Journaling The Journey

Travel Hacking 101 – How to Travel on the Cheap or for Free

Travel hacking travel cheap travel free points miles

Last updated on June 24th, 2023 at 05:42 pm

Have you ever dreamed of traveling the world on the cheap or even for free?  Travel hacking may be the way to go for you!  With a little bit of planning and effort, it’s actually possible to do just that by using credit card sign-up bonuses and other such tools.

We have been travel hacking since 2012 and traveling as nomads, non-stop since 2017.  Most of our flights have been in business or first class.  However, we mostly pay less than economy class tickets and at times even travel for free.  Yes, for free!

In addition, our hotel stays are usually at a very low rate with upgrades to suites or even over-the water bungalows.   And some of our hotel stays are for free as well!

So how do we do this?!  Read on to find out.

Disclosure – if you do click through our credit card referral link and get the card through the link, we may get some extra points/miles and so may you.  Keep in mind that we always recommend credit cards that we use regularly and the ones that have the best sign up bonuses.

What is Travel Hacking?

Travel Hacking credit card sign ups cheap travel free

So what is travel hacking?  Travel hacking is the practice of using credit card sign-up bonuses and other promotions to earn highly discounted travel. By carefully planning your spending and taking advantage of the right offers, you can travel for a fraction of the cost or even for free!

There are a few different ways to travel hack. One popular method is to sign up for credit cards that offer sign-up bonuses in the form of travel rewards, such as points or miles. When you sign up for a new credit card, you’ll usually have to spend a certain amount of money within a certain time period in order to earn the bonus. Once you’ve met the spending requirement, you can redeem your rewards for travel, such as flights and hotels (we do not recommend redeeming for rental cars.)

Travel hacking can be a great way to save money on travel. But it’s important to remember that it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. It takes time and effort to be successful. But if you’re willing to put in the work, you can travel the world on a deep discount or even for free.

Where do I Start?

cheap travel free travel

So many of our friends and family ask  – but where do I start?  There is just so much information and it is way too confusing.  We get it.  Rob has been at this travel-hacking “game” for over 10 years and it took him a long time to build up all of this knowledge.  So here is the skinny on how to get started:

  1. Check your credit score.  Only consider getting into this “game” if your credit score is at 700 or higher. If you are below  700 check out how to increase your credit score.  
  2. Consider your goals.  Do you do most of your travel within a particular country?  For example, if you are in the US, do you mostly travel on Southwest airlines and want to take your family to Disneyland?  Or, are you saving for that dream vacation in Paris or the Maldives?  Or do you just want to get as many points and miles as possible to be able to travel all the time like us?  Your credit card choices will depend on your goals.
  3. Do your research. Not all credit card sign-up bonuses are created equal. Some cards offer more points or miles than others, some are worth more than others and some have easier requirements (less spending to do) for earning the bonus. It’s important to  compare different cards before you sign up for one.  We highly recommend starting with credit cards in the Chase bank family.  More on this below.
  4. Plan your spending. Once you’ve chosen a credit card, you need to start planning your spending. Make sure you’re able to meet the minimum spending requirement in order to earn the bonus.
  5. Use the card for the right purchases.  Some cards are better for certain types of spending than others.  Consider your spending habits: What do you spend the most money on each month? Look for a card that offers rewards for your biggest expenses.  
  6. Transfer your points or miles to a travel partner.  Once you’ve accumulated enough points or miles, you can transfer them to a travel partner, such as an airline or hotel. This will allow you to book travel at a discounted rate.  Sometimes there are transfer bonuses – so look out for those.
  7. Be patient. Travel hacking takes time and effort. Don’t expect to be able to travel for free overnight. But if you’re patient and strategic, you can eventually use credit card sign-up bonuses to fund your dream trips.

Things to Consider with the New Credit Card

  • Pay your credit card bill in full each month. Carrying a balance on your credit card can lead to high interest charges, which can negate the value of any rewards you earn.
  • Be aware of the fine print. Before you sign up for a credit card, be sure to read the fine print. This includes the terms and conditions of the sign-up bonus, as well as the interest rates and fees associated with the card.
  • Use credit card churning to your advantage. Churning is the practice of signing up for and closing credit cards for the sign-up bonuses. It can be a great way to earn a lot of points and miles quickly, but it’s important to be aware of the rules and regulations before you start. 
  • Know what your Miles and Points are Worth.  We recommend to go with  bank (Chase/Amex) credit cards first because you can transfer the points to airlines and hotels.  However, you need to know what they are worth to do the best redemption/transfer.  On average bank (Chase/Amex) points are worth about 1.5 cents each.  Airline miles and Hotel Points vary widely in worth.  So, make sure to know what the value is before you do the transfer – so that you do not miss out on the best redemption worth.  For example, we would want to transfer our valuable Chase points (1.5 cents/point) to the Hyatt Hotel (worth 2.10 cents/point) but not Radisson Rewards (worth 0.34 cents/point) or Marriott Rewards (worth 0.8 cents/point).
  • Manage your Credit Cards:  While managing multiple credit cards it is super important to be organized and to calendar all of the pertinent dates. E.g. when the minimum spend is due,  when the card is up for  renewal, etc.,
  • Use social media to your advantage. There are many travel hacking communities on social media where you can learn about new deals and promotions. You can also find people to share referrals with.  We recommend this one.  And check out our social media as well – we will post out deals as they come.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We love to help people travel hack and save money!  Reach out and ask for help.  

Travel hacking can be a great way to save money on travel. But it’s important to do your research and be aware of the risks before you get started.

Chase Credit Cards – Start Here

Sapphire Preferred Chase Credit card free travel

The value of the Chase bank credit cards is quite high.  There are a few excellent choices for travel credit cards within this bank family.  However they have a rule called 5/24.  What does that mean?  Well, if you have opened 5 or more new personal credit cards with any bank in the last 24 months, Chase will most likely deny you a new card.

There is a loophole.  If you have opened business credit cards within this time frame, then they usually do not count towards the 5/24 rule.

In the picture above, the Sapphire Preferred Chase Card currently offers a 60K sign up bonus for a $4k spend in the first 3 months.  If you were to transfer those points to say a Hyatt hotel category 1 (we love these Hyatt resort properties), then you will be getting 12 nights for your work of getting the card.  Here is a link to the offer.

Wrap Up

cheap travel points miles free travel

Travel hacking is a great way to earn points and miles through credit card sign up bonuses to allow us to travel the world cheaply or even for free.

We have been able to travel to many destinations on business and even first class flights at a fraction of the cost of an economy class ticket.  And we have been fortunate to stay in fantastic hotel suites and even over the water bungalows for a very low price or even for free!

Hopefully this post broke down the process of what one needs to do to start the travel hacking “game” and to start earning the points and miles that you will need for that dream vacation.  

What is your dream vacation?Have you had some wins with this “game”?  Please let us know if you have any questions or if we can help you understand this process more.  We would love to hear from you!

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