Travel hacking: what is it?
Travel hacking is the practice of applying for travel credit cards and accumulating credit card points, hotel points, and/or airline miles that may be exchanged for several benefits, including free travel, aircraft upgrades, hotel stays, and transportation.
Many individuals don’t even know where to begin, despite the fact that there are a ton of sophisticated tips, techniques, and hacks available (and we cover many of them in my tutorial on the subject). Because there are so many programs and credit cards available, the procedure appears overwhelming. What card do you receive? How can you be sure you are using all of your points? And how exactly do you exchange them for benefits?
There is a lot here to process.
However, travel hacking is much simpler than it appears. You may start earning points and miles toward free travel right now by simply changing the way you pay for your groceries, petrol, and eating out.
I’ll cover the fundamentals in this Travel Hacking tutorial so you can stop throwing money away and start living the life of your travel fantasies.
Here’s how to get going:
Step 1: Determine your objective(s)
When it comes to travel hacking, the first thing you should do is choose your goal(s). What do you hope to accomplish?
Are you setting money aside for a significant family vacation? Do you only want the occasional free hotel or flight in economy? Or would you want a significant first-class upgrade? Or do you frequently travel and desire benefits like free upgrades and access to lounges?
Think about this for a while; there is no right or incorrect response. You’ll get lost if you immediately get into travel hacking without any planning.
This is necessary since it will enable you to choose the credit cards and spending methods that will move you closer to your goal(s). There are hundreds of different travel credit cards available, and each one has advantages and disadvantages.
For instance, the ideal cards to start with if you are a frequent flyer with American Airlines would be ones that include the AA logo. In this manner, you may boost your point balance and benefit from the benefits offered by such cards (free checked baggage, priority boarding, etc.).
You should apply for the credit cards that earn United or Star Alliance points if you plan to go to Europe on a United partner airline.
Always like a certain hotel chain? Get a card for that specific company.
Get a Chase, Citi, Capital One, or American Express® Card since you can utilize your points with a number of travel providers if all you want to do is spend them anywhere you choose.
You can determine the cards and programs that will bring you there once you’ve decided on your objective or goals.
Step 2: Get a travel credit card
You may start looking for a credit card after you are aware of your objectives and the benefits that matter to you.
A credit card is necessary for travel hacking. Otherwise, you simply cannot get enough points. Here is all the information you need to know about credit cards and why they aren’t as bad as many think.
The finest travel credit cards often include an annual cost, despite the fact that many initial cards are free. However, the first year’s payment for this cost, which can be between $99 and $500, is often waived. If you call and threaten to cancel the card, you may sometimes have it waived in later years. I frequently act in that manner to prevent the fee.
Before applying for a card, keep the following in mind:
- There is no perfect card — each has its pros and cons based on your goals. Don’t listen to blogs touting some card as “the best.”
- Make sure the welcome bonus is attainable (more on that below).
To make travel hacking profitable, keep in mind that you must pay off your monthly charges, so only apply for a card if you can afford to cover your costs each month.
What the perfect card should have is listed below:
The top travel credit cards all provide a large initial bonus. These welcome points will kickstart your account and get you one step closer to receiving a free trip or hotel stay. Welcome bonuses for travel credit cards typically vary from 40,000 to 60,000 points, however they occasionally go as high as 100,000. Cards are fantastic because they provide you an instant balance of tens of thousands of points for little to no effort.
I normally apply for credit cards with a $3,000 minimum spending threshold over the course of three to six months. Although there are techniques to momentarily increase your spending, it is preferable to obtain the bonus through regular everyday expenditure.
It’s a good idea to start small because you don’t want to get stuck with too many cards that you can’t meet the minimum spends because once you get a particular card, you can’t reapply for it. However, you shouldn’t necessarily avoid cards with high minimum spending requirements because they also have significant rewards.
To be eligible for the welcome bonus(es), only apply for a card (or cards) that you can use to make the required minimum purchase(s). (We’ll talk more about the minimal expenditure criteria in the next phase.)
A bonus for spending in a certain area – The majority of credit cards award one point for every dollar spent. You will accumulate points much faster if you do this.
Special travel benefits – Each of these travel credit cards comes with fantastic benefits. Many will grant you a unique elite loyalty status or other benefits.
Low annual fees – Nobody like having to pay a credit card’s annual fee. The finest cards do, however, have yearly fees, so expect to pay something. The charge is worthwhile as long as the benefits you’ll receive make up for it. However, always seek out a credit card with the lowest possible cost.
No international transaction fees – Credit cards provide the greatest currency rates when used abroad, making them an excellent choice. However, it loses its value if you have to pay a charge each time you use the card.
Here is a list of a few travel hacking cards that I believe are worthwhile purchasing to assist you in getting started:
- Chase Freedom Unlimited – This is a straightforward cash-back card that earns 1.5% back on all purchases, with no annual fee. If you don’t have great credit, this is a good one to start with.
- card_name – Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, this is a great choice for new points and miles collectors who are looking for general rewards. There are perks for avid travelers and point bonuses for hotel stays as well.
- Bilt Mastercard – This no-fee card allows you to earn points by paying your rent (1x points, up to 50,000 points per year), making it a must for anyone who rents their home/apartment. You’ll also earn 2x points on travel and 3x points on dining.
Step 3: Earn the welcome bonus
As previously said, earning the welcome bonus is the most crucial step in applying for a new credit card. These deals may be enormous, frequently matching the price of a round-trip ticket.
It would be foolish to pass up the opportunity for a free flight, so before choosing a card, be sure you can fulfill the minimum spending criteria for the welcome bonus. There is no use in signing up at this time if you cannot achieve the spending criterion.
You’ll need to think outside the box if even that doesn’t work.
When you go out to dinner, for instance, pay the tab using your credit card and then have everyone reimburse you. The expense will count against your minimum spending criteria in this manner. Ask any friends or family members who are considering making large purchases whether you can put them on your card so you can earn points. That is an additional simple method for meeting the minimal spend without having to go endless shopping.
Step 4: Maximize your category expenditure
Most credit cards for travel include category benefits. The three most popular ones are restaurants, supermarkets, and petrol stations, but there are many more as well.
Make sure you always use the correct card for every purchase to optimize your rewards.
Put everything on your first card if you only have one to start in order to get the most points.
Step 5: Use your miles and points
It’s time to redeem those points and fulfill your dreams of travel! Depending on your financial circumstances and spending habits, you may have just needed a few months to accumulate adequate savings. It could have taken you a few years. It’s time to benefit from your travel hacking in any case! If you wish to learn about recent Travel or even tips to get them, Move on with us.