Skip to content

I Swam With Humpback Whales — Business Success Story

July 19, 2018
6 min read
Humpback whale
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

Eric Stanton has a unique relationship with the pool repair and construction sub-contractors he hires for his business, Stanton Pools: He indirectly pays them with his business credit card.

Since his vendors don't actually accept credit cards, Stanton arranged to compensate them by paying down the account balances they accrue for their supplies.

"They'll send me an invoice for $20,000. I'll go to my local supplier, say, 'Here's my credit card, I'd like to put $20,000 down on my sub-contractors' account because I know they have a balance outstanding," Stanton says. "That pays invoice X, Y, Z, 1, 2, 3."

Negotiating with his contractors to accept payment in this manner allows Stanton to earn hundreds of thousands of more credit card miles in a year than his business normally would.

And those miles, earned exclusively with the Capital One Spark Miles for Business card, have allowed Stanton and his wife, Megan, to take some amazing trips, including a pre-kids "bucket list" experience last summer: Swimming with humpback whales in Tonga, an island chain near Fiji. The information for the Capital One Spark Miles for Business has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

A Family Business

Stanton got his start doing pool construction in Orange County, California, with his uncle and a friend of his. Over time, he thought to start his own pool company and went full-time five years ago. Today, Stanton Pools services about 250 pools a week in Ventura County and completes approximately 100 remodeling jobs a year. His firm, which relies solely on vendors and independent contractors, averages sales of between $1 million and $1.5 million annually.

Credit cards "are an essential part" of his business, Stanton says. "We use them for pay for everything from job materials for replastering a pool to advertising our weekly cleaning service on Google, almost entirely with our Capital One Spark miles rewards card."

"Earning more miles has definitely been a strong motivation to keep the business growing and thriving," he says.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Approximate Annual Spend

Based on Stanton's 2017 miles' accumulation, his annual credit card spend is roughly $400,000.

Credit Cards Used

Stanton says his firm uses Spark Miles "because almost none of our spending is at the types of retailers for which business credit cards normally offer higher rewards" like office supply stores or for business travel. That may not be the best choice for you depending on how your business expenses break down, but it certainly seems to be working for him.

"It gives us 2 (miles) for every dollar spent," Stanton says. "A lot of these other cards, sometimes they'll give you 3 (points), but they limit it to some very specific purchases."

Spark Miles, like the Capital One Spark Cash for Business, is a fixed-rate rewards card, that offers essentially the same return. The only major difference is how you collect your rewards — either as cash back or to pay for trips.

"We don't need the cash back right now," Stanton says. "You know, we're in a good position. It forces us to use it for travel."

Stanton also has taken advantage of some of the card's perks, including its lost luggage reimbursement benefit, which came in handy after one reward trip. Spark Miles comes with Visa Signature Business benefits, including luggage insurance, which covers up to $3,000 worth of checked or carry-on luggage that is either lost or stolen.

Points Earned

When you put as much business spend on credit cards as Stanton does, miles quickly add up. Stanton estimates his business spending earned more than 800,000 miles in 2017. That doesn't include a welcome bonus, since he signed up for the card several years ago.

Spark Miles currently comes with a 50,000-mile welcome bonus after you meet the $4,500 minimum spending requirement within three months. You can use the miles worth $500 to book new travel directly through Capital One or to erase a previous travel purchase made within the last 90 days at a value of 1 cent per mile. It charges a $95 annual fee, waived the first year.

Points Redemptions

An even simpler way to redeem miles from the card is to use the “Purchase Eraser” tool to receive a credit for any travel you booked with Spark Miles within 90 days of purchase. Capital One's broad definition of travel-related purchases includes airlines, hotels, rail lines, car rental agencies, limousine services, bus lines, cruise lines, taxi cabs, travel agents and time shares.

The Stantons have redeemed both ways. "Most of the time we have enough miles banked to pay for things with the miles," Megan Stanton says.

That means the airfare on nearly every vacation — which typically includes two to three international trips and one or two domestic trips annually — is free. The couple, for example, has used miles to travel to Mexico, the South Pacific and numerous European countries.

Because the couple tends to look for the best flight on which to use their rewards, they aren't loyal to one particular airline and haven't achieved elite status. They also never fly first class.


(Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)
Business spend has unlocked adventures like New Year's in Iceland. (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

But the couple does get to travel to some great places and enjoy interesting experiences.

"Last year for Christmas, we Googled the 'best place in the world to celebrate New Year's.' And believe it or not one of the best places in the world is Iceland," Stanton says.

The couple chose this spot on the map because of its intense fireworks celebrations to mark the turn of the calendar. Trips like this are a primary reason why the Stantons say they're thrilled to be able to turn their normal business expenses into great travel memories. Eric Stanton suggests other business owners should look for ways to maximize their earning opportunities.

"I think it just really comes down to being creative. This is just a huge win (paying for vendor expenses)," Stanton says. "I haven't heard of anyone being able to use this tactic."

Featured image by Getty Images