Monthly Report: Paying For College With Travel Hacking Skills

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Paying For College With Credit Card Rewards: My Monthly Report

In a previous article I shared the game plan for my paying for college with credit card rewards series.  I talked about using all of my skills developed in the miles and points game to help save for my kids college tuition. I also promised that I would update everyone monthly on my progress, showing where the money came from and showing what the balance of the account is each month.

The investment vehicle I will be using for this will be a Roth IRA, which is not a normal college savings vehicle. In the article I shared why I decided to go this route and why it works for me.  It isn’t the best choice for everyone, but it is something that works for us.  I should note this will not be the only college savings vehicle we will be using for our kids but it will play a part in their college savings plan.

Not Just For College Savings

If you don’t have kids or already have college savings taken care of you can apply these same principles to anything. Whether you want to boost retirement savings or save for a down payment for your house etc. Whatever you want to accomplish you can take a similar path to achieve it.

Monthly Breakdown

Each month I will update this post with the figures for the last month.  It will be a continuous scrolling post with the most recent month at the top.  I decided to do it this way so that the recent update is easily accessible and so that you can see all of the information for the previous months too.  You will get to see how my progress is going and what different options I used to reach my goal each month in the past.

Remember that this is for entertainment purposes and not financial advice.  I am doing this to show you different ways we can use the skills we have from our hobby for things other than travel. Honestly, for things that are often more important than travel. I hope you enjoy the ride along with me!

December 2021

Here is a breakdown of the overall account after depositing the money earned for the month.
  • Balance Previous Month: $8599.79
  • Current Balance: $9081.04
  • Investing Gain/Loss From Previous Month: -$18.75

I was looking pretty good until pandemic news killed the stock market last week.  At the end of the day I went from up several hundred to down a pizza for the month.

Here is a breakdown of how I came to the $500 this month. This was all earned in the previous month or two:
  • $80 from a local credit union bank account bonus. The offer was for $100 and I took out $20 for taxes.
  • $240 from the Fidelity offer, I took out 20% for taxes. I signed up and my wife signed up for an account as well. There was an issue with my offer getting attached when signing up so they manually added it. That appears to have caused a double payout of the offer. So I got $200 and my wife got $100.
  • $180 in Citi ThankYou point cash outs.  I have been wearing my Citi Premier out the last few months with no other grocery bonuses left on my cards.  It has pretty much become a cash back card for me for right now.

I have some things in the works but nothing has posted as of yet so I had to cash in some points to cover the month.

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November 2021

Here is a breakdown of the overall account after depositing the money earned for the month.
  • Balance Previous Month: $7896.23
  • Current Balance: $8599.79
  • Investing Gain/Loss From Previous Month: $203.66

A nice little rebound after last month.  The account is still up $599.79 overall for the life of the account.

Here is a breakdown of how I came to the $500 this month. This was all earned in the previous month or two:
  • $150 from ThankYou Points I earned from my Citi Premier.
  • $350 from a Charles Schwab Platinum cash out.

I have some things in the works but nothing has posted as of yet so I had to cash in some points to cover the month.

October 2021

Here is a breakdown of the overall account after depositing the money earned for the month.
  • Balance Previous Month: $7870.39
  • Current Balance: $7896.23
  • Investing Gain/Loss From Previous Month: $474.16

I was up a few hundred dollars most of the month but the last week or so has been brutal.  I lost all the gains plus almost the entire $500 I put in each month.  Hopefully we see a turn around next month.  I am still up around $400 overall.

Here is a breakdown of how I came to the $500 this month. This was all earned in the previous month or two:
  • $120 Huntington Bank bonus – this is a $150 checking account bonus from a regional bank that I knocked 20% off the top for taxes.
  • $260 Custom Cash – I cashed out some of my wife’s points from her Citi Custom Cash welcome offer and spending over the last few months.  I didn’t want to burn wife points having her call to combine points so she could transfer them to me. I would then transfer them to my American Airlines account but it wasn’t worth the eye rolls for 25K in AA miles.
  • $120 Rakuten & Other Shopping Portals – the rest of my monthly total came from my Rakuten payout and other shopping portal cash outs. Remember to check ones you haven’t used in a while for some stranded money from long ago.

