The value of one credit card signup bonus can be enormous. Credit card signup bonuses are the points or miles that a bank is willing to give you when you sign up for their credit card and meet an initial spending level that they designate. A typical credit card signup bonus could be 50,000 points or miles for signing up for a particular credit card and spending $3000 on that card within the first 3 months of applying.
Best Credit Card for new Travel Hackers
The card that I refer to first time travel hackers more often than any is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. It typically offers 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of having the card. The offer changes occasionally in how many points are offered or how much the initial minimum spend is.
Whenever someone asks me what credit card is best to get first, I always ask them what they want to achieve with the points. Usually the person asking has no idea, they just know that they want to travel more. In this situation the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is one of the best offers around due to its versatility. It allows the customer to either spend their Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly with Chase or transfer to an array of airlines and hotels. The transferring of the points will typically give a more valuable redemption of points. For these reasons, I will show you what the points from signing up for this one card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, can achieve for you through a real life experience. My sister in law, Amber, and her fiance, recently took advantage of this offer to book part of their honeymoon!
Terms of the bonus
As mentioned above, the current terms of the Chase Sapphire Preferred deal is to receive 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of having the card. They also mention that this bonus is worth $625 worth of travel. I’m going to show you that it can be worth quite a bit more. How much more? You’ll see… it’s pretty crazy!
Meeting the Minimum Spend
After applying for the card you’ll need to meet the initial minimum spend so that your bonus points will be released into your account. Amber had her regular spending plus some wedding expenses that needed to be paid so she was easily able to meet the initial minimum spend. If you already spend $4,000 per three months, great! You’ll meet your spend just with that. If you don’t typically spend that much, you can manufacture spending in a variety of ways. A few of these ways to manufacture spending are to purchase Visa or American Express gift cards for later spend, asking a friend or relative if you can use you card on their spending and have them pay you back, or making a big purchase that you have been planning on. There are many ways to manufacture some spend to meet the bonus. A good reference for manufactured spending is on Frequent Miler blog.
They spent about $9,000 in the initial three months of having the card which earned them the following:
50,000 pts – signup bonus
9,000 pts – regular spend points
5,000 pts – authorized user bonus points (another bonus for adding a second card for her fiance)
=64,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
Where to travel?
They decided that they wanted to travel to the beautiful islands of Hawaii for their honeymoon! They’ve been to Oahu so wanted to experience something new… Or somethings! They ended up finding flights that were available through Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines to travel from the San Francisco Bay area to Kauai, then to Maui, and back home to the bay area.
OAK to LIH = 25,000 miles + $11.20 taxes/fees (booked using British Airways miles)
LIH to OGG = 14,000 miles + $11.20 taxes/fees (booked using United Airways miles)
OGG to SFO = 25,000 miles + $11.20 taxes/fees (booked using British Airways miles)
Total amount saved on these flights combined: $1,345.40 (I’d call that a win)
Points and the value of them
Overall this was a great travel rewards redemption, which got excellent value out of their points. Their flights to/from Hawaii ended up with a value of 2.3 cents per point, and their inter-island flight earned a value of 1.4 cents per point, coming out to a total of 2.1 cents per point. 64,000 points spent and $1,345.40 saved.
The value of one credit card signup bonus
This is just one example of how one credit card signup bonus can make an enormous impact on your travel and give extraordinary value. Amber ended up saving over $1,300 dollars on their honeymoon, which is pretty incredible. I’d say that’s quite a bit better than the $625 value that Chase puts on the signup bonus!
To get started on your travel freedom journey, there are a few important things you’ll need to do. This will involve a bit of research and preparation so that you are confident and efficient in your plan of attack. Make sure you do these before diving in, so that you do this the right way. Remember, your credit is important in life, so don’t use it for travel hacking if you aren’t in the right place to do so.
CHECK YOUR CREDIT SCORE
First of all, You’ll want to go check your credit score if you don’t already know what it is. Credit Sesame is a good way to check your approximate score for free. If your score is around 700, you’re in good shape to use your credit to earn thousands or millions of miles. Also be sure that you are in a good place personally to use your credit for points and miles. As I’ve said before, if you’re looking to take out a large loan in the near future, it is not a good time to apply for any credit cards.
