Last week, my husband and I enjoyed some kid free time in one of our favorite places, Miami. The best part of it all (other than it being kid free, did I mention that already?), is that we went for practically free, only $22!. How you ask? Through a method called travel hacking.
Travel hacking is the art of collecting frequent flyer miles and points to travel for free by opening up credit cards to get bonus sign on offers. The key to travel hacking is paying off the credit cards in full every month and spending until you reach the bonus threshold for that credit card. Once you get the bonus points, you move on to the next credit card and repeat the process. Some people even open up multiple credit cards at once which gets you more points quicker.
If you read my blog and follow me on Instagram, you already know that we are completely debt free besides our mortgage and the credit card debt we accumulate and pay off at the end of the month. I have always used our credit cards for most of our purchases. At one time, the points on my main credit card were worth over $1,000 in cash back or travel, so officially getting into travel hacking was a no brainer for us to try. Why not travel for free based on the everyday purchases we make?
There are many ways to go about travel hacking, you can open one credit card at a time and charge what you normally would on the new card(s) or do something called manufacture spending, the process of purchasing gift cards or money orders to rack up points then liquidating them to pay the credit card off. I just stick to opening one credit card at a time and go about my normal spending. Since 90% of our purchases and spending occurs on credit, we hit the minimum spend requirements for our bonus points well within the allotted time the credit card gives, usually 2- 3 months.
Since starting in March, we are on our 4th credit card using this method. As a result, we were able to book our 4 year wedding anniversary trip to Miami. For the 4 day 3 night trip from NY to Miami we only paid $22.50 out of pocket to airline fees and would have paid $90 for the hotel’s daily concierge charge if the hotel did not waive the fee for us at check in (both fees were not covered by travel points). We otherwise would have spent a couple thousands of dollars to take this trip or wouldn’t have planned a trip at all.
Of course, travel hacking isn’t for everyone. If you already have tons of credit card debt and have a problem with over spending, then travel hacking is not for you. This only works if you are able to pay off the credit card in full every month to avoid the interest rate charges and fees. It’s really easy to overspend on a credit card since you don’t see the money leave your checking account or wallet right away. I was once guilty of this before I started to budget and use the YNAB (You Need A Budget) app. I would just spend on my credit card without any regard to where the money was going. At the end of the month, I would always be surprised by how big my credit card balance was.
If you can be responsible with a credit card in regards to spending and paying it off on a monthly basis then travel hacking is a smart way to travel for free and earn money for your everyday spending.
As mentioned, I use the YNAB app to budget and track our spending on an ongoing basis. This insures we don’t overspend in our budget categories. Right now, I am “spending” towards getting us a free flight and hotel to New Orleans for a wedding this Fall. And while some usually reserve their travel hacking for more exotic and exciting international locations, for us, with 2 young children, we rather take shorter trips and keep it simple. Next year, my goals are to get at least one family trip and another getaway for just my husband and I by using credit card points.
Honestly, travel hacking is one of the easiest things I have done in regards to revamping our financial plan. We get to travel for free and can use the money otherwise set aside for travel towards our other financial goals.
If you are interested in learning more about travel hacking, check out Travel Miles 101 which offers you a free course on how to get started (this is not a paid for sponsorship, I really just like the simplicity and step by step guidance of this course).
If you have tried travel hacking before, please share your experiences below in the comments. Where were you able to travel for free?