I have a long history of skepticism toward things that seem too good to be true. I don't believe that anyone out there is truly interested in offering me something for nothing. (And my enthusiasm for the show Burn Notice has reinforced this belief system. My takeaway from that show is: never accept anything from someone who approaches you first. It's likely that they're a spy posing as an answer to your perplexing problem.)
One of my deepest held skeptical beliefs is that credit card companies will find a way to bilk you for money no matter how conscientiously you play their game. So I have never been the slightest bit tempted by cash back, free airline miles or other credit card rewards, despite the fact that I know I can pay off my credit card each month and earn these "rewards" totally free of charge. There Ain't No Such Thing As a Free Lunch, darn it, and I don't trust those credit card companies with their wee beady eyes.
J does not share my distrust. Earlier this week, he read an incredible story about a man who is literally traveling around the world for $418. Harnessing the power of credit card travel rewards, this man is able to have the trip of a lifetime for the same amount it would cost me to fly from Indinanapolis to Omaha. Though my "Danger, Danger, Look for the Catch!" alarm was triggered by this story, I agree to do a little research into travel rewards cards to see if there is something that could help us get to the Upper Northwest and San Francisco and France and Egypt and any number of other places we dream of seeing that much faster.
The research went something like this:
Step 1: Google "travel rewards credit cards"
Step 2: Scratch head as it is unclear whether "points" and "miles" are the same thing.
Step 3: Discover that everyone seems to have good things to say about the cards that are linked to American Airlines rewards.
Step 4: Remember the American Airlines is filing for bankruptcy.
Step 5: Desperate for instructions, look up the cost of an e-book that explains how to use these travel hacks to your advantage, and discover that the ebook costs $49.
Step 6: System overload of Emily's brain.
Once I realized that we'd have to shell out 50 bucks for the ebook that tells us the secrets of how to do this plus the somewhere in the range of $100 per year fee in order to have the privilege of using these travel rewards credit cards, my skepticism wall came crashing down and there would be no more using of my brainpower to figure this out.
"Doesn't it make more sense to just add another $150 per year to our vacation savings and do this the old-fashioned way?" I asked J.
J is not quite so grudging. He would like to learn the game. I think it's like the games at Las Vegas--even if you win, the house still wins. Unfortuately, though I like to think of myself as an open-minded individual, my skepticism wall is such that it will not even allow me to think about how to do such things. The skepticism wall activates the frustration reaction (which is pretty quick to the draw even without skepticism's help) and my brain starts searching for something (anything!) else it can do to quiet the disharmony in my head. (This is the reason I have seen the movie The Village four times.)
Do any of my gentle readers have some travel reward hacks that will not raise my hackles? Because I really would like to travel more. I just don't trust anyone who thinks a 23.99% APR is a reasonable idea.