1. Right now, I don’t travel hack. I Christmas hack with my Amazon Visa. Someday, though, that might change.

    I think it’s far more useful for those of us who don’t hack to watch your journey into hacking (what’s reasonable/what’s not) than the experts when it comes to the “Do we or don’t we?” question.

  2. I’ve been a modest travel jacket for the last few years but have picked it up a bit the last 12 months or so. It can be daunting hitting the spending limit but I’ve never had a problem. Part of our benefit is that daycare allows us to pay via credit card for no extra fee! This makes it very easy for us to rack up rewards.

  3. Secret Retirees 2018

    I really want to sign up for this card too, but can’t see traveling anywhere abroad in the near future. I’ve also never signed up for a card with a fee. I think it’s against my religion. I’m sure the folks travel hacking with this card are much smarter than I am to pay for the annual fee 10x over, but for now, until I do have plans to travel,I’m still sitting on the sidelines watching all the cool people with the card.

      • When are you going to New Mexico? I’m pretty sure the first part of my road trip is going to be 28 days in Albuquerque, but I probably won’t spend every night there at the accomodation as I also want to go further south to White Sands, Truth or Consequences. etc. Major discount for monthly stays on AirBNB. 😀

        • The plan is to try to loop through part of the Southwest during our spring break. That falls at the end of March this year. So many National Parks, so little time! And I know we have tons of time over the summer, but it is also face-meltingly hot…as we learned when we honeymooned in Arizona in July. Dry heat. Mmmhmm. Sure.

  4. I haven’t done any travel hacking to date, but I did switch my REI card to a Chase card (the non-fee one) to get better cash back rewards. Then while checking out on Amazon one day I signed up for their card for the “free” $70 gift card, and it also has great cash back rewards. I usually use those for Christmas which is a win too.

    Tempted to travel hack when we have more time to devote to it and not just end up with a bunch of cards on a spreadsheet and no plans for them. I’m interested to see how your hacking turns out.

  5. I don’t really “travel hack”, i just like collecting free money. I usually redeem points for cash when possible for that reason. I do have a collection of airlines miles (because I had already exhausted all the “cash” bonus card options) that I assume I’l use some day, but it seems like every year and a half I am buying something to extent the use of the air miles.

    • That’s my fear, TJ! That I will get these miles and not actually use them. I am hoping that using spring break as my “deadline” of sorts will keep me more focused. I definitely don’t want to just earn miles for the sake of earning miles.

  6. Yes! We successfully travel hacked for the first time last June. We opened two Chase Sapphire cards (at two different time periods) and ended up with 100,000+ points, which was more than enough to secure 4 free round-trip tickets to Orlando. We didn’t have trouble reaching the spending requirements, but had to really plan ahead, especially since we both opened a card. We put as many of our regular monthly expenses on the card as we could. I am planning to try the Southwest card soon.

  7. I’m a big, conservative travel hacker… one card at a time… no manufactured spending. And I wish I qualified for the chase sapphire reserve (once you try out an airport lounge, you want to go back!) Congrats on dipping your toe in. I think you’ll love it. 🙂

    • We just booked flights to Vegas for free using the miles that we accumulated from “regular” traveling. It opened my eyes to the possibility! Now, I really want two Southwest cards. But I have to make sure that we can fit in all the travel and not just get hammered with fees.

  8. I’m surprised that more people here haven’t done that much hacking. We haven’t paid for a flight in over 3 years (other than taxes and fees) – although we do pay for the annual fee for my Chase Sapphire and my husbands Chase Ink cards. For that $200/year – we usually get at least 10 flights a year – so we are pretty happy. We also got the Southwest cards that helped us earn a companion pass (we’ve done that twice now). We may cancel those before the fees come due – but they award miles too and we always want to keep Chase happy 🙂 The minimum spend is never an issue with all the apartments we have (and with two kids…). We “hacked” hard for about 2 years and now just “maintain” with Chase and Southwest. We have over 500,00 banked with American too – waiting for a trip to Europe.

    • Wow, Vicki! I’m not sure we’ll ever get at that level. But I think a free flight somewhere (or a hotel) for spring break might be the perfect way to see if this is for us!

  9. We haven’t done any travel hacking yet (although we can fly standby for free on military flight, which we did a TON…when we only had 1 and 2 kids. Haven’t braved it yet with all 5!) We save up all our points and cash them out for Christmas. We usually end up with $500-$800 which covers about 100% of our gifts.

    • That’s an awesome way to use your points/cash back! I’ll do that with some of my cash back, especially if it costs me $45 in rewards for a $50 Amazon gift card! But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that our Discover cash back is currently earmarked for our hotel in Vegas 😉

  10. I’ll be the first one to admit that I am not savvy when it comes to travel hacks. I was planning to take off time over Christmas and really study up on the subject because it seems like there are a ton of ways to really let travel credit cards work for me. Thanks for inspiring me to buckle down and figure this thing out.

    • I can’t wait to see what you come up with! I’m so excited to almost have one under my belt. But until I’m actually on the flight or in the hotel for free, I don’t know that I’ll consider it a true success. We’ll see!

  11. I actually have a very similar post in the works about the Southwest cards! Let me know if you change your mind about them and I’ll send you the links and the scoop. It’s an even sweeter deal with the almost-free companion pass.

    • I definitely think that is the next step for us. But I just don’t know that we actually fly enough any given year for the companion pass to matter?! Look forward to the post.

