Using points and miles to book free flights has allowed me to travel the world more often and to more places than I could have dreamed. Flights are typically the most expensive component to any vacation, which is why the ability to book free flights has saved me thousands.
What is Travel Hacking?
Travel hacking is the art of collecting frequent flyer miles and points to travel for free.
The best part is the majority of miles are earned without ever stepping foot on a plane. Many travel hackers, like myself, earn hundreds of thousands of miles per year. Some have even earned upwards of 1 millions miles and points over a year.
You don’t need to spend any money outside of everyday spending to earn these miles or points to fly for free. The key is to take advantage of what is already being offered to you to start booking flights for free.
You also don’t need to be a frequent flyer to start flying for free. Take a look at some of the fastest ways to build a war chest of miles and points.
1. Sign Up for a Co-Branded Credit Card
Signing up for travel rewards credit cards aren’t necessary for travel hacking but they are one of the fastest ways to boost your mileage account. Most co-branded cards come with at least a 30,000-mile bonus. Many travel hackers have maintained excellent credit while applying for and being approved for multiple cards at once. Since the annual fee is often waived you don’t need to spend outside your means to capitalize on the bonus miles.
2. Sign Up for a Points-Earning Credit Card
A points card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, is a great way to compliment your miles-earning card. Points cards also come with huge sign up bonuses that can be transferred or redeemed with award flights on your favorite airlines.
3. Shop Through Online Portals
Signing up for new credit cards isn’t for everyone, which makes online shopping portals appealing. If you already do a lot of your shopping for yourself, holidays, or birthdays online then you should be using shopping portals.
Every major airline (and many credit cards) have gateways to many popular online retailers you already shop at. Simply start your search at the shopping portal and continue to check out as you regularly would. You can earn miles for every dollar spent shopping through these portals. The key is to never let a mile earning opportunity go to waste.
4. Earn Miles Sleeping at Hotels
Hotel loyalty programs are great for earning free nights at hotels. However, if you would rather earn miles at hotels then you should start your hotel search at sites like Rocketmiles. Instead of earning loyalty points towards a hotel you may never stay at again you will earn thousands of frequent flyer miles every night you stay at the hotel.
5. Earn Miles Eating and Drinking
Every major airline has a dining program where you earn miles for every dollar you spend at participating restaurants. Many even offer a sign up bonus for this free service. Just link your credit or debit card (any card is fine) and swipe it at the restaurant. These miles will automatically post to your frequent flyer account at a later date.
6. Debit Cards
Credit cards aren’t for everyone, which is why debit cards offer a simple solution. However, debit-cards are a dying breed. Luckily, Suntrust Bank still offers a debit card in partnership with Delta. You will earn a few thousand miles on your first purchase and miles for every dollar spent. This won’t offer the fastest way towards free flights but it will earn you miles on everything you are already buying.
7. Mileage Transfers
In general mileage transfers are not great deals. They cost money for every mile transferred on top of a mileage transfer fee. If the airline is offering a 100% bonus on transferred miles, and they do throughout the year, then it can be a solid deal. You will have to spend money to earn miles in this situation but the value of the flight you redeem with miles will far outweigh the money spent making this a decent deal.
8. Car Rentals
As I mentioned you never want to let a mile earning opportunity go to waste. Airlines have partnerships with a lot of companies and this includes car rental companies such as Hertz. Delta allows you to earn up to 3,400 miles by renting from Hertz. If you are already planning to rent a car then this is the type of deal you can capitalize on.
You might not want another email filling up your inbox but airline newsletters are a great way to find out about new mileage earning opportunities. For example, had I not been subscribed to United’s newsletter I would not have earned a few thousand miles just for signing up for a Netflix account. Newsletters are a great way to stay informed.
10. Follow Along on the Forums
Forums such as FlyerTalk are a great way to stay on top of deals, mileage runs, and ask questions to frequent flyers. Don’t be afraid to engage or just browse the current topics. This is a great way to start saving on airfare.
11. Become a Travel Hacking Cartel Member
The founder of the THC, Chris Guillebeau, has been to every country in the world. He is the godfather of travel hacking (at age 35) and started a site to teach people how to book free flights. It seems too good to be true but I learned a lot being a member of the THC and they even guarantee you will book a free flight. Yes, you do pay $15 per month (for economy membership) to learn about mileage earning opportunities but they do all the work for you. It is $1 for a 14 day trial but sometimes you have to pay a little to save a lot. I am a member and I have already booked around $3,500 in free flights for 2014 alone travel hacking.
12. Use Amazon Payments
Amazon Payments allows you to send up to $1,000 a month to an individual at no cost. This means you could use your travel credit card to send $1,000 to your roommate for bills, rent, or just simply send it to them once per month. They could write you a check for the balance they didn’t need and you can repeat this process 12 times a year for 12,000 miles or points.
13. Use Venmo Payments
Similar to Amazon payments you can link a card to your Venmo account. Venmo is a mobile payment app that let’s you pay friends for anything. This includes dinner, drinks, or everyday purchases. Use it for any expenses and earn miles and points along the way.
14. Pay Your Rent or Mortgage
Some travel credit cards have large minimum spending requirements. This means you won’t see those 30-40,000 miles until you hit $3,000 in a certain number of months. Since you signed up for the card to earn the miles you want to be sure to receive them. I like to avoid fees whenever possible but I would rather earn pay a little to get a lot.
Using a service such as WilliamPaid will allow you to pay your rent for a 3 percent fee. If your rent is $1,000, that will cost you $30 – but it all goes towards meeting that minimum spending requirement. ChargeSmart will also allow you to make your mortgage payment with your card online, for a fee. While I don’t recommend using these services all of the time, they can be useful for meeting spending requirements for a few months.
15. Pay Your Taxes
Again, I never like to pay an additional fee but if you use services such as payUSAtax and Officialpayments.com to pay your taxes with your points earning credit card online you can earn miles or points. The miles earned often outweigh any fees associated with using a card.
16. Automatic Payments for Bills
Create automatic payments online using your point earning credit card for all of your monthly utilities such as electricity, phone, cable, and internet. These payments will add up over 12 months to a lot of points.
Become a Travel Hacking Master
The point is to always use your points-earning card for everyday purchases. You don’t need to spend outside of your means to earn enough points and miles for free flights every year. Not all of these methods are right for everybody but take advantage of the opportunities that fit your lifestyle. Earn miles whenever you can and before you know it, you will be redeeming miles for a free flight.
It may take extra effort and planning but if travel and saving money on flights is a priority then travel hacking is be right for you.