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Hustling for Free Travel Next Year

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Hustling for Free TravelEarlier this year, we visited Iceland and had an incredible trip. However, it was a very expensive trip and it reshaped my travel philosophy. My new travel theory is to visit cheaper and less developed countries while we’re young. Expensive countries can wait until we’re rich. Iceland isn’t going to change much in the next 20 years. Vietnam, Argentina, and other developing countries will change a ton and the experience will be gone. I know this because Thailand changed so much over the last 20 years. It’s a different country now. In comparison, the US really hasn’t changed that much. Also, this year we did a horrible job with travel hacking* and paid for everything out of pocket. We used up our points last year for Hawaii and Cancun. Next year, we need to plan better and travel for free!

Hustling for Free Travel

Apparently, travel hacking and credit card churning are bad words in the credit card industry. It sounds like I’m encouraging you to steal something. We’ll use a positive word instead – hustling for points!

The basic idea is to use credit card reward points to pay for flights and/or hotel rooms. You can get a ton of points by signing up for a new card and meeting the minimum spending. This is A-OK if your credit is good AND you’re responsible with credit cards. If not, then put it off until you’re responsible with your finances. Don’t do this if you already have credit card debt.

Our unique spending situation

One problem with this hustle is you need to meet the minimum spending. This is my biggest problem in previous years. I don’t like having to spend a certain amount of money in a limited time window because I’d spend more than normal. You can try “manufactured spending”, but I don’t like that either. That’s buying gift cards and paying for things like the utility bills in advance. I dislike gift cards because it’s just another thing I have to carry. I already lose track of gift cards and I don’t need more of them.

Hustling for points is much easier this year, though. Retire by 40 is making more money now and we need to pay estimated taxes. Ugh! Who doesn’t hate taxes? Paying taxes sucks, but I might as well make the best of it by using a new credit card. The business is paying $3,000 every 3 months and that’s perfect to meet many signup conditions. Now, I can sign up for 2 cards per year and Mrs. RB40 can sign up for 2 more. That’s 4 per years and just about the right amount.

*Small businesses pay estimated taxes 4x per year. You just estimate how much tax you’ll owe and pay the IRS through Pay1040.com. They charge a 1.87% processing fee. This isn’t cheap, but it can be worth it with the right credit card signup bonus.

Starting a blog is a great way to build your brand and generate some extra income. You can see my tutorial – How to Start A Blog and Why You Should. Check it out if you’re thinking about blogging. 

Our effort so far

So how are we doing with points hustling this year? Here is a quick summary.

Points Pending
Chase Reward Points 200,612
American Airline points 63,362 70,000

 

That’s not bad at all. This should be enough to pay for a nice vacation next year.

Chase

Chase usually has great sign-on bonuses. Their points are really flexible so this is usually where you start. The issue is their 5/24 rule. If you open 5 credit cards within the last 24 months, then they’ll turn down your application. You’ll have to keep good record of your credit cards. Here are our Chase cards.

Chase Freedom card – This is our personal card. This card has no annual fee so it’s the perfect basic card for us. This is a good place to stash your points. Other Chase cards have an annual fee so I usually close the account after a year. I transfer the points here so I don’t lose them.

Chase Sapphire Preferred card – Mrs. RB40 signed up for this card earlier this year. We used it to pay for our HVAC and part of our Iceland trip. This card is a great travel card because it does not have a foreign transaction fee.

Chase Sapphire Reserve – I signed up for this card in 2016 and it worked out very well. They had a big signup bonus, travel credit, and other benefits. I canceled after a year because I didn’t want to pay the $450 annual fee. I used most of the points on our Cancun trip.

Chase Ink Business Unlimited card – This is my default business card. I charge all business expenses on this card. It does not have an annual fee so it’s the perfect basic business card. I can dump my Chase points here too.

Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card – This business card has a great signup bonus this year, 80,000 points. Mrs. RB40 signed up for this card in May and we used it to pay estimated tax and for our Iceland vacation.

Chase credit cards

Citi

I’ve been a bit too active over the last 24 months so Chase doesn’t like me anymore. Now, we’ll have to look further afield to find another option. There are still many good bonuses and Citi is one. This year, we’re hustling to accumulate American Airlines points. AA is good if you’re going to the Bahamas, Central, and South America. I think you can get 2 round trip tickets to those destinations for about 60,000 points.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite

I got this card last year and collected 50,000 bonus points. There is a $99 annual fee, but the first year is free. I converted this to a no annual fee card and kept the points.

