There are a number of free tools that help you save money for travel by paying you for things you already do.
I’ve always funded my travels with a combination of “travel hacking” and side jobs so that I don’t have to live extremely frugally in my day-to-day life.
But this year, I started pursuing my MBA from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which is basically sucking up all of my free time.
It’s given me a new perspective on the struggle people who are super busy face on earning side income for travel.
But whether you’re caring for your family or pursuing a graduate degree, you can still save and/or earn some side income by signing up for programs that pay you for things you already do. Yes, that’s right – little to no extra effort necessary!
1. Cash-back Credit Cards
The first thing you should do is apply for a no-fee credit card that gives you cash back. This is one of my favorite tools that help you save money for travel. There are multiple options on the market, but I personally use the Chase Freedom card. This card gives you 1% cash back on all purchase, and 5% bash back on quarterly bonus categories. I primarily use it for the bonus categories each quarter to maximize my earnings. For example, last quarter the bonus categories included transportation and gas, so I used my card each time I took an Uber or Lyft. This quarter, it’s grocery stores.
The cash back can be applied to your balance or deposited into your bank account each month with one click. Easy peasy!
Ebates is a site that gives you 1 to 30% cash back for shopping at certain stores. It’s extremely simple to sign up and get started, and costs nothing. You simply install a browser button, and when you visit certain e-commerce sites (like Groupon, Expedia, and Macy’s) a pop up will alert you to activate your cash back.
Ebates pays you via check or PayPal transfer. If you shop for anything online, this one is a no brainer! Click here to sign up through my invitation link – I’ll get a bonus for referring you!
Use your cash back credit card for another 1 to 5% back when you shop online. You can also apply these savings to sites like Groupon and Restaurants.com – discounts on top of discounts!
3. Gift Card Marketplaces
Did you know that you can buy gift cards online from sites like Raise.com for a discount? If you frequently shop at the same stores, you can purchase gift cards to those stores at a discount to save money. For example, you can get a 10% discount on CVS gift cards, 9% at Domino’s pizza, 10% at Dunkin Donuts, and 7.4% at Hotels.com. Additionally, Ebates gives you 1% cash back for shopping at Raise.com, and if you use your Chase Freedom card you’ll get another 1% back.
If you’re a first-time Raise.com user, you can also use the code RAISE25AF for an additional $5 off a minimum $25 gift card purchase.
Note that you can’t use Ebates if you’re shopping at these stores online using the gift card, so if you have a couple extra minutes, you might want to see which gives you a better deal: purchasing a gift card on Raise.com or simply shopping with an Ebates cash back deal.
Did you know that Groupon may offer cash back at local restaurants and shops in your city? All you have to do is activate each offer by typing in your credit card number, and you’ll automatically get 10 to 35% put back on your card after dining or shopping at these places.
A quick search showed me that some bars and restaurants I already frequent in Chicago are on there – so now I’m saving 20% on things I’m buying anyway!
Sign up for Groupon with my referral link, and you’ll get $10 in Groupon Bucks.
5. Spring Rewards
Spring Rewards is a loyalty program that is tied to your credit card. If you frequently visit restaurants or bars that are a part of their program, you can earn rewards after hitting a certain spending threshold. All you have to do is sign up, and then you’ll earn rewards automatically. This one isn’t as lucrative as some other cash back options, but the fact that it’s SO simple to set up and then you never have to think about it again is why it made my list of free tools that help you save money for travel.
Sign up online with my referral link, or download the app and use my referral code (AIWESL), and you’ll get $50 in Spring Cash so you can save money right off the bat.
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