The Trip That Got Me Hooked

So you’re beginning to think that maybe Travel Hacking with points and miles might be just the thing to save you some money on your future travels. Maybe you’re wondering what the miles and points you earn could be worth to you. I’ll start by saying that since everyone has different travel goals, the value of points will vary. A little later, I’ll tell you about the trip that got me hooked on travel hacking.

A Few Points and Miles Redemptions

Here are some examples to help you see where this hobby can take you. Let’s start with domestic travel in the US. If you sign up for a Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card, the current signup bonus is 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. At a minimum, these points are worth 1.25 cents/point if used to purchase travel in the Chase Ultimate Rewards online portal.

That means 60,000 of these points is worth $750 in travel. That may sound pretty good to you and it certainly is a generous signup bonus. It’s especially great because this particular credit card has an annual fee of just $95.

However, what if you transferred these Chase points to one of Chase’s airline or hotel partners? Here’s the information on the trip that I just took to Phoenix in April.

Phoenix Cactus from the trip that got me hooked on travel hacking.  I've used points and miles to take many trips for pennies on the dollar.
Phoenix Cactus

I transferred 34,008 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to Southwest Airlines to book a round trip flight. It cost me only $11.20 in taxes and fees. If I paid for the flights, it would have cost me $505.98.

The Value of the Points Used

To determine that value I got out of using the Chase points, I deducted $11.20 from $505.98 giving me a cost of $494.78 which I divided by the 34,008 points. This gave me $1.05 cents per point which is a better value than if I had booked the flight through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal. For me, it’s not always about maximizing the value of each point, but getting a flight practically for free!

The Actual Trip That Got Me Hooked

This past August, I realized just how valuable credit card points can be. In fact, I was so excited by how much money I saved on my trip to Norway that I told my story to Money Magazine. This was the trip that got me hooked on this incredible travel hacking hobby.

Beautiful Bergen, Norway. One of the cities I visited on the trip that got me hooked on travel hacking. I told my story to Money Magazine.
Beautiful Bergen, Norway

Check out the article here: This 54-Year-Old Mom Used Credit Card Points to Take a $12,000 Dream Vacation to Norway for Only $217

For my trip to Oslo and Bergen last summer, I transferred 70,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines and was able to book a business class one way flight on Lufthansa, a partner airline to United.

Yes, I booked it right from the United Airlines website. The taxes on that flight totaled $41.60. The price of that business class ticket would have been $7,334.50 less the taxes. Again, by dividing by the 70,000 points I got a tremendous value of 10.48 cents per point!

Getting Back Home

British Airways Business Class Upper Deck on The Trip That Got Me Hooked on Travel Hacking. What an amazing experience.
British Airways Business Class Upper Deck

My business class return flight on British Airways was booked with 57,500 American Airlines miles which I accumulated with signup bonuses from American Airlines credit cards. Again, I booked the British Airways flight on the American Airlines website because the airlines art part of the same alliance.

Taxes and Fees

Due to my flying through London, my taxes and fees of $248.81 were much higher on my return flight. Any time you fly through London, you are charged hefty taxes. On my outbound flight which stopped in Frankfurt the fees were much less. I was willing to pay to fly through London because I couldn’t find availability on Lufthansa. My dates were set which limited my flexibility. I had plenty of American Airline miles to use those this worked out well.

The price of this business class flight less taxes would have been $4,458.70. By dividing by the 57,500 points I got a value of 7.75 cents per point another fabulous value.

Even if you are dizzy from the mathematical calculations, I think you would agree that the value of those points and miles for those business class tickets was pretty great. The cost of Business class flights was never a part of my travel plans until I got into this hobby. I would have made do in coach like most travelers.

Another Financial Windfall

500 Norwegian Krone Note I Found on the trip that got me hooked on travel hacking. I found it in Bergen Norway on an amazing trip as told to Money Magazine.
500 Norwegian Krone Note I Found

One thing not mentioned in the Money Magazine article is that I found a 500 Norwegian Krone note on the cobblestone sidewalk as I was leaving my hotel in Bergen. It was worth $60! Another financial win on that trip!!

