How to Start Travel Hacking with Points and Miles [Guide]

Want to start traveling the world for less? Better yet, want to book your next flight for free? The easiest way is to start travel hacking using points and miles.

Before we learn the steps, let’s learn the basic travel hacking lingo.

What is travel hacking?

Travel hacking is a strategy people use to earn the max amount of points or miles using their credit cards to travel for a low cost or potentially a free trip!

What are points and miles?

Points and miles are both a type of “travel currency.” To start travel hacking, people will earn points and miles to redeem for travel.

Okay now that you know the basics, here’s

How to Start Travel Hacking Using Points and Miles

Step 1: Figure out your travel goals

Ask yourself what are you looking to achieve by traveling hacking? Chances are if you are a beginner, you are looking to book your first cheap flight or potentially book your first free flight.

Step 2: Apply for a travel reward credit card.

There are many travel reward credit cards to choose from. The goal is to choose a credit card that matches your travel plans, your budget, and needs.

Tips when researching travel credit cards:

  • Research the credit card’s perks and benefits and see if they are aligned with your lifestyle.
  • Know the current sign up bonus offer and the minimum spending required.
  • Review the different ways you can earn AND redeem your miles/points.
  • Do they have an annual fee? If so, do the perks and benefits justify the annual cost for your lifestyle?
  • Make sure there are no foreign transaction fees.
  • Be aware of certain application rules.

Keep in mind, some cards offer extra points or miles for spending in certain categories, such as dining or travel. It’s worth considering a card that offers bonus points tailored to the way you spend.

If you are feeling overwhelmed when doing your research, as a beginner, ideally you will want a credit card with a no or low cost annual fee. A great beginner’s credit card to start with is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. It has a good sign up bonus so you can rack up those points. It offers flexibility to redeem your points, among other benefits and perks for an annual fee of $95.

Step 3: Start earning miles and points with the LEAST amount of effort.

There are three main ways to begin earning miles and points:

  1. Credit card’s sign-up welcome bonus
  2. Referral bonuses
  3. Regular everyday spending using your credit card

Sign-Up Bonus

The easiest and most popular way to get started is by signing up for a travel credit card that offers a large sign-up bonus. These bonuses can be worth hundreds of dollars in travel, and all you have to do is meet the minimum spending requirement within a certain timeframe. Most sign up bonuses require spending $3,000-$5,000 over a 3-month span in order to earn the bonus. Once you meet the minimum spending within the allotted time, your points will automatically be deposited in your account and then you can redeem for traveling.

Example: Let’s say a credit card offers 60,000 points sign up bonus when you spend $4,000 within the first 3 months. In general, these 60,000 points, at minimum, will be $600 in travel rewards.

Referral Bonus

Most credit cards give credit card referral bonuses as incentives to have cardholders invite their family and friends to apply. This is an easy way to earn points on an ongoing basis without spending a single dime! Keep in mind that in order for you to get this referral bonus, the person you refer has to be approved.

Regular Everyday Spending 

Whenever you purchase something using your travel reward credit card, you’ll get a certain number of miles or points as a way of saying “thank you” for using them and to incentivize you to keep using the card.

The key here is to not overspend! Charge your credit card as you normally would, and would pay off the balance every month. If you carry a balance, then the amount you pay in interest will outweigh the amount of points or miles you earn.

Step 4: Wait until you earn your sign up bonus offer 

To sum up steps 1-3, first you sign up for a travel reward credit card that suits your budget and lifestyle. Then you begin doing your everyday spending. Finally, within a few weeks, you will meet the minimum spending requirement to earn the sign up bonus offer.

Once you get the sign up bonus, you will have enough points or miles to book your first low cost or potentially free trip!

Step 5: Start redeeming your points or miles for travel!

In general, the three ways to redeem your points or miles for travel is through cash-back, a travel portal, or by transferring them to an airline partner. This will ultimately depend on which travel reward credit card you have.

  1. Cash-back: If you are looking for simplicity then requesting cash-back may be the best option for you. The cash-back is issued as a statement credit. However, I would personally avoid this method. If you want to get a better value on your points or miles, consider using the travel portal or transfer partners.
  2. Travel Portal: If you want to get more value for your rewards but don’t want to spend too much time analyzing deals, booking flights through the travel portal is a great option. Some credit card rewards programs have their own travel portals where you can use your rewards to book flights.
  3. Transferring them to airline partners: Some travel credit card rewards programs allow you to transfer points or miles to their partner airlines. This method involves doing some research but may give you a better value for your points. Personally, this is my favorite way to redeem my rewards.

Ultimately, travel hacking is an incredible way to travel for less. I have been travel hacking for years now and have been able to save thousands of dollars on flights. Now, it’s your turn. With a bit of planning and smart spending, you’ll be on your way to booking your next free or low cost vacation!

Now let’s read how to budget for travel. It’s packed with actionable steps to help you prepare for your overall expenses on your next vacation, so you can enjoy your trip without worrying about money.

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