 2 free nights (I did this the last time I went to New York).  Or get an IHG card.  Or a Marriot card.  Or all of them so you're ready in the future.

Remember also that if you're married your wife can get a card of her own.  Double the bonus.

While I'm at it why don't I just mention that there's one airline that offers points redeemable for things like amazon gift cards.  Southwest Airlines.  This is pretty much how I paid for Christmas this year.  Other cards are very similar.  For instance I anticipated some restaurant expenses, so I got a Citi Thank You card, with points redeemable for restaurants that we tend to visit.  Those visits for me are free.  Citi gave me $500 worth of points which I used to acquire various cards (though there is a $99 annual fee that was not waived).

And there are so many other possibilities with credit card rewards.  Take advantage, travel free, get gift cards.  Starve the beast.


Examinator said...

All of what you say is good stuff.
However I think you are missing the salient reason for the world to tread more lightly on this fragile and limited world. The point I humbly suggest is that we consume less and be more efficient in our efforts to be sustainable.
Your ideas are are how to pay less

Jon said...

I'm in total agreement with you, Ex. Like I say, the best solution is to not fly. Stay put. That's what we need.

But if life gets in the way, or you're weak (i.e. you're a slacker revolutionary) do it for free and starve the profit beast at the very least.

It's a half measure, but better than what a lot of people are currently doing.

Examinator said...

Yes I read that originally too. I guess the meta point was not that we need to be anti Capitalism which is practically speaking is the equivalent of cutting off ones nose despite the face.
What I was getting at is that flying is the most fossil fuel and environmentally damaging way to travel.
Regardless of who pays $'s for your flights.
See the recent(ish) research about the additional/greater damage flying does at higher elevations. Also not that the more sophisticated the planes become the more they use exotic elements, which need more (lots more) energy to produce.
i.e. the actual energy it takes to produce the Prius with its rare earth batteries etc means that in the final whole of life analysis it is almost as energy expensive as many normal cars. The fuel saving merely off set the higher energy needed to produce them.
It's all a matter of where you start the count ( Accounting/ Marketing)
Without the profit margin flights would be only for the uber rich. Sure it would reduce the number of flights but also decrease the CO2 efficiency of those flights.
Give the effect on jobs in the Travel sector, I'm not sure that your way is the best, beyond saving a your pocket. The proof of that as a halfway house to reducing the CO2 impact depends on what you spend that 'saved' on.

Jon said...

I entirely agree that the best course of action is to not fly at all.

But I say my approach here has an additional benefit beyond saving money in my pocket. It also deprives mega corporations of the profits that fuel this system, which fuels the wars and environmental destruction.

Not flying not only blocks profit, but also doesn't do the environmental damage, so definitely this is the best way to go. My point here is that while lots of people aspire to be much better about their own personal pollution, it's just something that isn't quite happening in some cases. OK, so if you're going to do it, yes, you're going to harm the environment, but do so in a way that at least doesn't also feed the profit beast.

If you're already not flying, great, keep it up, this post doesn't help you.

HispanicPundit said...

The fact that travel is such a LARGE industry, and the fact that you can do such a thing in the United States, are all indicators of just how great capitalism is!

As your post is proof of, even a family of mediocre means can travel in luxury, if they wanted. God bless free markets! :-)

Jon said...

Life isn't so bad for us super rich types. This article says if you make $34K or more you're in the top 1% of the income distribution globally. This site seems to verify that, so I guess it's plausible. Seemed a bit low to me initially. Yeah, it's good for us, if you don't care about the environment that is.

I'm not expecting to see Cambodian sweat shop workers though joining me on my free flights. Here's an interesting story about fashion bloggers that were brought to Cambodia to live like these workers. It sounds like the kind of work that could drive you insane. On top of that the wages are nothing and the costs aren't correspondingly low. The article talks about people that in fact just starve to death because they can't afford food. Americans are not the only peoples subject to capitalism. Free flights for the 1% are great if you're in the 1%, but I prefer a system that works for more people.

HispanicPundit said...

Capitalism in the way economists use it Jon. We've already went through this. In the way the freedom indexes define it. Etc.

No need to disagree on semantics. As Chomsky will tell you.

Jon said...

I actually don't think even Heritage or your other right wing think tanks deny that Cambodia functions as a capitalist economy. You're in your own strange world on that one.