If I were to approach you with a genuine opportunity to find a $15,000 treasure chest, you’d probably feel a little surge of adrenaline and be intrigued with the idea. You’d ask me all kinds of questions about what kinds of danger we might encounter and what the likelihood of actually obtaining the treasure was.
If I told you that there might be perils along the way – real traps that we could fall into, risk of harm that we may endure, and obstacles we’d need to overcome – you’d probably carefully weigh them and consider whether the ultimate prize warrants the risk.
And then if I told you that with absolute certainty we would find the treasure, that it would be real and palpable, that it would unlock a new world of opportunity for you, and that it would not be ours to share, but entirely yours and yours to keep…. you’d scoff and call me a liar.
Yep, that’s exactly how it works. Hidden treasure chests don’t really exist, right? Sure it sounds titilating but the days of finding buried bullion and jewels are long gone. We can daydream of treasure hunts, but forget about actually locating undiscovered value.
At this point you can just close this post. Click “Back” and go on finding a recipe for something to cook tonight… because that’s far more interesting than the idea of a searching out a treasure chest. Better yet, go register for a “giveaway.” Throw your hat in the ring for a chance to win a spatula set… nevermind that they’ll sell your email and contact info to hundreds of other vendors. Now that’s a real prize… far more believeable than the idea that there could be $15,000 out there that you could go and get for yourself.
But then there’s this little part of you that sits there and thinks, “but I don’t really want to make dinner tonight. Really I’d much rather daydream about that castle I saw on Pinterest.” Well, let yourself for just a moment. Imagine what the world would be like if you weren’t greeted by stacks of laundry each morning, but by the Austrian Alps. Let yourself entertain that selfish thought that maybe there’s more to see and do in life than to respond to demands. Hmm… if you had that treasure chest, maybe something like that would be possible.
But no, that would be irresponsible. There are chores to be done and obligations to meet, and anything that sounds too good to be true always is… so back to the matter at hand – planning for dinner. You could do tacos… yes but they’re so bland… no matter how much package seasoning you douse that ground beef with, they’ll only be mediocre. Ahh… but remember those shrimp tacos from your honeymoon in Mexico? Wow, you’re talking serious flavor when you can conjure the memory of a taste on demand from 13 years ago. Ugh… there you go again. Well, maybe you can entertain the idea of a treasure hunt… at least for a moment.
The Treasure Hunt
Here it is, plain and simple: There is a treasure chest out there that you can find. You won’t find it all at once, and it will require some diligence on your part, but it’s there for the taking – for you and anyone else who’s willing to seek it out.
The treasure is in the form of over a million frequent flyer miles, hotel points, and bank points which can be redeemed for travel and other benefits. There are lots of ways to value them and the fact is that the total amount may ultimately far exceed $15,000 – in fact it already has for me. But just to put a number on it, I added up all the offers that I could find out there and came up with 1,150,000 miles and points – which I valued at an average of 1.25 cents each for a total of $14,370.
I’ve obtained these miles and points in massive quantities by applying for credit cards.
Well, I’m glad he got right to the point so that I can forget about this and move on… we all know that credit cards are evil and that having one will make me go into massive debt. The laundry sounds better than debt. Yes, you better go ahead and check out now before you waste your time on this credit card salesman. He could care less about you and your family… but what are the risks again? Why have I always been told that credit cards are so evil?
The Dangers and Perils
I know, I know. And you’re right to worry. There’s no doubt that there’s some danger here. But what’s a treasure hunt without some pitfalls? Of course you can’t be reckless in your search for laundry-freedom and mexican shrimp tacos. No big reward ever came without some risk.
But let me break it down for you clear and simple, because while there is risk, it can certainly be mitigated, no different from the careful planning of a treasure-seeker.
- You’ll ruin your credit score: Before extending credit to you, creditors are anxious to know if they’ll be paid back. That’s a fair worry for them. And to ensure that they take smart risks, they’re gathering information about you. Their biggest concerns are 1) have you historically made your payments on time and 2) how much debt do you carry relative to the amount that has been extended to you. We could go on and on about this, but we already wrote about it, and you can do all kinds of research on sites like CreditKarma.com
- You’ll go deep into debt: This is one of those ghost monsters that looks and sounds really scary, but doesn’t really have to exist. Never ever think of credit card spending as “credit.” Think only of it as a “purchasing instrument.” On many cards you have to spend a certain amount in a specified timeframe. The secret is never to make a purchase on a credit card that you wouldn’t otherwise make with cash, debit, or a check. Don’t take on huge spending requirements and then go buy things only to meet the requirement to get the bonus.
