At the ending of last year I discovered “Travel Hacking“, the secret art of signing up for credit card offers, and in return flying and staying around the world for free. Just like that, travel hacking became my new obsession.
Now before you freak out at the mere mention of a credit card, when used properly, credit cards don’t have to be the root of all evil.
Credit card bonuses have already given us 50,000+ American Airlines miles, 75,000+ Hilton Honors Points, and $1000+ of dollars in credit statements for travel.
In case you were wondering, that amount of AA+ miles could get us 2 completely free flights to Peru. We even could stay at a beautiful Hilton resort in Egypt next to the pyramids for 18 days for free with those Hilton points. It sounds too good to be true, but it’s real! Machu Picchu is within reach!
Now let me tell you right now, if you’re not good with credit cards, I wouldn’t advise this sort of travel hacking. Jarden and I have multiple credit cards right now, but we pay off our balance IN FULL every month, and never carry any credit card debt. We’ve never paid a dime of credit card interest, and don’t plan on it!
Now if you are good credit cards, here’s how you can score some of these major perks.
1. Sign Up for the Right Card *Do Your Research!*
There are a million credit cards out there, so you’re going to have to do your research and pick the one(s) that’s right for you. Want one for free flights? Choose an airlines that you fly with most. I obviously have a Hawaiian Miles credit card, as we fly on Hawaiian from time to time.
2. Sign Up for Cards with BIG Bonuses *Do More Research!*
Credit card offers can vary from month to month, so don’t just sign up at the first offer you see. For example, I recently signed up for the Hilton Honors Rewards Signature Visa, as it was offering 75,000 points at sign up. It’s now back down to it’s usual 40,000, which is quite a difference. To help with knowing whats a good offer or not, I personally follow articles from ThePointsGuy.com; he has all the current travel credit offers out at any given time.
3. Pay Off Your Card In Full
Again, I cannot stress the importance of paying off your balance every month. It makes no sense to sign up for a credit card to get free flights if you’re just going to be paying interest on credit card debt. Credit card interest is money down the drain my friends, don’t do it!
4. Watch The Number of Cards You Get
With lucrative sign up offers left and right, it can be tempting to sign up for multiple credit card offers. There are pros and cons to signing up for multiple credit cards, so here’s a basic breakdown. (*I’m not an expert, this is just from experience!*)
-Take note of annual fees on credit cards. If you sign up for multiple cards and they each have a fee, make sure the benefits from those cards outweigh the costs of keeping the card. I currently have 2 credit cards with annual fees, and 1 without one. I’m planning on dropping one of the cards that I don’t use since I already received the bonus miles, and don’t want to pay the annual fee anymore!
-Don’t sign up for a bunch of cards at once! Space out signing up for offers, as the number of hard inquiries on your credit score matter (they fall off after 2 years). Also I wouldn’t advise signing up for offers right before applying for a loan or buying something big like a car or a house.
-Credit cards can be GOOD for your credit score. Having more credit reduces your utilization ratio (how much credit you have vs. how much credit you’re using), which is pretty important in credit score factoring.
-Watch your credit score carefully. I personally use CreditKarma.com (it’s free!) to track my credit score and the factors that go into determining it. It’s very helpful in showing why my score fluctuates, and even has a tool that shows what might happen to my score if I sign up for another credit card.
5. Don’t Rush Into Anything and Plan Accordingly
This guide is just the tip of the iceberg to travel hacking. While the basics can help you earn and get started, redeeming points/miles (and finding the best flight routes/hotels to redeem them!) is a whole new world, something that I still research extensively. Do a lot of research when redeeming your points/miles and you’ll get the best bang for your buck!