Six years ago I was introduced to a concept that changed how I thought about my day to day purchases, which ultimately changed the way I operate financially. The concept is simple — accumulate as many credit card and loyalty points to travel as much as you can for as little money as possible. Yes, the concept is simple, but the execution takes 1) time 2) a good credit score 3) a willingness to positively and negatively impact your credit score and 4) a few hundred dollars for credit card fees. If you can check off these four criteria, you can also earn 100s of thousands if not millions of credit card and loyalty points as well.
But, what if you could help alleviate poverty through lending and also earn credit card points at the same time? This scenario sounded like a perfect opportunity, but how safe and complicated would it be to lend and earn points and how is this even possible? A good friend of mine, Paul Weakley, who is also an avid point strategist, introduced me to the concept and was already actively lending through a micro finance company, Kiva.org. Most micro finance companies typically have an additional credit card processing fee when making a loan with a credit card; however, Kiva does not charge a credit card fee because PayPal provides Kiva with free payment processing on all financial transactions. After he walked me through the steps (outlined below), I was ready to “purchase” my first loan.
My first $25 loan I “purchased” was on June 29th, 2013 to a 59 year old man named Jean Baptiste (because I liked his name) from Rwanda who was married and had three children who all went to school. He sold beans and rice and has been doing so for a period of three years to date. With the loan, he would like to buy more beans to sell. The profits from the business will be used for paying school fees for his children.
From that loan on, I began lending $25, $50, then soon, $1,000s once I understood the full lending and repayment process. My wife was soon introduced to the concept, believed in it, and is/was just as hooked as I was to help alleviate poverty and collect credit cards points at the same time.
Let’s walk through the step-by-step process on how to lend through Kiva with credit cards and at the end, we will disclose how many credit card points we’ve accumulated and more specifically the results from Kiva.org in comparison to the average Kiva lender.
In this example below, a Southwest credit card and loyalty account (you can use any credit card and/or loyalty account of your choice that PayPal allows) is used to keep things simple. This step-by-step process was developed by Paul Weakley from whose process I have followed over the years.
Step 1: Memberships (all free except for the southwest credit card annual fee)
(For a complete guide on how to get started with a point strategy read The Points Guy “Beginners Guide”).
Southwest: Signing up for a southwest membership is very easy and FREE. Follow this link and fill out the necessary fields.
Southwest credit card: There are two types of southwest credit cards (business and personal) that can be utilized to help accumulate more points. And, within each business or personal type, there are two options: the Southwest plus or the Southwest premier. Read about the differences here. I would wait for the 50,000 point sign up promotion to get the most out of your cards. Unfortunately, at the time of this post (Nov ’15), there is not a 50k bonus offer, which is why there is not a link here.
Recommended: Google “southwest credit card offer 50000” to see if it’s available.
Step 2: Get started donating with Kiva
After signing up for one or many credit card loyalty program memberships, the first step is to start donating. Several years back, there was a website called KivaLens.org that allowed you to specify the type of loan you are willing to make based on ratings and criteria you determine. Upon writing this article (Nov 2015), KivaLens.org has changed drastically and is a little more confusing to navigate. You can use KivaLens.org or Kiva.org (specifically here ) to find loans still. The majority of the loans I lend are for 6-month or less group loans through lenders with at least a 4.5 rating. Sometimes you have to watch KivaLens or Kiva.org for several days or weeks before the good loans (short duration, high rating) become available. When you see a loan with the criteria you specified, I recommend donating more than the minimum of $25… it is very difficult to donate thousands of dollars in $25 intervals (but test small first 😉 ). Remember, the main criteria that matter are: Loan length (6 months), lender rating (4-4.5), and type (I tend to choose group loans in Latin America since they pay back the fastest) and default rating (<1).
To begin finding a loan and using these settings, go to kiva.org > scroll to the bottom left to find “Ready? Find a loan” button.
Scroll down until you find the “Advanced option” button found on this page, http://www.kiva.org/lend?sortBy=repaymentTerm
Adjust the advanced setting as follows:
Find a loan/s that match your advanced setting and continue with your “basket”. MAKE SURE YOU CHANGE ANY “OPTIONAL DONATION TO KIVA’S OPERATING EXPENSES TO $0 – You will not get this money back from the loan.
You will then get another “review page” where you hit “Pay now”. You will then get to choose how you are going to pay for the loans.
Log-in to your PayPal account.
Hit “change” your method of payment from your bank “instant transfer” to choose a credit card that you have linked. Once again, do not choose your registered bank account – this will be the default.
Pick which credit card you will use and continue to payment and submit payment. You will then receive a confirmation email.
Make sure your Kiva Available Credit is always $0.00. If you have remaining deposited funds, donate it.
Step 3: Wait
The fastest you could possibly see some of your money back is a month. You have to wait for the loan to mature before you get it back. Remember, you will have to donate consistently every month before your returns start equaling your investments. More details are listed on ‘withdrawing’ in the steps below.
Step 4: Withdraw your funds from Kiva
This is an important step in the process. Once you have a balance (from repayments) in your Kiva account, simply withdraw your funds to PayPal. Never relend your Kiva balance. If you do, you will receive 0 credit card points on that specific loan/s. Always withdraw your Kiva balance to PayPal.
Step 4: Withdraw your funds from PayPal
Kiva’s withdrawals are not very quick. Let me repeat this… Kiva’s withdrawal process is slow. After a week or two, your funds will appear in your PayPal account and you can withdraw them from there into your bank account. The withdrawal process from PayPal to your banking account only takes 3-4 days at max.
Once you’ve completed step 4, you are all finished with the lending process. Start back up at step 2 and go find more loans!
Remember this is not a guaranteed, risk-free strategy. People, including myself have lost money from following these steps.
The section everyone cares about….Statistics
Over the years of lending on Kiva and leveraging credit card offers (i.e. 50k sign-up bonus for a Southwest credit card), the Wandering Wheelers have earned over 1,000,000 points. Below you will see two different charts of statistics. The first one, figure 1, is purely Kiva statistics and the second one, figure 2, is all of the credit cards we have signed-up for over the last 6 years + bonus offers + Kiva points.
Figure1: We still have outstanding loans, which is why the “total amount lent” – “total amount repaid” does NOT equal “total amount lost”.
Accumulating credit card points and helping alleviate poverty at the same time was definitely a win win. While we lost over $1,000 due to defaulted loans or currency exchange losses, we were able to help a lot of families and groups with that lost money.
BONUS: If this article excites you about getting into the point collecting game, follow some of my quick tips and read and follow some of the best in the business below. If you have a great way to earn extra points, let us know in the comments!
Quick personal tips to get started, but highly recommend visiting, The Points Guy “Beginners Guide”).
- Start reading and learning from some of the best in the credit card point business (see recommendations below).
- Decide which airlines and hotels are your favorite and leverage their credit cards first
- Wait for a sign-up promotion for your favorite airline and/or hotel (from step 2)
- Buy EVERYTHING on your credit card/s (gift cards, gas, groceries, gifts, etc.)
- Pay off your credit card bills fully every month so you aren’t losing money on interest – It’s not worth it!
- Make sure you spend the minimum threshold to ensure you will get the credit card sign-up bonuses
- Look for additional promotions within your loyalty programs
- Volunteer to pay for large meals with your friends and have them pay you back in cash (same for events, drinks, trips, etc.)
- Overtime, see your points grow
Read and follow some of the best point collectors in the business + a point collector’s forum.