I’ll be honest… Travel hacking was something I always felt like I should be doing, but I was completely intimidated by the entire process.
Booking flights with points and miles, hotel and airline status reward programs, having multiple credit cards with different bonuses… Where do I even start??!
Whenever I tried to learn about travel hacking (usually by reading a book or a blog post online), I’d usually leave confused and frustrated or bored out of my mind.
But when my friend and fellow Tbilisi digital nomad Mike Swigunski developed a step-by-step Travel Hacking online course, I knew I needed to finally take the leap and sign up… and wow am I glad I did!
What is Travel Hacking?
I know this term gets thrown around a lot, but what exactly is travel hacking? How do you get these great deals on flights and hotels? Is “travel for free” really as good as it sounds?
Travel hacking is using the existing system of rewards from credit cards, hotel and airline loyalty programs, and other resources to get amazing travel experiences without having to spend much money.
Think, two international business-class flights for $132, free lounge access on every flight, free checked luggage, complimentary room upgrades with free breakfast, and even just finding really good deals on flights and hotels without using rewards programs.
The best part is that you can do all of this while saving money and IMPROVING your credit score!
Do I Need to Traveling Constantly to Travel Hack?
I’m sure you’re wondering… if I want to be a travel hacker do I need to travel constantly? Do I need to be a location-independent digital nomad or a business traveler who always flies with the same airline?
Here’s the thing: you can easily use travel hacking to travel the world full time, or you can just save all your points and rewards go on one amazing trip a year.
By opening the right credit card and meeting the spending bonus by buying everyday things like groceries and gas for your car, you can get a ton of miles to use for an international flight.
Not only will you be getting free travel, but you’ll also be improving your credit score if you do it right!
Learning About Travel Hacking Is Empowering
Not only was I intimidated by the whole points and miles thing, but I was also scared of credit cards in general. I have one good credit card with no foreign transaction fees, and I’ve stuck with that card for YEARS.
In addition to my daily use credit card, I also have a Macy’s card that I use to buy clothes when I’m home, and then I immediately pay it off so I never have to worry about it. To be honest, I didn’t even apply for this card, my MOM did it for me because she was tired of me borrowing hers for all the good shopping deals.
But what if I told you that you don’t have to be scared of credit cards or confused about your credit?
What if there was an easy system to keep track of your rewards, improve your credit, and get FREE travel if you know what you’re doing?
After taking the Travel Hacking Masterclass, I feel really empowered when it comes to money and my credit.
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I Understand How Credit Works
So… who knew I actually have three credit cards? Well, that was something I learned a few days ago by looking into my Credit Score!
Now I know exactly why my credit score is what it is (thankfully it’s good!), and what I can improve to get my score up to the excellent range.
I always thought that having a bunch of credit cards was bad for your credit score, but that’s not even the case. Increasing your maximum credit limit across a few cards actually IMPROVES your credit over time, you just have to open them slowly.
I Know Which Credit Card to Apply For Next
One of the most important parts of travel hacking is understanding which credit cards are right for you and how to get the bonuses. Thankfully, Mike has done all of the hard work for you and has a really incredible list of credit cards he recommends depending on your situation.
Not only is there a great list of cards in the Travel Hacking Masterclass, but Mike actually teaches you how to decide which is right for you, and how to track your spending to see if you meet the spending bonuses offered by the cards.
For example, if a card needs you to spend $4,000 in three months in order to get an insane amount of bonus miles… are you going to actually be able to meet that $4,000 spending limit with your current finances? Do you have any big purchases coming up, or can you manage to pay your rent with a credit card?
For me, living in Tbilisi on a tight budget, I know there’s no way in hell I’m spending $4k in 3 months right now. But, there are other cards with lower spending budgets I CAN feasibly hit, especially if my husband Chris and I both use the card.
Sure, the bonuses might not be as high as that first card, but at least I’m getting bonuses for money that I’m ALREADY spending. If I have to spend money on food, taxis, or things for my business, I might as well be getting some benefits, right?
I Learned How to Use Miles and Points
Okay, I’ll be real with you: I’ve never booked a flight with points or miles. I’ve only ever used my points to cover the cost of my flight after the fact when my credit card asks me if I want to exchange my points for $300 off my last flight or something.
I had absolutely no idea how to use points to book flights, what a good deal was, or how to do the research before I took the Travel Hacking Masterclass.
