What is Travel Hacking?
Travel Hacking is the practice of earning miles and points through methods other than flying which can be used for free travel.
Tips on Getting Started
1) Start Early.
In order to earn enough points and miles for free travel, the key is to start as early as possible. We would recommend starting at least a year before you are looking to book an award reservation. This allows enough time to accumulate miles and points and have them credited to your account.
2) Set a Goal.
It helps if you have a goal to work towards when collecting miles and points. That way you can research how many miles or points you will need to accumulate in order to earn a free flight or hotel stay at your chosen destination.
3) It Helps to Be Flexible.
Award availability can be limited so those who are flexible can benefit the most from travel hacking. If you are flexible on your travel dates there is a better chance of finding a free flight or hotel stay. If you are not flexible on when you can travel, consider being flexible on your destination.
Quick Summary of How to Earn Miles and Points for Free Travel
There are many easy ways to go about earning miles and points without actually having to fly or stay at a hotel. These miles and points can be used for near free flights and hotel stays.
Following is a brief summary of the steps you can take in order to start earning free miles and points. You do not have to use all of these methods for earning miles and points –we would recommend you choose whatever method(s) you feel most comfortable with.
1) Join Airline and Hotel Programs.
If you are looking to earn free flights, sign up for a frequent flyer accounts for any airlines you fly or want to fly. If you would like to earn free hotel stays sign up for hotel programs. (If you are unsure which frequent flyer programs and hotel loyalty programs to sign up for read Which Frequent Flyer Programs Should I Sign Up For? and Which Hotel Loyalty Programs Should I Sign Up for?)
2) Earn Miles and Points For Online Shopping.
If you online shop (which most people do) always go through an airline or hotel or other rewards portal first. Online shopping portals will give you extra miles or points for going through them before clicking to the website you want to shop with. The payouts are always changing but range from 1 mile per dollar to as high as 30 miles per dollar. Going through a portal first only takes an extra minute. If you are a member of various mileage programs, two useful sites which compare which portal is offering the best payout are cashbackmonitor.com and evreward.com. Please note you do not need a mileage earning credit card to earn extra miles and points with online shopping portals.
3) Join Dining Rewards Networks to Earn Miles for Eating at Restaurants.
Various airlines and hotel chains offer dining programs as a way to earn miles or points when eating at various restaurants. Once you register and your credit card is linked to a dining rewards program, you’ll automatically earn extra bonus miles or points every time you visit a participating restaurant. These miles and points are in addition to any miles, points or cash back earned for using your credit card.
4) Sign Up For Online Survey Sites.
You can sign up for various online survey sites that reward you with miles and/or points for taking surveys. Our favorite survey sites are E-Rewards and e-Miles. If you sign up through an airline’s webpage you can also earn an initial sign up bonus- for example, 250 United miles for enrolling through United’s website.
5) Apply For New Credit Cards in Order to Earn Large Sign-Up Bonuses.
Many credit card companies offer a large number of miles and points as a bonus for signing up and using their credit cards and many often waive their annual fee in the first year. If you have a high credit score, are able to pay off your credit card bills every month and are not planning on taking out a big loan or a mortgage in the next 1-2 years, we would recommend signing up for credit cards that can earn you miles and points.
6) Learn Which Credit Card to Use For Each Purchase.
Take a few minutes to learn which of your credit cards offer extra points for certain categories. Usually credit cards earn 1 point per dollar spent. Some credit cards earn more in certain merchant categories (for example, Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2 points for dining and travel and Chase’s Ink cards earn 5 points for cell phone, internet, cable, office supply stores, etc.).
7) Manufactured Spending to Earn More Points or Meet Minimum Spending Requirements.
This is more advanced but there are methods one can use to “manufacture spending” in order to earn more points and miles or meet minimum spending requirements on credit cards. Manufactured spending opportunities are constantly changing. Some current methods available as of April, 2016 are loading Bluebird and Serve with pin enabled gift cards. Another easy method that you can do from home is paying bills (such as mortgage, rent, tuition etc.) online using a credit card with Plastiq. Plastiq charges a fee of up to a 2.50% but there is a referral program which earns you some fee free payments.