10 Travel Hacking Mistakes to Avoid


I’m an enormous fan of journey hacking. It’s reworked my travels and saved me 1000’s of dollars over time.

Travel hacking is the artwork of signing up for journey bank cards and accumulating factors and miles you can money in free of charge flights, flight upgrades, resort stays, and extra — all with none further spending. In brief, it’s a manner to get extra for much less.

Over the years, I’ve loved numerous free upgrades, free flights, free resort stays, and different perks — all with none further spending. Travel hacking has helped open the world to me, so I’m an enormous advocate for it, as I’ve seen what a distinction it’s made in my travels.

And, whereas the perfect playing cards and perks are within the US, journey hacking is obtainable all all over the world too (Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe all have journey hacking choices lately).

Since I’ve been journey hacking for years, I’ve talked with numerous individuals about enjoying the points-and-miles recreation. I’ve additionally seen tons of newbies make numerous errors — errors that influence their capacity to journey free of charge (or no less than for reasonable).

Here are the largest journey hacking errors that I see individuals making so to keep away from them, save your factors and miles, and make your journey greenback go additional:

1. Not Starting at All

When I ask most individuals why they don’t journey hack, they only shrug their shoulders and say, “I don’t know. Seems hard, I guess.”

The greatest cause that folks don’t begin journey hacking is that they suppose it’s too difficult, it’s just for individuals who journey typically (or are massive spenders), or that it’s a rip-off.

But side-stepping the points-and-miles recreation fully is the largest mistake you possibly can make. It’s akin to saying no to free cash. If you repay your bank card every month, you’re shedding out in case you aren’t incomes factors and miles, that are merely perks that you just get for being sensible about your spending.

2. Not Having a Goal

A stunning view at a nice resort by an infinity pool overseas

Before you join your first card, crucial factor to do is make a purpose. Think concerning the journey you need to take, the place you need to keep, and the way you need to get there. Then get the journey bank cards that may aid you get there.

Without making a purpose, you’ll do not know what card (or playing cards) are finest for you, as every gives totally different advantages that may match totally different life, budgets, and journey targets.

Remember: there is no such thing as a good card. There is just the right card for you.

Are you interested by loyalty to a model, free rewards, or avoiding charges? Do you need free flights and/or resort stays? Is elite standing crucial perk for you?

If you simply need factors to spend wherever you select, get playing cards with transferable factors (Chase, Amex, Citi, and Capital One are the principle examples of those) as a result of you should use their factors with quite a lot of journey corporations. They every have their very own rewards applications and factors that may be transferred to a number of airways or resort companions or used to guide journey straight via their very own journey portal web sites.

Determine your purpose(s) after which discover the playing cards that match it/them, in addition to your spending habits.

three. Not Getting Cards with an Annual Fee

When it comes to selecting a journey bank card, many individuals balk at excessive bank card charges, which might typically be a whole bunch of dollars per 12 months. Surely the bank card corporations are simply taking your cash, proper?

Not precisely.

While it’s true that you just’ll have to resolve whether or not playing cards with greater charges are price it for you, playing cards with annual charges are often significantly better than no-fee playing cards: they provide extra worth, higher bonus classes (so you possibly can accumulate factors quicker), and different perks, resembling higher journey safety and entry to particular gives. For me, even the playing cards with the very best annual charges are price it, as I’ve saved extra money on journey than I’ve ever spent on charges.

But you don’t have to go for the playing cards with the very best annual charges proper off the bat. There are many “starter” playing cards that waive the charge the primary 12 months, and after which are simply $95 per 12 months. That manner, you possibly can see whether or not it’s price it to you.

If you actually don’t need to pay a charge however nonetheless need to get in on the sport, the Bilt Rewards card is my favourite no-fee possibility. This game-changing card gives you the flexibility to earn factors by paying your hire (the one card that does this), plus 3x factors on eating and 2x factors on journey. It gives strong journey protections too. If you’re simply beginning out (and pay hire), this can be a must-have card.

four. Not Meeting Signup Bonuses

A handful of US travel credit cards

The finest journey playing cards provide a large introductory provide, additionally known as “welcome offers” or “sign-up bonuses.” This is if you earn many factors directly by spending a sure amount of cash inside a sure time interval after opening your account (e.g., spending $three,000 within the first three months would possibly earn you 60,000 factors).

