Avoid These Three Mistakes

There are predictable steps when getting into the Travel Hacking hobby. Ideally first you pick your travel destination. Next, you apply for the credit card that makes the best strategic sense for your travel goals. Then, you use that new shiny credit card or two or three (!!) To earn the points you’ll need to cover your travel expenses for your goal destination. It’s the next step that can trip people up when they are first getting started in the hobby. I was a newbie once and I’ve certainly erred along the way. Read on as I teach you to avoid these three mistakes.

The Three Mistakes:

  1. Making the assumption that there is only one way to redeem points and miles.
  2. Neglecting to transfer points to airline and hotel partners.
  3. Missing out on the leverage that Airline Alliances offer when redeeming points.

Mistake Number One

Let’s start with the first mistake. All points and miles are not created equally. Airline miles offer the least amount of flexibility on redemption. However there’s likely more flexibility than you might first think. I’ll explain more about that with Mistake Number three. Points like Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thank You Points and American Express Membership Rewards give tremendous flexibility but only if you understand how to use them. It’s easiest to redeem the points within the online travel portals but doing so will give you a fixed value per point which can range from 1 to 1.5 cents per point.

When starting out, there is nothing wrong with redeeming points in the online travel portals. Know that you may be leaving value on the table. It will take a bit of time and effort to find the best way to maximize your points on redemption. For now, knowing that there are more options for redemption and keeping an open mind is a great start.

Mistake Number Two

Next, with your mind open to new possibilities, here’s how you can avoid Mistake Number Two:
Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, American Express Membership Rewards Points and Citibank Thank You Points (to name the three biggest and well known), can be redeemed in the online travel redemption portals. However, each of these points currencies offers the option to be transferred to travel partners for airfare and hotel stays.

Here’s an example of how I transfer Chase points. all it takes is a few clicks on the Chase online travel portal. I transfer Chase points to Southwest Airlines so that I can use those points to fly on Southwest.

I usually redeem for a value of 1.6 cents per point; much more value than the 1.25 cents per point I’d get if I bought my Southwest Airlines tickets through the Chase portal. I hope that the aha light bulbs are going off in your head. I’ve transferred Chase points to Marriott and Hyatt hotels as well in order to book stays. Again, I’ve gotten better value out of my points when I do this.

Mistake Number Three

Finally, we come to Mistake Number Three. Did you know that many airlines are part of airline alliances? Here are just a few examples: American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and British Airways belong to the One World Alliance.

Avoid these three mistakes. Mistake Number three is not paying attention to the value that airline alliances provide to travel hackers.
Airline Alliances

United Airlines, Air Canada and Lufthansa belong to the Star Alliance. Alaska Airlines is not a member of any alliance but has codeshare (where one airline puts its code and flight number on a flight operated by another airline) with 17 other airlines. Some of the 17 are American Airlines, Japan Airlines and Quantas.

There is also SkyTeam Alliance with 20 airlines including Delta, Aeromexico and AirFrance. What this means is that its possible to use points from one airline to fly on the planes of other airlines within the alliance.

As an example, I transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to United Airlines and booked a business class flight on the United Airlines website which I flew on Lufthansa. The amazing part is that I got a value of 10 cents per point by taking advantage of both a transfer partner and an airline alliance! How cool is that?

This can all seem a bit overwhelming but I promise you that once you open your mind to the possibilities, the process makes sense as well as “cents”! For now, it’s best to concentrate on your travel goals. Then apply for your first credit card or two to get that first travel experience booked for pennies on the dollar.

So now that you know how to avoid these three mistakes, I’m sure you’ve got thoughts swirling. Please scroll down and leave a comment or question for me. I’m here to help you learn more.

Two Player Mode

As a travel hacker, it’s wonderful to open up new credit cards and earn large sign up bonuses. However, just imagine if you could double up on those sign up bonuses. That’s where two player mode comes into the picture.

The Benefits of Two Player mode can be really great. Imagine the possibilities for more travel savings.
Two Player Mode

The Value of Two Travel Hacking Players

If you have a spouse, partner or family member, they too, can sign up for their own cards to earn additional points. Some credit card companies, Chase is one example, will allow you to pool your points into one account. This makes it easier than ever to book and pay for travel with points.

With this strategy, one person or both, can be earning the same types of points. Just as easily, one person can earn transferable points while one can focus on racking up airline miles and or hotel points. Of course, there are many variations of how you can earn points and miles.

One Great Benefit

The beauty of two player mode is that the other person does not have to dive into travel hacking in the same way you would. You help them sign up for the right cards based on your own knowledge and travel goals. Then, you can handle how to use the points earned strategically to get the most out of them.

I’m slowly trying to bring my husband, Ed, on board with travel hacking. He has no interest in this hobby but sees how I’m doing my traveling using points and miles. He also sees how very little cash I spend out of pocket. I know that hecertainly appreciates the cost savings of this hobby.

Bringing Someone on Board

About a year ago when Ed asked me about American Airlines credit cards. He flies American Airlines a lot for business and wanted the benefits of one of the airline’s credit cards. Specifically, he wanted to get free baggage and earn a sign up bonus and more miles.

Together, we chose the Aadvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard from Barclay’s . While it had a $75 annual fee (note the fee is now $95), he only needed to make one purchase to earn the 60,000 miles sign up bonus. Please note that the current sign up bonus has dropped to 50,000 miles. What a great way to quickly earn enough points for a free round trip airfare.

Getting Creative

Perhaps you have adult children who could benefit from two player mode. There are many young (and older too) couples who are strategically opening credit cards. They do this to earn enough points and miles to fund lavish honeymoons and vacations that they would otherwise never be able to afford.

Travel doesn’t have to be exotic or lavish to bring great joy to the traveler. Perhaps you’ve got a good friend or family member who lives quite far from you. How wonderful would it be to take a trip to go spend time with that person? Two player mode can really increase the enjoyment you can have traveling with points and miles.

Who do you have in your life who can join in the fun of this hobby? Comment down below.