What is Travel Hacking and Can It Work for You?

Travel hacking is a great way to earn free flights and hotel stays very quickly. It involves strategically using the rewards points offered by airlines, credit cards, and hotels for free travel. It’s not as hard as you may think.

It doesn’t require any special codes or complicated systems; in fact, it’s pretty simple to get started. Here’s a look at how it’s done.

The Slow Method

This is probably the method you’re most familiar with – signing up for rewards and frequent flyer programs, then waiting until you accumulate enough points to cash them in. All of the reward programs are free, but you don’t need to rush out and sign up for every one of them. Just sign up as you stay at a hotel or book a flight.

Make sure that wherever you stay and whichever airline you choose you’re earning points or miles. Some hotels and airlines offer special programs for bonus points so make sure you check their websites before booking. Award Wallet is a great site for helping you keep track of all the points you earn across different hotels and airlines.

Now that you’re signed up, just be a repeat customer. Stay in the same hotels and fly the same airlines whenever you travel to earn points. Then, when you’ve accumulated enough points, you can book a free flight or hotel stay. This will, of course, take some time.

The Faster Method

In addition to airlines and hotels, credit card companies offer reward points that can be used for travel. These cards often come bonus points offered upfront as an enticement to sign up. The only trick is that you’ll usually have to charge a certain amount to the card over the first few months.

Strategically signing up for these rewards cards and maximizing your potential to earn points quickly is really the heart of travel hacking. Here’s what you need to keep in mind though:

  • If you struggle to keep up with credit card payments, have ever struggled with credit card payments, or think you may be tempted to spend more just to earn points, this method is not for you!
  • If you cannot pay your credit card bill in full every month and on time, you should not be getting a new card to earn more points.
  • Never make purchases solely for the purpose of chasing points! You should only be using credit to buy things that 1) you were already going to buy, and 2) you can afford to pay off immediately.

However, if you’re financially responsible and can handle paying off your cards, you’ll want to make sure you have a card that offers great rewards points. Look for a credit card company that offers significant reward or mileage points that you can earn for travel and switch to this card to get the most benefit.

If you’re planning a large purchase, like a new computer or new furniture, you can use the card for these purchases to earn points faster. If you owe taxes and have the money to pay them, use your credit card to pay the taxes then use the money you set aside to pay your credit card bill.

The more you use your card, the faster you’ll earn the points. Just be sure you can pay off your card or keep up with your payments. Many credit card companies won’t let you use your points if you owe too much on your account.

Travel hacking is a great way to earn free travel quickly, just make sure you act responsibly with your credit cards. Otherwise, your free trip will cost you a mountain of debt.

Emilie is the brains, the brawn, and the beauty behind Burke Does, inspiring millennial women to live financially, physically, and professionally fit lives. She writes about overcoming debt, while balancing trying to eat healthy, stay fit, and have a little fun along the way. Read more about her journey here.

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