A travel hacker snagged himself $5,000 of 'free' travel by using a credit card buy a $60,000 Tesla

  • Keith Rosso, a writer and editor at the blog Million Mile Secrets, recently bought a Tesla Model 3.
  • Rosso put the entire $58,857 purchase on his credit card using an app called Plastiq, which charges a 2.5% fee.
  • Rosso used his Chase Ink Business Preferred Card, which earned him 180,000 Chase rewards points, equal to $1,800 in cash back or at least $5,000 in airfare, hotels, and rental cars.

Keith Rosso and his wife saved up for over two years to buy a Tesla Model 3.

At a starting price of $35,000, plus customization, Rosso knew it would be "the largest purchase of my life," he recalled in a post on the credit-card rewards blog Million Mile Secrets.

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A parking lot of predominantly new Tesla Model 3 electric vehicles is seen in Richmond, California, U.S. June 22, 2018. Picture taken June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A partially wrapped Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle is seen at a lot in Richmond, California, U.S. June 22, 2018. Picture taken June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A parking lot of predominantly new Tesla Model 3 electric vehicles is seen in Richmond, California, U.S. June 22, 2018. Picture taken June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A parking lot of predominantly new Tesla Model 3 electric vehicles is seen in Richmond, California, U.S. June 22, 2018. Picture taken June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A parking lot of predominantly new Tesla Model 3 electric vehicles is seen in Richmond, California, U.S. June 22, 2018. Picture taken June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A row of new Tesla Model 3 electric vehicles is seen at a parking lot in Richmond, California, U.S. June 22, 2018. Picture taken June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Rows of new Tesla Model 3 electric vehicles are seen in Richmond, California. Picture taken June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A car carrier trailer carries Tesla Model 3 electric sedans, is seen outside the Tesla factory in Fremont, California, U.S. June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A 2018 Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle is shown in this photo illustration taken in Cardiff, California, U.S., June 1, 2018. Picture taken June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The front hood logo on a 2018 Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle is shown in this photo illustration taken in Cardiff, California, U.S., June 1, 2018. Picture taken June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A 2018 Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle is shown in this photo illustration taken in Solana Beach, California, U.S., June 1, 2018. Picture taken June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The wheel of a 2018 Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle is shown in this photo illustration taken in Cardiff, California, U.S., June 1, 2018. Picture taken June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A 2018 Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle is shown in this photo illustration taken in Cardiff, California, U.S., June 1, 2018. Picture taken June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The newly sold registration sticker on a 2018 Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle is shown in this photo illustration taken in Cardiff, California, U.S., June 1, 2018. Picture taken June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The door handle on a 2018 Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle is shown in this photo illustration taken in Cardiff, California, U.S., June 1, 2018. Picture taken June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The logo on a 2018 Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle is shown in Cardiff, California, U.S., in this picture taken June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A 2018 Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle is shown in this photo illustration taken in Cardiff, California, U.S., June 1, 2018. Picture taken June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A 2018 Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle is shown in this photo illustration taken in Cardiff, California, U.S., June 1, 2018. Picture taken June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A 2018 Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle is shown in this photo illustration taken in Cardiff, California, U.S., June 1, 2018. Picture taken June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A 2018 Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle is shown in this photo illustration taken in Cardiff, California, U.S., June 1, 2018. Picture taken June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
The interior of a 2018 Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle is shown in this photo illustration taken in Cardiff, California, U.S., June 1, 2018. Picture taken June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Tesla Model 3s are shown charging in an underground parking lot next to a Tesla store in San Diego,California, U.S., May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A 2018 Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle is shown in this photo illustration taken in Solana Beach, California, U.S., June 1, 2018. Picture taken June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Side view of a bright red Tesla Model 3 automobile from Tesla Motors parked on the street at Santana Row, a luxury outdoor shopping mall in the Silicon Valley, San Jose, California, June 7, 2018. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 06: Tesla cars are displayed at a showroom in the Meatpacking district in Manhattan on June 6, 2018 in New York City. Tesla stock had its best day since November 2015 on Wednesday rising more than 9.5 percent after the company revealed it is nearing its Model 3 weekly production rate. Also, in a vote shareholders backed Elon Musk as chairman and CEO. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A Tesla Motors mass-market Model 3 electric car is seen in this handout picture from Tesla Motors on March 31, 2016. (REUTERS/Tesla Motors/Handout via Reuters)
A Tesla Motors mass-market Model 3 electric car is seen in this handout picture from Tesla Motors on March 31, 2016. (REUTERS/Tesla Motors/Handout via Reuters)
A Tesla Motors mass-market Model 3 electric car is seen in this handout picture from Tesla Motors on March 31, 2016. (REUTERS/Tesla Motors/Handout via Reuters)
A Tesla Motors mass-market Model 3 electric car is seen in this handout picture from Tesla Motors on March 31, 2016. (REUTERS/Tesla Motors/Handout via Reuters)
A Tesla Motors mass-market Model 3 electric car is seen in this handout picture from Tesla Motors on March 31, 2016. (REUTERS/Tesla Motors/Handout via Reuters)
A Tesla Motors mass-market Model 3 electric car is seen in this handout picture from Tesla Motors on March 31, 2016. (REUTERS/Tesla Motors/Handout via Reuters)
Tesla Motors' mass-market Model 3 electric cars are seen in this handout picture from Tesla Motors on March 31, 2016. (REUTERS/Tesla Motors/Handout via Reuters)
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But the California resident was able to walk away with more than a new car. He also scored 180,000 travel rewards points, equal to $1,800 in cash back or $2,250 in airfare, hotels, and rental cars, because he bought the Tesla through an app called Plastiq

