10 Journey Hacking Errors to Keep away from

Rows of seats in an airplane

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

Journey hacking is the artwork of signing up for journey bank cards and accumulating factors and miles you can money in totally free flights, flight upgrades, lodge stays, and extra — all with none additional spending. Briefly, it’s a approach to get extra for much less.

Through the years, I’ve loved numerous free upgrades, free flights, free lodge stays, and different perks — all with none additional spending. Journey 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 most effective playing cards and perks are within the US, journey hacking is out there all around the globe too (Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe all have journey hacking choices as of late).

Since I’ve been journey hacking for years, I’ve talked with numerous folks about taking part in the points-and-miles sport. I’ve additionally seen tons of newbies make numerous errors — errors that influence their skill to journey totally free (or no less than for reasonable).

Listed here are the most important journey hacking errors that I see folks making as a way to keep away from them, save your factors and miles, and make your journey greenback go additional:

1. Not Beginning at All

After I ask most individuals why they don’t journey hack, they simply shrug their shoulders and say, “I don’t know. Appears laborious, I assume.”

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

However side-stepping the points-and-miles sport solely is the most important mistake you can make. It’s akin to saying no to free cash. In the event you repay your bank card every month, you’re dropping out in case you aren’t incomes factors and miles, that are merely perks that you just get for being good about your spending.

2. Not Having a Aim

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

Earlier than you join your first card, an important factor to do is make a aim. Take into consideration the journey you wish to take, the place you wish to keep, and the way you wish to get there. Then get the journey bank cards that may assist you get there.

With out making a aim, you’ll don’t know what card (or playing cards) are greatest for you, as every provides completely different advantages that may match completely different existence, budgets, and journey targets.

Bear in mind: there isn’t any good card. There may be solely the right card for you.

Are you curious about loyalty to a model, free rewards, or avoiding charges? Would you like free flights and/or lodge stays? Is elite standing an important perk for you?

In the event you simply need factors to spend wherever you select, get playing cards with transferable factors (Chase, Amex, Citi, and Capital One are the primary examples of those) as a result of you should use their factors with a wide range of journey firms. They every have their very own rewards applications and factors that may be transferred to a number of airways or lodge companions or used to guide journey instantly by their very own journey portal web sites.

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

3. Not Getting Playing cards with an Annual Charge

In relation to selecting a journey bank card, many individuals balk at excessive bank card charges, which might generally be tons of of {dollars} per yr. Certainly the bank card firms are simply taking your cash, proper?

Not precisely.

Whereas it’s true that you just’ll need to resolve whether or not playing cards with larger 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 may accumulate factors quicker), and different perks, resembling higher journey safety and entry to particular provides. 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.

However you don’t need to go for the playing cards with the very best annual charges proper off the bat. There are various “starter” playing cards that waive the payment the primary yr, and after which can be simply $95 per yr. That means, you may see whether or not it’s price it to you.

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

4. Not Assembly Signup Bonuses

A handful of US travel credit cards

The perfect journey playing cards provide a large introductory provide, additionally referred to as “welcome provides” or “sign-up bonuses.” That is once you earn many factors without delay by spending a sure sum of money inside a sure time interval after opening your account (e.g., spending $3,000 within the first three months may earn you 60,000 factors).

These welcome provides are how I earn a million factors every year. They’re tremendous essential, as they jump-start your account and instantly get you nearer to a free flight or lodge keep. Typically these provides are even sufficiently big to get you a free flight proper off the bat!

One of many greatest errors you can also make just isn’t profiting from these bonuses. Once more, 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. Solely spend what you usually would and never a penny extra.

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

  • Ask associates or household if they’ve any massive purchases arising. You possibly can then pay for the merchandise in your card and get them to pay you again.
  • When out to eat with associates, 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 score Playing cards Month-to-month

This can be a central tenet not solely of journey hacking however bank card use usually. Don’t 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. In the event you’re paying curiosity, the factors are not free.

In the event you can’t repay your stability in full, you shouldn’t be journey hacking.

6. Pondering That Factors Have Intrinsic Worth

When 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 may rack up quite a lot of factors rapidly. Resort bank cards are infamous for this, recurrently providing sign-up bonuses of over 100,000 factors and bonus spending classes that may be as much as 26x factors per $1 spent (supplied by IHG on spending for IHG properties).