CREATE A POINTS AND MILES WALLET
Through your journey with Travel Freedom, you will be using many different types of miles and points from an array of service providers. You may have miles with five different airlines, two banks, and 3 hotel groups at any given time. You’ll want a way to organize these miles and points as well as the usernames and passwords used for each login. The easiest way I’ve found to keep track of them all is to aggregate them all in one place – Award Wallet. Here, you will create your own account, where you’ll input all of your account numbers so your logins, balances and expiration dates will be tracked.
Their FREE version is fine to begin with, but as you have more accounts you may be interested in paying for their upgraded account that has a few more features. If you will be travel hacking along with your significant other, you will both want to make an account, and then link the two so you can see both while logged in.
REVIEW YOUR MONTHLY SPENDING BUDGET
Ok, now that you know your credit is in a good place, and you have a wallet to keep track of all your points and miles you’ll be accumulating, you’ll need to look at your monthly spending. You’ll want to verify how much you spend that can be put on a new credit card per month. This is because most credit card signup bonuses are given to you after you spend a certain amount of money within the first few months of having the card. You will need to know how much spend you’re able to put on the card so that you know if you can meet the minimum spend to release your signup bonus.
Once you know how much you spend monthly, you can calculate whether or not you can reach the signup bonus of each card. There are ways to “manufacture” spend, to up this level if needed, which I will get into in another blog post. A great resource to learn about manufactured spending, is at The Frequent Miler, travel blog. Now you know what credit cards you can afford to meet the minimum spend for your bonus.
PLAN WHERE YOU WANT TO VACATION FIRST
At this point, you could jump in and apply for the best credit card offer you can find, but I don’t believe that’s the best option. I made the mistake of doing this and wish I had started out slightly different. Before applying for anything, MAKE A PLAN. Where do you want to travel to? Do you want to get a flight with miles, or do you want to book a free hotel with points.
You have some research and decisions ahead of you. Once you find the location you’d like to travel to, you’ll need to research what airlines fly between your home airport and your destination. Then which of those airlines has the lowest price in terms of miles to fly between the two. Or, if you would rather get free hotel rooms during your stay, you’ll need to know what hotels are in the area and of those, which ones have a rewards program (most do!).
Google will be your friend in this research, but here are a few other resources from our friends over at Million Mile Secrets – another travel blog:
CHOOSE A CREDIT CARD OR CARDS
Ok, final step! Depending on all the research you’ve done in the above tasks, find a credit card or multiple credit cards that fit your travel plan. There are credit cards that offer points and miles directly with hotels and airlines, and there are credit cards that offer their own points system. Some of these bank reward systems such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Member Rewards, offer the ability to transfer to a multitude of airlines and hotels. These are my favorite types of credit card bonuses because of the versatility of the points. Remember, not all points are valued equally. Some may be better for one vacation and another may be better for your next vacation.
You’re so close to your first vacation using points and miles, you can probably smell it! Let me know how it’s going. I’m here to help you!
Free flights… Upgraded to first class… Free hotel rooms… Upgraded to a suite… Free food and drinks in that fancy airport lounge… Sounds nice, right?!? These are some of the travel hacking benefits and perks available to anyone who decides to travel hack using credit cards to earn miles and points.
EXPERIENCES FROM TRAVEL HACKING
These are all parts of travel that I have experienced over the past few years. I have flown countless flights where I paid nothing but the taxes and fees (as low as $6). I’ve have flown in first class. I have stayed at hotels without paying any money. I’ve been upgraded to suites in some of those free hotel stays. And, I now can’t stand a layover where I don’t have access to an airline lounge where they have free food, drinks, sockets to charge my phone, and comfortable chairs.
BEFORE TRAVEL HACKING
It’s hard to think that just a few years ago, I had no idea that these things would ever be possible, let alone that I could afford to travel much at all. Before travel hacking appeared in my life, I didn’t think much about travel besides dreaming of places that I wanted to visit someday when I was much wealthier and could afford it. Is this you right now? I want you to know how easy and how available travel can be.
