For a while, I’ve wanted to get into travel hacking. It never seemed like a good time or I didn’t have the money. At a certain point, I realized these were all terrible excuses and the only thing preventing me from starting was that I was afraid to get a credit card. After all the horror stories about people spending too much and declaring bankruptcy, I was terrified I would ruin my life. I realized that I don’t have a spending problem and then decided to go for it.
For those people interested in travel hacking that have no idea where to start.
Here it is!
Step 1: Choose Your Alliance
There are 3 main groups of airline reward programs.
1. Sky Team
2. Star Alliance
3. One World
The first step in travel hacking is choosing your alliance because this is Spartaaa.
No, not really.
It is important to choose 1 alliance so that all the points you earn will be counted toward the same program and will be easier to redeem. If you earn 10,000 for Sky Team, 10,000 Star Alliance and 10,000 for One World, you should have enough points to go anywhere in the world. 30,000 should be more than enough for a one way ticket wherever you want to travel, however because they’re across different programs then you won’t be able to redeem them together. It’s like having tickets from different arcades.
Racking up points toward the same alliance helps you keep better track of them.
There are different airlines grouped together so it mostly depends on where you want to travel or if you prefer any airlines. I chose One World since I’m a fan of British Airlines, Iberia, and American Airlines. Between those three I know I can travel pretty much anywhere in the world so the rest are just a bonus. I’ve also heard great things about Cathay Pacific and would like to travel to Asia in the next year.
Before you even get to step 1, there’s a pre-1 or step 0 in which you mentally need to prepare yourself. If you’ve never gotten a credit card before or have heard horror stories like I did then you need to get in the right mindset to accomplish your goals. My money habits built up over the years have been if I don’t have the money then I’m not going to spend it. I don’t really have a shopaholic problem so that wasn’t a concern. As long as I only use 1 credit card at a time and meticulously track it then there won’t be any problems.
The first question I would ask new travel hackers is “Are you the kind of person that thinks before spending? Or doesn’t worry until there’s a problem?”
The kind of person that will be good at hacking will remember to cancel things on time or how to balance more than one project without getting overwhelmed. If you hate complexity, deadlines, or can’t remember to pay bills on time, then it might not be for you. The odds are against the consumer with credit cards. They will always make more money the longer you are in debt to them.
If you’re still not sure if this is for you keep reading on to brush up on the basics.
After signing up for an alliance, we get into which credit cards you should use. Personally I like the ones that are upfront about potential for bonuses and don’t have an outrageous minimum you have to spend. The first one I signed up for was the American Advantage Citi Card because I was 100% sure it would transfer to American Airlines and the minimum was $1,000 in 3 months for 30,000 points. I knew for sure I would spend that much money in the next couple months so I wouldn’t overextend myself. I read the agreement and they don’t charge interest for the first month. As long as I’m paying off the balance every month then there shouldn’t be any issues.
I’ve been putting off big ticket items like a new smart phone and camera until I could have it count toward some mileage. The process has been interesting to me since it’s so detail oriented and unfamiliar.
My secret confession is… I love bargain shopping.
Ever since I was a teenager I was at Goodwill or Salvation Army looking for new decorations or weird jackets. Travel hacking is kind of like bigger stakes bargain shopping.
How many different reward systems can I combine?
If I’m waiting until sales, buying online, and paying with a credit card for mileage points that’s the most leverage possible for my money. It’s all a process and I’m sure there’s a lot more to learn, but I’m excited for the process and look forward to writing more about it.
More to come soon!
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