Citi Business AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite

This is the business version of the AAdvantage Platinum card. Mrs. RB40 just signed up for this card and we’ll use it to pay our estimated tax at the end of the month.

Citi credit cards

My recommendation

If you’re just starting out, you should go for the Chase Ink Business Preferred card. Then wait 3 months and apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. These two cards will net you more than 130,000 points. That’s enough for 2 round trip tickets to Bangkok! You’ll have to endure the economy class, though. You’d need to hustle for more points if you want to fly business class.

Pro tips

OK, I’m not a pro at this, but here are some tips I learned from the last few years.

  • You shouldn’t put your spouse on the same card. They can apply for their own card and get more bonus points.
  • Make a spreadsheet to track your credit card. You need to see when a card is open, how much you need to spend, when the annual fee will kick in, etc…
  • Keep your eyes open for big bonuses. The 80,000 points for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is better than usual.
  • Be aware of the 5/24 rule. Don’t apply for too many cards.
  • Most people can apply for a business card even if they don’t have a small business. If you sell stuff on eBay or Craigslist, you’re a sole proprietor. You can use your social security number in place of the EIN (employer identification number.)

Free travel next year!

Alright, I’m sure we’ll have enough for our flights next year. We’ll probably use the American Airline points for 3 tickets to visit the Bahamas. I’ll need to do some research to see which Island to visit. We’ll save the Chase points for the next trip to Thailand. I can only plan one trip at a time. What’s your travel plan next year?

Are you hustling for credit card points? Which cards are good right now?

Visit my credit card page and use the widget at the bottom of the post to apply for a credit card. We may receive a referral fee if you use the links on this page.

Editorial Note – Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Photo by Lost Co

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.

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{ 57 comments… add one }
  • Accidental FIRE September 13, 2018, 1:40 am

    First off way to go, I’ve been delaying this for a while since I already have a card that gives me great points but I need to get on board.

    And secondly, I never thought about it that way but I agree with your statement about 3rd world and developed countries. I’ve been to about 40 countries in total in my life and have been fortunate to see many developing countries 10 or even 20 years ago. Many of them have changed now. But developed countries won’t change as much, and since they’re more expensive maybe it’s best to wait till we’re all Warren Buffet 🙂

    • retirebyforty September 13, 2018, 10:08 am

      Yes, get on it. You travel a lot so the points will come in very handy.
      I enjoy traveling in developing countries more too. Life is more raw and authentic. Developed countries are pretty bland, usually. Big cities are all the same to me, for the most part.

      • mary stone September 14, 2018, 6:02 am

        Yep, agree. Big cities are somewhat homogeneous; small places have more character and distinctions, plus less crowding and other headaches of densely-populated areas. Can’t understand why my friend who’s live din DC for 30+ years goes to Paris every few years – same design by the same person, one’s a little older, is more expensive, and has more sidewalk cafes and public toilets. Museums, monuments, memorials, and brutalist architecture are nearly identical. Montreal and Queebec are a lot more affordable and shorter travel distance from eastern US and provide nearly the same experience.

  • Lazy Man and Money September 13, 2018, 2:27 am

    That’s awesome. Now how do you extend all this for your epic trip around the world? 😉

    Reaching the minimum spend is an issue with us. Our biggest expenses don’t take credit cards. I suppose we could prepay taxes, but we don’t really need to do that at this point. The other thing is that I need to the S-corp silo’d well.

    Last year, we had a bunch of investment property expenses that we could plan for in advance, so it worked out well. I think there might be an opportunity in 2019 for some point hustling.

    • retirebyforty September 13, 2018, 10:10 am

      I’m not sure. We might try to accumulate more Chase points so we can use it to fly. My RTW trip is getting a drastic revision. We’ll probably spend most of our time in Thailand and travel around SE Asia. I’ll write more about it someday.
      The minimum spending was a big problem for us too. Now, estimated taxes made it easy.

  • caroline September 13, 2018, 3:18 am

    I wish we had as many opportunities in Canada! But we don’t.
    Not to say I would be better at travel hacking, last year I signed up for one and forgot I had to spend a minimum in the first three months!
    Bahamas sounds good:) And definitely keep a spreadsheet!

    • retirebyforty September 13, 2018, 10:11 am

      I did that with the Southwest card about 7 years ago. If you don’t keep a spreadsheet, you won’t remember. Now, I have a spreadsheet to track these cards.