TRAVEL HACKING BENEFITS
Whether you want to start traveling for the first time and be able to do it for very small amounts of money, or you already travel and want to upgrade how you do it, travel hacking can open new doors to either option. The quantity of your travel as well as the quality of your travel can be boosted tenfold by following the simple steps of travel hacking.
The major flight benefit that comes from travel hacking is the airline miles you can acquire without actually traveling to earn them. Through very generous credit card signup bonuses, you can almost instantly earn multiple free flights. For instance, I just signed up for a Chase Ink Preferred Business card which offered me a signup bonus of 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards. This bonus alone, has the possibility of being used for 3 round trip flights to Hawaii if redeemed how I explained in the blog post “How I Fly Round Trip to Hawaii for $11”. Different credit cards all offer different signup bonuses that all differ in value, depending how you want to spend the points.
Another benefit from some of these credit cards, is access to lounges which are in all major airports. American, United, Delta, Alaska and many other airlines all have lounges within airports for customers to enter and relax in before and after flights. Normally you would need to be flying first class or pay somewhere around $40 to enter such lounges. Thankfully, there are a handful of credit cards that grant you unlimited access. When you’re traveling often, having access to a lounge is a great benefit. It gives you somewhere to get away from the hustle and bustle of airport terminals, allowing you to also get a snack and charge your phone. You can see where these lounges exist by visiting LoungeBuddy who has an extensive list (code JnSjMo28aP gives a $10 credit).
If you’re looking to up your quality of travel, you can use miles and points to book first class flights or even upgrade to first class on a flight you’ve already purchased. Although I mostly travel hack to upgrade the quantity of my travel, I’ve done this a couple times and it’s quite nice sitting in first class. I definitely suggest trying it out at least once!
Now for the benefits that travel hacking can give you towards hotels… The major benefit, similar to the flight benefits, is the ability to redeem points for free hotel stays. There are credit cards and points systems that can be used at most major hotel chains. Hilton, Hyatt, Intercontinental, and Club Carlson are a few of the main brands. Each of these brands has different chains that are part of their reward system. While I find that points and miles are often more valuable when used towards flights, I do still use them for hotels when it deems advantageous.
Along with point bonuses, some credit cards offer elite status for certain hotel chains. If you had ever heard of elite statuses at hotels, like me, you probably thought that the only way to earn it was by staying at hotels all the time. While that is one way of earning status, you can also earn it simply by having the right credit card. Once you have status at a hotel chain, you are very likely to have your room upgraded. Sometimes, you’ll even be upgraded to a suite if one is available at your check-in time.
GETTING STARTED IN TRAVEL HACKING
Now that you see what some of the travel hacking benefits are, I can imagine you may be interested. Remember to keep the following in mind when getting started. When I first learned of travel hacking and how to earn nearly unlimited miles and points through credit cards, I jumped in without much of a plan. If I could go back, I would make a plan before earning points. As I said earlier, all points and miles are not the same and are valued very differently. Having an idea of where you would like to travel is a good starting point, so that you can earn the points that will be most efficient and beneficial to your personalized travel.
I hope this has given you an idea of what travel hacking can bring into your life and the benefits of travel hacking. It has opened the door of travel to me, and I would like to invite you in to join the party.
Can you start Travel Hacking?
Alrighty, now that you know what Travel Hacking is, it’s time to get started. The first step is to find out if travel hacking is really for you? There are are four simple questions to help us answer that question.
Want to Travel?
Do you want to travel? Your state, the country, or the whole world, it doesn’t matter as long as you have the curiosity to see (in person) what’s out there.
Is your answer yes? You may move on…
Good Credit Score?
Do you currently have a good credit score? Somewhere around 700 or above is suggested to begin travel hacking. If you don’t know what your score is, there is a free resource to find out: creditsesame.com will give you a free and very accurate estimation of your credit score and the stats that go into it. If you are well below this number, you’ve got some work to do. There are a lot of resources online to learn how to improve your credit.
