Travel Tips: Travel Free With Airline Miles & Credit Card Reward Points
Several years ago I was browsing the wonderful world wide web searching for creative ways to travel for cheap when I stumbled upon a random blog and suddenly found myself winding deep down into a vortex of travel hacking sites. Now if you’re not familiar with travel hacking, don’t trip, I will break it down for you a bit below.
In essence travel hacking is simply finding ways to earn free travel (airfare, hotels, etc) by researching and utilizing the various travel programs offered by banks, credit cards, airlines, hotels and other travel companies. The most utilized and probably the easiest travel hack consists of using credits cards to rack up airline miles or reward points and then spending those miles or points in the most most effective way to maximize their value.
Now, there are two main ways to earn credit card reward points and miles. The first way to earn is to do your regular monthly spending on a credit card that earns miles or points, and then pay off your full balance each month so that you never pay interest charges. Now keep in mind, some credit cards are better than others for different types of spending. Some credit cards offer 2x, 3x or even 5x points/miles on specific categories like dining, entertainment, shopping, etc. Researching which cards are best for each type of spending and then utilizing them properly maximizes how many points/miles you can stack up each month.
The second way to earn points is to sign up for credit cards that have large sign up bonuses. This way yields faster results but is much more involved because it takes regular research of the various credit card sign up bonuses and their changing requirements. Generally, these credit cards have a set spending requirement over a set period of time to receive the bonuses. For example: On cards with larger sign up bonuses it’s common to need to spend $3000-$4000 over the first 3 months to receive your points or miles.
While there is some overlap between cards with bonuses and cards that offer good regular spending perks like 2x points, often the big bonuses aren’t the best cards to use for regular spending. There are some exceptions to this rule like the Chase Sapphire Preferred (apply here to support the blog) which offers both a great signup bonus and solid regular spending perks.
The best way to make sure you’re always getting the most out of your credit card spending is to make sure you stay up on the latest credit card blogs like The Points Guy, Nerd Wallet and Doctor of Credit. Check regularly to see what is currently being offered and how to use your points and miles most effectively to get the most bang for you buck. My favorite online resource for tracking the various credit card signup bonuses and on-going spending perks is Doctor of Credit. They have a regularly updated list of the best bonuses as well as an active travel hacking community that posts super helpful info on getting approved, credit worthiness and lots more.