  • Xrayvsn September 13, 2018, 4:04 am

    I really need to start looking at travel hacking more closely.

    All my credit card stuff (which I pay fully each month which is vital) accumulates rewards which I have been aiming for cash back (typically 1.5% back).

    It seems that there is a bigger bang for the buck if I try to build up points for airline travel. Another physician blogger (Dr. McFrugal) did a post where used travel points to get a first class flight for him and his wife for free to Singapore (which would have been around $8k/ticket each). I have never traveled first class anywhere let alone a long international flight, but it would be nice to check that off on my bucket list and doing it for free would make it even sweeter.

    • retirebyforty September 13, 2018, 10:12 am

      I’d love to try the first class flight to Asia too. That might have to wait until our son goes off to college, though. I don’t want to waste a first class ticket on him. Maybe he can fly economy while we go first class. 😀

  • Financial Verdict September 13, 2018, 4:12 am

    Nice job on the trip to Iceland! My wife and I have been able to get free round trip flights to Hawaii and some other perks through some well timed travel hacking. We typically wait until we are going to be doing some remodeling or other improvements and then sign up for the cards that will help us on the next big trip.

    However with a newborn, our days of far flung travel may be on hold for just a bit!

    • retirebyforty September 13, 2018, 10:13 am

      We waited until our son was 3 before we flew longer distance, Hawaii. After that, he was okay with flying. He really enjoys fooling around with the entertainment system.

  • Tom @ Dividends Diversify September 13, 2018, 4:17 am

    Nice work and summary. I’m not much of a travel hacker, but if you don’t mind spending the time on administration, it’s a great way to go Joe. Tom

  • FullTimeFinance September 13, 2018, 4:49 am

    We’re lookung at more domestic then international in 19. Some things are happening that I can’t yet write about (teaser) that may limit international travel in the short run.

    Still hacking away. This year I’m taking all the cards as my wife drops again below 5/24. I’m about to switch over to a citi card. Haven’t decided yet on the AA or the more flexible thank you preferred.

    • retirebyforty September 13, 2018, 10:14 am

      Okay, I’m looking forward to reading more about it. AA is pretty good for Bahamas, South and Central America. I’m not sure about domestic. Probably pretty good too.

  • Dan K September 13, 2018, 7:31 am

    I wouldn’t say we hustle for free travel, but we try hard to get free travel. My wife has a credit card to get United miles, I have a card for Hilton Hotels, and we have the Capital One Venture card for all household expenses with Capital. My wife also works for Wyndham Worldwide (so discounts there). I also do surveys online to get miles with United and JetBlue. So maybe we do hustle for free travel!

    • retirebyforty September 13, 2018, 10:15 am

      I’m thinking about the Hilton cards too. Maybe we’ll do that in December for the next estimated tax payment.

  • Jim @ Route To Retire September 13, 2018, 8:08 am

    “I’ve been a bit too active over the last 24 months so Chase doesn’t like me anymore” – that’s funny stuff… but true!

    It seems like we’re following the same path going from Chase rewards and then onto some Citi ones (particularly AA). Our next move is to knock out the Southwest Companion Pass with a couple of the Chase cards at the beginning of next year.

    It’s amazing how much free travel is out there if you just put a small amount of effort into chasing after the rewards.

    — Jim

    • retirebyforty September 13, 2018, 10:16 am

      I heard about the Southwest companion pass. We’ll have to put that on our watch list.

  • Lily | The Frugal Gene September 13, 2018, 8:19 am

    I agree with all your thoughts on why credit hustling for points is not a fav. My husband said this word for word – “I don’t like having to spend a certain amount of money in a limited time window because I’d spend more than normal.”
    I signed up for the Chase business ink account and I’ve got 3 months. I think I spent…$5 and it’s been 2 weeks. We probably need to manufacture some spending to get to $3k.

    I didn’t know you can pay business taxes with a credit card?!

    • retirebyforty September 13, 2018, 10:17 am

      Yeah, you should pay estimated tax with it. There is a charge, 2-3%, but it’s worth it.
      You made lots of income this year so you should have estimated payments, right?

    • Dr. McFrugal September 13, 2018, 2:54 pm

      Hi Lily. Yes you can pay taxes with a credit card. I wrote a post on it. You basically go to http://www.pay1040.com and use a credit card. The fee is 1.87%.