Yes? You may move on…
Are you organized with your credit cards if you have any? This means paying them off in full, on time, each and every month. Basically, using your credit cards like a debit card, and not spending money you don’t have. This is important because the interest rates are extremely high to keep a balance, which would counteract any points and miles you would potentially earn.
Yes? Great! You may move on…
Any loans upcoming?
Ok, so this is the last question. Do you plan on taking out a large loan in the near future (next two years)? If you’re planning on buying a home, a new car, or anything that would require a large loan, you will want to wait until after that to begin travel hacking. For now, you can begin learning the ropes of travel hacking, so that you are prepared when you are fully ready.
No loans needed soon? Perfect!
You can Travel Hack!
Congratulations! You fulfill all of the qualities needed to begin your travel hacking journey. You can use your good credit, for a great cause! Creating your own travel adventures that maybe you previously thought weren’t possible, due to the cost of travel.
I have earned millions of points and miles simply by letting banks give them to me. You can just as easily do this yourself, and I will teach you how. The banks are so desperate to get us as a customer, that they will offer up thousands of dollars worth of travel points and miles for successfully being approved for their credit cards. Good news for us! If done right, these points and miles can lead to close to free travel for the rest of our lives.
Start Traveling Now
That means no more saying no to travel, and no more excuse of “I would love to travel to Hawaii, but it just costs too much”. Hello state, hello country, hello world, and HELLOOOO TRAVEL… Hopefully travel hacking is for you, and you are on your way to Travel Freedom. I’m so excited for you! I remember my first vacation using miles to cover my plane tickets and it was quite amazing.
Let’s stay in touch! Join my email travel journal to receive occasional updates and news.
I’ve now traveled to Hawaii seven times, flown across the country five times, gone to college football games in new cities, visited friends in other states, stayed in resorts that normally cost more than my weekly salary per night, flown first class, stayed in hotel suites, and relaxed in countless airport lounges where free drinks and food are always available. Whew, I’m out of breath… All of this and much more, I’ve done in just the past five years by travel hacking. Yes, FIVE YEARS! That’s it. No joke. I want you to count up your past vacations really quick in your head, and see if your travel amounts to this much over your lifetime. Does it? Hold on to that thought…
HOW MUCH DID THAT COST?
Looking at all the trips and vacations I’ve taken, you’d think that I must be wealthy and spent a huge amount of money on my travels. I mean, look at the price of an airline ticket. Currently, the average round trip U.S. flight is over $350! That’s crazy! Oh, and Hawaii flights… I don’t even want to look at those prices. Well, to tell you the truth, I didn’t pay very much at all to travel as much as I did. I’ve only paid a tiny fraction of the price anyone else would have paid. I’ve been able to do all that traveling using POINTS and MILES to cover the costs. You may think that you can only earn airline miles and hotel points by flying and staying a ton of nights at hotels, because that’s what you’ve heard. It’s NOT TRUE!!! I’ve earned almost all of mine, NOT by flying or by staying at hotels, but through TRAVEL HACKING.
Ok, now back to YOUR travel count… Was it less than mine over your whole life? Close? Either way, would you like your next five years to look like mine, or even better and more filled with travel and adventure? Would you like to start turning those travel dreams into reality? Hawaii, Thailand, Iceland, Europe, maybe Brazil… Do you have a bucket list that seems to be getting deeper and deeper with nothing being checked off? GOOD NEWS! You can become a travel hacker just as easily as I did. You too, can earn thousands upon thousands of miles and points to kickstart your life filled with travel.
OK, BUT HOW?
I’m sure you’re curious to learn how all this travel hacking business works, and you’re probably thinking “what’s the catch?”. I’ll tell you now, the one thing you’ll have to trade for this life full of travel, is a bit of time. Time up front to learn, and time to put your knowledge to work earning and spending your points and miles. Trust me though, it’s absolutely worth it. If I hadn’t learned how to travel hack, I probably wouldn’t have taken 90% of those vacations. Unfortunately, like most people, I would not have been able to afford it.
WHO IS TRAVEL HACKING FOR?