September 2021

Here is a breakdown of the overall account after depositing the money earned for the month.
  • Balance Previous Month: $6976.53
  • Current Balance: $7870.39
  • Investing Gain/Loss From Previous Month: $393.86

Not a great month in the stock market but nothing horrible.

Here is a breakdown of how I came to the $500 this month. This was all earned in the previous month or two:
  • $200 from the Bank of America product change targeted offer on the Unlimited Cash offer.
  • $300 from Betway Colorado.  While in Denver for our meet up a group of us took advantage of one of the sportsbook sign up bonus offers and I ended up coming out $300 ahead at the end of it.

August 2021

Here is a breakdown of the overall account after depositing the money earned for the month.
  • Balance Previous Month: $6559.35
  • Current Balance: $6976.53
  • Investing Gain/Loss From Previous Month: -$82.82

Not a great month in the stock market but nothing horrible.

Here is a breakdown of how I came to the $500 this month. This was all earned in the previous month or two:

July 2021

Here is a breakdown of the overall account after depositing the money earned for the month.
  • Balance Previous Month: $5919.28
  • Current Balance: $6559.35
  • Investing Gain/Loss From Previous Month: $140.07

I was able to make up the ground I lost last month. This is the 12 month of this experiment, that is right we made it a year already! Man time flies.  In the first year I have an investment gain of $559.35 on a total of $6,000 invested over that time span. I am pretty happy with that return although this year was pretty crazy in the market.

Here is a breakdown of how I came to the $500 this month. This was all earned in the previous month or two:
  • $480 from a Citizens Bank checking account.  I completed this earlier in the year but it takes like 4 months for them to pay out.  The total offer was $600 but I knocked 20% off the top for taxes.
  • $20 from the $800 Brex bonus from spending $1,000 on my card. I still have $295 left over from this offer once I account for potential taxes that I will use to plug holes over the next few months.

June 2021

Here is a breakdown of the overall account after depositing the money earned for the month.
  • Balance Previous Month: $5566.54
  • Current Balance: $5919.28
  • Investing Gain/Loss From Previous Month: $147.26

This month was a bit of a rollercoaster.  It was about $250 worse at one point but started to bounce back towards the end of the month.

Here is a breakdown of how I came to the $500 this month. This was all earned in the previous month or two:
  • $255 from doing two Betterment bank bonuses through Rakuten.  I don’t think these are taxed because it was through a shopping portal but I won’t know till later in the year.  I’ll count the full amount though for the time being.
  • $80 from my wife’s Charles Schwab investment account.  The bonus was for $100 but I will take 20% off the top for taxes, so $80 to the good.
  • $165 from the $800 Brex bonus from spending $1,000 on my card. I still have $315 left over from this offer once I account for potential taxes that I will use to plug holes over the next few months.

May 2021

Here is a breakdown of the overall account after depositing the money earned for the month.
  • Balance Previous Month: $4958.40
  • Current Balance: $5566.54
  • Investing Gain/Loss From Previous Month: $108.14
Here is a breakdown of how I came to the $500 this month. This was all earned in the previous month or two:

April 2021

Here is a breakdown of the overall account after depositing the money earned for the month.
  • Balance Previous Month: $4471.22
  • Current Balance: $4958.40
  • Investing Gain/Loss From Previous Month: $12.82

The stock market had some rough days during March so I am happy that it was just a slight drop overall.

Here is a breakdown of how I came to the $500 this month. This was all earned in the previous month or two:

The rest of the Brex $800 bonus posted too so I will use that to plug holes over the next few months.

March 2021

Here is a breakdown of the overall account after depositing the money earned for the month.
  • Balance Previous Month: $3750.49
  • Current Balance: $4471.22
  • Investing Gain/Loss From Previous Month: $220.73

A nice run for the stocks even with a big dip last week I came out pretty good this month.