      Other methods to manufacturing spending is…
      Pay your husband using Venmo / PayPal (with a fee) then have him deposit it in the bank
      Pay taxes
      Buy gift cards then try to resell them
      Pay your bills using Plastiq
      Pay rent with RadPad/Rentler/RoomiPay/Urbanr

      • Dr. McFrugal September 13, 2018, 2:56 pm

        All of those payments do have a fee, but many times it can be worth it to get the sign up bonus!

  • Doc G September 13, 2018, 8:23 am

    I have been so bad with travel hacking. I need to get on board.

    • retirebyforty September 13, 2018, 10:17 am

      You’re really busy with life. I’d put it off until later. You don’t need another thing to worry about.

  • bellbang September 13, 2018, 8:33 am

    This is a good hack. Post if you found a way to hack on hotel, rental cars, gas during vacation, saving on toll etc

  • Freedom 40 Plan September 13, 2018, 8:36 am

    Great overview. I’m planning to open a business credit card and have been looking at Chase Ink. I think you just helped me lock in on my decision.

    • retirebyforty September 13, 2018, 10:18 am

      Yes, they have a great bonus right now. It’s a great deal.

  • The Luxe Strategist September 13, 2018, 8:36 am

    I agree with you on doing the less developed countries while younger. I was in SE Asia about five years ago and going again this winter. I’m excited to see how things have changed.

    Iceland wasn’t a top destination for me, but I find picking a place that’s good for kids to be kind of a challenge! There definitely needs to be some activities.

    What do you plan on using the AA points for? I find them kind of hard to redeem for domestic or Europe flights, although we did use them for business class tickets to Vietnam.

    • retirebyforty September 13, 2018, 10:20 am

      We’ll use AA points for Bahamas or South/Central America. It seems like a pretty good deal for that.
      I don’t think it’s worth it to use AA for domestic flights. It’s already pretty cheap for us to fly to CA. We usually use our Alaska Airlines benefit for that.

  • freddy smidlap September 13, 2018, 9:45 am

    we’re only hacking for cash back so far. i referred my wife to my chase freedom unlimited (1.5% back) so she gets 150 bucks and i get 100. i just signed up for an ally card for a 150 bonus with 2% back on gas and groceries. that 500 spend will be easy in 3 months on stuff we normally buy. for now i’ll take the cash and buy the airfare but those others are tempting if we get the itch for a big trip.

    • retirebyforty September 13, 2018, 10:21 am

      I should call and change to Chase Freedom unlimited. The extra 0.5% would help.

      • mary w September 17, 2018, 10:34 am

        The good thing about the basic Freedom card is the 5% rotating categories (next quarter its Chase Pay, Department stores, and Wholesale clubs). I use it primarily for bonus categories but not necessarily other things.

  • Dr. McFrugal September 13, 2018, 3:22 pm

    Great post Joe! To answer your question… Yes, I am hustling for credit card points. If you know I’m always doing it ?

    Some good cards out there…
    Citi Premier – $60k bonus and good bonus categories including 3x pts on travel and gas (I had this one more than 2 years ago, then downgraded to no fee preferred card. I’m eligible for sign up bonus again so this will be part of my app-o-rama next quarter)
    Discover It Business – 1.5% cash back on everything, and it’s double the first year so essentially 3% cash back (I don’t have this, but 3% is fantastic)
    Amex Blue Business Plus – 2x membership rewards points on every purchase up to $50k (one of my favorite cards that I currently own)
    Chase Ink Preferred – you already have it, all around great card
    Hilton Aspire Card – 150k sign up bonus. This one does come with $450 annual fee, but it comes with $600 in credits that more than make up the value of the fee. ($250 Hilton Resort credit + $250 Airline Credit + $100 property credit + Diamond status / free breakfast and suite upgrades). This one is great if you stay at Hiltons. I’m thinking about applying for this too on my next app-o-rama.
    British Airways Card – This one is not for everyone, but I might do it to fly me, my wife, and baby to Europe first class (BA is the best for flying a lap infant first class for minimal fees/costs and I am looking to earn the travel together companion pass, so this is a consideration in my next app-o-rama as well too).
    Amex Business Gold – 50k MR points bonus and AF waived the first year ( I have this card currently and will likely not keep it past the first year)

    Okay, that’s enough cards.