You’re in? Where do you sign up? Well, first things first… Travel hacking isn’t for everyone. There are a few key prerequisites that you’ll need before you can get started.
- You will need to have a credit score in the range of 700 or greater. Scores go up to a maximum of 850, so this is a very good score. If you’re well below this level, you will first need to work to raise your score. If you don’t know what your score is, you can check for free at creditsesame.com. I’ve found that this site will give you a pretty accurate estimation of your credit score.
- You must be someone who pays your credit cards and bills off FULLY and ON-TIME, every month. If you’re running a balance, there is no point in earning points and miles because the interest on credit cards far outweighs the value of points.
- You aren’t looking at taking out a major loan such as home mortgage in the next one to two years.
Do you fit the bill? Great! I want to share my knowledge of travel hacking with you, so that your life can be full of as much travel and adventure as mine is. For me, travel has improved my life greatly. So much, that I now can’t see my life without it. I hope travel can do the same for you now that you’re on your way to becoming an expert travel hacker.
HOW DOES TRAVEL HACKING WORK?
Now that you know you want to travel like I do, by using points and miles, and you’ve met the prerequisites mentioned above, let’s move on to how this travel hacking stuff works… The number one way to earn tons and tons of points and miles is through credit card signup bonuses. This is where that good credit score comes into play. Banks are willing to give you a tremendous amount of value to add you as a customer. This means that they will regularly give signup bonuses of 50,000 miles or more and occasionally even stretch those up to 100,000 miles. The best bonus I have earned to date, gave me enough miles to purchases five round trip flights to Hawaii using the method explained in my blog post “How I Fly Round Trip to Hawaii for $11”. I’ll say that again… FOUR ROUND TRIP FLIGHTS TO HAWAII. That’s pretty generous of the banks, I’d say! (Thanks Chase – wink).
MANY WAYS TO EARN POINTS
Although, credit card signup bonuses are the best and quickest way to earn points, they’re not the only way. Once you have a credit card that earns points, you can earn through spending. Many cards have category bonuses that earn extra points for certain purchases, so you can earn extra points on things you already buy every day. Some common bonuses are on things like gas, groceries, travel and dining. Another way to earn extra points is through online shopping portals that many airlines and credit cards have available. They will give you extra points to click through their links before purchasing products and services on popular online retailers. One more way to earn points is through promotions that the airlines and hotels have directly. Usually, they are for staying at a particular hotel chain so many stays within a period of time they will give you a bonus, or flying so many flights in a period of time they will also give you a bonus. These are just a few ways to earn enough points and miles to travel very well for the rest of your life.
IMPROVE YOUR LIFE THROUGH TRAVEL FREEDOM
I have travel freedom, and I would like to teach you how to have the same. I spent hundreds if not thousands of hours researching and reading to understand how travel hacking works. My goal is to take what I’ve learned and make it much simpler and quicker for you. To continue learning about travel hacking and how to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity, follow along with Travel Freedom.
How would you like to find a round trip flight to Hawaii for a measly $11? I’ll show you how I do it.
Want to travel to Hawaii, but think it’s expensive? Do you have good credit? Check. Do you live on the west coast? Check. Excellent! You are in perfect condition to have close to free flights to Hawaii as often as you’d like. I’m sure you’re asking yourself how this could be true? British Airways of course! Wait, what? How is British Airways going to get anyone from the mainland US to Hawaii when they don’t even fly that route? The answer is in their partners.
Something most people don’t know is that almost all major airlines have partner airlines that you can book flights on, using frequent flyer miles. We’re all in luck because British Airways has a partnership with Alaska Airlines. This partnership happens to allow you to fly to Hawaii using very few miles. The miles needed for British Airways partner flights are distance based, and Hawaii is conveniently located approximately 2,600 miles from any of the airports on the west coast.
According to British Airways’ miles award chart this distance is in their Zone 4. A round trip flight to Hawaii costs 25,000 (12,500 each way) and approximately five dollars in taxes, fees and carrier charges total. YES, you heard that right… TOTAL! Compare that to other carriers’ award prices and it is a pretty sweet deal. The next cheapest award flight to Hawaii is through American Airlines coming in at 35,000 miles round trip and that is only for their low season (Good luck finding a flight with award seats available). Most of the airlines charge around 40,000 miles round trip.
