Are you an iPhone user? Well, I may have a good phone plan for you. Previously, I wrote about phone plans that were good deals and I still think those are good choices. However, something new has arisen since then that may be worth looking at if you are an iPhone user. My wife an I are in America for the summer and she was living on wifi until I found the Virgin Mobile USA Inner Circle.
What’s Inner Circle
Virgin Mobile USA has gone to all iPhones and if you join before the end of July you can get a year of service for $1. You have to buy a new phone and port your number, but that is a good deal for an unlimited plan. This could be a great deal because if you pay even a low $30 a month you can save $360 less the cost of the phone. The downside is that after a year it is $50 a month, at which point I will move on to the next deal I find.
You’ll need to buy a phone from them or the Apple store, but since Virgin Mobile has good deals you might as well buy from them. You can get a new iPhone SE for $280, and iPhone 6 for $320, all the way up to $970 for iPhone 7 Plus 256GB. This is a much better deal that Freedompop which charges $390 for a refurbished iPhone 6. Plus you can get the phone unlocked. It is unclear exactly when, after 14 days or after 12 months, but either way you will have a very low bill.
Switching phones can be a bit of a pain, but think of an amount of money that you would do it for. If you could save $200 to go through the pain would you? For us that was an easy calculation, rather than $30 a month with the T-mobile Walmart plan, we bought an iPhone 6 32GB and sold our iPhone 6 16GB. The savings were $360 (plan fee) – $320 (new phone) – $1 (new plan) + $150 (sold old phone) = $189, but most people will probably save even more. Finally, it was good to do because now we are down to three phones.
I hope you got a lot of good ideas from my last article and won’t be spending much money on airfares in the future. Being able to travel for only a small amount of money can be life changing. However, even with free flights you need a place to stay and that’s where hotel points come in. If you are going to visit and stay with a friend then you are all set and you can stick to earning airline miles and cash back, however if you want to venture to new places, let’s see how we can go about it.
What are hotel points?
Hotel points are a reward system that entices you to be loyal to a hotel. I find hotel points a bit simpler than airline miles because the rules are more straight forward. You collect them each time you stay at a property and redeem them for hotel stays. Just like airline miles you can earn a huge amount through a credit card sign up bonuses.
Choosing a program
I chose Marriott at first and later added Starwood which worked out well because now they are merged and you can transfer points between the programs. Other programs include Hyatt, Hilton, Best Western, Choice, IHG, and some other smaller ones. Each program has its own number of points you need to redeem for a hotel which will be a smaller amount for less high end properties and more for properties that are in good locations as well as the luxury ones. For instance, Marriott redemptions run from 7,500 points for Category 1 properties up to 45,000 a night for Category 9 properties.
I’m going to start a series on traveling for nearly nothing. I hear lots of people say how they would like to travel but are often held back because it costs a lot. And indeed, it often does, so let’s find ways to reduce the costs. Short of finding money on the ground, the best way is through accumulating points. It is crazy to think I only started collecting points after I got married. My parents did set me up with a United and American accounts back in the day, but I think all I got were some free magazines occasionally. In fact, a few months before I took a trip to Singapore on China Airlines and didn’t bother earning the points for it. Well, it isn’t that hard and I’ll explain it to you as best as I can so you get to traveling for close to free.
What are airline miles?
Airline miles are a type of reward system that entices you to be loyal to an airline or an alliance. Each program has their own rules for how to earn miles and how to redeem them. But almost always you can earn them by flying with the airline or its partners and you can redeem them to get a ticket. Airline rules will vary on how much you earn for each flight as some are based on the distance you fly, but now most are based on how much you spend, your status in the program, and the class of service you are flying. The amount of miles needed for a free flight vary by the region you start from and are going to and each airline sets their own number of points.
Here is an example of the chart for American Airlines if you are flying from the lower 48 states in economy class.
You’ll notice that there are up to four different prices just for economy class. That is because the number of miles to redeem for a ticket also varies upon when you are flying. If you want to fly right before holidays you’ll have to use more points.
Didn’t think beverages were so powerful did you? Well, they have the power to destroy net worth, so I think they are rightfully called Personal Finance Weapons of Mass Destruction. So get someone to hold your beer while you read this article. Let’s go!
While on the trip in New York City I bought a big bottle of water for $1.80. Water is definitely something that we shouldn’t be buying. It is practically free, just open the facet. However, without preparation I had to pay. If you’re in America, practically all the water from the sink is potable, so take advantage by filling a bottle up and taking it around. Cities have made it even easier by providing drinking fountains. If you are drinking from water bottles you are spending money you don’t need to.