Here is a breakdown of how I came to the $500 this month. This was all earned in the previous month or two:

February 2021

Here is a breakdown of the overall account after depositing the money earned for the month.
  • Balance Previous Month: $3266.38
  • Current Balance: $3750.49
  • Investing Gain/Loss From Previous Month: $15.89

Well it was trending up. The account was up $50-$60 most of the month and it took a tumble at the end of last week with all of the market craziness that happened.  If only I had put some GME in there 🤣.

Here is a breakdown of how I came to the $500 this month. This was all earned in the previous month or two:
  • $50 came from the cell phone Amex Offer
  • $100 came from Blue Business Plus $25 statement credits x4.
  • $150 Discover’s 5% categories for 4th quarter of 2020 and 1st quarter of 2021 ($75 each quarter).
  • $200 cashed out from BOA Travel Rewards card via groceries in 2020. I actually did a lot more than this but will sprinkle it in over the next few months to plug whatever holes I have.

January 2021

Here is a breakdown of the overall account after depositing the money earned for the month.
  • Balance Previous Month: $2656.51
  • Current Balance: $3266.38
  • Investing Gain/Loss From Previous Month: $109.87

Another positive month in the market.  My total gain for 2020 was $266.38 which I am pretty happy with since I just started this at the beginning of August.

Here is a breakdown of how I came to the $500 this month. This was all earned in the previous month or two:
  • I was able to turn the $25 Best Buy Amex Offer into a $20 profit by buying and selling a Best Buy gift card.
  • My wife was able to get a $150 Blue Business Plus retention offer via Amex Chat.  This is pure profit since the card has no annual fee.  Who knows why they are giving these out but jump on it if you have a Blue Business Plus card.
  • We took advantage of the two player system for the First Tech referral offer which netted us $200. After accounting for taxes that is $160 to the good.
  • For the remaining $170 I cashed out some Amazon rewards from my Amazon Business Prime card.  I had been making 3% from all of my Best Buy gift card reselling and have built up a little stockpile of rewards / cash back.

 

Paying For College With Credit Card Rewards

December 2020

Here is a breakdown of the overall account after depositing the money earned for the month.
  • Balance Previous Month: $1932.36
  • Current Balance: $2656.51
  • Investing Gain/Loss From Previous Month: $224.15

We finally had a good month in the market. A jump of over $200 from the previous month is always a welcome sight. The gain puts me up $156.51 (6.26%) overall since we started this journey together.

Here is a breakdown of how I came to the $500 this month. This was all earned in the previous month or two:
  • If you remember I still have $140 left over from my Wells Fargo bank account sign up bonus from last month.  So I used that to kick off my earnings.
  • $30 came from the American Express tap to pay promo.  I wasn’t planning on doing this initially but it was so easy.  I did the 3 payments at a CVS self checkout in a few minutes.
  • $80 came from using my Schwab Amex Platinum card to refer her. The offer was for $100 but since referrals are taxed I took 20% off the top.
  • The remaining $250 came from the NorthOne Swagbucks deal.  The offer was for $300 so I still have a $50 head start on next month.  I don’t think this will be issued a 1099 like normal bank bonuses because it came in the form of Swagbucks so I didn’t deduct any for tax purposes.

November 2020

Here is a breakdown of the overall account after depositing the money earned for the month.
  • Balance Previous Month: $1478.29
  • Current Balance: $1932.36
  • Investing Gain/Loss From Previous Month: -$45.93

Another down month on the investments side of things.  That is somewhat to be expected since I started this journey near the peak of the market.  We will continue to plug away and play the long game though.

Here is a breakdown of how I came to the $500 this month. This was all earned in the previous month or two:

October 2020

Here is a breakdown of the overall account after depositing the money earned for the month.
  • Balance Previous Month: $1033.04
  • Current Balance: $1478.29
  • Investing Gain/Loss From Previous Month: -$54.75

The stocks did no fair so well over the previous month.  I lost all of the gains I had made and then some.  Hopefully we get a bounce back in October!  Although with the election playing out I doubt that happens.