These examples are why I got into this hobby. Credit card companies are offering generous signup bonuses just for opening their cards. Making a minimum spend in a 90 day period and then utilizing the points to “buy” travel makes sense to me

Please note that this travel hacking hobby is only for those people who use credit cards responsibly by paying off the balance each month.The hobby doesn’t work if you spend money you wouldn’t have spent had you not gotten the credit cards. I do advocate putting all of your available everyday/week/month spending on whatever card you sign up for in order to maximize the points you can earn. Just don’t overspend.

So tell me by commenting below, where would you like to travel with credit card sign up bonus points? What’s a trip that will get you hooked on travel hacking?

How to Meet Credit Card Minimum Spending Requirements

One of the great things about Travel Hacking is the ability to earn a large sign up bonus of points or miles when you apply for a new travel credit card. The question of how to meet credit card minimum spending requirements comes up a lot from people new to the hobby. The credit card companies give you the bonus points/miles once you meet the requirement to spend a specific amount of money on the new card.

Sign up bonus points and miles ca be quite lucrative. Learn how to meet the minimum spending requirement to receive the signup bonus.
Signup Bonus

The minimum spending requirements vary but typically range from $2,000-$5,000. This money must be spent within the 90 Day Period which starts on the day you’re approved for your new credit card. On rare occasions, the minimum spend may be as little as just one purchase. An example is the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard from Barclays Bank.

Keep Track of Dates

Keep a record of the date of approval. Mark your calendar on the date that falls about 80 Days after your approval date. This is your reminder to complete your minimum spending on time. This way you will be sure to get that last spending done to earn your sign up bonus. Note that sometimes, it can take a week to ten days until you receive your shiny new credit card. The minimum spending clock starts ticking the date you are approved for the card.

Meeting the Minimum Spend

Some people do enough regular spending on a monthly basis to easily meet the minimum spending for even the $5,000 requirement. If you are not one of those people, here are some tips to help you out. Do not overspend in order to be involved with this hobby. Practice careful spending that maximizes the points earned without overspending.

Big Ticket Purchases

The very best tip I can give you is to time your credit card application to right before you know you have a big ticket item on which to spend. I do this with almost all of my credit card applications.

Regular Spending

Now, look at all of your regular monthly household bills. Can you pay some or all of these bills with a credit card? If so, use your new credit card.

Many utility, cell phone and cable companies will let you pay by credit card. The same is often the case for car payments and all types of insurance. If you pay your Income Taxes quarterly, you may be able to pay by credit card.

How about monthly rent and or mortgage payments? Be careful though, because there are usually fees associated with using a credit card. The only time I recommend paying a fee is if you are trying to meet a minimum spend. If the total fee is significantly less than the value of the sign up bonus, go for it.

Bill Pay Services

There is a bill pay service called Plastiq. This service pays just about any type of bill on your behalf but charges a 2.5% fee. If it’s the only way you can meet a minimum spending requirement to get that large points/miles sign up bonus, it may pay for you to use Plastiq. Always do the math to figure out if it’s worth it to you.

Prepay Expenses

A great way to meet your minimum spend is to prepay for things you will be buying anyway a few months down the road. Buy gift cards for your grocery store or other retailers, restaurants and gas stations. Only do this if you know you’ll use the gift cards in the near future.

Company Expenses

Do you work for a company that reimburses you for expenses you pay out of pocket? Do you happen to travel for your work? If so, make sure you can purchase travel up front and be reimbursed by your company. This is a perfect opportunity to use your new credit card to meet your minimum spend.

Tuition

Let’s not forget that some preschools, private elementary and high schools as well as colleges may offer an option to pay tuition with a credit card without a fee. You need only ask to find out. This not only could cover minimum spending requirements, but could earn you a lot of additional points and miles.

