Earn Travel Dollars with the Drop App

What if I told you there’s a great way to earn gift cards towards future flights that doesn’t involve opening a single credit card? What’s more, you can use your holiday shopping to help you earn them. Earn travel dollars with the Drop App; Amy Phillips walks you through how to do it.

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by guest blogger, Amy Phillips. Amy caught the travel bug a few years ago and now uses credit card points and miles to travel the world for pennies on the dollar. It’s been said that the apple does not fall far from the tree. I’m proud to have my daughter, Amy, share her insights with you to get the most out of your Travel Hacking credit cards.

The Drop app lets you earn points through purchases made at a variety of brick and mortar and online stores. You redeem the points for gift cards. One of the current gift card redemption options is a $100 American Airlines gift card. 

Here’s How it Works

  1. Download the Drop app from the Apple App Store here: Apple App Store. Or, download from Google Play here: Google Play. Use code jtbtk for $5 worth of free points when you link your first credit card.
  2. Link any credit or debit card. Then, the Drop app will walk you through with simple steps. Editor’s note: I’ve linked all of my credit cards to the Drop app to make sure I earn every possible point towards my travel hacking goals.
  3. Choose your super offers (these are offers that will always be activated. Mine include Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, and Target. Every time I shop at these stores in person or online, I receive 10-15 points for every dollar I spend. Editor’s note: I’ve linked, Uber, Amazon and Whole Foods to my Drop app.
  4. Now, you can choose additional offers from a number of categories including Apparel, Pets, and Travel & Vacations. You earn many of these offers by shopping online, through your mobile device or computer. Generally, these offers have higher point values. I’ve seen these offers anywhere from 15 points per dollar up to 300 points per dollar. The additional offers include many stores. You can rack up a lot of points if you use these offers strategically for your holiday shopping or larger purchases. Additionally, some offers give a one-time points bonus for subscribing to a service such Blue Apron, which awards 35,000 points when you sign up for a meal delivery subscription for the first time.
  5. Redeem your points for gift cards. Drop offers a wide range of gift cards at price points from $5-$100. Currently, there’s an American Airlines $100 gift card that can be redeemed for 100,000 points. It may sound like a lot of points. However, if you capitalize on earning points through holiday shopping and purchases of big-ticket items, you’ll be able to earn the points fairly quickly.

A Few Tips

After you make five purchases through any of your offers, you have the opportunity to play the supercharge game and win bonus points. This is a way to earn extra points without having to spend anything in addition. Go to the “my offers” tab to track your progress towards the supercharge game or to play the game.

The point amounts for additional offers may vary. I recently used a Sephora offer that was 60 points per dollar . When I checked again a few days later, the offer was down to 40 points per dollar spent. This is the nature of any offer. It is always subject to change.

Don’t forget to use code jtbtk to earn an additional $5 when you link your first card. So there you have it. A quick guide on how to earn travel dollars with the Drop app.

Flexibility when Travel Hacking

Flexibility Is Key when planning Travel with points and miles. There are many ways to stay flexible when planning your next travel adventure.
Flexibility Is Key when Planning Travel

I started travel hacking over two years ago. Back then, I was happy to save money on a round trip airfare. AAdvantage Miles from American Airlines were my first foray into this hobby. This made sense because American Airlines offered lots of flights out of my home airport in Philadelphia. As I learned more , I realized that there was a whole world of other points and miles that I could earn and redeem. I’ve since learned that flexibility when travel hacking is extremely important. Here’s why:

Mindset Flexibility

It all starts inside our heads and hearts. We all have different expectations when we travel. If you want a beach vacation, can you choose a less expensive destination that still has the sand and water you crave? Sometimes, there’s a very specific place we want to visit. Perhaps you’ve got a brand new baby to visit who just happens to live far away. Your destination in this case, is quite fixed. Ask yourself though, can I be flexible about the way in which I travel there?

How about being flexible about accommodations once you arrive? Do you really need a 5 star hotel or will a 3 or 4 star hotel be more than adequate? Maybe an Airbnb or a hostel is the way to stay flexible and save money. Always keep in mind what you hope to experience in your travels. Focus on that and be flexible about how you accomplish it.

