Earlier this year when a family emergency came up I only had enough miles for a free plane ticket from Hawaii to the mainland. I used it on my mom and paid around $1000 for my wife’s ticket. Those miles were accumalated during my travels from work. We’ve gone on some nice vacations that I’ve saved thousands on due to points I’ve earned. (Nice perks for being away from home). We put everything on our rewards cards and get miles for purchases like everyone does. I was happy to accumalate 15-20,000 miles/points a year this way, combined with my work points it would come out to around 60-100,000 hotel points or frquent flier miles a year. 70% of our “free” or discounted vacation was points earn from my travels. I joke with my wife that it took me 10 years to accumalate my Marriott points and three years of dating her to drain it.
I first heard of travel hacking from several blogs sometime last year. Travel hacking is where you open credit cards or “churn” them for the rewards so that you can get free travel from the sign up bonus. Some had high spending requirements but once met you would get some nice bonuses. After reading up and visiting several chains in Hawaii i started thinking about travel hacking. I realize now that this is a game changer. Credit cards aren’t evil, used responsibly they enhance your cash flow and can improve your life. Collecting the rewards to go on nice vacations at a minimal cost to relieve stress is improving your life.
Why this is a game changer for me, and it should be for you also.
To build your finances you need to invest in gamre changers. Real estate is one of them. Never having to pay for travel again is another. We love to travel and I’m always glad to spend points to reduce the cost. I will pay for trips or nights when the value for my points don’t match up. I value all miles or points at a minimum of 2 cents per point. Anything less than that I will pay for out of pocket. Don’t waste your points on anything less. An example is a United ticket to Boston from Hawaii is around $950 or 45,000 miles, at a value of 2.1 cents per mile. 950/45,000= 2.1 That’s worth it, a ticket to LA costs around $475 on sale which comes out to a penny a mile. 475/45,000= 1 cent. In this case I would pay for it out of pocket.
When I traveled to Hong Kong for a five day stay at the JW Marriott we got 3.4 cents to the point which was a great deal. Now that I started laying out my “travel hacking” strategy with my work points I plan to never pay for travel again. My goal is to generate at least $4000-$5000 in rewards a year.
Since I fly United I had a United Explorer Card. Since then I got the much better Chase Sapphire with the 45,000 point bonus, Chase Ink Business with 50,000 points, my wife and I both got the Barclay Arrival Mastercard, and she got a United Card. With all those cards we needed to generate a minimum of $15,000 in spending otherwise you don’t get the sign up bonus. Enter the American Express BlueBird card and the vanilla reloads that allowed me to charge $21,000 in six weeks. I have $10,000 a month in mortgages that I now technically pay with credit cards. Now that CVS no longer allows credit card purchases for Vanilla Reloads that door has closed. There are other opportunities like loading a gift card with a pin onto Bluebird, since I’m not a travel blog I won’t go too much in depth. I’m going to use various strategies that will allow me to “pay” all my mortgages via credit card, which means at least 120,000 points a year! That doesn’t include my regular spending which is additional points.
I know most people don’t have that much expenses. You can generate $24,000 in spending from Amazon Payment. Jacob from Cash Cow Couple has a great post on this. You can also use money orders using gift pins, go to this travel blog to learn more. So far in three months with the value of points and extra spending I’ve earned a little over $4,000 in travel, I know this will drop because my sign up bonuses are counted in this. There are still a few cards I’m going to sign up for as my goal is to get around 400,000 total points this year.
Time is a valuable commodity. How much is this taking of my time. I probably spent 40 hours reading and 20 looking for and loading all the vanilla reloads and gift cards. (Trial and error as Hawaii doesn’t have major chains like the mainland with a wide assortment of vanilla reloads.) Gift cards ang loading have fees associated, net after expenses I made around $45 an hour. I’ve looked into a few other things and determined to spend at most 10 hours a month working on this, if successful I will never have to pay for travel again. Beats any other side hustle I can do in my limited time. (Although every blogger knows how much money we all make from this) Which of course in my case its negative since I make no money from this, I’m better off working in an Indonesia sweat shop.
Are you travel hacking? What major trip do you want to do this year?