WARNING! If you have any credit card debt or struggle with spending more than you make, please do not read this post. This is only for those who have no debt, can use credit cards responsibly and want to understand more about the rewards they can provide in a debt free lifestyle.

how_to_save_money_on_travel

We just finished booking our summer travel. Read on to find out how you can travel for pennies on the dollar next summer or even for this winter…

Here is what we booked and what it cost us

TOTAL SAVED: $2,151.00

ROUND TRIP FLIGHT & HOTEL

WE PAID

 84,368 Points + $140.00

NYC – BUF – United Airlines Economy Class 2 Tickets

  • 54,368 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points + $0.00

Crowne Plaza Niagara Falls – Fallsview Hotel

  • 1 Night – 30,000 IHG Points + $140 (Point Purchase)
  • 1 Night – IHG Credit Card Annual Free Anniversary Night

RETAIL VALUE

$1,180

NYC – BUF – United Airlines Economy Class

  • 2 Tickets – $680 2 Nights – Crowne Plaza Niagara Falls

Crowne Plaza Niagara Falls – Fallsview Hotel

  • 1 Night – $250
  • 1 Night – $250

TOTAL MONEY SAVED – $1,040


MULTI-CITY FLIGHT

WE PAID

 75,000 Points + $20.00

LGA – ECP – BHM – JKF – Delta Airlines Economy Class

  • 2 Tickets – 75,000 SkyMiles + $20.00

RETAIL VALUE

$1,131.00

LGA – ECP – BHM – JKF – Delta Airlines Economy Class

  • 2 Tickets – $1,131.00

TOTAL MONEY SAVED – $1,111.00


GRAND TOTAL COST: $160.00

GRAND TOTAL SAVED: $2,151.00

So, how did we save over two thousand dollars on hotels and airfare? Well we didn’t do it by racking up miles flying all over the USA doing life/soul sucking consulting work with little to no personal life. Nope. Griffin works from anywhere with and internet connection doing work he loves and Valerie works around town doing social work that she loves.

What we did was strategically sign up for and receive credit card rewards from different credit card companies without changing our spending habits or overspending. Here are the cards we used for this trip:

American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card

Rewards Bonus Details

Bonus Amount: 30,000 SkyMiles
Minimum Spend: $500
Time Limit: 3 Months
Annual Fee: $0 for first year and then $95/year
Re-Apply Rules: Every 2 years
Bonus Perk(s): $50 Statement credit after you make a delta purchase on your card within time limit.

Chase IHG Rewards Club Select Visa

Rewards Bonus Details

Bonus Amount: 60,000 IHG Points
Minimum Spend: $1,000
Time Limit: 3 Months
Annual Fee: $0 for first year and then $49/year
Re-Apply Rules: Unknown
Bonus Perk(s):

  • One free night per year after 1 year of having the card
  • Upgrade to Platinum Elite Status as long as you are a cardmember. Benefit details here.

Chase Ink Bold Business Charge Card

Rewards Bonus Details

Bonus Amount: 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Minimum Spend: $5,000
Time Limit: 3 Months
Annual Fee: $0 for first year and then $95/year
Re-Apply Rules:  Unknown
Bonus Perk(s):

  •  20% Off travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 1:1 point transfer with no transfer fees

List Transfer Partners as of this writing

AIRLINES

British Airways Executive Club | Korean Air SKYPASS | Southwest Rapid Rewards | United MileagePlus | Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

HOTELS & RAIL PROGRAMS

Amtrak Guest Rewards | Hyatt Gold Passport | Priority Club Rewards | Marriott Rewards | The Ritz-Carlton Rewards


I hope the information above makes sense. Basically, each card has a minimum spend usually within three months. If you meet the minimum spend requirement within the time limit you should receive the award points shortly.

So, how do we recommend getting all these points? Here is our method.

FINAL WARNING

We have seen first hand the crippling and life altering affects of credit card debt. The first and most important step for anyone would be to not even think about doing any of this if you have any credit card debt whatsoever or have issues getting credit cards and eventually finding yourself back in credit card debt. Any benefits and reward you may be able to get through using credits card is not worth credit card debt ever! If you get a free $1,000 plane ticket, but then are paying hundreds a month in credit card interest on a balance you can’t afford, then you will quickly lose any and all benefits of the possible rewards.

If you have no credit card debt and understand and hate the idea of credit card debt to the point that you will do everything you can to never have it, then you are ready for Step 1.