- It’s too hard to manage: Technology makes doing this incredibly easy. We use tools like Mint.com to keep track of our accounts, a google docs spreadsheet to keep track of our cards, calendar reminders for important dates, and AwardWallet.com to stash our points. All of this can be done in minutes and this is a weak-ass excuse.
- It’s impossible to use the points: Ah, but you’re doing it wrong. The key to making frequent flyer mile bookings is really quite simple – don’t be so demanding. Isn’t that why you read this far any way? Because others are being so demanding of you? If you try to specify an exact date, location, and accomodations, booking with points will be more challenging. Rather than thinking “I’d like to go to Paris in July and stay at the Hyatt Vendome” try thinking “I’d like to see the treasures of Europe when it’s not too hot and the crowds aren’t horrible, and stay in comfortable hotels.” With that kind of mindset, it won’t be long before you have a bed and breadkfast bedroom view of that castle from your Pinterest feed.
Still with me? Good, because we’re about to open the treasure chest.
You’ve long forgotten those obligations you were so hung up on. You’re in a fantasy world and that’s good because really that’s what travel does for you. That’s precisely where I wanted you to come because this is really the treasure – the ability to picture your future life as an open-ended book.
With a treasure chest of over a million frequent flyer miles and points, we hope you’ll whistle while you work. When you see a magazine cover of a dreamy beach, you won’t sigh with disappointment, you’ll add it to your bucket list – the list you’re actively working on, not the one you put off for some imagination of a future life.
I can tell you what the treasure chest has done for me. It’s taken my family to Colombia, to Panama, and on a cruise in the Caribbean. My wife and I have visited almost all of Central America, and a fair amount of Europe. I have found adventure in Africa, Haiti, and Roatan. These are all great stories and they’re all on this blog, but I think I’d rather direct you to some of the many guest posts our readers have shared. It’s been so awesome to help them discover their treasure chests and how they’ve spent them.
“Extra Money” for a Traveler Stuck in a Mom’s Body: A Guest Post from Christina
Guest WorldWanderluster Judd: “You Can Travel and Afford It!”
Guest WorldWanderluster – Jared and his son travel to Colombia
I never thought I’d go until I was grey haired, retired, and wore penny loafers and tube socks
I hope you enjoy their travel stories as much as they enjoyed creating them. If you’re ready to start your treasure hunt, you need to subscribe to our posts by entering your email in the right sidebar. We never sell or distribute email addresses and we generally post twice a week.
You can see all the travel reward credit card offers – the total of 1,150,000 available – on our Best Travel Reward Credit Cards page.
And about that dinner you were supposed to make… order pizza.
Thank you so much for the wonderful info on this site. I’ve always been a lover of travel in all it’s forms, but always prudent, debt-free and limited in the cash for travel department. Using your research and ideas, my husband and I just took a wonderful trip to Boston and Cape Cod for next to nothing, and just opened 6 cards in one day (using our excellent credit and never pay interest mentality) to put us well on our way to a dream vacation in Italy. Thanks for giving us the know-how!
Kristen- That is so awesome to hear! Thanks for telling us about your adventures and we can’t wait for you to take the dreamy Italy vacation you’ve been working on. Any time you’d like to share a guest post with our readers, we’d love to have it. Just email a 800-1500 word post and some pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you a $25 giftcard.
I am so relieved I ran into your site.
My husband and I are planning a South America trip next June (2015) and we were feeling so frustrated that it would cost over $4000 just to get down there and back.
Researching your website has shown me that I can get to South America for free! Because of this, it allows us to perhaps see more of this continent than we originally planned for.
Any tips you have about traveling to South America would be appreciated!
Cara- How awesome that you’re planning a fun trip! What part of South America are you planning on visiting? We might have some tips depending on where you’re trying to go.