10 Beginning Steps to Travel Hacking


Can you even believe that it is 2020? What are your goals for the New Year? Let’s make a goal for travel hacking. How about this year you really learn to travel hack using our 10 beginning steps?  Quit procrastinating and start planning some nearly free travel for the coming year!


1. What is Travel Hacking

Travel Hacking is applying for a credit card that offers bonus points if you spend a certain amount of money on the credit card in a certain amount of time.  Those bonus points are then used for buying an airline ticket or for a hotel stay.  The idea is to do this over and over again with different credit cards and end up with a free trip(s) every year.  For example, a credit card offers you 60,000 points if you spend $3,000 on that card in 3 months.  Those 60,000 points are the bonus points you are after in travel hacking.


2. Plan a Trip

Before you start applying for cards it is best to plan where you want to go and then get the cards that will get you that particular trip for free. Your destination may affect which hotel you stay at or the airline you fly. You don’t want to sign up for a hotel card only to find out that where you have decided to go doesn’t have a hotel there, or open an airline card to find that another airline offers flights to that same destination for fewer points. Having a plan ahead of time can save you time, points, and money.

If you don’t plan your destination ahead of time then we recommend flexible reward travel cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred or American Express Gold Card. These cards can be used on multiple airlines or hotels.


3. Apply for Credit Cards

Now that you have planned where you would like to go, it is time to figure out which cards will get you that trip for free. We can help you with this step, reach out to us anytime for a free credit card consultation. Apply for each card one at a time. After you meet the minimum spend on one card, move on to the next one.

Use your new credit card you are trying to get bonus points on by making purchases through your everyday spending.  Quit using a debit card or cash, use a credit card whenever you can.


Annual Fees

Most credit cards come with annual fees.  These are totally worth the cost of the credit card, in most instances, and certainly worth it for the bonus that comes when you meet the bonus offer requirements.  Once annual fees post the second year, you have 30 days to decide if you want to keep the card. Most hotel credit cards offer a free night on your card anniversary if you pay the annual fee.  The cost of the card is usually less than half the cost of the free night so I keep those cards.  I may cancel credit cards that don’t offer me value after the first year. Remember, it is that big bonus that we are after! You can read more here about whether you should keep, cancel, or downgrade your card after the first year.


4. Minimum Spend

This is the amount you must spend on your new credit card to get your bonus points. It really is not hard to meet that amount when you are paying for the following items on your new card:

  • Groceries, Dining Out, Entertainment
  • Phone bills
  • Utilities
  • Internet and Cable
  • Car Insurance
  • Gas
  • Memberships and Subscriptions
  • Medical Expenses
  • Gifts
  • Gift Cards
  • Prepay for upcoming travel
  • Business expenses
  • Income taxes, property taxes

You can see how easy it is to meet that minimum spend in this article. Remember, don’t spend extra on your card, just pay for normal expenses with your credit card instead of cash, check, or debit card.


5. 2-Player Mode

An important part of getting these bonuses quickly is to never sign up together on a card as a couple.  You want to have more points or miles for travel.  We call this two-player mode, where one person signs up for the card, you meet the minimum spend and get the bonus, and the spouse or partner signs up for the same or different card, and you repeat meeting the minimum spend and getting the bonus. You can often refer your partner for the same card and receive referral points. We love it when we can do this because that just means more points for travel!


6.  Personal vs. Business Credit Cards

Don’t forget that you can also apply for business cards if you have a side gig or business.  This helps you receive even more bonus points. It may be easier to qualify for a business card than you think.  We have business cards because we write this blog. Other side gigs like babysitting, photography, dog walking, eBay sales, etc. qualify for business cards as well. You don’t need a business license to apply for a business card or even an EIN number (although they are easy to get online). You can apply as a sole proprietor using your social security number. Being able to get points from both personal and business cards can really drive up your points total.


7. Credit Scores

It is important to always pay off your credit cards each month or travel is not free.  People worry that opening multiple credit cards will affect their credit scores.  Our credit scores are higher since we started travel hacking than before we travel hacked. You can read some of the myths about credit card scores here. The most damaging thing you can do with your credit score is to not pay your bills on time.


8. Stay Organized

We have found that by using Travel Freely and AwardWallet we can keep ourselves organized with little work.  They do all the work for us and help us know how many points we have, the expiration dates of our points, when annual fees are due, and the best time to apply for a new card.

The only other organization we do is to change our automatic payments to credit card bills depending on what card we are currently working on. This may take 30 minutes a month but is totally worth it for the money we save on our travels! We are always surprised by people who say they don’t have time to travel hack because we spend so little time on it compared to the results it gets. Every time I lay down in those lie-flat business seats after a gourmet meal and sleep myself to my destination, I am so glad I found this amazing hobby!


9. Book Your Trip with Points

Now comes the fun part! Let’s book the cheapest vacation you’ve ever gone on. Points for airline tickets and hotel stays are possible.  We have traveled to Maui, Kauai, Greece, Italy, Vietnam, Dubai, Thailand, and more with points and you can too! Look at each of our guides to see how we did it or look at our Reader Success Stories to see how our readers are traveling with points.

Be sure and read our post on How to Plan Your Trip and use Juicy Miles to help find the best point redemption for your points. We are always available to help you with this too!


10.  Repeat

Our last step to beginning travel hacking is to repeat what you’ve done previously! The bonus points are what make your point balance really increase.  A travel hacker keeps applying for new cards once they have met the minimum spend on a card. It is really a process of rinse and repeat.  Every time I get close to meeting the minimum spend on one card, I look for another card to apply for. With this plan, I have earned over 3 million points and have enjoyed amazing nearly free travel!


Bottom Line

Let 2020 be the year you really embrace the hobby of travel hacking.  Follow our 10 steps for beginning travel hacking and start some amazing travel. Remember, we are always here to help you. We were once beginners too and our goal is to help you earn points and travel the world too with our beginning steps to travel hacking!



Cottages on water in Tahiti

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