These welcome gives are how I earn a million factors annually. They’re tremendous vital, as they jump-start your account and instantly get you nearer to a free flight or resort keep. Sometimes these gives are even sufficiently big to get you a free flight proper off the bat!

One of the largest errors you can also make just isn’t making the most of these bonuses. Again, it’s like leaving cash on the desk (I hope you’re seeing a sample right here).

With that in thoughts, solely apply for playing cards in case you can meet their minimal spending necessities for the welcome bonus along with your regular spending. If you’re spending extra money than you often just do to get these factors, then the factors are not free. Only spend what you usually would and never a penny extra.

If you end up shut to reaching a sign-up bonus however are nonetheless falling brief, these are some issues you are able to do:

  • Ask pals or household if they’ve any giant purchases arising. You can then pay for the merchandise in your card and get them to pay you again.
  • When out to eat with pals, put every thing on one invoice and pay it along with your card. Then get everybody to pay you again individually.


5. Not Paying Off Your Credit Cards Monthly

This is a central tenet not solely of journey hacking however bank card use usually. Do not ever carry a stability on these playing cards, because the sky-high rates of interest will wipe out any potential profit you’d get from them. If you’re paying curiosity, the factors are not free.

If you possibly can’t repay your stability in full, you shouldn’t be journey hacking.

6. Thinking That Points Have Intrinsic Value

Once you begin taking a look at signing up for journey bank cards, it may be simple to get excited at enormous sign-up bonuses and spending classes the place you possibly can rack up loads of factors rapidly. Hotel bank cards are infamous for this, usually providing sign-up bonuses of over 100,000 factors and bonus spending classes that may be up to 26x factors per $1 spent (supplied by IHG on spending for IHG properties).

But what’s vital to perceive is that one level will go additional in some applications than others. The worth of a degree just isn’t mounted. It just isn’t the identical throughout applications. One IHG level just isn’t the identical as one United level, similar to one Chase level just isn’t the identical as one Hyatt level.

When assigning a worth to factors, the mathematics is definitely fairly easy: take the money worth (what you’d pay in case you didn’t have factors), divide by the variety of factors required, and multiply by 100 to get the per-point worth in cents. I discover The Points Guy’s month-to-month valuation chart to be essentially the most correct as a helpful cheat sheet to use as a baseline for what is taken into account a very good per-point worth.

That stated, loads of redemption comes down to the private worth that you just assign to these factors. Would you moderately redeem them for flying in top quality, or would you moderately take two economic system flights for a similar variety of factors? Would you moderately keep in a five-star resort for a weekend or keep in a three-star resort for per week?

Point worth is within the eye of the beholder.

(Just by no means redeem factors for money. This is the least precious use of factors.)

7. Not Maximizing Bonus Categories

Speaking of level worth, seeing flight “costs” 30,000 factors will be intimidating, thanks to one other frequent mistake: considering that you’ve to spend $1 to get 1 level.

But good journey hacking is rarely about getting just one mile or level per greenback spent. It’s simple to get 2-5x (or extra!) for each greenback you spend. This helps you earn factors rather more rapidly.

For instance, I exploit Chase Sapphire Reserve when eating at eating places (3x factors), the Chase Ink for workplace spending (5x factors), and the American Express Platinum Card for airfare (5x factors).

Never settle for one level per greenback spent. Otherwise, it would take manner too lengthy to accumulate sufficient factors free of charge journey.

eight. Not Taking Advantage of Card Benefits and Perks

woman standing in front of departures board at Barcelona airport

Travel hacking is not only about simply getting factors and miles. It’s additionally about what else comes with the cardboard that may make your life and travels simpler. Many playing cards provide you with a particular elite loyalty standing or different further perks. Don’t make the error of getting a card after which not taking full benefit of every thing that it has to provide.

