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So called Travel Hacking
Old 03-08-2012, 11:30 AM   #1
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So called Travel Hacking

I know quite a few of the forum folks work the credit card rewards system, but I've recently become interested in the whole idea of what they call travel hacking, which includes working credit cards for miles and points and whatnot to get award flights, free nights at hotels, etc.

Any bragging you want to do or ideas to share would be greatly appreciated. I'm thinking about the Chase Sapphire Card as United/Continental is my local airline and who I've flown with the most.

My primary goal would be miles, as I'm not much of a hotel stayer, but if there is a good way to get points in that, my DH has some Marriott points from his stays with them.

Thanks for any suggestions or stories!
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Old 03-08-2012, 11:59 AM   #2
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Reward Cards (membership, not credit cards) from hotels are often a really good idea, I've heard great things about Marriott's rewards program: stay x number of times and get the next one free.

As for credit cards, in my experience it has always been best to take the cash rewards over the miles and points. Points and miles are hotter selling points for merchants because people are drawn to them... but when you look at the figures, the companies actually pay out a lot less back to you through those programs compared to the cash rewards.

That said, if you travel A LOT and can really take advantage of the miles then it can be more beneficial than cash back. The ones who benefit most there are business types who are putting in 100,000 miles or more a year in flights.

I've always tried to fit as much of my regular expenses as possible onto my American Express Blue (Cash Back) card... I average getting back about 2.75% of everything spent (5% on gas, groceries, pharmacy, 1.25% everything else). As painful as it is to pay $50 to fill my car with gas, it is nice to know at least I'm getting $2.50 back at the end of the month.

http://www.moneyunder30.com/the-bett...s-credit-cards

Wish I could put my mortgage on the credit card
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Old 03-08-2012, 12:11 PM   #3
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flyertalk.com forums are great to start your research and reading. There are a couple of posters there that run blogs that highlight frequent flyer type deals all the time. I haven't been there lately but over the last couple years I have pulled in probably a million frequent flyer miles and maybe $10,000 in cash or useful gift cards. All by applying for credit cards (in my name and DW's).

Since we have kids in school (and another on the way!) we haven't used many of the FF miles (other than 1 free trip to uruguay and argentina a couple years ago - $2500 value).

For hotel points, starwood preferred guest is a good program to look into. I think they typically run promotions on Amex Starwood preferred guest credit cards in the summers where you get a boatload of rewards points for signing up, and you can do 1 for you, one for the Mr., and another 1 each for your business. We scored enough points (~125,000) to stay at hotels for a month or two (or less in higher tiered hotels).
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Old 03-08-2012, 12:26 PM   #4
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This guy supposedly travelled around the world without paying a dime on airfare and hotels.

Video - Breaking News Videos from CNN.com
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Old 03-08-2012, 01:15 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by FUEGO View Post

Since we have kids in school (and another on the way!)
HOW DID I MISS THIS NEWS?
Congrats, friend, on the pending arrival of the latest Fuego!

And I'm thinking about that Starwood one, but I'll see how the Sapphire thing works out first.
I do hate to give up the old Penfed, but when the cashback dropped to 1% except on gas, it just doesn't seem as awesome.
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Old 03-08-2012, 01:20 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarah in SC View Post
HOW DID I MISS THIS NEWS?
Congrats, friend, on the pending arrival of the latest Fuego!

And I'm thinking about that Starwood one, but I'll see how the Sapphire thing works out first.
I do hate to give up the old Penfed, but when the cashback dropped to 1% except on gas, it just doesn't seem as awesome.
Well, I haven't exactly publicized it much around here or facebook! I'll message you.

Yes, starwood was giving 25000 or 30000 points when you sign up. I think you had to spend multiple thousand to get those points (per card), so plan on that. I have realized that I can charge almost everything to a credit card to meet spending requirements. City water/sewer/trash, natural gas, internet (through cable co), phone, cell phone, electricity (although they charged $5 for the privilege), home and auto insurance, etc.
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Old 03-08-2012, 01:24 PM   #7
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Sarah,

I'm thinking about doing some travel hacking myself. Two links that I've tucked away that also might be useful to you:

The Art of Non-Conformity » Questions and Answers on Travel Hacking

Everything You Need to Know about Using Credit Card Bonuses for Free Travel

HTH,

2Cor521
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Old 03-08-2012, 01:56 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Sarah in SC View Post
I do hate to give up the old Penfed, but when the cashback dropped to 1% except on gas, it just doesn't seem as awesome.
I converted to the Penfed rewards card and one of the rewards is a Visa card with x$ on it, so it is equivalent to cash back. eg 10,000 points gets you a $100 Visa card you can use anywhere Visa is accepted.
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Old 03-08-2012, 02:18 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SecondCor521 View Post
Sarah,

I'm thinking about doing some travel hacking myself. Two links that I've tucked away that also might be useful to you:

The Art of Non-Conformity » Questions and Answers on Travel Hacking

Everything You Need to Know about Using Credit Card Bonuses for Free Travel

HTH,

2Cor521
2Cor, I just got Chris' book on the Art of Non Conformity and read it in one sitting yesterday. He's a super interesting guy, btw.
I'll check out the other link, too--thanks!
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Old 03-08-2012, 02:25 PM   #10
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I converted to the Penfed rewards card and one of the rewards is a Visa card with x$ on it, so it is equivalent to cash back. eg 10,000 points gets you a $100 Visa card you can use anywhere Visa is accepted.
You switched from the Penfed Cash rewards? That is the card I've got, which one did you go to?
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Old 03-08-2012, 02:37 PM   #11
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Sarah, PenFed recently said they were downgrading the "non-gas" cash back % on the PenFed Visa Cash Rewards card to 0.25% and we could either keep it or switch to their new Visa Platinum Rewards (points) card. The new points card offers a $250 Visa Cash Card bonus if you charge $1k within the first 90 days.