  12. Jan

    I guess we could be considered travel hackers. My husband and I are always comparing rewards and fees and changing up cards. We have never carried a balance and put everything on out card even most of our utilities. We do however pay the fee on some cards as some the rewards cover the fee in free flight rewards alone when done well. Because of this life style we began over 10 years ago we have successfully “purchased” these free flights (paying only taxes):

    1. Business class to europe for free (the two of us)
    2. New Zealand business class for free (the two of us)
    3. Florida for free – twice (four of us)
    4. England for free (four of us)
    5. and next year we are all travelling to New Zealand again but not business class.

    Good luck! It’s definitely worth it. 🙂

    • Wow! I would love, love, love to be able to travel hack to Europe one day. Or anywhere outside of North America. But I think I’m going to start small and try to hit some national parks in the southwest this spring!

  13. Our travel hacking this year has probably saved us about $5k. Our next trip is four free nights in a family suite at Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. Fairmont offered two free nights at any Fairmont hotel worldwide for signing up for their cards. My wife and I each snagged one and minimum spend later, we combined the nights back to back and got a free upgrade into the bargain. Heading up there between Xmas and New Year.

    We are then going to Jackson Hole in February for a week long family ski vacation on four free flights with United. Thanks to mainly work travel air miles but also topped off with some credit card miles.

    Unfortunately we could not get the Reserve card due to the 5/24 rule. But plenty others we are eyeing up with all the competition for customers…

    We put the vast majority of our expenses on cards and sometimes pay estimated tax payments with a card – There is a small fee but it can be very lucrative to build miles quickly. Like you we NEVER carry a balance and pay every card off monthly.

    Don’t want to get into the manufactured spend games with gift cards etc. Not our cup of tea.

    • Quebec City! Jackson Hole! That’s such a terrific itinerary. It sounds like you’ve definitely figured out how to work this to your advantage. Kudos!

  14. Hell ya for travel hacking! We did the Chase Sapphire Preferred card to get points for free flights, and now we just got the Chase Sapphire Reserve card to the points we’ll need for the hotels, parking, and spending cash. Pretty much the whole vacation will be free!

    • I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t getting more than a little excited. We have less than $1000 to spend, and we’ve already earned 6,600 points/miles before the 50,000 bonus. Or maybe I’m just really excited about maybe getting away for spring break this year!

  15. Greetings fellow travel hackers! Three years ago I started building my hotel points and airline miles. Now that we’ve FIRE’d, we plan on using our cache of 3 million total MURP$. (Miles, Ultimate Rewards-type points, hotel Points, $ =cash back) At this point, we’ve opened and closed countless cards.

    I guess I’m a travel hacking whore because I enjoy manufactured spending. I once had a $10k spend that I completed in 12 days thanks to gift cards. I had the bill paid by day 15 thanks to the wonders of bill pay. So, in 15 days I earned 110,000 miles with American!

    Going forward I plan on travel hacking my way around the globe. Most of my travel hacking knowledge came from: Travel Miles 101…check it out.


  16. I travel hack and my recommendation is that when you redeem your points for flights, add in free one ways. Every airline has different rules but some allow you to add in a stopover and not complete the final leg for up to 365 days. I booked Denver (where I lived at the time) to Frankfurt, back to Denver 10 days later, then wait for 3 weeks, then Denver to the east coast during Christmas. That last leg was not part of my original vacation but was instead my flights home to see family during the holidays. If I had paid cash for the Christmas flights it would have been a fortune. Just a tip so you can get more out of your points! Welcome to the travel hacking game it’s addicting.

  17. I began travel hacking this year. I have used it for three free flights so far. It looks like it will be the way my girlfriend travels to me for Christmas, because her flights would be over $500, but mine would be under $200.

    • That’s awesome, ZJ! I just hit the minimum spend, so I’ll have about 60,000 miles as of my next statement. The shocker for me, though, is that the airlines aren’t Southwest. So everything seems really pricey for spring break. I am going to have to see if our miles go further in the summer.

  18. We’ve been travel hacking for almost 3 yrs now, and it has been amazing. It has allowed us to see the world: Flamenco in Andalucia, Safari in Southern Africa, Northern Lights in Iceland, Temples in Southeast Asia, to name a few, with many of these being flying in Biz Class, and we flew to Asia in Cathay Pacific 1st class which was ridiculous. This year we’re looking at Cuba and Peru as well as a few domestic trips (will be using my Southwest Companion Pass)

    Some of my favorite resources: milenerd.com, milevalue.com, thepointsguy.com, and a few of the blogs on boardingarea.com. It is good though to be judicious about signing up for CCs. I wasn’t when I started, but have learned to have ands ware better balance between the travel hacking ands warned personal finance.

  19. Sheryl

    We had an Alaska Airlines card through Bank of America for several years; $75 annual fee was the first and only time I have paid a fee for a credit card. We were aiming for enough miles to fly to Vienna to depart on Danube River cruise; finally reached 90,000, which according to Alaska’s website, was enough for two round trips on their partner American. HOWEVER, when I tried to book it, found out they were severing their relationship with American a few weeks before we needed to fly. I canceled the card immediately and am now “on strike” against Alaska. Not easy when you live in the Seattle area, but Delta is good, and we can always take cheap Allegiant to visit relatives in Arizona.

    SO: my advice is, make sure you can actually use those airline miles. Husband and I are now concentrating our spending on cash-back type cards; much easier to use. We just got gift cards to Kroger and Subway through one of our hotel membership cards, no fee.

    Thanks for your informative articles!

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