Here is a breakdown of how I came to the $500 this month. This was all earned in the previous month:
  • I finally cashed out the $500 bonus from the US Bank Business cash card.

Pretty straightforward this month.  I was able to knock out my goal completely with the US Bank Business cash card’s $500 welcome offer.  Don’t worry next month will be more exotic, I promise.  It will have earnings from September and October in there.

September 2020

Here is a breakdown of the overall account after depositing the money earned for the month.
  • Balance Previous Month: $500
  • Current Balance: $1033.04
  • Investing Gain/Loss From Previous Month: $33.04
Here is a breakdown of how I came to the $500 this month. This was all earned in the previous month:
  • $80 from the Staples Amex Offer x2.  I was able to cash it out at cost by taking advantage of the no fee Visa gift card deals.
  • $35 in Best Buy Rewards.  I was able to cash these out towards a Nintendo Switch purchase.  I have earned them from various Switch and gift card purchases.  Remember that you earn Best Buy rewards on Best Buy gift card purchases but not when you redeem them.  You can also use Best Buy reward certs to buy standard Best Buy gift cards if you are into gift card reselling.
  • $50 from selling two Nintendo Switches above.  I subtracted 20% for taxes from the figures.
  • $160 from Discover savings bonus.  The offer was for $200 and I subtracted 20% for taxes.
  • $23.75 from the Plastiq survey. I value Amazon gift cards at 95% of value.
  • $90 from Whole Foods SoFi 10% back offer.  I was able to turn it into a $90 profit purchasing gift cards.
  • $8.47 from my Top Cash Back payout. I remember when this used to be an exciting email haha, but every little bit helps.
  • $52.78 from Citi DoubleCash.  I cashed out some more from my balance to cover the remaining amount for the month.

August 2020

Here is a breakdown of the overall account after depositing the money earned for the month.
  • Balance Previous Month: $0
  • Current Balance: $500
  • Gain/Loss From Previous Month: $500
Here is a breakdown of how I came to the $500 this month. This was all earned in the previous month:
Details On The Deposit

The SoFi Invest bonus was a targeted offer but it was nice in the fact that you didn’t have to actually invest the money to earn the bonus. You just had to deposit it into your account. For the SoFi Money referral bonuses, I had a few friends and family members sign up.  I earned 3 bonuses but kept two out of the calculations to help offset the tax cost for both bonuses.

The Citi DoubleCash money was earned over the month from various gift card sales that had a net even cost to me. About half of it was from a balance that was already in the account before July as well.  I don’t put a ton of value into ThankYou points so I normally cash out my DoubleCash money versus transferring the points.

For the Nintendo Switch, I was able to sell it for $60 over purchase price on Craigslist.  I took $10 off the top to account for taxes on the sale.  I still have one more to resell this month, which may make it into September’s figures. However, Nintendo has really ramped up production so it is likely this reselling avenue is pretty much over.

Paying For College With Credit Card Rewards – Final Thoughts

Hopefully you enjoy this series and will come back and check on my progress each month.  If you want to do something similar along with me please keep us updated on your progress in the comments.

Remember that a lot of these earnings will take a month or more to manifest themselves in the report.  Sometimes a bank bonus takes 90 days to post or a welcome offer takes a few months to hit the spend on.  That means there are a lot of moving parts and you have to have a lot of irons in the fire so to speak.

If nothing else, hopefully this will give you some ideas of what can be accomplished if you are willing to diversify yourself.  There are a lot of offers out there, in all kinds of of different areas, to take advantage of. And we cover most of them here on Miles to Memories 😊.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Love the idea of converting miles and points into future college payments. I can’t find the part about why you choose the ROTH. How you’re going to get the funds out without penalties? We just charged the fees to the card – rotated depending on which SUB we needed to meet. Some colleges don’t charge processing fees while others do.

  2. Good stuff! I only wish the market itself wasn’t so volatile right now. Feels like we’re on the edge of a precipice, but the Fed keeps on ‘Fed-ing’

    • Very true – I keep waiting for the bottom to drop out. Same with the housing market. Crazy times we are living in.

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