March 26, 2023

Rows of seats in an airplane
Posted: 2/23/23 | February twenty third, 2023

I’m an enormous fan of journey hacking. It’s reworked my travels and saved me hundreds of {dollars} through the years.

Journey hacking is the artwork of signing up for journey bank cards and amassing factors and miles which you could money in without cost flights, flight upgrades, lodge stays, and extra — all with none further spending. In brief, it’s a strategy to get extra for much less.

Over time, I’ve loved numerous free upgrades, free flights, free lodge stays, and different perks — all with none further spending. Journey hacking has helped open the world to me, so I’m an enormous advocate for it, as I’ve seen what a distinction it’s made in my travels.

And, whereas one of the best playing cards and perks are within the US, journey hacking is out there all world wide too (Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe all have journey hacking choices lately).

Since I’ve been journey hacking for years, I’ve talked with numerous individuals about enjoying the points-and-miles recreation. I’ve additionally seen tons of newbies make numerous errors — errors that impression their means to journey without cost (or at the least for affordable).

Listed below are the most important journey hacking errors that I see individuals making to be able to keep away from them, save your factors and miles, and make your journey greenback go additional:

1. Not Beginning at All

Once I ask most individuals why they don’t journey hack, they simply shrug their shoulders and say, “I don’t know. Appears onerous, I suppose.”

The largest cause that individuals don’t begin journey hacking is that they assume it’s too sophisticated, it’s just for individuals who journey usually (or are massive spenders), or that it’s a rip-off.

However side-stepping the points-and-miles recreation completely is the most important mistake you might make. It’s akin to saying no to free cash. In the event you repay your bank card every month, you’re shedding out for those who aren’t incomes factors and miles, that are merely perks that you just get for being good about your spending.

2. Not Having a Aim

A stunning view at a nice resort by an infinity pool overseas
Earlier than you join your first card, a very powerful factor to do is make a objective. Take into consideration the journey you need to take, the place you need to keep, and the way you need to get there. Then get the journey bank cards that may enable you to get there.

With out making a objective, you’ll do not know what card (or playing cards) are finest for you, as every presents totally different advantages that may match totally different existence, budgets, and journey objectives.

Bear in mind: there isn’t any excellent card. There may be solely the perfect card for you.

Are you interested by loyalty to a model, free rewards, or avoiding charges? Would you like free flights and/or lodge stays? Is elite standing a very powerful perk for you?

In the event you simply need factors to spend wherever you select, get playing cards with transferable factors (Chase, Amex, Citi, and Capital One are the principle examples of those) as a result of you should utilize their factors with quite a lot of journey firms. They every have their very own rewards packages and factors that may be transferred to a number of airways or lodge companions or used to guide journey straight by means of their very own journey portal web sites.

Decide your objective(s) after which discover the playing cards that match it/them, in addition to your spending habits.

3. Not Getting Playing cards with an Annual Price

Relating to selecting a journey bank card, many individuals balk at excessive bank card charges, which might generally be a whole bunch of {dollars} per 12 months. Absolutely the bank card firms are simply taking your cash, proper?

Not precisely.

Whereas it’s true that you just’ll should determine whether or not playing cards with larger charges are price it for you, playing cards with annual charges are normally a lot better than no-fee playing cards: they provide extra worth, higher bonus classes (so you may accumulate factors sooner), and different perks, resembling higher journey safety and entry to particular presents. For me, even the playing cards with the very best annual charges are price it, as I’ve saved more cash on journey than I’ve ever spent on charges.

However you don’t should go for the playing cards with the very best annual charges proper off the bat. There are numerous “starter” playing cards that waive the price the primary 12 months, and after which are simply $95 per 12 months. That manner, you may see whether or not it’s price it to you.

In the event you actually don’t need to pay a price however nonetheless need to get in on the sport, the Bilt Rewards card is my favourite no-fee choice. This game-changing card presents you the power to earn factors by paying your lease (the one card that does this), plus 3x factors on eating and 2x factors on journey. It presents strong journey protections too. In the event you’re simply beginning out (and pay lease), this can be a must-have card.

