October 1st came and went, which means many FPMD readers are gearing up for interviews. No matter what your chosen specialty, chances are good this will be an exhausting and expensive process for many of you. Here are a few money saving tips to help you save on those interview trips.
Often the most expensive piece of the interview puzzle. There will be many medical students and residents jetting across the country this winter. Let me share with you my approach to saving money on flights.
Some of you may be lucky enough to have housing provided by the interviewing institution, but most will have to find their own accommodations. Here are some ways you can save on your interview stay:
- AirBNB - By far the best way to save $ on your stay, AirBNB is an online marketplace where private individuals list their apartment, condo, or house for rent. Of course, you would have to be comfortable staying in someone else's house. I personally have used AirBNB for stays in Chicago and Toronto - both were great experiences.
- Hotel Tonight (HT) - If you want the traditional hotel experience, then you should try out HT. HT partners with hotels to rent out unsold rooms at discounted rates. Sign up with my referral code BLIU7 for $25 off your first booking.
- Shack up with a buddy - OK so this isn't all that sexy, but if you know someone else heading to the same interview, it may be worth the inconvenience to split the cost of a hotel room or an AirBNB.
Getting around couldn't be any easier these days with the likes of Uber and Lyft. But if you want the freedom of renting your own car, I recommend AutoSlash.com. AutoSlash is unique as it books you a rental car like any other booking site, BUT THEN it continuously monitors your booking and rebooks your reservation if they find a lower price! I used AutoSlash for my U of Hawaii interview and was able to score a 4 day rental for $40!
Coordinate Your interview Schedule
It goes without saying that you should always try to schedule interviews in close geographic areas within a short time of one another. But when that doesn't work out, don't be afraid to ask for a schedule change. For some reason, this is a sticking point for a lot of medical students I've spoken with. I get it - you don't want to inconvenience your potential future employer by asking for a schedule change. But sometimes this can be a difference of hundreds, even over a thousand dollars! The program may say no, but at least you tried.
Leverage your connections
Do you have a friend or family member who seemingly have an infinite supply of frequent flyer miles and hotel reward points? It may be time to call in a favor. For example, my best friend works in the IT consulting industry and had racked up hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles. When it came time for my U of Hawaii interview, he sold me those points at a 50% discount - I paid $350 for a round trip flight from St. Louis to Honolulu!
Take advantage of credit card rewards
Normally I would be the last person to encourage you to take on more debt, but credit card sign-up bonuses are at an all-time high and your upcoming interview expenses combine for the perfect storm - Yep, you should get the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Here is why:
- Yes the $450 annual fee sounds ridiculous at first, but...
- $300 of your travel purchases (e.g. flight tickets) are reimbursed annually.
- Up to $100 reimbursement when you apply for Global Entry or TSA Precheck using your card.
- 100,000 bonus points!!! (When you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months). To give you an idea of how much those points are worth, I was able to redeem 80,000 pts for a $7,000 flight to China.
- Access to 950+ airport lounges through Priority Pass and many more benefits...
Keep everything organized
The final tip I have for you has more to do with saving stress than saving money - to have a method of keeping all of the individual puzzle pieces organized. My favorite is Kayak Trips - a FREE trip organizer. Once you sign up for a free account, just forward all your booking confirmation emails (flight tickets, hotel books, rental card confirmations etc.) to firstname.lastname@example.org and they will organize everything into an easy and intuitive format. Other similar apps include TripIt and Google Trips.