    Some thoughts on your tips:
    – Yes, do not add your spouse as an authorized user because that would add to her 5/24 status and therefore she may not be eligible for certain Chase cards. It’s best that she apply for the card herself like you said. HOWEVER, sometimes you can earn an additional 5k chase ultimate rewards by adding an AU (authorized user). If you get targeted for an offer like this, add your son. 1) You get 5k bonus points and 2) RB40 Jr gets to build an excellent credit history at a young age. It’s a Win-Win.
    – Yes, be aware of the 5/24 rule. But there’s also a 2/30 rule. Don’t apply for more than 2 chase cards within 30 days. Otherwise they will likely deny you.
    – Business cards should be the first priority since most do not add to your 5/24 status. Amex business cards are the easiest to get, they’ll approve anyone as long as you don’t have more than 4 Amex credit cards and more than 4 Amex charge cards already. Chase Business cards are easy to get too. It’s easiest to put your name, sole proprietor, and your SSN. Don’t get fancy with EIN and LLC or other designations because it invites questions. Don’t invite questions about your business.

  • David @iretiredyoung September 13, 2018, 5:47 pm

    In the past I kind of felt it was wrong to get the cards just to get the points with no real intention to keep the cards long term, but I’ve changed my mind. The credit card companies have no qualms about taking stuff from us, and as they’ve set the rules, it’s fair game that we take advantage and get something from them.

    That said, I’m hopeless at the travel hacking. It would have made sense to do this for my current travels, but I didn’t, however I’m going to make a bigger effort on this when I get back. It’s free money, why wouldn’t I?

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2018, 3:47 pm

      You can still keep them. Just convert them to a no fee card after you got the points. 🙂

  • Half Life Theory September 13, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Great info Joe! As always! You guys are loaded up on points already. That’s awesome! Nothing feels better than free travel through credit card rewards. ?

    Chase ink is my next target card. My wife and I did pretty good with the sapphire cards last year. Thanks for the info Joe!

  • mary stone September 14, 2018, 5:56 am

    As many evacuees discover this week especially, having airfare or miles and hotel points can be critical aspects of an emergency resource kit. I recommend retaining a robust bank of both in case of natural and man-made disasters that require your to live elsewhere for brief or extended periods of time. Iceland can wait when there are fires in the western US and coastal storms in the eastern US and flooding universally affecting everyone in more severe ways.

  • fourtakeflight September 14, 2018, 7:00 am

    We absolutely use travel hacking to help pay for vacations! It’s tricky promoting credit cards though, because if you aren’t disciplined with your money/spending then you can easily end up paying interest and you don’t want to do that. In my opinion, in order for this to be a successful hack, you need to have the credit card set to autopay the full balance every month. If you can do this, than GO FOR IT! ITS FREE MONEY!

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2018, 3:48 pm

      Right. That’s what we do too. Just pay in full every month.

  • Tawcan September 14, 2018, 9:08 am

    I like your way of thinking, going to less developed countries first before they develop!

    Travel hacking is such a worthwhile way to keep your travel expenses low. Earlier this year our family of four flew direct to Maui on points and stayed at a Marriott resort hotel for 12 nights for free. That saved us over $10,000!!! All it took was a little bit of research and planning. I wrote about it here:
    https://www.tawcan.com/travel-hacking-saved-money/

    I have to say though, I’m a bit jealous of you Americans. You guys have way better credit card offers than us when it comes to sign up bonuses. I supposed that’s the benefit of having a much bigger population.

  • Mr. Tako September 14, 2018, 9:37 am

    We’re not huge travelers, but we do travel about once or twice a year. We always try to travel hack our bigger trips too, but for shorter domestic trips we often just pay out of pocket.

    Believe it or not, once I reached financial independence I actually found I had *less* desire to travel. I think what happened was I didn’t have the need to “get away” from my usual life, because life was so good already.

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2018, 3:50 pm

      That’s interesting! I still want to travel, but I enjoy being home too. They’re both good.

  • Rich Novelist September 14, 2018, 11:44 am

    How are you dealing with cancelling these credit cards? To me, that always feels like the stressful part. Last time I cancelled a card, I felt like it took forever and it seemed like the bank was really trying to keep me as a customer. I really want to take advantage of travel hacking, but I always balk because I don’t really like credit cards as it is.

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2018, 3:45 pm

      I usually call and tell them to change the card to a no fee card. That usually works. If not, then just cancel.

  • Young and the Invested September 15, 2018, 6:38 am

    I did the credit card hustle when I was in graduate school to get free flights on Delta, American, and United. The points really helped to defray those costs as well as build my credit. I canceled the Delta and American cards after a year to avoid the fees ($95 per year per card). The United card I kept because they gave me such an outlandish credit line compared to the rest of my credit cards. I wanted to keep it open for credit score improvement purposes and still have it. I think now that I’ve had an overall improvement in my credit line availability and average credit age I can probably cancel it.

