Frequently we are asked, “How can you guys afford to travel so much?” To be honest we don’t pay for a lot of our travels. Well, in this post we are going to let you in on our secret – Travel Hacking. The goal of this article is to help you kick-start your travels for this year. In reality travel can be quite lucrative if you plan wisely. Ready to start travel hacking yet?
Earning free travel with reward credit cards is the way to go. Take our vacation to Europe last November for example, we are a family of 3 and we traveled for 9 days. We were able to cash in on our miles for free round-trip tickets from Nashville to Europe which were valued at approximately $4000 for all 3 round-trip tickets.
In addition, we did not pay for hotels in most places, as we used our hotel loyalty points instead, which were valued at $250 per night. That left us only a few nights to pay for and our sightseeing and food expenses which weren’t a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. In total we saved about $ 5000. Now that’s a whole lot of savings!! It pays off to be a travel hacker.
Disclosure: Please note that this post has affiliate links and if you apply through our referral links and get qualified, we will earn a few referral points per credit card. If we know of a better offer out there we will link to it.
I know what you are thinking “What if I don’t have miles/points?” or “What if I don’t fly very often?” You would be happy to know that most frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points are earned at home! Yes you read that right! You can earn frequent flyer miles and hotel points right from home. Well we are going to tell you exactly how you can get enough miles and points so you don’t have to pay much for your travels.
Most frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points are earned at home!
The secret is travel hacking using CREDIT CARD OFFERS!! All you need to do is own a few good credit cards that are worth having and use them wisely. By combining our superpowers of travel blogging and brand loyalty point strategy, we want to let you in on our little secret.
Frequent flier miles can actually be useful if you have a strategy and even have some increased degree of flexibility when compared to non-refundable tickets!!
What is Travel Hacking
Table of Contents
- What is Travel Hacking
- Where do I start?
- How did we travel to Europe for (almost) free?
- How can I travel for (almost) free?
- 1.When to begin the process?
- 2. When to apply for the credit card?
- 3. Which card to choose?
- 1. Platinum Delta SkyMiles
- 2. Chase Sapphire Preferred
- 3. Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card
- 4. Gold Delta SkyMiles
- 5. I applied for the credit card, now what?
- 6. How to use my Bonus points to start Travel Hacking?
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Travel hacking is the art of collecting frequent flyer miles and points to travel for free. The good news is that the majority of these miles and points can be earned without you being a frequent traveler. Vik is the travel hacking guru not only for our family but for our friends and relatives as well. He is very good at paying off the balances on time and thus ensuring our credit scores are good.
When your credit score is good, credit card companies send you amazing offers with bonus miles, provided you are members of various airline frequent flier programs. Of course the airline industry wouldn’t be sustainable if everyone flew free all the time and frequent flier points aren’t doled out so generously anymore. So jumping on a good credit card bonus when you see one can be valuable and the easiest way to earn a free ticket. Let’s walk through the steps.
Where do I start?
You can enroll for the airline loyalty program and hotel rewards and wait till you get enough miles/points to get a free ticket or hotel room by being loyal to them, which can take years or you could simply follow our steps to travel for free in as soon as 6 weeks!
- Ensure you have a good credit score.
- Enroll for one of the credit cards offers listed below
- Be willing and capable of paying it off in full every month. There is no point in getting free travel and racking up credit card debt!
- Meet the minimum spending requirement listed on the card.
- Pay it off when the bill is due
- Wait 6 to 8 weeks to receive your sign up bonus miles.
- Book your award travel.
- Congratulations on your first travel hack!
How did we travel to Europe for (almost) free?
By travel hacking of course! We had been saving up to buy a new bed and some furniture for our home. We each applied for the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express card. At that time the Delta card was giving a bonus of 60,000 miles for $1000 spent in the first 3 months. In total we got 120,000 delta miles for buying our furniture!
Similarly, American Airlines Citi AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard had increased their bonus to 60,000 miles with a $3000 spend requirement. Vrithi had around 10,000 miles in her AAdvantage account already and she had applied for the AA card. Now we had about 70,000 American Airlines miles.
Collectively we needed a total of 157,500 miles for all three of us to fly to Europe round-trip.
We had identified Delta as our outbound carrier and American Airlines as our return carrier. Delta Airlines typically has some tickets from North America to Europe for 30K miles + $6-12 in tax. American Airlines has off-peak SAAver awards for 22.5K miles and peak season SAAver awards for 30K + tax (ranging from $48 to $60 city/country dependent) on AA operated flights (note AA flight awards that are operated by British Airways have significantly higher fees). Also note that European departure taxes are higher than US award ticket fees. www.AwardHacker.com is a great resource to check out the mile requirements/fees by loyalty program in one central location.
Collectively we travel hacked using 90,000 Delta SkyMiles for the outbound flights and 67,500 American AAdvantage miles for the return flights. We paid a total of $182 in taxes and fees or an average of $60 per person in addition to these miles. So it wasn’t free but pretty darn close!
Don’t believe us?? Take a look at these booking screenshots
Delta SkyMiles US to Europe Miles only Award requires a minimum of 30K + $5.60-$12.70 in fees
American AAdvantage Europe to US Miles only Award requires a minimum of 22.5K (off-peak) or 30K (shoulder/peak) + approximately $60 in fees per person.
How can I travel for (almost) free?
Planning is very crucial when it comes to travel hacking. You cannot wait till the last-minute and expect to get an award ticket for the peak season. Here are a free pointers to help you.
