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Will this Raleigh entrepreneur earn rewards on ABC’s ‘Shark Tank’?

On ABC’s “Shark Tank,” Raleigh entrepreneur Jon Hayes pitches RewardStock, an automated travel service that will use your credit card reward points to help you plan your next vacation at a fraction of the cost.
On ABC’s “Shark Tank,” Raleigh entrepreneur Jon Hayes pitches RewardStock, an automated travel service that will use your credit card reward points to help you plan your next vacation at a fraction of the cost. ABC

Want twenty dollar airline tickets to Hawaii? Raleigh entrepreneur Jonathan Hayes enters ABC’s “Shark Tank” on Sunday to pitch a local company that he says can help you get them.

RewardStock is a Cary-based online company that helps users save money on travel by showing them how to earn and use frequent flier miles and credit card points to pay for trips.

It’s the brainchild of Hayes, a former Wall Street investment banker who grew up in Raleigh and attended Leesville High and the North Carolina School of Science and Math. He got the idea for the company after spending three weeks researching how to use credit card points to pay for his honeymoon to the Maldives. He said he ended up paying about $200 for a $40,000 trip.

Not long after that, the Princeton grad quit his New York City job and moved back to Raleigh to start RewardStock with a proprietary algorithm that could do that three weeks’ worth of research in just a few seconds. He got help from local groups Cofounders Capital and Startup Labs.

Hayes appears on “Shark Tank” Sunday to try to convince one of its investors to buy into his company.

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“Shark Tank” judges (L-R) Mark Cuban, Sara Blakely, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner and Barbara Cochran listen as Raleigh entrepreneur Jon Hayes pitches RewardStock. Mitch Haaseth ABC

How RewardStock works

In an interview with The News & Observer this week, Hayes said most people drastically under utilize credit card reward points in terms of how the points are accumulated and how they are used. “Most of us misuse the points and get less value than we could if we knew what we were doing,” Hayes said. “There are so many missed opportunities to earn points right in front of our noses.”

The site charges a $29 per year subscription fee and in exchange, users take advantage of an algorithm that determines the best strategic way to use points to travel where they want to go. It will also recommend the best credit cards, based on the specific trips you want to take. Once you have your points, you can book the trip directly from the site. The site doesn’t deal with other types of rewards, like cash back or gas rewards.

“It’s a personalized strategy custom to your situation and your destination goal,” Hayes said. “It reviews your profile and calculates scenarios where you could combine points across programs to come up with the mathematically best strategy for you. It’s different for each person, very personalized.”

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Being on ‘Shark Tank’

Hayes, who lives in Raleigh with his wife and two daughters, said people often suggest he take RewardStock to “Shark Tank,” a show where a panel of investors decide if they’d like to invest in companies or ideas for companies, but he never took it seriously. But when a casting producer reached out directly, Hayes decided to go for it.

“The experience was very intense,” he said. “It’s not for the faint of heart. But I certainly feel like I was prepared and that I was able to kind of succinctly describe what our objective is as a company for the service we provide.”

He can’t reveal what happens on the show, but he said he recommends it if someone has the opportunity and thinks they could benefit from it. Just steady your nerves, he warns.

“It was a great experience to go through, even though it was probably the most stressful thing I’ve ever done.”

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On ABC’s “Shark Tank,” Raleigh entrepreneur Jon Hayes pitches RewardStock, an automated travel service that will use your credit card reward points to help you plan your next vacation at a fraction of the cost. Mitch Haaseth ABC

Watch ‘Shark Tank’

“Shark Tank” airs at 9 p.m. Sunday on ABC (locally on WTVD).

There is also a watch party on Sunday at American Underground at 201 W Main St. in Durham.

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