5 Travel Hacking Myths You Shouldn’t Believe
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Most of us want to travel more often, but it’s easy to get burdened by all the expenses required to pull off a successful vacation or exciting trip.
If only there was some way to hack the system. Wait, there is.
A few years ago, I heard about people racking up tons of credit card reward points in order to redeem them for discounted and even free travel. It sounds too good to be true, I know, but it actually works when done correctly.
Travel hacking has helped me score free flights and discounted hotel stays, and it even allowed my husband and me to go on our honeymoon in Jamaica for just $400 (this included our flights, resort stay, food and drink, and activities).
Clearly travel hacking works, but there are plenty of myths out there that would make someone suggest otherwise.
Here are five of the most common myths you shouldn’t believe about travel hacking.
1. Travel hacking is sneaky or dishonest
The words ‘travel hacking’ may lead someone to believe that you’re hacking the system or being dishonest when you rack up credit card points for travel.
However, this is just a myth. Travel hacking is totally legal, and it while it isn’t always encouraged by airlines and hotel systems, they created the offers in the first place.
Some travel hackers sign up for credit card reward bonuses and close the cards after they’ve earned and received the bonus points. While you’ll have to watch your credit and avoid doing this too often, there’s nothing wrong with signing up for a credit card just to take advantage of the sign-on rewards bonus.
Some cards even have a policy whereby you can apply for the same card and receive the same rewards bonus after two years. There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of the programs and offers that these companies are creating.
They benefit by getting more customers, and you benefit by scoring discounted travel.
2. You have to travel in order to earn points
Needing to travel first in order to receive credit card reward points for travel sounds like a tricky catch-22. The good news is, it’s not necessary.
In most cases, you can earn a lot of credit card reward points simply by using your card for everyday purchases. You don’t have to take trips or leave the country to get more points.
While you can earn points by using your card for travel purposes (whether it’s booking a certain airline or staying in a certain hotel), sign-on bonuses ultimately take the cake.
This means you’ll usually have the opportunity to earn the most points during your first few months of using the credit card.
For example, I booked a cruise for cheap after using a credit card that had a sign-on bonus for 50,000 points, which was equal to $500 in travel expenses.
In order to earn those points, I needed to spend $3,000 on the card within the first 3 months. I spent that easily by using my card to pay for everyday expenses like groceries, gas, bills, etc. Then I paid my credit card bill off in full each month with the money I already had in my checking account to cover the expenses.
I didn’t need to travel at all to earn the money to earn the rewards.
3. It’s easy
Travel hacking may sound easy enough, but it’s not such a simple process if you want to do it right. You need to invest some time and effort if you want to see positive results.
Instead of just signing up for a credit card, you need to do your research first and come up with a strategy. You also need to keep track of your spending so you don’t go into debt.
If you’re trying to earn a sign-on bonus, odds are you are working on a deadline.
Be sure to use a spreadsheet to track all your credit card purchases and your payment due dates. Keep track of when the sign-on bonus deadline is so you don’t miss out on the opportunity.
You also might want to keep track of when you got the card and when the annual fee is due (if applicable). Some cards will waive the annual fee for the first year but charge it the second year, so it’s best not to forget it if you plan on keeping the card for some time. Some people travel hack with more than one card; you’ll need to keep organized with each card you’re currently using.
Other cards have specific redemption guidelines, so you’ll need to read through the fine print and plan accordingly to avoid getting overwhelmed.
4. You have to spend a lot of extra money
I’ll admit, some of the credit card sign-on bonuses have spending amounts that seem pretty steep. This can pressure people to feel that they need to overspend.
If you don’t feel comfortable with the sign-on bonus spending minimum, don’t sign up for the card. There’s nothing worse than getting into credit card debt in the hopes of scoring some bonus rewards points or cash back.
Once you consider the amount of interest you’ll have to pay on your balance, the rewards you earn will easily be canceled out.
The key is to focus on using your credit card to cover everyday spending for purchases you’d need to make anyway. I know my husband and I spend at least $3,000 each month within three months, but I’m not so sure about $5,000 as I feel like that might be a stretch. I’ve even had cheaper credit card sign-on bonus offers for $2,000, $1,000, and $500, so it’s not true that you have to spend excessively just to travel hack.
5. Anyone can do it
The final major myth is that anyone can travel hack. Travel hacking isn’t for everyone.
In order to qualify for a credit card that offers a compelling sign-on bonus and rewards for travel, you need to have a good credit score. If you have a history of not paying your bills and an average or low credit score, you probably won’t qualify for any of the cards that are good for travel hacking.
You also need to have control over your spending habits. If you generally don’t use credit cards or don’t feel like you could use one wisely and avoid impulse purchases, credit card hacking may not be the wisest strategy for you to try.
Finally, there’s always a debate as to whether or not you should travel hack if you already have debt. I say no if you have a ton of debt that’s hard for you to handle. If you already have credit card debt, you’re probably wasting money on interest each month and should get it paid off ASAP.
If you have control over your debt and have been making extra payments on smaller debts, you may find some value in travel hacking.
The choice is up to you. If you have an urge to travel and you feel like you can travel hack correctly and enjoy some great trips, I encourage you to give it a try.
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