Thankfully, Mike walks you through the whole process by sharing his computer screen with you so you can follow along. In a matter of one evening, I went from having no idea how points work to feeling comfortable and confident enough to book a first-class flight with points in the future.
Seriously, I’ve never even considered looking at a first-class international flight! Now I’m a changed woman.
I Understand Hotel and Flight Rewards Programs
In recent years, it’s become harder and harder to do well with flight rewards programs. Unless you’re spending a LOT of money flying with the same airline frequently (aka business travelers booking last-minute business class flights), it’s now extremely difficult to actually get much out of an airline rewards program.
I’d heard this from a few travel bloggers in the past, and I appreciated that Mike spent the time to spell out exactly how business travelers can take advantage of this, but also acknowledged that the majority of us should forget about it and focus on getting flights using points from credit cards. One less thing to worry about…
I also really enjoyed learning more about the Hilton and Marriott rewards programs and how to gain gold or diamond status by simply opening up the right credit card. While many travelers try to earn status with hotels by staying countless nights, for most of us, this isn’t going to work.
Now personally I prefer smaller non-chain boutique hotels, guesthouses, and homestays, but there is the occasional trip where it is nice to stay in a name-brand hotel or fancy resort. Because of this, I’m definitely going to keep in mind hotel rewards programs when looking at opening credit cards in the future. Who doesn’t want a free breakfast and a complimentary room upgrade?
Learning Travel Hacking WITHOUT Credit Cards
Since I don’t rely on traditional travel-hacking methods, I’ve actually gotten very good at finding affordable flights and hotels without credit cards and rewards programs. If there was one thing I was confident about going into this, it was finding cheap flights!
But… I was shocked! I still learned some new tips and tricks in this module too.
Personally, I’ve been using Skyscanner to locate affordable flights because I didn’t really love Google Flights when I first looked into it. But now I’m definitely going to be giving Google Flights a try when I can finally fly again.
That said, not everyone is an expert cheap-flight-finder like me, so if you’re not super confident when it comes to finding affordable flights and hotels, this is going to be an awesome module for you.
Why the Online Course Format Just Works Travel Hacking
As I said earlier, every single time I tried to learn travel hacking, I either walked away confused, or I fell asleep. I’ve tried many times to read travel hacking books, blog posts, or even watch youtube videos, and I just can’t manage to do it.
It might just be my learning style, but I am a huge fan of online courses, and I find the combination of listening, watching a PowerPoint, and taking notes to be the best way for me to pay attention and learn something.
Plus, when I invest money into something, I’m motivated to actually do the course and get it done! Unlike a free blog post or a $10 book that just sits there gathering dust.
Travel Hacking is a little bit technical and you need to pay attention, which is why I appreciate how the Travel Hacking Masterclass breaks it all down into simple steps with bite-sized videos. Most of the videos are only 5-15 minutes long, meaning I can sit down for an hour and learn a solid topic, but feel accomplished after every video.
I can also take breaks between the videos to research credit cards, look up my credit score, plot out my expenses, or check out flights.
I spent a few hours learning on the nights I was free and ended up finishing the course in around two weeks! This is so great because I’m already set to start implementing.
Learn More About the Course
Why Join Travel Hacking Masterclass?
In addition to learning how to be an expert travel hacker and travel the world for free, there are a ton of really great reasons why you should join me and take the Travel Hacking Masterclass!
1. Free Five-Night Stay in Mexico
Wait… what?? I’m serious, Mike is now offering all new students a FREE 5-night stay in Mexico at a 4 or 5 star resort. For those of you living in the US or doing the location independent thing in Mexico right now, this is an incredible deal, and I’ve never seen another online course offer something like this.
2. 40+ Step-By-Step Videos
These videos will walk you through the entire process of travel hacking step-by-step so you can feel confident getting started in as little as two weeks. Trust me, these videos are to the point. Nothing is left out, but there’s also no fluff. Everything is simple, actionable advice that you can easily implement yourself.
3. Custom Tools and Resources
I really love all of the custom-designed resources in this course. There’s a credit card flow chart that helps you decide which cards are right for you. I also loved the excel spreadsheet designed to help you discover how much money you can feasibly put on a credit card in the first few months so that you know which bonuses you can achieve.
