Travel Hacking Series Part 3 – Rental Cars and the Little Extras

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My friend with a 'little extra'

My friend with a ‘little extra’

Now that you have booked your flight and accommodations, your travel hacking is done right? Not quite. There are a still a few little things that you can do to save even more money while on your trip.

Car Rental

If you do need a car on your trip there are ways to get them for free.  Personally I like to use Costco Travel or Auto Slash.  Both companies tend to have the lowest prices, they are easy to use, and you don’t pay for the car until you get to the rental counter.  They also allow you to cancel at any time if you need to.  This is a form of travel insurance for me.  If my trip needs to be cancelled I don’t need to worry about a car that I will still have to pay for.

One bonus with Auto Slash is that not only do they look for the best deal on the day you make the reservation, but they continue to look for more valuable discounts. Recently I used Auto Slash to book a car for a two-week trip to Hawaii that totaled $660.  Three weeks later they emailed me to let me know that they found a better rate at $630 total and had automatically updated my reservation to reflect this new price.  I did not need to do anything to get this extra $30 off my reservation.

Now that I have found a rental car, I turn to a handy little credit card to make it free.

Credit cards for the little extras:

There are a few travel credit cards that are very flexible with their points.  They are called fixed-value cards.  They will reimburse you for any ‘travel’ expense that you use the credit card to pay for.  A travel expense can be a flight, a campground, a cruise, a car rental and sometimes even a donut purchased at a hotel café.  Before a trip I usually sign up for a fixed-value credit card to pay for my rental car and anything else that I purchase that is travel related.  Some of the credit cards even give you two miles (they call them miles instead of points) for each dollar that you spend.  This makes accruing the miles very easy.  The signup bonus for a couple of these cards is 40,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in three months. 100 miles equals $1 so by just signing up and meeting the minimum spend you have $460 to spend on your rental car.

The cards are:

Credit Card Signup Bonus Miles per dollar spent
Capital One Venture 40,000 2 miles/$1 spent
Capital One Venture One 20,000 1.25 miles/$1 spent
Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite 40,000 2 miles/$1 spent
Barclay Arrival World 20,000 2 miles on travel/dining, 1 mile for all other purchases

A bonus with the Barclay credit cards is that when you use your miles to reimburse a purchase you will get 5% of those miles back into your account.  So if I reimburse a $500 purchase I will get $25 worth of miles back to use on a future reimbursement.

Here is a quick comparison chart between the two credit cards:

Barclay Capital One
Annual Fee Arrival Plus: Waived first year/$89 after that
Arrival: none
Venture: Waived first year/$59 after that

Venture One: none

Bonus miles Get 5% of your miles back when you redeem miles
Foreign Transaction Fees No No
# of days to get reimbursed after the purchase 120 90
Minimum purchase redemption $100 $0
Redeemable travel categories that are listed on credit card’s website Airlines,

Hotels/motels

Time shares

Car rental agencies

Cruise lines

Travel agencies

Trains

Buses

Taxis

Limousines

Ferries

Campgrounds

Discount Travel Sites

Your Barclaycard Arrival Plus annual fee (if applicable).

Airlines

Hotels

Time shares

Car rental agencies

Cruise lines

Travel Agencies

Trains

Bus lines

Taxi cabs

Limousine Services

Both credit cards make it very easy to request your statement credit on their website.

Barclay is very strict on what they will allow you to redeem miles for.  The corporation that you made the purchase from needs to categorize themselves as one of the above ‘travel’ categories.  Capital One goes a step above…they have a specific phone line (800-228-3001) that you can call and “argue” your case for a certain transaction being a travel expenditure.

An example is vacation rental home websites, they are categorized as real estate and not a travel accommodation.  Barclay does not allow miles to be used for these websites.  Capital One will reimburse for www.homeaway.com, www.vrbo.com, and www.airbnb.com.  You will need to call them to get it reimbursed but this process is quick and easy.  They would also allow ferries, campgrounds, shuttles, and other travel sites.  You just need to call them and explain what the purchase is.

Another little perk with the Capital One card is that there is no minimum amount you need to spend on a travel purchase to get it redeemed.  Recently I was at a Fairmont hotel and I purchased some tasty adult beverages at the pool (nothing says you are on vacation like a Pina Colada). Later I checked my Capital One card and discovered that purchase was redeemable, so I got back my $22.50 for my drinks.  Score!!!  Note: some hotels will categorize their restaurants and cafes as dining, so you are not able to get a statement credit with these hotels (looking at you Hilton).

Fixed value cards are great for wiping away those little extras that we accumulate on trips.

Shipping to your location:

Whenever I travel I ship items that I will need on my trip to my accommodations.  This can help with those pesky baggage fees when flying.  Amazon makes this so easy.  I call ahead to the hotel or property manager of the rental home that I am staying at, and get the address and any other instructions I might need for shipping/receiving a package at that location. I then get onto Amazon and start shopping (i.e. diapers, sunscreen, non-perishable snacks, beach toys, etc.).  Once in my cart I can see how many days it will take to get to my location.  I then make the purchase so that the items will arrive the day I do.

This can also save you money in taxes.  If Amazon does not have a physical location in that state, then you don’t have to pay that state’s sales tax.  I frequently ship items to Hawaii from Amazon and I never have to pay sales tax.

Discount entertainment

Search the web for discounts on activities that you are interested in doing while on your trip.  A simple search can result in discount tickets to the theatre, an adventure in the outdoors, amusement parks, etc.  For Hawaii take a look at www.hawaiidiscount.com to find discounts on tours, cruises and golfing.

Dining

A way to save on restaurants is to look up them up on www.giftcardgranny.com and www.giftcardwikki.com.  See previous post for more information on this tip.  I like to get a Tommy Bahama gift card before I travel to Hawaii.

Conclusion

Credit cards are the easiest way to get a free trip.  I usually sign both my husband and I up for a new credit card every three months. Over the past two years this has resulted in several free flights to Hawaii and California, accommodations on the beach and at Disneyland, and about six free rental cars.   Without these credit cards we would not be able to afford to go on these trips.

As stated in part one of this travel series I learned a lot from the guys at www.travelmiles101.com.  I highly recommend checking them out if you want to get serious about credit card churning.  They will help you with a strategy on which credit cards to sign up for and in what order.

Traveling is a luxury but one that does not need to be expensive.  Happy travels!

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2 Responsesso far.

  1. Shon Dahlke says:

    This is great site with some great information

  2. Lezlie Borup says:

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular article! It’s the little changes that produce the most significant changes. Thanks for sharing!

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