Former New York investment banker Jonathan Hayes and his then-fiancee had zeroed in on their dream honeymoon spot — the Maldives. With many travel and hotel points to their name, the couple was able to book their entire trip using only rewards.
Travel loyalty pays. However, according to a 2016 study, $48 billion worth of points and airline miles are unredeemed. Often this is because consumers don’t know how to use them, where they’ll help you travel, or whether they have enough to add up to an offer. That’s where Hayes’ startup, RewardStock, comes in.
RewardStock analyzes your reward accounts across credit cards and frequent flyer mile programs to find the best way to use them for your next trip. If you don’t have enough rewards, their team can offer strategies to help you earn the necessary points.
“It cost us almost nothing to do our honeymoon,” says Hayes. “I thought I could create a website that could do the hard part for you, figuring out how you can start with nothing and, in a short period of time, earn all of the frequent flyer miles that you would need to do an incredible vacation like that for super-low cost. A few months after coming back from our honeymoon, I quit my job on Wall Street and decided to become an entrepreneur for the first time.”
After the success of his great honeymoon feat, Hayes moved south in 2014 to Raleigh, NC to jumpstart his startup. His background in finance and as a travel points user helped when building the business model and finding his product’s focus.
“I remember feeling like I was frustrated and unsure about how to approach things, like do I charge a membership fee or not,” says Hayes. “I think every component of how you launch something feels like that’s going to be the thing that the whole business hinges on.”
“Having now been doing this for a couple of years, I think what’s more important than having the perfect plan from the beginning is to be quick and get your product out there, and then be responsive to how users are interacting with it,” says Hayes.
The platform has certainly resonated with customers — they currently have more than 10,000 users that are saving hundreds on their upcoming travel plans, according to Hayes.
While travel points-savvy customers can benefit from the membership-based platform, customers without any previous knowledge can also access the support and deals the RewardStock team finds. The team doesn’t require any financial information or account access to provide you with advice on how to reach your travel goal.
“On the platform, users can search any destination that they might want to go to, and our algorithms will calculate based on their unique profile of monthly expenses, which credit cards they already have, which reward programs they have and how many points they have in each program,” says Hayes.
“The algorithm will figure out the best path for that person to get to that, whatever their destination is, for as little money as possible by using points to pay for as much of that trip as possible,” says Hayes.
The platform charges a small annual membership fee and receives referral fees when customers use credit card recommendations to earn more points.
Hayes has raised two seed rounds, one in late 2015 and one in March 2017, and is currently reaching out to investors for their next round of funding.
Up next, Hayes is launching a sister site specifically geared to honeymoons and couples with points to spend.
“We have a specific interest in trying to help those folks reduce their wedding costs and be more strategic about all the money they’re about to spend on their wedding,” says Hayes. “This way they have the right rewards, so that they can get their honeymoon for almost nothing.”