However what’s essential to grasp is that one level will go additional in some applications than others. The worth of some extent just isn’t mounted. It isn’t the identical throughout applications. One IHG level just isn’t the identical as one United level, identical to one Chase level just isn’t the identical as one Hyatt level.

When assigning a worth to factors, the maths is definitely fairly easy: take the money value (what you’ll 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 Factors Man’s month-to-month valuation chart to be probably the most correct as a useful cheat sheet to make use of as a baseline for what is taken into account an excellent per-point worth.

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

Level worth is within the eye of the beholder.

(Simply by no means redeem factors for money. That is the least beneficial use of factors.)

7. Not Maximizing Bonus Classes

Talking of level worth, seeing {that a} flight “prices” 30,000 factors will be intimidating, thanks to a different widespread mistake: pondering that you need to spend $1 to get 1 level.

However 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 far 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 Specific Platinum Card for airfare (5x factors).

By no means settle for one level per greenback spent. In any other case, it should take means too lengthy to build up sufficient factors totally free journey.

8. Not Taking Benefit of Card Advantages and Perks

woman standing in front of departures board at Barcelona airport

Journey 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 additional perks. Don’t make the error of getting a card after which not taking full benefit of every thing that it has to supply.

Listed here are the perks I personally prioritize:

  • No international transaction charges
  • Free lodge stays
  • Lounge entry
  • Free checked baggage
  • Precedence boarding

You might need completely different priorities, however irrespective of the case, you should definitely discover the advantages of your chosen card(s) and really use these that include it.

9. Not Getting Transferable Factors

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

Nevertheless, many individuals draw back from utilizing them, because it appears too sophisticated. They could get a card with transferable factors however redeem them by a journey portal or select to get money again as an alternative. But transferable factors are how one can get wonderful worth.

You possibly can earn transferable factors with bank cards issued by Chase, Capital One, Bilt, Citi, and American Specific, although remember the fact that these are all separate “currencies.” With Chase, you earn Final Rewards factors, when you earn Membership Rewards factors with American Specific.

These factors are transferable not to one another however reasonably to their respective airline and lodge companions, with whom you may then guide a flight or lodge keep.

It’s typically 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 anyplace. 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 unhealthy — you may’t use your Delta factors to reap the benefits of it.

Whereas it may appear sophisticated, it’s simpler than you suppose — it’s nearly discovering the appropriate card on your wants, shifting factors to an airline or lodge associate, after which reserving. This course of is less complicated than ever because of the brand new points-booking search engine, level.me.

(I additionally go extra in-depth into transferable factors and use them in my Journey Hacking Information.)

10. Hoarding Your Factors

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 make use of them in any respect. They both don’t know use them or wish to anticipate the “very best worth.”

However factors burning a gap in your digital pocket aren’t going that can assist you. The worth of factors adjustments on a regular basis as bank card firms, accommodations, and airways alter their applications. Sadly, meaning your factors may lose a big quantity of worth in a single day (don’t fear, this doesn’t occur ceaselessly, nevertheless it does occur).

Factors are meant for use. They’re a car for getting you free flights and accommodations as a way to get on the market and see the world. Don’t sit round watching your factors stability climb larger and better — use these factors, get on the market, and begin touring!


It’s by no means been simpler to earn free flights, lodge stays, and different journey perks. And whereas there are some widespread errors to keep away from and the educational 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.

So long as you make concrete targets, repay your invoice every month, and focus your spending on the appropriate 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’ll have spent anyway!

Guide Your Journey: Logistical Suggestions and Tips

Guide Your Flight
Discover a low-cost flight through the use of 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.

Guide Your Lodging
You possibly can guide your hostel with Hostelworld. If you wish to keep someplace aside from a hostel, use Reserving.com because it constantly returns the most cost effective charges for guesthouses and accommodations.

Don’t Neglect Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will shield you towards sickness, harm, theft, and cancellations. It’s complete safety in case something goes fallacious. I by no means go on a visit with out it as I’ve had to make use of it many occasions prior to now. My favourite firms that provide the most effective service and worth are:

Wish to journey totally free?
Journey bank cards help you earn factors that may be redeemed totally free flights and lodging. They’re what hold me touring a lot for thus little. Try my information to selecting the correct card and my present favorites to get began and see the most recent greatest offers.

Able to Guide Your Journey?
Try my useful resource web page for the most effective firms to make use of once you journey. I listing all those I exploit after I journey. They’re the most effective at school and you may’t go fallacious utilizing them in your journey.


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