Travel Credit Cards

Travel hacking for free/cheap trips

Travel HackingPlease skip this page if you have a lot of credit card debt. Pay those off first before even thinking about travel hacking.

However, if you use your credit cards responsibly, this page is for you. We pay off our credit card in full every month and never build up credit card debt. That’s the basic and we’ll stick to it.

The next level up is travel hacking. Basically, this is using credit card reward points to pay for flights and hotel rooms. We all like to travel and this is a great way to save a lot of money. Travel hacking saved us a bundle last year. We visited Hawaii and Cancun and had a fabulous time for very little money.

The main idea is to sign up for a new credit card with a good signup bonus periodically. These cards usually have a threshold spending condition. For example, I just signed up for a new Chase Sapphire Preferred card. We had to spend $4,000 in the first 3 months to collect 80,000 bonus points. I used it to pay our property tax so we got the bonus points right away. It was great! If you have a big expense coming up, why not get a new credit card and rake in the bonus points or even cash. We’ll use these points to pay for our trip to Thailand next year. It should be a great trip for very little money because we plan ahead.

***I just signed up for the Capital One Savor and got $500 bonus. Sign up before the bonus expires if you want the same deal. Click through on the banner below.


FYI, Chase has the best signup bonuses so you should start with them first. They also have one very tough restriction. If you have 5 hard credit inquiries over the last 24 months, then Chase will decline your credit card application. That’s why you need to keep track of your credit inquiries.

There are many credit cards with great signup bonuses today. Check them out through my travel credit card link. Look for at least 50,000 bonus points. Anything less than that probably isn’t worth your time.

Credit history

To do this right, you need to start a new spreadsheet so you can keep track of your credit inquiries. Here is what I did.

  1. Get my free credit report. I use Annual Credit Report. You can get your credit report for free once per year from each credit rating agency – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. You can get all 3 reports or just one. I recommend getting one report so you can check again for free before 12 months is over.
  2. Start a spreadsheet and add a row for all the credit inquiries and current cards. This will help you keep track of the inquiries, spending threshold, and points. This is also a very good place to track annual fees and balances.
  3. Many of the better cards have annual fee. They usually waive the fee for the first year. What I usually do is to call them up and transfer the balance to a free card. That way we can avoid the annual fee and keep the credit. Closing out a credit card can affect your credit score. We can avoid this by transferring the credit to a free card instead of closing out the card.

That’s it.

Stay Responsible

Remember, you shouldn’t carry a credit card balance. Don’t run up a big balance just to get points. That will defeat the purpose of travel hacking.

Also, don’t add an extra card for your spouse. Your spouse can apply for a card separately and get the bonus too. You can also use the Chase refer a friend program to get more bonuses. See more below.

Chase has some really good signup bonuses right now. Check them out.

Chase Business Preferred – The current signup bonus is 80,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. This is the best bonus available at this time. You don’t need to have a business to apply for a business credit card. You can just select “Sole Proprietor” as business type and use your SSN as the tax ID. The annual fee is $95/year, but it’s worth it. This card also has no foreign transaction fee which is a great benefit if you travel internationally.

Chase Freedom Unlimited – This is a great card with no annual fees. The current signup bonus is $150 after spending $500 in the first 3 months. This is my default card.

Chase Sapphire Preferred – This one has a signup bonus of 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. The annual fee is $95/year, but it is waived the first year.

*Chase refer a friend program. If you have a Chase card, you can refer your friends and get bonus points or cash. I’m using the program for these Chase links. Good luck!

For more great signup bonuses, click on the banner below to check them out. Generally, you should aim for 50,000 points or more. Anything less than that probably isn’t worth your time.


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.

Disclosure: We may receive a referral fee if you sign up for a service through a link on this page.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.