5 Simple Steps to Begin Traveling the World For Free
Travel hacking is a beautiful thing. It allows us to travel more while spending less. All it takes to begin earning free flights and hotel rooms around the world is 5 simple steps. Let’s go over these steps so that you can start applying them and begin earning points and miles for free travel today!
1) SIGN UP FOR AIRLINE AND HOTEL LOYALTY PROGRAMS
In order to begin earning and using points/miles to travel the first thing to do is sign up for airline and hotel loyalty programs. This will allow you to start earning points/miles every time you travel. After today, you should never take another trip without earning points/miles (unless you are redeeming those points/miles to travel for free of course).
It is simple and free to join these frequent flyer programs and loyalty programs. All you have to do is visit the website of the airline or hotel chain and search for their loyalty program. From there you can sign up for the program, receive your loyalty number, and you are good to go!
You should sign up for the loyalty programs of airlines and hotel chains that you will plan on using for travel. Here are some of the most popular loyalty programs in the United States:
American Airlines AAdvantage
Delta Airlines Skymiles
United Airlines Mileage Plus
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
World of Hyatt
There are more loyalty programs out there to sign up for, it will just depend on which airlines/hotels you utilize.
I recommend using a password manager site like LastPass in order to keep all of your login information in one secure place. Instead of trying to remember 30 different login credentials, you can use a strong unique password for each program and store all of the information in one place.
2) CHECK YOUR CREDIT SCORE
Your credit score will determine what travel credit cards you will be approved for. I recommend having a credit score of at least 700 before beginning travel hacking, but it's possible to be approved for some entry level travel credit cards with a lower credit score below 700.
If your credit score is in the 600-700 range, I would recommend applying for an entry level, no annual fee cash back credit card and just use that card in order to build up your credit score until you are over 700. you can find my list of best starter credit cards to build your credit here.
3) APPLY FOR A CREDIT CARD
Now we are getting to the fun part! It is time to apply for a credit card. Deciding which card to apply for will differ for every person. There are a couple of important rules to understand before making a decision.
CHASE 5/24 RULE
The Chase 5/24 rule is the strictest and most important rule to understand when it comes to travel hacking. If you have applied, and been approved, for 5 or more credit cards (any credit card, not just Chase credit cards) in the past 24 months, you will be automatically denied on Chase credit card applications. This is why you should apply for Chase cards before any other, because you will be locked out of Chase cards after having 5 accounts in the past 24 months.
AMEX 2/90 RULE AND 5 CARD LIMIT
When it comes to American Express credit cards, you are able to hold up to 5 Amex cards at once. Some people have reported only being able to hold 4, but generally it is a 5 card limit. This only applies to personal credit cards, not charge cards. Charge cards include the Amex Platinum, Gold, and Green cards.
Within a 90 day interval, you may open no more than 2 new AMEX credit cards. Again, this only applies to credit cards, not charge cards.
CITI 8/65 RULE
Citi’s 8/65 rule allows you to be approved for only 1 card in an 8 day period, and 2 cards in a 65 day period. The actual rule states 60 days, but it is best to wait 65 days because Citi occasionally will miscount the number of days it has been since you were last approved for a card.
You can also only be approved for a Citi Business card once every 90 days.
CAPITAL ONE 1/6 RULE
Capital One only allows you to apply for one of their credit cards every six months. A second application within the 6 month time period will be auto rejected without a hard pull of your credit score.
All of these rules are important to understand before you begin applying for cards because it will affect your ability to get approved. Start applying for Chase cards, and begin moving down the list after maxing out the 5/24 rule.
4) MEET MINIMUM SPENDING REQUIREMENT
Now that you have your shiny new credit card, it is time to put the card to use! Most credit cards offer a sign-up bonus for x amount of points after a y amount of spending in z number of months.
For example, The American Express Platinum Card is currently offering 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5k in the first 3 months of card opening. This is a typical sign-up bonus, cards usually require $2k-$5k in minimum spending to earn the bonus.
The best way to meet the minimum spending requirement (MSR) is to put ALL of your purchases on the new credit card. Every time you go to the grocery store or fill up your gas tank, you should be using that credit card. There are also a few resources out there, such as Plastiq, that allow you to use a credit card in order to pay for your rent/mortgage which can make it incredibly easy to meet the MSR.
In order to earn the bonus, it is important to know your monthly budget and average spending to ensure you will be able to meet the MSR. If you typically spend $2k per month on living expenses, meeting a $5k spend in a three month period will be easy to accomplish considering you naturally spend $6k in that period of time.
If a MSR is more than your natural spend in a period of time, consider waiting until you have a large purchase upcoming, such as car repairs or a new TV, and use a new credit card instead of cash to make that payment.
5) REDEEM YOUR POINTS/MILES FOR FREE TRAVEL
Once those points/miles start rolling in from the sign up bonuses, you will have enough to start booking flights and hotel rooms for free travel! This can be done in many different ways.
Chase and American Express both offer their own travel portals you can utilize to book travel through depending on which credit cards you have. These portals typically offer solid deals and good value for your points/miles.
Capital One, Chase, and American Express also all have transfer partners that allow you to transfer your bank points to airline and hotel loyalty programs, typically at a 1:1 ratio. Check out my Chase UR Guide and Amex MR Guide for more information on transfer partners, I will post a Capital One points Guide in the future as well.
You can also book flights and hotel rooms directly through airline and hotel websites. It is important to get the most value possible when redeeming points/miles. One tool I utilize quite a bit to ensure I am getting a fair redemption value for my points/miles is Awardhacker. This website shows the average cost of a flight in terms of points/miles. This helps to show you whether or not you are getting a fair price for your points & miles.
If you are able to follow those 5 steps, you will be on your way to earning thousands of points and miles that can be used to travel for free! i will be making a dedicated blog post for each step and go into more detail but these are the five core steps you need to know in order to begin travel hacking.
If you have any questions about this 5 step process or anything related to travel hacking, leave a comment down below or feel free to email me. I will be more than happy to answer your questions!
You can also follow Rethink Travel on Instagram (rethink.travel).
Sign up for the Rethink Travel Newsletter to stay up to date on everything travel hacking related.