List of the departing cities you can fly from, to each island in Hawaii for only 25,000 miles per round trip:
Anchorage, Alaska (Oahu, Maui, Big Island)
Bellingham, Washington (Oahu, Maui)
Seattle, Washington (Oahu, Maui, Kauai)
Portland, Oregon (Oahu, Maui, Big Island, Kauai)
Oakland, California (Oahu, Maui, Big Island, Kauai)
San Jose, California (Oahu, Maui, Big Island, Kauai)
San Diego, California (Oahu, Maui, Kauai)
Bare with me, but for this deal you will have to put in a little effort. I hope that’s OK… You cannot currently book these Alaska Airlines flights on the British Airways website, but it’s honestly a pretty simple process. As a bonus you’ll get to talk to someone with a cool British accent. First, you can check the availability through American Airlines award booking. Any date that shows up in the light green should be available to book through British Airways, but you will want to make sure that the flight you have selected is non-stop. British Airways flights are per segment so to pay only 12,500 miles each way, the flights must be direct. In my experience, if you are just a little bit flexible, availability is great!
Calling British Airways
After you find your available dates, the last step of booking your flight is to call British Airways. To call the USA office, the phone number is 1-800-452-1201, then press 2 when prompted, and 1 again to book a flight. If you have the flight information you got from American Airlines, it makes the process very easy. You will tell the phone rep where you want to fly and on which dates and they will book the trip. There is an unlikely chance that they will try charging you for booking over the phone, but just make sure to ask them to waive this fee as your flight was not bookable online. They will gladly waive the fee.
Now that you are all booked, any more contact about your tickets or flight will be with Alaska Airlines. They will be able to look up your itinerary by Name or Alaska Airlines confirmation code. You may want to call Alaska Airlines just to make sure everything is set up with them correctly and to select your seats. On the day of your flight you will check in either at the Alaska Airlines counter or one of their automated machines.
Now that you know the process of using British Airways miles to book round trip flights from the west coast to Hawaii for only 25,000 miles, here are some different ways to accrue those miles. If you already have them you’re set. But if you don’t, there are many ways to get them. Here is where having good credit comes into play. If, and only if you have good credit you can sign up for certain credit cards which will give you large amounts of miles or other points as a signup bonus, which can be transferred to British Airways.
List of points that can be transferred to British Airways and some credit cards that offer sign up bonuses:
British Airways Miles:
Chase British Airways Visa Signature
Typical Signup Bonus: 50,000 miles after spending $3000 in first 3 months. Also 25,000 or 50,000 more miles after spending $10,000 or $20,000 within the first year.
American Express Membership Rewards:
Amex Business Gold Rewards
Typical Signup Bonus: 50,000 membership rewards after spending $5000 in first 3 months. Transfer ratio of 1:1 to BA miles. There are often bonuses for transferring membership rewards to BA where you will receive a better ratio than 1:1 when transferring. Note: This card requires you have a business (sole proprietorship works).
Chase Ultimate Rewards:
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Typical Signup Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $4000 in first 3 months. Transfer ratio of 1:1 to BA miles.
Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG):
American Express Starwood Preferred Guest
Typical Signup Bonus: 30,000 SPG points after spending $5000 in first 6 months.
Transfer Ratio 20,000 to 25,000 BA miles.
These are just a few of the options of credit cards out there that you can sign up for to get British Airways miles and take your vacation to Hawaii. Remember that the credit card sign up bonuses are always changing, so make sure to search online to ensure you find the best offer available. Some good research tools are google, creditcards.com, and a blog I like to check Million Mile Secrets. Now that you have points and know how to use them to travel to Hawaii for next to nothing, all that’s left to do is relax on the beach.
See you in Hawaii. Aloha!
PS: Don’t forget to join our EMAIL JOURNAL to follow along! If you enjoyed this post, help us out and tell a friend.