I didn't switch, I kept the cash rewards card for my gas purchases (5% cash back) and I'm using the new points card for everything else. I think that's the card Alan is using as well.
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Old 03-08-2012, 02:40 PM   #12
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Aha, thanks for the clarification. Okay, so maybe I'll do that with mine as well, before I get started on the Sapphire one.
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Old 03-08-2012, 02:44 PM   #13
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To clarify, I applied separately for the Platinum Rewards card as there was no option in PenFed's offer to have both...
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Old 03-08-2012, 02:55 PM   #14
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The new points card offers a $250 Visa Cash Card bonus if you charge $1k within the first 90 days.

Hmmm, $250 you say for getting a new credit card?
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Old 03-08-2012, 02:58 PM   #15
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Yep, earn 25,000 points = $250 Visa Cash Card

Quote:
  • Earn 5 points per dollar spent on gas purchases*
  • Earn 3 points per dollar spent on supermarket purchases*
  • Earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases*
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Earn 5,000 points upon first purchase with the card
  • Earn an additional 20,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of opening the Card - that's equal to $200 toward the reward of your choice
https://www.penfed.org/Platinum-Rewards/
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Old 03-08-2012, 02:59 PM   #16
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I also determined that cash is the best way to go. For example, you could get $250 in cash or $400 in airfare. Sounds like the airfare is better until you discover that you must go through a specific travel agency -- one which charges $400 for a ticket that is $250 elsewhere.
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Old 03-08-2012, 03:10 PM   #17
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If you fly United or its partners, some of the low hanging fruit is the United Explorer card. First year fee waived, free checked bag, a couple of lounge passes and a wad of miles (50k?).

I am thinking of getting the Marriott card since I stay at Marriotts when I travel for business.
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Old 03-08-2012, 04:11 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarah in SC View Post
You switched from the Penfed Cash rewards? That is the card I've got, which one did you go to?
Quote:
Originally Posted by FUEGO View Post
Hmmm, $250 you say for getting a new credit card?
Quote:
Originally Posted by REWahoo View Post
Yep, earn 25,000 points = $250 Visa Cash Card

https://www.penfed.org/Platinum-Rewards/
REW, Thanks for answering the questions, it is a Platinum Rewards card I switched to, just a phone call needed.

I did the switch rather than apply for a new card. There was an additional bonus (5,000 pts?) if you made the switch before end of Jan.
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Old 03-08-2012, 04:42 PM   #19
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Sarah,

Here's another good website:
Beginner’s Guide | The Points Guy

Per another post, flyertalk is invaluable:
Miles&Points - FlyerTalk Forums

I started picking up credit cards for the miles about two years ago but haven't put that much time into it. Rather just went for the mega bonuses (as much as 100,000 miles per churn in the last year or so). Once I met the spend requirement and acquired the miles would move on to another card. Right now am just holding Chase Sapphire and Starwood American Express.

There are two skill sets here. Getting the miles is one thing; using them quite another, at least for the in-demand international runs during the summer. For flying, the greatest "return" (cents per mile) is for international business or first class (or upgrades) or, at a minimum, economy seats on overseas flights. Redeeming miles for domestic flights makes less sense.

Have turned just some of the miles for this recent spate of churning into international tickets for last summer and again for this summer. It is kind of fun to tally the "winnings," not to mention $ saved. Have cared only about seats (i.e., flew economy), not maximizing return.

Not sure I'm going to continue though. Using the points for peak demand seats seems to be getting more difficult for the unskilled (me, really) particularly when booking 330 or so days ahead to snag the inexpensive but in-demand places in prime locations that book up to a year if not more out. (Last summer's 3-week plus trip for two to expensive destinations in Europe came in at less than $5,000 total for nice flats, B&Bs. )

Took me about 3 days off and on to figure out how to coax seats out of US Airways for last year. But again that's for booking way out. Just finished helping a friend get seats for this summer and found there was much more availability as the year progressed and the airline (US Airways again) fine-tuned demand and allocated more awards. For her, that's fine since they are staying with friends.

Here's a good article:
View From The Wing - The Myth of Booking Award Tickets at Midnight 330 Days Out - USATODAY.com

It *can* be a plus to acquire miles in multiple programs. American Airlines seems as of mid-summer 2011 to have curtailed its award seat availability at the lowest award tier. Supposedly it had been one of the best and I thought I'd gone to heaven when I booked seats over for this year leaving us scrambling for return seats when they pulled the inventory. Found upgrades on another airlines for a return of about $4000 on 40,000 miles (which was less than 1/2 a credit card churn).

For now, I'm using cards not tied to a specific airline ... Good luck !
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Old 03-08-2012, 04:46 PM   #20
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If you fly United or its partners, some of the low hanging fruit is the United Explorer card. First year fee waived, free checked bag, a couple of lounge passes and a wad of miles (50k?).
I am moving close to a United hub and was thinking about getting this card.

Right now I am just using a cash reward USAA credit card. Last year, the cash reward paid for one ticket to Europe.
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