4. Unlimited Email and Slack Support From Mike
At some point, you’re going to have questions or need a little guidance. Thankfully, as part of the course, Mike offers unlimited email and slack communication so that you can ask your questions and get help when needed.
5. Masterclass Facebook Group
Mike also has a Facebook group where he posts updated information, great limited-time bonuses, short-term credit card signup deals, and other offers you need to know about. This is a great way to get important limited-time info without clogging up your inbox by subscribing to a bunch of different things.
Is Travel Hacking Only For Americans?
The US is famous for having credit cards with tons of perks and bonuses. I had no idea how different our system was from other countries until I married an Australian! Their credit system is actually completely different from ours, and while their credit cards can offer bonuses, it’s not usually to the extent ours do in the USA.
As for the Travel Hacking Masterclass, it’s open to a variety of different nationalities, but it was specifically designed for American citizens.
That said, many of the modules in this course have been super helpful for my Australian husband! Just keep in mind that most of the credit card suggestions are going to mainly apply to American cards.
What If I Don’t Have Good Credit?
I’m very thankful that my parents gave me some great tips and advice that helped me establish a decent credit score.
Unfortunately, not all of us are in that place right now, and that’s okay! Even if you don’t have a great credit score, you can actually get started travel hacking now, while you work on raising that score.
Sure, you won’t be able to apply for those top credit cards, but you can at least get your foot in the door by signing up for a credit card that WILL accept you, and then use it responsibly while working on building up your credit score. Thankfully, the Travel Hacking Masterclass actually teaches you how to do this!
In the meantime, you can still sign up for hotel and airline rewards programs, and use things like google flights and your limited credit card bonuses to get great deals on travel.
Isn’t it Dangerous to Sign Up For a Bunch of Credit Cards?
My brain almost exploded when Mike said he has 16 credit cards. Sixteen? SIXTEEN??!
I’d always thought that signing up for a bunch of credit cards was irresponsible, and the perfect way to ruin your credit.
But thankfully, now I’ve learned that when done responsibly, slowly adding credit cards over time actually INCREASES your credit score because you’re increasing the amount of credit available to you. As long as you use these cards responsibly and pay them off every month, keeping multiple cards open is actually good for your credit score.
The main thing is that you build slowly. Don’t open a ton of cards at once, or cancel them the second you get your bonuses and there’s nothing to worry about.
My First Travel Hacking Baby Steps
Since I’ve just finished the Travel Hacking Masterclass, I’ve researched my credit score and what types of cards I’m interested in (mainly ones with lots of miles and points, free checked bags, and free airport lounge access).
Next, I’ve been tracking the spending on both my card and Chris’ card to see how much we can feasibly put on a credit card each month. Unfortunately for us, it’s not a ton right now because we’ve been trying to keep our spending somewhat low, and rent for our Tbilisi apartment, one of our biggest expenses, needs to be paid via bank transfer.
I then compared this amount to the spending bonuses of my list of favorite cards and narrowed it down to one card that I’m going to apply for soon!
It’s my goal to have a ton of points set aside so that when Chris and I do (hopefully) fly to the US this July 2021, we won’t have to spend a ton of money on tickets. Wish me luck!
Do You Want to Start Travel Hacking?
If you’re interested in Travel Hacking, I 100% recommend joining the Travel Hacking Masterclass.
Apply to Join Travel Hacking Masterclass!
If you’re not sure if the Travel Hacking Masterclass is right for you, just apply and if you’re a good fit, Mike will reach out to you and answer any questions you have about the program.
If you’re super intimidated by the idea of travel hacking and don’t know where to start, I highly recommend it!
I’ll also be keeping you updated as to how well I do with travel hacking, and how much money I’m able to save on flights later this year.
What Do You Think?
Have you tried travel hacking before, or are you super intimidated by the concept? Is travel hacking something you’re interested in trying? Do you use miles and points right now? Let me know in a comment!
I’m very interested to hear about your own experiences with travel hacking, and what kinds of cards and methods you’re using to do it.
As always, leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to get back to you soon!
The Travel Hacking Masterclass was gifted to me in exchange for an honest review. As an online course creator and frequent traveler myself, I was extremely impressed, and every single word in this post is my complete and unbiased opinion. I really went into this course completely confused and overwhelmed, and now I feel confident jumping straight into the waters of travel hacking!
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