You mean soft drinks? Yeah, that is a ridiculous way to call them, softer than pure acid I suppose. Despite this negative take on the drink I must admit that occasionally I drink them. Often it will be when I am at a party and it is available for free. I probably have two to three servings a month. If you are drinking soda regularly, I’d advise stopping to save money and lots of sugar.
This weekend I took a group of 24 people to New York City. I charged a commission and got to go for free, NOT. It would have been fair, but I paid along with all my classmates, so our incentives for a cheap trip were aligned. So of course we headed to one of the most expensive cities, but with my skills it wasn’t going to cost a fortune.
We were going for the budget trip, so the cheapest ride was the bus. The ticket to get from Boston to NYC was $35, but the return trip only cost $15. By not buying a roundtrip ticket we were able to save $20. Alternatives were the train or plane, but that probably would have ended up saving an hour or two total.
We stayed at a hostel in Chinatown. The best rooms were the ones with 4 bunks and a bathroom, but I booked all of those so some people had to stay in double beds. The double beds were only $45 a person per night.
I only stayed with the group for one night because one night we used a Ritz-Carlton free night certificate. This was one of three that came as a sign up bonus for the Ritz credit card. The hotel was nice, but I wouldn’t spend $350 for a hotel.
Right now I’m studying at MIT which is a really great experience. When we arrived my program provided us with $750 in TechCash. This currency can be used for food at MIT, at the student store, and a few other places. For one month, a $750 allowance is quite a lot. I felt quite rich and was eating many $10 prepackaged sushi boxes. I was also able to use the money at a coop grocery store. I went kind of crazy there buying all sorts of groceries and totaled around $100. I bought packages of nuts, figs, and even Naked Juice (with a coupon). This put my first week total spend at $150, but at this rate I would still have $150 left over at the end, so I purchased a sweatshirt.
After a week, someone figured out that you can buy gift cards at the student store! I had seen the rack of gift cards at the student store, but my experience in gift cards had taught me that stores don’t accept gift cards to purchase gift cards. However, this person went for it and had success. Furthermore, it was possible to buy a Visa gift card. As soon as I heard this was possible I went to the student store and bought a $500 gift card and paid $504.95 using my TechCash. Then an interesting thing happened. Even though I was better off (having a Visa to spend anywhere) I didn’t feel as rich. I no longer wanted to spend on luxuries like Turkish figs.
I just bought my wife a pair of Nike Cortez shoes for $80! Of course the story doesn’t end there, but as you can imagine I’m not one to shell out a bunch of money for shoes. In fact, my last pair I got for $35 worth of Sears points. So what caused this purchase? Airline miles, it was their fault! It was alright because my wife has been telling me that she was ready for a new pair of these shoes. However, this week is triple miles on British Airways shopping portal. Overstock.com was giving 21 points per dollar, so I’ll get 1,680 which is pretty good. Furthermore, I used 3 $25 gift cards I got using $60 of Discover rewards. So $64.90 with $16.80 worth a points, not terrible for some fancy pants shoes.
I love airline miles and they have enabled me to travel all over for so little cash. I went to Taiwan on miles, came to and will move from Lisbon with them, and just dropped 400,000 miles on a future trip, to be revealed later. Yet, we still have 750,000 of them. I think I need to as good at using them as I am collecting them.
Quick, how many screens do you have? How many things do you own that need charging? Guess, then start to catalog and I bet you guessed a smaller number than what you own. It can be pretty crazy how many devices we end up with. There are wires running everywhere and we have to make sure we have the right charger. Today you can see an inventory of our electronics and I can share the stories of how we acquired them.
S0ny a6000: Purchased the body used for $375 and a used fixed lens for $270 both on eBay.
The camera was a killer deal and only had a shutter count of 373. The camera is for my wife because I’m fine with taking pictures from my phone. In fact, I thought I was cool back when I had a 1.3MP phone.
iPhone 6: Bought this used on eBay for around $400 in late 2015.
Amazon Fire Phone: Brand new $125 including a year of Amazon Prime from eBay.
Galaxy Note 2: New for $99 from Freedompop.
$20 Android Phone: This was an add on in cart option when I was buying the Galaxy Note 2, I went for it.
Four phones for two people may seem excessive, but the total cost was under $650 which you can’t even get a new iPhone for, especially the rumored $1000+ iPhone 8. Each Android phone was several generations behind the current one. In fact, I got the Note 2 when the Note 6 was out. My wife had an iPhone 5C before this but due to an extremely lucrative Discover card deal WE NEEDED an iPhone. It was 20% cashback on purchases with Apple Pay.
The iPhone and Fire phone get used abroad and the other two are maintaining our numbers and collecting voicemails and text messages. Our phone plan in Europe is $4 a week per phone and on Freedompop it is $2.49 a month.