Part of making money your honey is learning how to make money work for you so you can enjoy some luxuries.
It’s also knowing when a common assumption about money is complete bullshit.
For example, most people think you need a lot of money to travel.
Sound the bullshit alarm!
Maybe the masses need a lot of money to travel because they insist on buying expensive vacation packages, but readers of this blog know better.
Here’s another little tidbit: I haven’t paid for a flight in almost three years.
And I don’t just mean a flight or two here and there, I’ve traveled to many conferences and even for pleasure over the last few years and I haven’t paid for a single flight.
Last year I randomly decided to go visit a friend in Northern California. The next week I was on a free flight to San Jose and had an amazing time crashing at her house.
My entire family flew for free last year. It was the first time in over a decade that we’d gone on a trip together.
I have a conference in Charlotte in September and a wedding in the Dominican Republic in November – I won’t be paying for those flights either.
How have I done this? By practicing the art and science of travel hacking.
What is travel hacking?
Before I get into the actual guide to travel hacking, I must first define what this phenomenon is.
Travel hacking is the method of making travel as cheap as possible. And it’s a lot more than just finding a good deal online.
Tavel hacking instead focuses on free travel. Free flights, free upgrades, free hotel stays and elite status just to name a few.
I’ve personally only experimented with free flights (upgrades and hotel stays are next on the list), so my guide to travel hacking is going to focus on the actual travel part of traveling.
The Make Money Your Honey Guide to Travel Hacking
While there a quite a few methods to accumulate airline miles, one of the easiest and fastest ways to rack up points is to sign up for credit cards that come with travel rewards.
This also the only method I have personal experience with so for the sake of simplicity our guide to travel hacking is going to stick to talking about credit cards.
There are a few ways to make sure you’re getting the most of your credit cards for travel rewards.
1. Know where you’re going so you can find the best program for you. For example, since most conferences I go to are within the U.S. I use my Southwest credit cards all the time.
2. Keep an eye out for sign up bonuses. Sometimes airlines double the rewards on their credit cards just for signing up and hitting the spend goal. Usually the limit is something like $2,000 – 3,000 in purchases over 90 days. You can easily hit this just from paying your regular bills for three months with a credit card. Some credit cards have higher spend goals depending on what kind of card it is and what other perks come with it. For example, Southwest doubles their sign up bonus a couple of times a year and British Airways just had their 100,000 Avios points sign up bonus promotion.
3. Use your credit card for everything you can. One of the ways I’ve automated my finances is by paying for all of my bills with a credit card. I then have an automatic payment turned on for the credit card. Life is just way easier that way. All this requires is that you watch your money like a hawk and avoid falling into the trap of spending more than you make.
4. Keep an eye out for extra promotions. During busy shopping seasons, like Christmas time, airlines may have special promotions for hitting a certain dollar amount spent. Or, sometimes they have deals with certain retailers and offer extra miles. This may require you to go to a website to fill in your name and email in order to enroll in the bonus.
5. Have trusted authorized users on the credit cards. I get my anal retentiveness with credit cards from my parents. And that’s precisely why they are authorized users on my airline rewards cards. They pay for their groceries using the credit card and then pay the balance off in full each month. With this method we were able to have free flights for a family vacation. (Note: Only do this with people you trust and can handle credit cards.)
6. Keep yourself in the loop of the travel industry. I’m fortunate enough that one of my best friends is obsessed with travel hacking and knows all the tips, tricks and industry news that affect point values. He sends me a text saying “Hey! These two airlines are merging! Get the cards so you’ll get 100,000 miles in one pot!” I understand not everyone is so lucky. However, there are sites you can subscribe to that help you stay on top of this stuff including Extra Pack of Peanuts, The Points Guy, Million Mile Secrets and Frugal Travel Guy.
While it’s easier than ever to get started travel hacking there are some caveats you should know about.
1. Not all rewards programs are created equal. In fact some really suck. This was a mistake I made in the beginning when I took out the Delta card.
2. These cards tend to have high interest rates. Moral of the story: pay off your balance in full each month.
3. You need a very good credit score to get your hands on these cards. Typically 700 plus. If you’re not there yet Extra Pack of Peanuts has a guide on how to improve your score. The Budgetnista and My Fab Finance also have great content on this subject.
4. Many of the cards have annual fees. Most of them are waived the first year. Again just something to keep in mind. I personally think an annual fee is worth free flights.
5. Booking award travel is an art form all by itself. Honestly my best friend books my flights for me, but you can learn the ins and outs by reading travel hacking blogs. Another thing to note here is that you may end up doing some crazy shit just to use less points. For example, a direct flight to California from Miami is really only about six hours. Well, I’ve definitely traveled about 10 to 12 hours to get to the West Coast for the sole purpose of using less points.
6. If you’re a cash only kind of person you may not want to do this. It really just depends how comfortable you are with using credit cards responsibly.
7. Flexibility with dates may sometimes be necessary. If you’re self-employed this is a non-issue, but if you work for someone else you may need to get a little creative sometimes.
And there you have it! The Make Money Your Honey Guide to Travel Hacking. For more on the subject I highly recommend checking out the resources I’ve linked throughout this post.