1.When to begin the process?
Timing is key to availing award tickets for your travels. That being said, it also depends on when you plan on travelling. If you are trying to plan a peak summer Euro trip, I suggest searching award travel inventory 9-12 months in advance. Legacy airlines will typically allow you to book up to 331 days out. We usually plan our travels about 6-9 months in advance, that gives us many options to choose from.
For our non-peak November 2017 Euro trip we booked 2 months in advance. Now add 6-8 weeks to each of those time frames, for the credit card point bonus to be deposited into your account, assuming you meet the spending requirement within the first month.
So in total if you are planning to travel in peak season you may need to apply for your credit card almost a year in advance if you want some amount of flexibility in choosing your travel dates. But if you plan on off-season travel you could get away with applying for your card a few months before your planned travel, just be advised that there may be limited seat availability.
2. When to apply for the credit card?
Apply for one of our recommended credit cards when you already have a big purchase in mind or you have a payment that is coming up in the near future. A good time frame to apply for these credit cards would be 1-2 months before your big planned purchase or tuition expense.
If a new computer, phone or other big-ticket item is in the cards for you in 2018 in the coming 1-2 months, apply now. Since you would have already saved up money in a financially responsible way to buy this item, don’t put it on a debit card or pay cash/check. Choose the right credit card bonus offer, get approved and pay off the balance entirely within the same billing cycle. Fiscal responsibility is the key here as those sky-high credit card interest rates aren’t worth it when you are travel hacking!
3. Which card to choose?
It can be quite overwhelming when it comes to choosing a credit card. Especially if you live in the USA, there are thousands of credit cards and each one has its pros and cons. But below are a few credit cards that we absolutely love and that we have used multiple times to get award tickets. I am going to be writing an entire article on the how to choose a credit card that is suitable for you but for now I do have some AMAZING CREDIT CARD OFFERS !
Think carefully about some of these credit card options as they may just pay your flight over the Atlantic for a Spring/Fall 2018 getaway. And remember you need to apply with our link in order to avail the extra bonus offers. Here are our top suggestions with links to apply!
1. Platinum Delta SkyMiles
- Enjoy a higher bonus of 50,000 Delta Skymiles through our link. (that is enough and more miles for a round-trip ticket from the USA to Europe)
- $100 statement credit after your first purchase.
- Minimum spend is $1000 in the first 3 months.
- Annual fee $195.
- First checked bag is free
- Priority boarding
- HURRY LIMITED TIME OFFER ends 02/28/2018
2. Chase Sapphire Preferred
- 50,000 Bonus points through our link. Normally it is 40,000 bonus points.
- Plus an additional 5000 points when you add an authorized user and they make a purchase.
- This is one of our all time favorite card.
- Can transfer points to a number of airlines and hotels for free.
- Minimum spend is $4000 in the first 3 months.
- $0 annual fee for the first year then $95 thereafter.
3. Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card
- 25,000 Membership rewards points
- $2000 minimum spend in the first 3 months
- These points can be transferred to airlines and hotels for free.
- Annual fee $150
- HURRY LIMITED TIME OFFER ends 02/28/2018
4. Gold Delta SkyMiles
- 40,000 bonus miles with our link, which equals a round trip ticket to Europe (normally 30,000)
- $1000 minimum spend in the first 3 months
- $0 Annual fee for the first year then $95 thereafter
- $50 statement credit
- First checked bag is free on Domestic flights
- All passengers on the same itinerary as you will avail a free checked bag
- Priority boarding
- HURRY LIMITED TIME OFFER ends 02/28/2018
5. Amex EveryDay Credit Card
- 15000 Reward Points
- NO ANNUAL FEE
- $1000 spend requirement in the first 3 months
- Points can be transferred to a many airlines and hotels.
5. I applied for the credit card, now what?
6. How to use my Bonus points to start Travel Hacking?
- Even though your airfare is free, you still need to pay taxes which can range from $5 – $200 depending on the destination and the airline.
- In general the taxes are way lower in the USA, compared to the taxes in Europe.
- Booking a round-trip ticket on the same airline can save you a lot in taxes, especially for flights departing from the USA.
- Use Award Hacker to check how many points you need to get you to and from a destination.
- It really helps if you download the app for the airline that you wish travel with.
- Once you have downloaded the app, you can search for flight availability using miles to and from a destination.
- Make sure you try flexible dates and destinations if you don’t find your desired flight at first!
- Happy Travel Hacking!
Any one of the above card links will allow you to have enough miles for a round-trip ticket to Europe, definitely within North American/Caribbean/Central America and possibly even to parts of Asia! And if you are travelling as a couple each person could apply for one of the cards and you would collectively have enough for your vacation! You can book mileage tickets for not only yourself, but also for family or friends. In a future article, we will share the art of travel hacking Hotel Loyalty cards to pay for your accommodation as well!
Of course as the old saying goes, “You can’t save your cake and eat it too”. So don’t expect to find a low mileage ticket to New York City for New Year’s Eve or to Paris during Fashion Week. But if that’s what you have your heart set on then do it, no regrets! You are the best judge of whether it’s worth it to you. It just may not the best occasion to use points.
So when the chance for your pocketbook to catch a break arises why not take it? Perhaps that savings could be used towards a future trip. And with the thousands of dollars you saved you can create even more memories by experiencing something truly unique and local. Why not pump some of that money into the locally owned businesses. SUSTAINABILITY IN TRAVEL. Catch my drift… Happy Travel Hacking Y’all!