4. Not Assembly Signup Bonuses

A handful of US travel credit cards
The best travel cards provide a large introductory provide, additionally known as “welcome presents” or “sign-up bonuses.” That is if you earn many factors directly by spending a sure amount of cash inside a sure time interval after opening your account (e.g., spending $3,000 within the first three months would possibly earn you 60,000 factors).

These welcome presents are how I earn a million factors every year. They’re tremendous essential, as they jump-start your account and instantly get you nearer to a free flight or lodge keep. Typically these presents are even large enough to get you a free flight proper off the bat!

One of many largest errors you may make is just not making the most of these bonuses. Once more, it’s like leaving cash on the desk (I hope you’re seeing a sample right here).

With that in thoughts, solely apply for playing cards for those who can meet their minimal spending necessities for the welcome bonus along with your regular spending. In case you are spending more cash than you normally do exactly to get these factors, then the factors are now not free. Solely spend what you usually would and never a penny extra.

If you end up near reaching a sign-up bonus however are nonetheless falling brief, these are some issues you are able to do:

  • Ask mates or household if they’ve any massive purchases developing. You may then pay for the merchandise in your card and get them to pay you again.
  • When out to eat with mates, put every little thing on one invoice and pay it along with your card. Then get everybody to pay you again individually.


5. Not Paying Off Your Credit score Playing cards Month-to-month

This can be a central tenet not solely of journey hacking however bank card use typically. Don’t ever carry a steadiness on these playing cards, because the sky-high rates of interest will wipe out any potential profit you’d get from them. In the event you’re paying curiosity, the factors are now not free.

In the event you can’t repay your steadiness in full, you shouldn’t be journey hacking.

6. Pondering That Factors Have Intrinsic Worth

When you begin taking a look at signing up for journey bank cards, it may be straightforward to get excited at big sign-up bonuses and spending classes the place you may rack up loads of factors shortly. Lodge bank cards are infamous for this, usually providing sign-up bonuses of over 100,000 factors and bonus spending classes that may be as much as 26x factors per $1 spent (supplied by IHG on spending for IHG properties).

However what’s essential to know is that one level will go additional in some packages than others. The worth of a degree is just not mounted. It’s not the identical throughout packages. One IHG level is just not the identical as one United level, identical to one Chase level is just not the identical as one Hyatt level.

When assigning a price to factors, the mathematics is definitely fairly easy: take the money worth (what you’ll pay for those who didn’t have factors), divide by the variety of factors required, and multiply by 100 to get the per-point worth in cents. I discover The Points Guy’s monthly valuation chart to be probably the most correct as a useful cheat sheet to make use of as a baseline for what is taken into account a superb per-point worth.

That mentioned, loads of redemption comes all the way down to the non-public worth that you just assign to these factors. Would you quite redeem them for flying in top notch, or would you quite take two financial system flights for a similar variety of factors? Would you quite keep in a five-star lodge for a weekend or keep in a three-star lodge for every week?

Level worth is within the eye of the beholder.

(Simply by no means redeem factors for money. That is the least worthwhile use of factors.)

7. Not Maximizing Bonus Classes

Talking of level worth, seeing {that a} flight “prices” 30,000 factors might be intimidating, thanks to a different frequent mistake: pondering that you must spend $1 to get 1 level.

However good journey hacking isn’t about getting just one mile or level per greenback spent. It’s straightforward to get 2-5x (or extra!) for each greenback you spend. This helps you earn factors way more shortly.

For instance, I take advantage of Chase Sapphire Reserve when eating at eating places (3x factors), the Chase Ink for workplace spending (5x factors), and the American Categorical Platinum Card for airfare (5x factors).

By no means settle for one level per greenback spent. In any other case, it can take manner too lengthy to build up sufficient factors without cost journey.

8. Not Taking Benefit of Card Advantages and Perks

woman standing in front of departures board at Barcelona airport
Journey hacking isn’t just about simply getting factors and miles. It’s additionally about what else comes with the cardboard that may make your life and travels simpler. Many cards give you a special elite loyalty status or other extra perks. Don’t make the error of getting a card after which not taking full benefit of every little thing that it has to supply.

