Within the last 2 years I’ve traveled a lot… Much more than I ever expected.
What I’m rambling about today is often referred to as travel hacking and it’s nothing secret, or new. Go ahead, google that term. However, most people aren’t really in the know.
I always get asked “how can you afford to travel so often?” and “What are you doing for work? I wish I had a job where I could travel all the time.”
It’s funny because I am always upfront and tell them exactly how I do it. However, most look at me with 2 expressions.
It’s either the ‘are you freaking nuts’ kind of look, or a ‘please tell me your secrets’ response.
But believe me… it’s more of the first reaction. No one ever believes me.
My answer is that I leverage my incredibly good credit rating to take advantage of multiple credit card offers at a time, usually ones that offer a large amount of frequent flyer points if you meet a certain criteria. This usually means spending a set amount of money in a specified amount of time on the card to receive the offer.
More on this in a second.
In the last 2 years I’ve been to NYC twice, Boston more times than I can count (seriously), LA a few times, Kansas City, and various other places without spending much more than $5-10 roundtrip to cover the flight taxes.
There was one weird time that I was charged $85 roundtrip due to weird taxes that sometimes come with American Airlines travel points (I’ve heard of others dealing with this, as well). I’ve also used points for free hotels, as well.
I first learned about this from Steve Kamb of NerdFitness.com when he traveled the world for 9 months on an absurd amount of money (like less than $500).
He eventually recommended that I take advantage of a British Airways credit card offer that was worth 50,000 Avios(their version of Frequent Flyer miles) upon first purchase, and then an extra 50,000 Avios when you spend like 3k in 90 days, or something.
I can’t really remember the exact offer as it was almost two years ago.
I Was Extremely Skeptical At First
When he first told me about this, I didn’t believe it, but I have a history of being mindful with my credit cards, so I figured I’d give it a shot and see what happens.
Sure enough, after I met the spend requirements, I saw 100k Avios deposited into my account. I coudn’t believe my eyes. This was REAL.
Now, I still haven’t used these points because I’m going to save them for a major trip (perhaps a trip to Europe, or Brazil, or wherever I can use my Avios).
The cool thing is that it will cost me next to nothing.
So, in short, it’s pretty simple.
You find a card with a special offer. It’s usually ‘X’ amount of points as a sign-up bonus, or for spending ‘X’ amount of dollars in a certain period, or a combination of both.
Once you sign up for the card, you just make sure that you hit your spend, and pay your bill on time. Like magic, the points end up in your account.
But Now I Was A Believer
And I continued getting various credit cards, but in a very sporadic, non-strategic manner.
I remember about 18 months ago, I applied for a Southwest offer where I got 50,000 points after spending 3,000 in 90 days.
I actually used those points for 5 one-way flights! A year later, I canceled the card before the annual fee was due, and a few months later, reapplied for the same card, and got the offer AGAIN (this is highly uncommon, but happens).
It wasn’t until a good friend of mine, Andrew Griffin, got heavily involved in this himself, that I began to get more serious about specifically opening up credit card accounts to rack up the most points possible.
I saw him traveling to Turkey, and various places all over the US for nearly free that I started paying more attention.
He even began giving me advice, and consulting me on what cards to get after looking at my credit history. Then he’d make suggestions on what to get, why, and how to make sure I hit my spend, etc.
Here’s Andrew on a ferry ride in Turkey…
He actually spent hours, and hours combing through various info online and off to learn all about to how to get the most points possible.
In fact, I’ll probably be booking a trip to Thailand this fall due to his last recommendation on cards I’m currently using.
Won’t This Hurt My Credit Score?
Not if you’re responsible with credit cards, and do it correctly. Ideally, you’ll not apply for credit cards more than 3-4 times per year.
There’s a big misconception that having a bunch of credit cards will kill your credit score. I’d believe it, but the truth is I have more credit cards open than I can count right now, and my credit score is higher than its ever been.
Here are screenshots from the last 90 days.
March 30th, when I applied for my last batch of cards:
Earlier today (June, 16, 2013) when I was checking my current credit score before I apply for some more cards come July 1st.
So I basically applied for 3 cards at the end of March, hit the spend on all 3 of them, and then my credit score went up…
How To Not Be Dumb With Credit Cards
I’m only throwing this piece out there because credit cards are not for everyone.
In fact, credit card debt is crazy high right now, and it will only continue to rise. If you’re prone to abusing credit cards, this is not for you.
However, if you understand the power of getting to travel for nearly free, and can use them for your regular monthly spending, instead of cash, or debit cards, then this is something yo umight want to look into.
Don’t be dumb by…
- Committing to a spend limit that you absolutely cannot meet. If you only spend $1200/month, but you need to spend an average of $2000/month to hit your goal to get the points, then you’re probably putting yourself into debt. DON’T DO IT.
- Not Paying On Time! This is something that can bite you in the ass in more ways that one. First, it looks bad on you to the banks if you’re consistently late on your payments. Secondly, you’re going to get hit with late charges. Thirdly, if your card charges interest, you will be paying that by letting your balance carry over to the next month.
- Letting it get out of hand. It’s easy to swipe a card… And it’s even been studied – the effects of swiping a card sometimes feels good. No one likes to look at a bill at the end of the month that is way more than they expected because they went on a shopping spree and bought a bunch of shit they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.
Okay, now that’s over.
One more thing – I am not recommending you spend your money in any manner, because I’m not a certified financial person, blah blah blah. You get the point. I’m only showing you how I’ve managed to travel nearly for free the last two years, and how I will continue to do so into the future.
You can do the same, if you’re smart with your cards, and when you’re smart with them, you get more offers.
Here are a few screenshots of what some of these offers look like:
Here is a Barclays card offering 40k bonus miles with $1000 in purchases within 90 days. For some, this would equal a car payment, or 3 months worth of groceries. Whatever, see what I mean? – use the credit for what you’re normally spending money on.
Here are a few screenshots of Chase Business Card offers. I recently took advantage of their 50k bonus points offers, and it’s what will get me to Thailand this fall.
And here’s an offer I got in my email today from Southwest offering 10k bonus points for referring friends and family to apply for a card. This is not that valuable of an offer, but I’m always getting this stuff. Every once in a while, these can be pretty good.
There you have it.
I didn’t go into a lot of the specifics, but I did introduce you to the basics, and if you’re interested, you’ll go figure it out. It’s not hard.
If you’re like all the others who think it’s not real, or takes a lotta work, or whatever, that’s cool – more offers for free travel I can take advantage of. 🙂
– JuiCy –