Plastiq enables you to pay for almost anything — rent, mortgage payments, tuition, a car — using a credit card. You connect your credit card information and it charges your card for the purchase, plus a 2.5% fee. You decide how you want the money delivered to the individual or company, whether by check, wire transfer, or ACH transfer.

After customization, taxes, and fees, Rosso's Tesla price tag came out to $58,857. Plastiq tacked on a $1,471 fee, bringing the grand total to $60,328. (Eventually he'll get some of that back, thanks to a $7,500 income tax credit from Tesla and a $2,500 rebate for electric car owners in California.)

Rosso put the charge on his Chase Ink Business Preferred Card. Though he only has a $37,000 credit limit, the card has Visa Signature distinction, meaning he can go over his limit. Rosso said he wasn't certain the huge payment would go through, as it's never guaranteed, but he always makes payments on time and has a good credit score. Chase approved the purchase and didn't charge a fee this time.

"As long as you have the money set aside to pay off the entire purchase, the 'spend above your limit' feature can be a great benefit because you earn the valuable rewards without paying interest or any fees," he told Business Insider.

Soon after, just over 180,000 points showed up on Rosso's Chase Ultimate Rewards dashboard. He said they're worth a minimum of $1,800 if he chooses the cash back option, leaving him with a "profit" of about $330 once you subtract the Plastiq fee, but he can get even more value through Chase's travel partners.

Rosso estimates he'll get at least $5,000 worth of travel from the points he racked up buying his Tesla.

"For example, I can transfer these points to Hyatt at 1:1 ratio to book free nights at top-rated hotels like the Park Hyatt Maldives," Rosso wrote on Million Mile Secrets. "A free night at this hotel costs 25,000 Hyatt points. So 180,000 points is more than enough for 7 free nights. Paying cash for a sample 7-night stay I looked at in October 2018 would cost more than $6,100."

Or he could use 160,000 of the points to buy a round-trip Business Class award flight on United, which would sell for nearly $7,400.

Rosso said he's "thrilled" his plan went off without a hitch, but warns that it could be a dangerous financial play to use your credit card for such a large purchase if you don't have the cash on hand.

"My wife and I had money set aside for the Tesla purchase," he wrote. "And as soon as the Plastiq charge hit my credit card statement, I paid it off in full."

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