Travel Hacking FAQ’s

As a travel hacking newbie, we recognize how hard it is to keep up with all the new vocabulary and rules. Hence, we give you our Travel Hacking FAQs that we hope you refer to often. We will give you a short explanation and link you to our articles that give you a more detailed explanation.

What are the basics of beginning travel hacking?

In a nutshell, it is this:

  • Sign up for a credit card that offers points or miles after you spend a certain amount (called the minimum spend)
  • Reach the minimum spend on that card within a designated time period to receive those bonus points or miles
  • Use those points/miles for free or almost free travel
  • repeat

What is a minimum spend?

Minimum spend is the minimum amount you must put on a credit card to get your bonus. This differs from card to card. We advise putting all expenses that you can on a credit card and not using cash or debit cards. We also advise meeting your minimum spend through normal, everyday spending and not on whims. Do NOT get into credit card debt. We also recommend opening up a new card when you have a big purchase coming up, this will make it a lot easier to hit that minimum spend.

Using a credit card at a grocery store is a smart way to meet minimum spending!

Won’t travel hacking hurt my credit scores?

My credit scores are higher than they were when I started. Both Alex and I and our spouses each have credit scores over 800. This is definitely one of the travel hacking myths. Of all the travel hacking FAQs, this might be the one we get the most! Here are the basics to remember; pay off your card in full and on time each month, and don’t close your oldest cards.

People often wonder if their credit score will go down if they open and close a bunch of credit cards. In reality, we don’t close that many of our cards. We keep ones that don’t have an annual fee or if the benefits outweigh the annual fee. If we don’t find the benefits worth the fee, then we look to downgrade that card to a no annual fee version. If there is no downgrade option then we cancel. You can learn more about whether or not you should cancel a card in this post.

What type of rewards can I get?

There are primarily three types of rewards:

Should I pay an annual fee?

Some credit cards have an annual fee, some don’t. This annual fee can range from about $75 – $550 or more. Usually, the annual fee offers benefits to offset the fee. For example, many hotel credit cards offer a free night every year that you renew the card and pay the annual fee. This more than makes up for the fee. I have stayed at hotels that would cost up to $900/night with a free hotel night certificate.  The first year, when you receive the signup bonus, the annual fee is always worth it. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred has a standard welcome offer of 60,000 points. This is worth a minimum of $750 towards travel. The card has an annual fee of $95 but I will happily pay $95 to get $750+ of travel!

The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota was a great use for my free night certificate!

Should I cancel my credit card once I’ve met my minimum spend?

Definitely not! Remember this travel hacking FAQ – it is super important. Wait until your annual fee posts and then cancel before the fee is due. You want to keep that card for 12 months so your points aren’t clawed back (taken back). Also, check out if you will lose points if you cancel the card. If you will lose points, you can sometimes downgrade your card to a no-fee card to keep your points. Each year when your annual fee comes up you have time to decide whether to keep, downgrade or cancel your card.

How do I decide what credit cards I should get?

This can be a hard choice because there are so many great credit cards with great rewards. We try to keep you updated on the best bonuses so sign up for our newsletter to keep updated. We also have a best offers page that we keep updated with all the best current credit card offers.

I’ve heard about something called the 5/24 rule, what is it?

The Chase 5/24 rule is an unwritten rule from Chase Bank that says if you have opened five or more cards in the last 24 months, you won’t be approved for any Chase cards. This doesn’t just apply to Chase-issued cards, ANY credit card you have opened from any company count towards your 5/24 count. This includes any Amex credit cards, store credit cards, etc. The exception to this is business cards, those do not count towards your Chase 5/24 count. Chase issues some of the very best credit cards with great bonuses.  Hence, we encourage people when starting out to get all the Chase cards they want and then branch out.

Should I add my spouse to my credit card account?

No, being an authorized user on a card also counts towards your Chase 5/24.

How do I stay organized?

We highly recommend using  Travel Freely. It is a free website and app that keeps track of your credit cards. It’ll keep you up to date with your Chase 5/24 count, notify you when your annual fee deadlines are approaching, keep you updated on welcome offer deadlines, and more. It makes organization a breeze!

Can I sign up for a card I’ve already had?

Yes and no. American Express credit cards have a once-in-a-lifetime rule so they are usually a no. That being said occasionally people report getting an offer without that lifetime rule attached. With most of the other cards, you can get it again after you’ve closed it and a certain amount of time has passed. Usually, you need to wait two years between applications.

What card should I sign up for first?

Two great beginner cards are the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Capital One Venture, or Venture X. These offer great rewards and are great choices for beginners. We much prefer the Chase Sapphire Preferred because of the Chase 5/24 rule and because we prefer their transfer partners.

Chase Sapphire Preferred
This card is our favorite beginner card!

 Is it possible to get a business card?

Yes, it is – even with a tiny side gig! We love business cards because they give us an even bigger pool of credit cards to choose from and they don’t count towards our Chase 5/24 count. Read this post about business cards!

Where have you traveled with miles/points?

The best part is that we have been able to fly business class and stay in some amazing hotels! Travel hacking has opened up the world for us!

Thailand is a great place to use points and miles to get to!!

 Is it difficult to find award flights?

The trick is being flexible, especially when traveling internationally. You can’t decide to fly to Europe in two weeks and find award tickets for 4 people. Plan ahead and start looking early for the best results. Here are some ideas on finding award travel.

How do I keep earning more points?

You’ll really earn the most points when you signup for a credit card that has a great welcome offer. You can also earn more points by using the right card for the right purchase so you can maximize your earning potential. Another idea is to use shopping portals. For more detail on all this and some more ideas, check out this post. Our favorite way to earn more points though is to signup for more cards to keep getting those big welcome offers.

Should I use points or cash to book my travel?

This is a totally personal decision. We try to get great value out of our points. If nights or flights are cheap then we use cash. If they are expensive, we use points. At the end of the day, nearly free is nearly free though so we try not to get too hung up on it. We go into more detail on this in this post.

What other advice on travel hacking do you have?

We have a video course where you can learn all about this in greater detail!

Is travel hacking hard?

Five years ago we began our travel hacking journey. We learned from complicated blogs so that’s why we decided to start an easier-to-understand blog. If this grandma and Alex, a busy mom of four, can do it you can too! Jump in, the rewards are off the charts and we have faith in you. We are here to help! Be sure and come back to our Travel Hacking FAQs when you have questions.

Picture of beach and sand

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