We take no legal, implied, or inferred responsibility for the choices you make from this article or blog and further wish that more people would be more self-responsible and deal with their own decisions and consequences in the world in general.

STEP 1 – Credit Monitoring

Sign up for a free credit monitoring account at one or both of the following sites:

These will allow you to get your current credit score as well as Monitor your credit for any issues from here forward. If you are in credit card debt or have a bad credit score, this may be a good step to take to monitor your credit, but please note, these companies are making money from commissions by recommending credit cards to you.  We recommend not going with their recommended credit cards as they are not always the best available.

STEP 2 – Pick Your Card

Once you have confirmed that you have a good credit score then you are ready to apply for your first card. We highly recommend only applying to cards for which you are sure you will be using the resulting rewards within 12 months. The reason for this is that many of the rewards points have expiration dates and/or other stipulations that affect the points after one year.


Example
We signed up for an Alaskan Airlines card to get 40,000 Alaskan Airlines Miles, but it turns out if you cancel the card you lose all your points. So we have paid two $95 fees so far in hopes to be able to use the card on a future flight. If this continues for much longer, we will not be saving any money.


We can personally recommend the cards above, but there are plenty of other cards for most of the major rewards programs you may be interested in. For example, if you are wanting Amtrak points, you could sign up for the Chase Ink Bold card above which can transfer points 1:1 to Amtrack, but you may also be able to find another option via a quick Google search for Amtrak Credit Card. If you are looking for another reward program, just sub out Amtrak for the rewards you are looking for and google that.

This gets a little complicated, but we recommend only applying to one Airline rewards card per Ailine alliance. The three major alliances are

One World | Sky Team | Star Alliance

The reason for this is so that your miles are in one main account instead of spread across a lot of accounts where you can’t leverage them as well. As long as you have miles in one of the alliances airline accounts, you can usually book flights with any airline on that alliance and sometimes even get better mileage value as well.

OK. Now, after you have thoroughly read and understood all there terms and conditions of the card you have selected, go ahead and apply for your desired credit card and best of luck! If approved, move on to Step 3.

STEP 3 – Use The Card

Be sure to spend the minimum required amount within the time limit on the card. We highly recommend not changing your spending habits as this is another way to get in debt, so make sure before that you can spend the required amounts, usually of $500 – $5,000 on the credit card in the time limit required. If you are unable to meet the minimum spend or do it in the time limit, you will not receive the major point bonus and all your effort will not be worth it. What we do is focus on one card every three months or until paid off. This way we can spend only on the desired card for the three months period and make sure we have spent the minimum before the time limit.

NEXT STEP – Collect & Track Your Points

So, you have been collecting points and Airline miles for a while and now you are having a bit of a hard time keeping up with it all? No problem. There is free service that can help with that. We use and highly recommend Award Wallet. It allows you to track most rewards programs balances for free. You can pay to view expiration dates and other features, but we have been more than happy with the free version.

FINAL STEP

Go travel! Enjoy your strategic work and book flights, trains and/or hotels and enjoy the time with your friends and loved ones!

TAKING IT FURTHER

If you are looking to take this all to the next level, below are a few resources that we have found well worth the investment.

 

1. Frequent Flyer Master

Frequent Flyer Master

If you want to learn more about travel hacking and even get a guaranteed free domestic flight in the States, check out this great resource by someone who has traveled to every country in the world!

Frequent Flyer Master is a full e-book, a 20-minute audio, and a 4-page Priceline specific guide on the art of hacking airline miles. Click for a full description.

2. Travel Hacking Cartel

Join the Travel Hacking Cartel

If you want to join a group of people passionate about finding the best deals, racking up points and traveling in style using points instead of cash, this is the place to be.  There is a monthly charge for this group, but we have found it more than worth the cost and have made back 10x our investment and more through the rewards travel from it.

3. Flyer Talk Forums

This is another great group to join if you are looking to really stay up to date and on top of all the different rewards travel options, hacks and strategies.  It takes a bit more time and energy than the above two resources, but it has the added benefit of being free!


We hope this has been encouraging and helpful. We have shared these strategies with many of our family and friends and have always enjoyed hearing about their travels using points for first class flights, resort hotels and more. Have you used miles and points to book an amazing trip? Share about it in the comments and let us know if we missed anything.

* This article was originally published here

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