Listed below are the perks I personally prioritize:

  • No overseas transaction charges
  • Free lodge stays
  • Lounge entry
  • Free checked baggage
  • Precedence boarding

You might need totally different priorities, however irrespective of the case, make sure you discover the advantages of your chosen card(s) and truly use these that include it.

9. Not Getting Transferable Factors

Transferable factors are these which you could switch to totally different packages. These are on the coronary heart of each good journey hacking technique.

Nevertheless, many individuals draw back from utilizing them, because it appears too sophisticated. They may get a card with transferable factors however redeem them by means of a journey portal or select to get money again as an alternative. But transferable factors are how one can get wonderful worth.

You may earn transferable factors with bank cards issued by Chase, Capital One, Bilt, Citi, and American Categorical, although understand that these are all separate “currencies.” With Chase, you earn Final Rewards factors, whilst you earn Membership Rewards factors with American Categorical.

These factors are transferable not to one another however quite to their respective airline and lodge companions, with whom you may then guide a flight or lodge keep.

It’s usually higher to get transferable factors than, say, airline-specific factors (resembling you’d get with an airline bank card), as these can’t be moved wherever. Delta factors can solely be used on Delta flights (or their alliance companions), and for those who discover a higher flight with United, that’s too dangerous — you may’t use your Delta factors to benefit from it.

Whereas it may appear sophisticated, it’s simpler than you assume — it’s nearly discovering the appropriate card to your wants, transferring factors to an airline or lodge companion, after which reserving. This course of is less complicated than ever because of the brand new points-booking search engine,

(I additionally go extra in-depth into transferable factors and methods to use them in my Journey Hacking Information.)

10. Hoarding Your Factors

A Delta airplane climbing into a bright blue sky after takeoff in the USA
Many individuals, as soon as they amass some factors, are afraid to make use of them in any respect. They both don’t know methods to use them or need to look ahead to the “absolute best worth.”

However factors burning a gap in your digital pocket aren’t going that will help you. The worth of factors modifications on a regular basis as bank card firms, resorts, and airways alter their packages. Sadly, meaning your factors may lose a major quantity of worth in a single day (don’t fear, this doesn’t occur ceaselessly, however it does occur).

Factors are meant for use. They’re a automobile for getting you free flights and resorts to be able to get on the market and see the world. Don’t sit round watching your factors steadiness climb larger and better — use these factors, get on the market, and begin touring!


It’s by no means been simpler to earn free flights, lodge stays, and different journey perks. And whereas there are some frequent errors to keep away from and the educational curve can appear steep, when you get began, all of it comes into focus shortly, and also you’ll be questioning why you didn’t begin sooner.

So long as you make concrete objectives, repay your invoice every month, and focus your spending on the appropriate card(s), you’ll have the ability to take pleasure in time-saving perks and free journey very quickly — and all simply by spending the cash you’ll have spent anyway!

Guide Your Journey: Logistical Ideas and Methods

Guide Your Flight
Discover a low cost flight through the use of Skyscanner. It’s my favourite search engine as a result of it searches web sites and airways across the globe so that you all the time know no stone is being left unturned.

Guide Your Lodging
You may guide your hostel with Hostelworld. If you wish to keep someplace apart from a hostel, use because it constantly returns the most cost effective charges for guesthouses and resorts.

Don’t Neglect Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will shield you towards sickness, damage, theft, and cancellations. It’s complete safety in case something goes incorrect. I by no means go on a visit with out it as I’ve had to make use of it many instances previously. My favourite firms that supply one of the best service and worth are:

Wish to journey without cost?
Journey bank cards can help you earn factors that may be redeemed without cost flights and lodging. They’re what hold me touring a lot for thus little. Take a look at my information to choosing the right card and my present favorites to get began and see the newest finest offers.

Able to Guide Your Journey?
Take a look at my useful resource web page for one of the best firms to make use of if you journey. I checklist all those I take advantage of once I journey. They’re one of the best in school and you may’t go incorrect utilizing them in your journey.