In 2014 i started dabbling with what those in the “industry” endearingly call travel hacking. To be clear, there is no intense online data breaching or internet fraud. “Hacking” is more of a playful term for hustling the most value possible out the offerings available.
It started for me back in 2013 when i made a whirlwind tour of Latin America over the summer and 3 short roundtrips to Europe for various reasons throughout the year. I racked-up more mileage points than i had every seen before which earned me reward status with United airlines – and i’ve been enjoying the perks ever since: Free checked bags, priority security line and boarding, lounge access on layovers, and of course free upgrades to first class on flights with open seats. But by far the best perk of airline rewards is using miles for other trips!
Over the last 6 months or so i have turned it up a notch. Here is how i got started:
Very lucrative signup bonuses on credit cards with travel rewards offer a whole bunch of airline miles that are a great value – because the card cost you nothing and you will spend the money anyway, even if you use cash or debit as an alternative.
My first card was the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card – not the world’s best card, but at the time i was really loyal to United Airlines and the card has a special promotion. I signed up for this card through a special offer of 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $2,000 on the card in the first 3 months. That’s it – just an application and spending money on the card that i would have otherwise spent whether i had the card or not. Since then i’ve racked up close to 8,000 miles just from using the card. The special offer of 50,000 bonus miles (free round-trip to europe) still exists. Check it out here.
All in all, in the last year i have used these miles to fly domestically 3-4 times, once to Mexico, and 3 one-way flights either to or from Europe. A value of at least $3,000 – depending on airline, cities, and season. And i did it solely by redeeming reward points from previous travel and a single credit card bonus, all without spending a penny more than normal on everyday expenses.
To read more about what I’ve done recently, checkout travel deals and tough decisions.
If you are unsure about this approach, consider these few things.
Disclaimer: (a) These companies – both banks and airlines – would not make these offers available if they weren’t making loads of money from the promotions. There is no reason to hide the fact that myself and so many other travelers are trying to squeeze every last drop of value out of these deals.
(b) Lastly, you can do this without harming your credit. I am currently doing this while maintaining a very impressive credit score for a 24 year old “kid.” That being said, i have also never missed a monthly in-full payment on my cards.
Warning: This is not for everyone. It take discipline to pay off cards at the end of every month to avoid paying interest and actually receive real value for these type of offers. If you struggle in this area or have poor credit, i would consider steering clear. There are plenty of other ways to earn rewards for travel which i will explain in more detail in following posts.
You can start if you really want to.
I know plenty of people who think travel is crazy expensive. This can be true, but if you do your homework and are diligent with your finances, there are many options available to you that you can take advantage of.
Where have you been wanting to go? I hope this can help you get there.
*Graphic by Kevin