Travel is great, but it isn’t free. Luckily, there are some easy (and totally legal) ways to help fill your travel coffers by saving money and even earning money when you spend so you can travel more. Here’s how we use products and services to save money and earn free cash and other benefits, and you can too.
Save $20 off your first stay with Booking.com
We’ve been traveling full time since 2006 which means we’ve been basically living in hotels for 11 years and counting. We often book more than seven different hotels in a month and we use Booking.com 90% of the time because they consistently offer the best prices down here in Latin America. Become a “Genius” member after just five bookings and some properties offer an extra 10% off plus other bonuses like early check-in and late check-out. Use this link to create a Booking.com account and you’ll get $20 back after your first stay and we’ll get a $20 referral credit after your first stay.
Save $40 off your first stay with Airbnb
Over the past few years, we’ve been staying in more and more Airbnb rentals. There are some great properties out there that are fantastic alternatives to a generic hotel room and are often more economical for stays of more than a few days or when we want additional amenities like a kitchen.
Use this link to create an Airbnb account and you’ll receive $40 off your first stay and we’ll get $20 after your first stay.
Earn free money with Ebates
In April and May, we were back in the US for one of our biennial visits to see family and friends. These visits also serve as an important restocking opportunity during which we can purchase the things that are either much more expensive or not available at all in Latin America like computers, camera gear, truck parts, our favorite snacks, outdoor gear, etc.
We knew we were going to make a lot of purchases in the US, so we signed up for Ebates which offers 1% to 10% cash back on purchases from more than 2,500 retail websites including Dell, Walmart, Columbia Sportswear, and many more. After you sign up and install the Ebates browser extension you’ll automatically get the rebate anytime you visit an online retailer that offers an Ebates discount. As you can see in the image below, during our recent shopping spree in the US, we got a cash rebate of $159 from Ebates. Hurray for free money!
Sign up for an Ebates account using this link and you’ll get a bonus $10 cash back on your first purchase of $25 or more and we’ll get a $25 referral bonus.
Earn free airline miles
Here’s a travel hacking classic: free miles from airline-affiliated credit cards. Whenever we have big purchases to make we sign up for a new airline-affiliated credit card. As we mentioned above, we had a lot of purchases to make this spring when we were back in the US, so we each opened a Chase United card and an AMEX Delta card. Depending on current offers, you can often get 40,000 to 60,000 bonus miles for spending between $1,000 and $3,000 in the first three months of having the airline-affiliated credit card. We spent $8,000 on our airline credit cards and earned a total of 215,000 bonus miles.
Sure, these cards usually charge an annual fee, but the fee is often waived for the first year (read the fine print to confirm this before signing up). Simply cancel your card after a year when the annual charge appears and you’ll still keep all the miles. As an added bonus, the miles you earn keep your account active and prolong the time before your miles expire in frequent flyer programs with airlines like United and American.
The Current Delta Amex offer gives you 60,000 bonus miles if you spend $3,000 in the first four months along with a $0 intro annual fee for the first year. Apply here and we’ll get 10,000 miles for referring you. This offer is valid until 11/7/18.
The Current United Explorer MileagePlus Card offer from Chase Bank gives you 40,000 bonus miles if you spend $2,000 in the first 2 months along with a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year. Apply here and we’ll get 10,000 miles for referring you.
Earn free rides
Uber and Lyft are great at home and also great while traveling as these services spread around the globe. If you don’t already have Uber and Lyft accounts, sign up using the links below and earn free rides anywhere.
Uber: Get your first ride free when you open an Uber account.
Or, enter our promo code in the app: ericm47077ue
Lyft: Get up to $20 off when you open a Lyft account.
Or, enter our promo code in the app: TRANSAMERICAS
Go ahead, take it. You get $100 by opening a Schwab account with just $1,000. Sure, $100 is cool, but why do travelers really want a Schwab Bank checking/ SchwabOne account? Simple. When you have a Schwab checking account linked to a SchwabOne brokerage account you get unlimited global ATM refunds and this can save you hundreds of dollars a month, especially when you’re traveling outside the US.
In some countries, ATM fees are $10 or more for withdrawals that are limited to less than $250 each. For example, our most recent ATM withdrawal in Chile carried a fee of 8,000 Chilean Pesos ($9.49) and was limited to 150,000 Chilean Pesos (about US$237). With our Schwab account, we got that ATM fee back (and many more) as you can see in the image below.
Think about how much cash you might need for a few days in Santiago and how much that might cost you in ATM fees if your bank doesn’t offer unlimited worldwide ATM refunds. Exactly.
House sitting is as awesome as it sounds
Home and pet owners around the world are looking for trustworthy, responsible people to live in their house for free while they are away to ensure that their animals and their home are well cared for in their absence. We’ve been house sitting for years, starting with this awesome house-sitting gig in Costa Rica in 2012. It’s a great way to spend time in one location without paying for a hotel and the best way to become aware of house sitting opportunities around the world is to join a house sitting website. We’re members of the Trusted Housesitters website and if you’d like to join too, use our referral code (RAF54914) to get 20% off your membership fee. We’ll get two free months added to our membership as a referral bonus.
If you want to thank us for these money saving tips, we’ve got a few easy and painless ways to do it.
First, become a supporter of our little road trip on Patreon which allows you to pledge the amount you want per post published on our Trans-Americas Journey travel blog (we average 4-5 posts per month). It’s fast and easy to set up and billing is automatic. It’s one more way we work to keep our travel coffers healthy and our website and blog ad-free.
For more than 25 years, REI has been our go-to place to shop for all of our gear needs. Shop using the link here and your price will remain the same but we’ll get a small commission.
Looking for more gear you’ll need during your trips and adventures? Use this link to get $10 off your first order at Backcountry.com and we’ll get a $10 credit for referring you.