This post is sponsored by Lexington Law. The views and opinions expressed in this article are my own.
Travel hacking has been around for a long time but has gained popularity in recent years. What is travel hacking? Well it isn’t some illegal activity done by a computer whiz in an undisclosed location. Simply put, travel hacking is using existing programs to obtain free or discounted travel on airlines, cruises, and more.
Many of the places you see travel writers write about are a result of either comped travel in order to gain exposure to a place or service or through travel hacking to reduce the costs of the travel.
If you look at travel hacking websites or groups it can quickly become overwhelming and you start to think it is a huge hassle to obtain travel rewards but it doesn’t have to be. The easiest way to start, is to start small and work up to a level you feel comfortable with.
Let’s focus on how to start travel hacking and a few methods you can use that will help you obtain free or upgraded flights and accommodations.
The first thing to understand about travel hacking is one of the quickest ways to rack up the benefits is through credit cards. To do this you really need good credit. If you don’t have good credit you can still reap the benefits but you should look into a reputable credit repair company to increase your credit score.
The first thing you need to do is sign up for award programs through the airlines, hotels and other businesses that offer travel rewards, they are free to sign up for.
Check out this list of airline frequent flier programs.
Here is a listing of some of the best hotel reward programs.
Once you sign up, keep track of all your programs. One of the easiest ways is to use a free program like Award Wallet
Now you can go about accumulating rewards through normal everyday activities and each time you use a program it will just add to your rewards.
To kick your travel hacking into high gear you need to take advantage of credit card sign ups and rewards.
I would be the last person to tell you to take out a bunch of credit cards and go on a spending spree to get a free plane ticket. You can however use credit cards to your advantage to get huge rewards and here is how.
The first rule of thumb is once you take out a credit card for travel hacking, pay your bill in full and never carry a debt on it.
As long as you have decent credit and do this one thing, then using credit cards for travel hacking purposes won’t harm your credit. In fact it may increase your credit score since you will be demonstrating that you pay your bills on time.
The next thing to do is take a little time and do some research on the best card for you. A lot of credit cards that offer travel rewards have sign up bonuses where you pay 0% interest for a period of time and also give you bonus travel rewards by spending a certain amount over a period of time. At the time of this writing, Delta Gold Sky Miles Credit Cards offer 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 in 3 months. Delta also offers regular deals for travel with miles like New York to Palm Beach for 10,000 miles round trip. How about Chicago to Phoenix for 18,000 miles? Might be nice to get out of the cold for a week.
You don’t want to go out and spend a lot of money on credit cards just to earn travel? No problem, just use the card for your everyday expenses like Amazon purchases you make anyway, grocery shopping and gas. You can also pay your income taxes with a credit card instead of writing Uncle Sam a check. If you are saving up for a large purchase or event then use that opportunity to get a credit card with a big sign up bonus, pay for it using the card and pay of the card with the money you saved.
You can earn award points by dining out. You can also get rewards for shopping at certain online retailers and what is called a bonus mall. Bonus Malls are an online site that allows you to buy merchandise at several stores awarding you points. Chances are your airline frequent flier program has just such a shopping portal.
It is not that hard to spend $3,000 and get the bonus miles. Or pick one of the bank cards that allow you to use the points for airlines or hotels.
Once you combine the bonus awards from a credit card along with the points you earn from just using the card, you will find that you can afford to book a trip or two and cover most if not all the costs of the travel and accommodations.
You can take out multiple cards throughout the year and as long as you follow these few simple steps it won’t harm your credit at all.
Just make sure you are not spending money that you can’t afford to pay in full every month when the statement comes due.