Other People’s Purchases

Another neat way to make that minimum spend is to offer to pay another person’s expenses. Then, have that person reimburse you by check, cash or an app like Venmo. Perhaps a family member is about to buy a piece of furniture and doesn’t like to use credit cards.

Can you make a mortgage or rent payment for a friend or family member? Look for opportunities to pay for restaurant meals of others when you are eating out with a large group of people. You pick up the full tab with your credit card and have the rest of the group give you cash, check or use Venmo to reimburse you on the spot.

It goes without saying that once you get into this hobby, you’ll start to notice opportunities to use your credit cards every time you make purchases in order to maximize your points. I rarely use cash these days because every point counts. So there you have it. How to meet credit card minimum spending requirements.

Scroll down below and share any of your creative ways to meet minimum spending requirements with me. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas.

Applying for Your First Credit Card

When applying for your first travel credit card, there’s some things you’ll want to know before you dive in. Here are some things to be aware of as you begin your Travel Hacking journey.

Getting into this hobby it’s important to remember that it helps to have a credit score above 700 before applying. If you’ve opened a lot of cards in the last two years, let’s talk about best strategies for applying. What if you’re carrying debt on any credit cards?

Before Jumping In

I cannot stress enough the importance of paying off any outstanding balance(s) before considering this hobby. Carrying balances and paying high interest rates will negate any benefit you’d receive from Travel Hacking. I will always encourage the most fiscally responsible use of credit cards in participating in Travel Hacking.

What to Expect when Applying for Your First Card

I’m glad that we got that out of the way. Now you’re sitting at your computer looking at the credit card site and about to apply for your first card. What’s amazing in this day and age is that you can complete a credit card application on your computer. Often you get an instant decision from the credit card company. It’s magical to see “Congratulations you’ve been approved” for XYZ credit card right after pushing the send button.

However, sometimes, you’ll receive a message which reads something like “thank you for applying; we’ll be in touch by mail”. At this, point, it becomes a game of patience. Often, you will be approved shortly after applying. Sometimes, your new credit card will arrive in your mailbox before the official approval letter. Once in a while, you’ll receive a letter asking for additional information.

Business credit card applications can sometimes require more information. This helps to authenticate your business. Whatever happens, do not panic or rush to call the credit card company to find out what’s going on. It can take as long as 30 days for approval or rejection.

Rejection

What if you do receive a rejection letter? T.here’s still the possibility of being approved for that specific card. Read the letter carefully. Find out why you were denied. Now that you know the reason, you can decide if it’s worth calling a credit card company’s reconsideration number to talk to a specialist.

Often, it’s a matter of answering a few questions. Or, you need to provide additional information. You can request to move credit around if you happen to have more than one credit card from the company to which you’ve applied.

Methods of Appeal

Try appealing your case to the customer service representative. Do this by explaining how much all the great benefits and perks of the credit card for which you’ve applied mean so much to you. It is worth pleading your case. Many people are able to get approved even having received a rejection letter. I’m happy to guide you through the process if this happens to you.

In all cases of approval (Congratulations!), make sure to note the date on which you were approved. This date appears on the paperwork that comes with your new credit card. It might be the date you applied if you received instant approval. Or, you can check your on your CreditKarma.com account which will list the date the credit card account was opened.

Remember that the 90 day window (in most cases) for meeting the minimum spending requirements starts on the date of approval. It is not the date you receive the actual card. I always put a reminder on my calendar for 80 days after approval. This assures that I complete my minimum spending in the 90 day window.

What if you are still denied for the credit card? Let’s talk about the reasons why and what your next steps are to still get in the game. Happy to help you out with this.

Now you know some valuable information before applying for your first credit card. It’s time to take that first step and apply for your first credit card.

Please scroll down and leave a comment and tell me which card will be your first Travel Hacking Credit Card.

If you’re not sure, I recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It is still my go-to first credit card for most people getting into Travel Hacking.