Time Flexibility

It would be wonderful if we all had unlimited time to travel. Given that most of us don’t, we can use flexibility to score the best deals on flights, hotels and other travel. Every destination has a busy or high season when prices are at their steepest. Avoid those times if you’re able. Did you know that prices for flights can vary from day to day? If you’re flexible, you can take advantage of flying on the cheapest days of the week which are typically Tuesday and Wednesday.

Be Flexible with Your Time when Planning Travel. There are many ways to save money by being flexible about  time when it comes to travel.
Be Flexible with Your Time when Planning Travel

Some of us like to plan far in advance and have the flexibility to do so. This strategy often results in a lower points or miles redemption. Many airlines offer “saver” fares if booked way in advance. Interestingly, the opposite is also possible. If you can travel last minute, you’re likely able to find additional discounts, especially on hotel rooms. This is because hotels would rather fill a room at a lower rate than earn nothing at all for that night.

How about the length of time of your travel adventure? Being flexible about the number of days you’re away can yield you great savings. Adding a day can often get you a free night’s accommodation in a hotel. This is the case with Marriott’s Stay 4 and Pay for 3 nights program. AirBnB hosts often give discounts if your stay a full week. Do you really need a 17 day stay? Would 14 well planned days be enough? You can use the extra 3 days for a great staycation on your return. Get creative about how you approach being flexible when traveling.

Destination Flexibility

When I interviewed Tim Leffel, Author of “World’s Cheapest Destinations”, on my Travel Expert Summit, I learned that there are specific countries and regions where your money goes much further. South American countries are much cheaper to visit than Western Europe. However, go to Eastern Europe and you’ll spend less as well. If you are flexible about where you want to visit, you’ll spend less money. Again, it all comes down to adjusting your mindset about what travel means to you. Flexibility when travel hacking is the key to great savings.

Transportation Flexibility

Flexible Transportation Option. Taking a train can be way cheaper than flying in addition to being more enjoyable.
Flexible Transportation Option

It pays to stay flexible about how you get from point “A” to point “B”. Often, we assume that taking a flight is the best way to travel. Have you ever considered taking a train? Mark Smith of “The Man in Seat 61”, has devoted over ten years to researching and traveling by train all over the world. His website is a treasure trove of information about all things train related.

Mark explained to me that often, it’s cheaper to travel by train; especially in Europe. Riding on a train allows us to slow down for a bit. I loved watching the scenery out the window on my 7 hour train ride between Oslo and Bergen while I was in Norway last summer.

Think of the fun of driving onto a ferry and having a leisurely ride on the water to reach your destination. Pedal taxis and public buses are also great ways to get around while traveling. The best part is the opportunity to meet interesting people along the way.

In conclusion, I hope this has stimulated your creative juices to be more creative and have flexibility when travel hacking. Have fun figuring out the best money saving ways to travel for less. “Stay flexible my friend”.

I want to hear from you: Please scroll down and leave a comment. Tell me one way (or more) you’ve used flexibility in your travel planning.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

So, you’ve made the decision to travel for pennies on the dollar. My post a few weeks ago about all the money I’ve saved in the last two years (over $18,000 and counting) convinced you that Travel Hacking has merit. You decided to take the plunge. I’m here to warn you about something that is a challenge for many of us. Pay attention here because this is critical if you want to benefit from the points and miles hobby. Beware of Shiny Object Syndrome and keep your eyes on the prize. Sounds simple enough but let’s discuss.

A Cautionary Tale

A Cautionary Travel Hacking Tale of applying for a credit card in order to receive a "free gift".  Keep Your Eyes on the Prize at all times when Travel Hacking
A Cautionary Travel Hacking Tale

One of my readers recently got in touch to tell me about her latest credit card application and approval. I’ll call her Nina to protect her privacy and her innocence. Nina has been in the travel hacking game for a while now. She took a lot of free flights using points and miles. She’s traveled to Europe for pennies on the dollar. Nina took some time off from Travel Hacking and now, she’s back in the game.

Not long ago, she applied for and received the Chase Ink Business Preferred card. Nina was thrilled with the 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards point sign up bonus. She is looking forward to a future trip to Australia using those points.

