The Ten Commandments of Travel Hacking


Travel Hacking has its rewards when you follow the Ten Commandments of Travel Hacking.  Follow these rules and you will rack up more points and be able to travel more often!


1.  Pay Off Credit Cards Monthly

Travel is not free if you are paying interest.  Not paying off your credit cards monthly or paying late can also affect your credit card score.  It is important to have a good score so you can apply for and get approved for more cards.  We want all the points, which means maintaining good credit scores so you can get multiple approvals.  My credit card score has never been as high as it has been since I started travel hacking.  Don’t believe the credit card myths that others tell you.


Credit Cards in hand


2.  Use 2-Player Mode

Get your spouse involved! We never make each other Authorized users. Instead, we refer the other person to the card. In doing we get a referral bonus and the signup bonus twice!  For example, when you sign up, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card hass of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards a standard bonu. If I signup for the card and refer my husband, we’ll have 120,000 Ultimate Rewards, plus I’ll get 15,000 points for referring him!


3.  Meet Minimum Spend

The saddest thing is when we hear someone didn’t get their bonus points because they missed meeting their minimum spending by just a bit. Put everything on that card when you are trying to meet the minimum spend.  We discuss all the items you can pay for by credit card here. To be safe, go over that amount by a couple of hundred dollars. Chase has a tracker that lets, so you know how much you’ve spent so far and when you need to meet your minimum spend. It is super helpful!


4.  Use Organizational Sites

Use sites like Travel Freely and AwardWallet to stay organized. Travel Freely will keep track of all the credit cards you’ve opened, when annual fees are due, and your Chase 5/24 status. Award Wallet will keep track of your point totals from all your loyalty accounts and when those points expire.  They make everything about being an organized travel hacker easier.  I can’t imagine travel hacking without these two sites.


5.  Use a Credit Card for ALL Spending

Quit using cash or debit cards!  You want all the points you can get.  You will often try to meet the minimum spend on one card. On the occasions you aren’t, at least use the card that will get you some points for your purchases.  There are definitely some cards that will get you more points than other cards.  For instance, my American Express Gold Card gives me 4 points per $1 spent on groceries or dining.  I use that card in those instances. Even if you only get 1 or 2 points per $1 spent, it’s better than no points.  It really does all add up! Not sure which card to use? Check out the CardPointers app, it’ll tell you which card is the best to use for a certain purchase.


Use a Credit Card for all your purchases, including groceries!


6.  Review Cards When Annual Fees Post

Always review your cards when the annual fee posts each year.  You have 30 days to decide if you still want to keep your card after the fee posts and before it is due.  Is the annual fee worth it?  Do the benefits outweigh the fee?  I keep most of my hotel cards because the annual fee is less than 1/2 of the free hotel stay for most of them each year.  Travel Freely will let you know ahead of time when your annual fee posts, so you have plenty of time to decide if you want to cancel, keep, or downgrade.


7.  Know Some Basic Credit Card Application Rules

Be familiar with Chase Credit Cards and the 5/24 rule.  Usually, it is best to apply for their cards first.

Know that you can usually receive the bonus on each  American Express Credit Card once. Occasionally, an Amex card comes out with no lifetime rule, which is a nice surprise.

There are also some cards that you can cancel, wait 24 months, apply for, and get the bonus.  I haven’t begun to run out of cards to apply for, and I have earned over 5 million points with my husband and me. Just read the fine print to know the eligibility requirements if you want to sign up for a card you have had previously. The Travel Freely Card Genie is great because it will only recommend cards that you are eligible for.


8.  Know That All Points are Not Created Equal

This is a huge travel hacking commandment: Use points for their maximum earning power!  I could use 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards and get two $500 round-trip tickets domestically.  I could also use 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards and get a $4,000 one-way business class seat in lay-flat seats. What is worth more to you?  If you only plan to travel domestically, then it might be worth doing the first scenario.  I’d rather use my points in the second scenario, where my points are worth more money.

People often think that earning 2% on a credit card is great.  If I spend $3,000 on that card, I would get $60 back.  That is better than nothing.  I prefer to get 40,000-60,000+ points for that $3,000 minimum spend that I can use on a flight from $500 to $6,000.  Use and earn your points wisely.

If you see an offer for 100,000 Hilton Honors Points and another for 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards, your initial thought is that the 100,000 Hilton points seem better. Actually, Hilton points are valued at around 0.5 cents each, but the Ultimate Rewards are valued at 2 cents each.  I can find a reason for both in my portfolio, but, starting out, you might want to concentrate on those worth more.


Hyatt regency Maui couple

Staying at a Hyatt Resort is a great use of your points!


9.  Remember That It Is All About Bonus Points

Getting points for all credit card spending is great.  Remember that the continual adding of bonus points increases your total points for travel.  If I just get 2-4 points for $3,000 spent, I will have 6,000-12,000 points.  If I get bonus points after meeting that $3,000 minimum spend, I will get those points PLUS the bonus!! That could mean 63,000 points! Don’t fall for the common travel hacker misconception that you just need to open one card and put all your spending on that one card.


10.  Do It Again

Another commandment in travel hacking is this:  Do it again.  I continually try to sign up for new cards, meet the minimum spend, collect my bonus points, plan travel, and do it again.


Bottom Line

This is an amazing hobby, but to take it to the next level, you need to follow these 10 Commandments of Travel Hacking.  Please contact us at any time with questions!  Now, where are you planning your next trip?

Bali, Indonesia Beach

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  1. Kite says:

    Thanks a lot for this 10 Commandments, priceless.

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