It’s no secret that medical school is expensive. Most people realize this long before starting medical school, but one of the unforeseen financial stresses is the countless roundtrip flights one must purchase during those four years. In addition to flights home for holiday vacations, there are the flights for specialty conferences, research-related trips and the ridiculous number of flights one purchases during interview season.
Last October, I chose to attend the ASA annual meeting in Boston. It was one of the most influential and impactful activities in my medical school career. I can’t imagine having not attended this conference. The connections, experiences and education I had are irreplaceable. That being said, I know many students who were unable to attend primarily due to financial restraints.
It is obvious why students find it hard to justify the cost of these trips. When considering the 6–8% cost of loans most students use to afford these flights, it essentially doubles the true cost.
I wanted to quickly share how I have flown 11 round trip flights since the start of medical school and have yet to pay for one simply by using credit card sign-on bonuses. There are countless travel reward credit cards that will award anywhere between 50k–100k flight miles to sign up for their card. The caveat is that they require you to spend $1,000–$3,000 within three months in order to be awarded their sign-on bonus. I’ve signed up for three cards at three different times during medical school and have easily hit the spending limits. Between school supplies, board prep materials, board registration fees and various other expenses, it is pretty simple to hit the spending limits if you are strategic about it. Here are my tips to remember when taking advantage of these offers:
1) Don’ t buy things you don’ t need to meet the spending limits. Be strategic and efficient in your spending so you aren’t financially stretching to reach your spending limit.
2) The big expenses in medical school shouldn’t go to waste. If you know you are going to be spending $500 on board prep materials and $1,000+ on board registration fees, then get a card that will reward you for that spending.
3) Pay your card off each month. This is the most important rule. As soon as you let even one cent of interest accrue, you are doing yourself a disservice. Be disciplined!
4) The cards that have the best rewards may have a yearly fee. If they do, it is fine to cancel them before you’ve had it for one year.
It should be noted that I have no financial gain from writing this article. I have just benefited tremendously from this advice. I hope these tips can help more students make it to San Francisco for ANESTHESIOLOGY 2018 and lighten the financial burden of other medical school-related travel expenses.