The Beginner’s Guide To Travel Hacking
I travel quite a bit. A lot of it is paid, but a huge part of it is for free or for very cheap.
A lot of people ask me how I’m paying for the 777 trip and the short answer is “travel hacking.”
What the heck is travel hacking? Well, this post should get you well on your way to getting started.
Picking An Airline
Typically you want to optimize for one or two airlines. Status with one airline is worth more than a few points with a lot of different airlines. Who you optimize for depends on where you’re located and where you’re traveling too (you don’t want to optimize for an Airline if they don’t have a good hub near you).
Often, once you’re familiar with the strategies, you’ll probably pick up miles on airlines here and there, but you should really focus your efforts around one or two airlines at the most.
Here’s how I organized my efforts:
- American Airlines.
Most people agree that these guys have the best loyalty program out there. I’ve been executive platinum (currently platinum) and am very . I’ve flown AA to almost every continent in the world and them & they’re partners are great all over the place (except for British Airways – screw them).
These guys make the list because of the sheer amount of points I’ve acquired with them. I don’t actually like flying them very much, but I have to find out something to do with the 400,000 points that I’ve got in my miles account.
- Southwest / Virgin
I don’t actively accrue miles with these guys, but my brother in law flies for Southwest and I like Virgin for short, west-coast trips. I get points as I go (Southwest has a good Credit Card deal every now & then), but other than that, I don’t worry about them too much.
Sometimes it feels like Delta doesn’t want you to fly them. They just added a revenue spend requirement with their elite status and they’re harder to redeem.
The Best Travel Hacking Credit Cards
Okay, so you want to get into the credit card game? We have our index of credit cards here, but I’ll keep my top 5 recommended cards right here. I use all of these and
My Top 5
Best Personal Card
Chase Business Ink Plus
Signup Bonus: 50k with 5k minimum spend in 3 months
No foreign transaction fees.
5x on office supplies, cell phone, cable & internet services
2x on gas & hotel purchases
I put the majority of my daily business expenses on this card.
Chase Business Ink Bold
Signup Bonus: 50k with 5k minimum spend in 3 months.
This was the first business card that I got when I first started my business in 2012. This is the same card with the same benefits as the Ink Plus, but it’s a charge card. If you’re paying your balance every month, there’s really no difference between the two, but if you do need to carry the balance for a month, you might look at the Plus rather than the bold.
Signup Bonus: 25k (10k signup with 15k bonus with 5k minimum purchase in 6 months).
- Redeemable at SPG properties.
- You can also transfer these to American and get a bonus 5k points for every 20k you transfer.
If you fly American, the bonus points when you transfer can be a huge saver as you get a free 20k points for every 100,000 points you transfer. That adds up over time.
Best Expensive – Citi America
This card gets you into the lounges at American Airlines & partners. It ruins you pretty good. A lounge might seem pointless if you’re a frugal traveler, but pull 48 hour internally over 3 continents more than once a year and you’ll start to find that the lounges and the showers are lifesavers.
There are various strategies out there beyond credit card signups in order to get massive amounts of points & hit your minimum spend with your credit cards.
Here are a few of my favorite ones:
- The Vanilla Card Churn Strategy
- The Paypal Card Churn Strategy
You can also pay many of your bills on your credit car as well as put your rent and even your taxes on your credit card. Hey, who said there’s never an upside to paying your taxes?
There was also the famous “buy money from the Mint” scheme where you’d literally buy money from the US Mint and then turn it into the bank – meanwhile banking all the points for those purchases.
Fluke fares are when airlines accidentally publish fares for much cheaper than they should. They often come with strange routing, but can be well worth it depending on the situation.
Once, I was in the SpotHero offices and there was a fluke fare that got people essentially free fares. Everyone booked them immediately and stopped office work.
I got this ticket to Seychelles in the Indian Ocean for $500. I got this ticket to Abu Dhabi for $277. You just have to know where to look & be prepared to pull the trigger when it matters.
The key with these is being able to decide. If you can do that (remember, you have a 24 hour refund window on all tickets), then you can get some deals of a lifetime.
These fares are just that, flukes and don’t last long once airlines catch onto them and airlines (usually) but not always honor them. Your mileage here may vary, that said, they do happen from time to time.
Follow these twitter accounts for more info on them:
Travel Hacking Websites
Here are some of the travel hacking websites that I keep up with:
You can also subscribe to this newspaper of all my favorite miles sites so you don’t have to check each one individually.
Travel Hacking Resources
- Travel Hack Cartel
- Frequent Flier Master