    I need to look into the Chase Sapphire cards to score some more points. Will have to see what I can manage on the minimum spending front, though. I’m sure I could meet the minimums if necessary by pulling spending forward and prepaying some expenses. As long as it isn’t a recurring necessity to do so, I can handle it for free round trip tickets.

  • Eric @ Flip n Finances September 15, 2018, 11:12 am

    I’m glad to hear that travel hacking is something you’ve done for a while 🙂

    My wife and I are just getting into this area of travel hacking since we have good credit and are remodeling the kitchen (so many monies haha)

    With these sign-on bonuses, after calculating it out, you are rewarded between 20-25% after what you spend! Spending $3,000 of money you already planned out and getting $500 back in free flights sounds pretty neat to me.

    The price? Being responsible with your money 🙂 And it’s the least credit card companies can do for people with their insanely high interest rates.

    I’m excited to see how much we can “hustle” for free travel as well 🙂

  • retireby30 September 16, 2018, 5:17 am

    Hay RB40, I actually retired by thirty.
    Worked in my 3rd world country as Electrical Engineer
    1. Ready Made Garments Factory for about 3 weeks , pay : 70 USD/month
    2. HFO power plant for about 1.6 years, pay : 330 USD/month
    3. Engineering University Lab Technician for 1.2 years, pay : 250 USD/month

    Now, I do independent embedded projects, online tech write ups, pay : Inconsistent
    Lucky me, have well off parent : so food and rent are free !
    Job was never satisfying both in terms of compensation and work type. Wanted to become very smart embedded/power electronics designer and earn decent cash ! Didn’t happen.

    I think success is more of a chance than effort. Because, I have seen people working their ass off but barely making a living !

  • Cubert September 16, 2018, 8:31 am

    Super smart, Joe. We found ourselves in the same boat this year. After a handful of years reaping the rewards, we hit a few landmines this year. The main problem was ME. I didn’t look closely enough at the rules when I re-applied to two different cards. I thought I only needed two years between application dates, but I needed two years between closure of the first, and application of the new. WHOOPS. So I put all that energy into the minimum spend, only to wind up with ZERO points on those two cards. Gotta pay more attention. Lesson learned.

  • mary w September 17, 2018, 10:43 am

    -For gift cards I mostly limit myself to those that can be added to an account and used automatically (e.g., Netflix, Amazon, Uber). that way I don’t have to keep a physical card.
    -When possible get a referral bonus for referring your spouse to a card.
    -Do research before starting travel hacking. Each issuer has different rules (Chase is 5/24 while Amex is 1 and done) that are more nuanced that you might think (e.g., Not all Chase cards are subject to 5/24). Not to mention that the rules change without notice.

  • GYM September 18, 2018, 11:11 pm

    Travel hacking takes time- sounds like you got all the fantastic US credit card bonuses down pat. We are going to Hawaii again and only managed to get $250 off our tickets with one of the credit cards we used. We are accumulating Aeroplan Points right now (tons tons tons from hemorrhaging money with the house build) so hopefully can go to Asia for free in 2019.

    Bahamas sounds really nice!

  • Paul September 19, 2018, 11:17 am

    After over a year of being denied, I finally got on the happy side of the 5/24 rule and just got a Chase Marriott card (which along with IHG is one of the best hotel ones). I’m going to be more selective in the future (it was painful to learn that Chase’s 5/24 rule isn’t just for Chase cards, but all cards) to avoid a logjam in the future!

    Congrats on all of the free travel, and thanks for the tips!

  • Independence Engineered September 19, 2018, 6:06 pm

    This is a great article on how to get started being a travel hacker! I’ve been thinking about it for a while now and just need to do it. Thanks for making it easy and doing all the leg work!

  • FIRECracker September 20, 2018, 2:56 am

    ” travel hacking and credit card churning are bad words in the credit card industry.”

    This reminded me of the time an acquaintance corrected me and said “what you’re doing isn’t travel hacking. Doesn’t sugar coat it. It’s points whoring–pure and simple.”

    I just laughed. “Call it whatever you want. I call it “saving $6000”.

    Travel hacking has saved us a ton of money and I don’t give a crap what people call it. Although, I have found that since there are budget airlines like Norwegian, it’s not as necessary since you can fly from Miami to London for $200 (you’d have to pay that much tax from certain airports if you use points anyway).

    Happy Points-Hustling/Hacking/Whoring!

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