With the help of a little travel hacking, Alexis and I are able to jetset around the world for little to no cost.
Over the past two years, we have flown the following flights for free:
- London, England to Washington, DC on United Airlines
- Washington, DC to Honolulu, HI on Alaska Airlines
- Honolulu, HI to Phuket, Thailand on Delta Airlines
- A not free, but $300 discounted trip to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Southern Thailand
- Chiang Mai, Thailand to Sendai, Japan on Asiana Airlines
- Bali, Indonesia to Sofia, Bulgaria on Qatar Airways
- Booked: Santa Cruz de la Palma to Mexico City on Iberia Airlines
Miles also make for great gifts. Not only did we buy our tickets to Japan using miles, but we surprised my dad with tickets for Christmas as well.
What’s Travel Hacking?
Travel hacking is the accumulation and use of hundreds of thousands of credit card miles and points for free flights. The primary way these points are gained is through signing up for credit cards that offer huge sign up bonuses for new customers. Most credit card companies waive the annual fee for the first year of membership, so you sign up, claim your miles, use your miles, and cancel the credit card within a year. This is called credit card churning.
Sound scary? It is at first. You think you’re going to do irreparable damage to your credit because that’s what we’ve always been told. When I first started, I was really nervous for the same reasons. I read so much information from so many different sources before I felt comfortable with it. Instead of me, in turn, trying to convince you that you won’t be ruining your credit (in fact, my FICO score has risen nine points over the past year), I think you should read the same things I did. Whether you agree with me at the end or not, at the very least you’ll be much more informed about how credit works and how to manage it.
- How Card Applications Affect Your Credit Score
- How Many Credit Cards Do You Have Open At Once And How Does That Affect Your Credit?
- When to Cancel a Credit Card: My Personal Card Inventory and Decision Process
- Breaking Down Credit Card Rewards with Brian Kelly
As you begin to dive into this world, you’ll start to feel yourself going down the rabbit hole. I’m sure you’ll find many other great resources on your own, but here are a few miles and points sites I peruse from time to time:
What Credit Cards Do We Have Right Now?
- Bank of Hawaii Card
- BankAmericard Travel Rewards
- Capital One Venture
- AMEX Blue Sky
- Chase Sapphire Preferred x 2
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard
- Chase Freedom
- Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard
Ignore the first four. Those are all credit cards we got before we knew about travel hacking and offer no real travel benefits. We keep them open because they have no annual fees and because they help to keep our collective credit limit high, an important factor in having a high credit score.
Cards 5-8 are all great and I would highly recommend them all. The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Barclaycard Arrival are the cards we use on a daily basis, mainly because they are the only ones with no foreign transaction fees.
The Chase Freedom is great because it also has no annual fees and came with a sign up bonus of 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points. We only used the Citi/AAdvantage card until we met the minimum spend required to get the sign up bonus of 50,000 American Airlines miles. Because the Citi/AAdvantage card has an annual fee that kicks in the second year, we’ll cancel it before the first year is up (churn it).
Eight credit cards may sound dangerous, but we both maintain rising FICO scores in the high-700s. I’m not going to claim to be an expert on this stuff, but I know a decent amount. If you have questions, please feel free to ask, but the sites listed on this page can provide much more detailed and thorough information than I ever could.