I suggested her next credit card based on the travel goals she had for this winter. Nina applied and received the Capital One Spark Business credit card. Fast forward to our most recent communication. She was excited to have applied for and received another new credit card. Great, I thought; she’s learning from the information on my blog and our email exchanges. Now she’s taking initiative and moving forward on her own to apply for credit cards. It all sounded great. We’ll get back to Nina’s story in a moment.

Beware of “Free Gifts”

Some of you are old enough to remember when it was the norm for banks to offer credit cards on college campuses. The students were enticed with all manner of free gifts to apply for credit cards. Offers of free T-Shirts and other goodies can be quite tempting.

A Free T-Shirt can detour your travel hacking goals. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize at all times.
Free T-Shirt

There were t-shirts, water bottles, Frisbees, golf umbrellas, beach balls; you name it. If you can print a company name and logo on it, it’s probably been offered as an enticement to sign on the dotted line.

Many if not most, college students have no idea how to manage credit responsibly. Yet credit card companies were happy to extend credit. You might ask why. Banks and credit card companies love to collect high interest on outstanding balances. Most students used those shiny new credit cards to rack up debt. They didn’t understand that they were responsible for paying off the balance each month. Most never paid attention to how much interest the banks were collecting on those outstanding balances. Some interest rates are as high as 27% these days. It’s a very lucrative business.

Free Doesn’t always Mean Free

Now let’s talk about the value of those free gifts. Typically, due to the volume pricing, those free t-shirts, coffee mugs and beach balls cost less than $10 to $30. Think of the value of even a 15% interest rate compounded monthly on $2,500 of credit card debt over time. I think you’ll agree that the banks knew exactly how to exploit their young customers.

Enter Travel Hacking

Our purpose in collecting points and miles is to use them to offset the cost of travel. A typical sign up bonus is worth $500 worth of travel savings at a minimum. If you were to sign up for a more entry level credit card like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you would earn a sign up bonus worth $200. Readers of this blog know that those savings are just the beginning. I’ve gotten way more value than the stated minimum of 1-1.5 cents per point.

Back to Nina’s Story

My jaw dropped when I learned that she had signed up for a credit card because her credit union offered her a Yeti Travel Mug. Folks, I have to tell you that I immediately Googled Yeti Mug because I had no idea what it was! I must admit, it looks to be a snazzy drinking vessel.

Yeti Travel Mug, a "free" gift for signing up for a new credit card.  I say, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize and skip these "free" gifts.
Yeti Travel Mug

But how much does one of these great beverage holders cost I wondered. Turns out one can purchase a nifty Yeti Travel Mug in your choice of colors for $29.99

Now I ask you, which is more valuable to you the traveler, a $29.99 Yeti travel mug or $500+ savings on your next trip? I adore Nina and I don’t mean to poke fun at her. Ok, maybe a little fun is good for the soul. I tell you her story as a cautionary tale.

We are all human and prone to missteps from time to time. Credit card offers come in many different flavors. Consider each offer carefully before pulling the trigger on an application. As I explained to Nina, keep your eyes on the prize. The goal is the ability to travel for pennies on the dollar. Go out and buy yourself a fancy travel mug; you’re certainly worth it!

Missed Travel Opportunities

Nina missed out on the opportunity of earning a sign up bonus worth $500 or much more. This is a detour that won’t derail her from her goals. However, I can’t stress enough that a strategy is important when applying for credit cards.

The Chase 5/24 Rule

Chase credit cards are some of the best in the business for Travel Hackers. The Chase 5/24 rule is important here. The rule states that Chase will not approve you for a new Chase credit card if you have applied for and received 5 or more credit cards in the prior 24 month period.

Nina is applying for credit cards at a fairly aggressive rate. She needs to be very mindful of the number of “Chase slots” she’s got left in her wallet. It would be a shame if she missed out on applying for a great Chase card because she had used a 5/24 slot to get that Yeti mug. I hope you are beginning to see the value in taking a very mindful approach to credit card applications.

As I’ve mentioned many times, I welcome the opportunity to help you reach your travel goals using points and miles. Reach out to me by commenting below or through the contact page on this website. We can discuss your travel goals and choose the right credit cards for you. Learn from Nina’s story and Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.