travel hacking

One of the best ways to learn a language is to travel and immerse yourself in the local culture. While you might have the time to travel, a lack of money might be preventing you from turning your travel dreams into a reality.

Maybe you want to visit Mexico City or fly to the other side of the globe. Practicing these travel hacking basics can help you save thousands of dollars on your next trip.

Below are a few of the best ways to earn and redeem travel rewards points.

Earning Points

You should focus on earning frequent flyer miles and hotel points first as these are usually the most common travel expenses. As a result, you have more ways to redeem your points.

Join Travel Loyalty Programs

A good starting point is maximizing the airline and hotel loyalty programs you use most often. It’s free to join these programs and you earn points each time you travel with that particular airline or hotel.

You can earn bonus points when supporting their travel, dining, and shopping partners. For instance, you can earn bonus Delta SkyMiles on Lyft rides and eating at select restaurants.

Earn Credit Card Bonuses

The quickest way to master travel hacking is getting a travel rewards credit card. New cardmember bonuses can be worth as much as $1,000 in award travel after spending $5,000 in the first three months.

Other rewards credit cards have smaller bonus values and spending requirements although you can expect most bonuses to be worth at least $500.

Airline and Hotel Credit Cards vs Flexible Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Co-brand airline and hotel credit cards usually have the lowest spending requirements, but your points can only be used for that particular travel provider. If you already earn points on a regular basis with their loyalty program, getting their rewards credit card can be a smart move.

Flexible travel rewards credit cards earn points you can use for a variety of travel purchases. If you’re not loyal to a certain airline or hotel, this can be a better credit card option. However, the minimum spending requirements to earn the signup bonus can be higher than co-brand cards.

Besides the initial bonus, you earn rewards points on every card purchase. Several credit cards let you transfer rewards points directly to airline and hotel loyalty programs. Two of the best programs for point transfers are Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards.

Utilize Credit Card Travel Benefits

Your travel rewards credit card may also come with additional benefits to help you travel for free. Airline credit cards offer free checked bags.  Hotel credit cards may provide a free night award each year.

Flexible credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Platinum Card from American Express offer annual travel credits that reimburse your first travel purchases each year. Your card may also offer complimentary airport lounge access and free Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

To access these benefits, you do have to pay an annual fee but the value of the benefits can easily exceed the annual fee.   

Redeeming Your Points

The redemption value for each point can be as important as how you earn your points. You will usually find the best value in booking award flights with points. Lucky for you, international travel is one of the most lucrative forms of travel hacking.

In most cases, you will redeem your points directly through the airline or hotel loyalty program to book free travel. Although you will need to pay their current rate, there are a few tricks to flying the same airlines and staying at the same hotels with fewer points.

Be Flexible

Rule #1 for booking award travel is to be flexible. For instance, it will usually cost more points to travel on peak travel days. Being able to adapt your travel schedule to fly on less busy days, with different airlines, or from alternate airports can help you get the best redemption rates.

Avoid Fuel Surcharges

When traveling abroad, some airlines charge fuel surcharges to your award ticket price. Even though you pay for your seat with points (and save thousands of dollars), you may have to shell out as much as $1500 in fuel surcharges alone when flying first class roundtrip on an international flight.

To avoid carrier-imposed fuel surcharges, you might book flights operated by United Airlines, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, Aer Lingus and Singapore Airlines to name a few.

Look For Redemption Bonuses

Some flexible travel rewards credit cards may offer travel redemption bonuses. Below are a few examples:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: Points are worth 25% more when booking any award travel on the Chase travel portal.
  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus: Redeem your points for a travel purchase statement credit and get 5% back for a second redemption.

These bonuses can be better than redeeming your points directly through the airline, hotel or rental car company.    

Travel Hacking Summary

Travel hacking is different for each person because our travel plans are different. If you already have a destination in mind, you can easily calculate how many points you need to travel. Your next step is to join the loyalty programs and discover all the ways you can earn bonus points by maximizing your daily habits.  

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