I always said I would never open a credit card…

Me and my buddy Jacob sitting on a boat in Brazil eating strawberry-cream cookies, summer 2018

My good friend, Jacob, finally stepped in and explained I needed to open a low-end, no annual fee cashback credit card to get some credit history and then I could apply for the Platinum. I applied for the USAA Cashback card by American Express and began my habit-building journey.

I didn’t grow up with very good money habits. My parents taught me to go out and make money, so I spent a lot of time knocking on doors expanding my recycling and yard work businesses. However, I was never very good at saving my money. In fact, I earned thousands of dollars in high school, and by the time I graduated I had nothing to show for it but a couple longboards and a skimboard.

One of my first budgets in 2017, when I lived on credit card float every month trying to figure out how to change my money habits

This new USAA Cashback card was an opportunity to practice tracking my expenses and get my money habits under control. The card also had a $1,000 limit, which meant that even if it took me a while to figure things out, I couldn’t dig myself that big of a hole.

I busted out the spreadsheets and began tracking my expenses. For months, my meager stipend would last me 3 weeks and then I’d put the last week’s expenses on my card. My paycheck would hit at the end of the month, I’d pay off the card, and the cycle would begin again. It took me about 12 months before I was no longer living on the credit card float. Once I had a few months of no red behind me, I decided I was ready for the big kid credit cards. Although, I still had absolutely no idea what the Amex Platinum would do for me. Which is probably why it took me another two years before I actually opened it…

Loaded “la guagua” with all my stuff and left USAFA in the rearview mirror, and probably could have hit the minimum spend just on gas driving this 1998 F-150 from Colorado Springs to LA😬

In 2019, my brother introduced me to ChooseFI, a podcast that talks about two things: pursuing financial independence and travel hacking. To say I was hooked would be an understatement. I. Was. Obsessed. For the next 8 months I listened to 1,200 hours of personal finance, FI, and travel hacking podcasts. And for the first time in years, I read a book of my own accord.😲

As I was preparing to graduate USAFA in 2020, I realized I was going to have some big purchases coming up. My academy computer was a steaming pile of garbage, and there was going to be a good number of moving expenses coming up with the PCS, so I decided to open my first big boy credit card — the Chase Sapphire Reserve. I hit the minimum spend of $4,000 in 3 months and got my sign up bonus of 50,000 points. Since that day, I’ve been hooked.

After I left the zoo, I got married to my beautiful wife and we have opened 15 cards, earned over 1,500,000 points valued at over $18,000, redeemed another $5,000+ in food/flight/entertainment credits, and we get $4,185 of annual fees waived every year because I’m active duty.

We’ve used travel rewards to go on ultra-luxury vacations in Greece, get cheap hotels for our honeymoon road trip (we PCS’d from Colorado to California 2 days after our wedding), and get flights to visit family in Hawaii, Baltimore, Utah, Colorado, Texas, and California. We’ve flown family members from California to Europe and stayed everywhere from dumpy side-of-the-road budget hotels to 5-star hotels all on points, and we’re just getting started…

My wife, Marisha, and me at the Postojna Caves in Slovenia. Fun fact, Slovenia is our favorite country to visit🐉

We are now stationed in Italy and our family plans to take travel hacking to the next level over the next decade. This website is designed to be a place where I can document everything we learn and share that knowledge with other military families. 

Thanks for joining us on this journey! Send us a message if you want to meet up for gelato 🙂

Cheers!

Jared “Tusi”, Marisha, and Talitha

Fortaleza, Brazil 2018

My name is
Jared Mataitusi
but everyone calls me 
Tusi🙂

I’ve been Active Duty Air Force for 8 years and have fallen in love with the world of points and miles. I’m a die-hard optimizer and want to use everything I’ve learned to help other military members and their families take advantage of the incredible travel opportunities that are available to them.

If you ever want to talk about credit cards, points and miles, financial independence, being in the military, or if you just want to meet up for some gelato, shoot me a message! I love meeting new people and an excuse to get gelato🍨

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