Here are the perks I personally prioritize:

  • No international transaction charges
  • Free resort stays
  • Lounge entry
  • Free checked baggage
  • Priority boarding

You might need totally different priorities, however irrespective of the case, make sure to discover the advantages of your chosen card(s) and really use these that include it.

9. Not Getting Transferable Points

Transferable factors are these you can switch to totally different applications. These are on the coronary heart of each good journey hacking technique.

However, many individuals shrink back from utilizing them, because it appears too difficult. They would possibly get a card with transferable factors however redeem them via a journey portal or select to get money again as a substitute. Yet transferable factors are how one can get wonderful worth.

You can earn transferable factors with bank cards issued by Chase, Capital One, Bilt, Citi, and American Express, although understand that these are all separate “currencies.” With Chase, you earn Ultimate Rewards factors, whilst you earn Membership Rewards factors with American Express.

These factors are transferable not to one another however moderately to their respective airline and resort companions, with whom you possibly can then guide a flight or resort keep.

It’s usually higher to get transferable factors than, say, airline-specific factors (resembling you’d get with an airline bank card), as these can’t be moved wherever. Delta factors can solely be used on Delta flights (or their alliance companions), and in case you discover a higher flight with United, that’s too dangerous — you possibly can’t use your Delta factors to benefit from it.

While it might sound difficult, it’s simpler than you suppose — it’s nearly discovering the proper card to your wants, shifting factors to an airline or resort companion, after which reserving. This course of is simpler than ever thanks to the brand new points-booking search engine, level.me.

(I additionally go extra in-depth into transferable factors and the way to use them in my Travel Hacking Guide.)

10. Hoarding Your Points

A Delta airplane climbing into a bright blue sky after takeoff in the USA

Many individuals, as soon as they amass some factors, are afraid to use them in any respect. They both don’t know the way to use them or need to look forward to the “best possible value.”

But factors burning a gap in your digital pocket aren’t going to aid you. The worth of factors modifications on a regular basis as bank card corporations, resorts, and airways alter their applications. Unfortunately, which means your factors might lose a big quantity of worth in a single day (don’t fear, this doesn’t occur steadily, nevertheless it does occur).

Points are meant to be used. They’re a car for getting you free flights and resorts so to get on the market and see the world. Don’t sit round watching your factors stability climb greater and better — use these factors, get on the market, and begin touring!


It’s by no means been simpler to earn free flights, resort stays, and different journey perks. And whereas there are some frequent errors to keep away from and the training curve can appear steep, when you get began, all of it comes into focus rapidly, and also you’ll be questioning why you didn’t begin sooner.

As lengthy as you make concrete targets, repay your invoice every month, and focus your spending on the proper card(s), you’ll have the ability to get pleasure from time-saving perks and free journey very quickly — and all simply by spending the cash you’d have spent anyway!

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find an inexpensive flight by utilizing Skyscanner. It’s my favourite search engine as a result of it searches web sites and airways across the globe so that you all the time know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can guide your hostel with Hostelworld. If you need to keep someplace apart from a hostel, use Booking.com because it persistently returns the most affordable charges for guesthouses and resorts.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance coverage will shield you towards sickness, harm, theft, and cancellations. It’s complete safety in case something goes flawed. I by no means go on a visit with out it as I’ve had to use it many occasions up to now. My favourite corporations that provide the perfect service and worth are:

Want to journey free of charge?
Travel bank cards enable you to earn factors that may be redeemed free of charge flights and lodging. They are what maintain me touring a lot for therefore little. Check out my information to choosing the right card and my present favorites to get began and see the most recent finest offers.

Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my useful resource web page for the perfect corporations to use if you journey. I record all those I exploit once I journey. They are the perfect in school and you’ll’t go flawed utilizing them in your journey.

Source hyperlink Travel Advisor

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