Author Topic: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true  (Read 5966 times)

englishteacheralex

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Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« on: January 30, 2017, 03:35:22 PM »
After seeing travel hacking mentioned again and again in the forums and various FI-oriented websites, I'm starting to want to get into it more. But I have a persistent mistrust of more extreme versions of the strategy.

We are ideal candidates for travel hacking: we keep a detailed and rigid budget, all of our bills and expenses are paid via credit cards and then paid off every single month without fail (we've been very disciplined about this for the past decade, never letting a balance ride ever), and we are mainlanders living in Honolulu, which means we have to travel if we want to see family.

I've had a Chase UnitedPlusRewards card for around seven years. That was just fine when I was single; I could always accumulate enough miles for two free trips to the mainland every year. But now I'm married with two kids, and mainland trips necessitate three tickets (four in a couple years). This is getting crazy.

I signed up for a HawaiianMiles card for the 50k miles bonus and "buddy travel" award. That netted us a trip for three to LA for $744. As of now, we have no miles left on that card or on the Chase United card (used our miles on that one to pay for a ticket to Memphis this summer).

I'm hooked on the signup miles! If we're going to travel home next year at all, we're going to need another bonus award somehow. So I'm researching...just applied for the Chase Sapphire Points card that has 50k bonus points and waives the $95 fee. I found the whole points thing to be very confusing, which made me avoid the exciting Chase Sapphire $450 points card that is now no longer being offered.

But the points thing is actually good, right? You can apply it to any airline? How does it work?

My husband is a bit skeptical of all this, as it makes our financial lives a bit more complicated to have to keep track of various credit cards. I have this nagging fear that I am making a deal with the devil by getting into the travel hacking thing more seriously. Reassurance?

Iplawyer

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2017, 03:55:53 PM »
We got the Sapphire Reserve and used our 100000 points to already book 6 RT tickets.  And we used the $300 credit twice.  It is a good travel hack deal.

marielle

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2017, 04:37:21 PM »
There's a free course on travel hacking:
http://www.travelmiles101.com/travel-rewards-course-registration

I just signed up a week ago but have already learned a good bit since I'm new to this as well. Definitely would recommend this, it's only one email a day so it's not too much information at once. They aren't trying to sell you anything. They just have affiliate links for credit card sign ups (just like MMM does).

If you're just starting out and have not had 5 or more credit card applications in the past two years, start with the Chase cards first.

Here's a guide on Chase cards specifically:
https://www.reddit.com/r/churning/comments/5mhaai/beginners_chase_guide_for_folks_under_524/

Fire2025

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2017, 05:34:02 PM »
I was just going to recommend the travel101 course.  It's really good and got me started. 

I'm not a big time hacker, just  a small potatoe, but I got the southwest companion pass, two tickets to europe, two tickets to MN two tickets to Seattle, two tickets to NY and 4 tickets to puerto vallarta all this year all for about $87.00 in airline taxes and fees.  A lot of the taxes and fees were covered by the $600 I have gotten from the reserve card this year and last.  All this by hacking about 5 cards.

To good to be true, no.  To good to last forever, I think yes maybe.

QueenV

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2017, 08:39:45 PM »
I highly recommend the Travel Miles 101 course as well. I did it this summer and it really helped me wrap my mind around the travel hacking concepts. It's not really a class, it's one email a day for 15 days with links to helpful articles and videos by the creators of the course. You also get access to a private Facebook group where you can ask questions about travel hacking. I've found the group to be helpful and friendly.

There are several ways to approach travel hacking. You can go all out and open multiple cards at a time or you can just open one card at a time and space them out more. The one card at a time approach is the one I'm taking. The way to really benefit is to open a card for the signup bonus, use it until you hit the minimum spend and then move on to the next card. You won't get as many points just from normal everyday spending on the cards.

I keep seeing advice to approach it with a plan in mind. You don't want to hold points for too long because points can be devalued over time as rewards plans change. So in your case, if your goal is two trips to the mainland per year for your family, you'd want to figure out how many points are needed then choose cards that will give you the necessary points to get there. Then repar each year with different cards.

catccc

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2017, 01:18:53 PM »
We got the Sapphire Reserve and used our 100000 points to already book 6 RT tickets.  And we used the $300 credit twice.  It is a good travel hack deal.

How did you use the 100K to book six tickets?  I feel like the most I can get is 4...  I have 80K points on my ink posting next month and 100K on the CSR coming in April after I hit minimum spend.

englishteacheralex

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2017, 01:36:08 PM »
Thanks for all the tips/reassurance. I got the 101 course and it's been helpful. I think we're going to go the simple route and just sign up for one card at a time, because I don't see any other way we can hit the minimum spend amounts. We average about $2500/month on our credit card.

One thing the course says that I find very intriguing is that spouses can sign up for a card independently of each other--so I opened up the Chase Sapphire Preferred card yesterday with my husband as the additional card holder for the extra 5k points. Is it really true that in two months, when we hit the minimum spend amount, he can then go and open up his own Chase Sapphire Preferred card and get the same 55k points deal? If that's really true (I feel like there has to be a catch somewhere!) that's pretty darn awesome and I think we should be able to swing bi-annual trips to the mainland for a good price.

From taking the course, I realized that we're never going to be one of those amazing Go Curry Cracker travel families because we don't have that kind of flexibility. We have set destinations and set dates. Still, it's nice to profit a bit from our hyper-organization, disciplined spending, and happy marriage (no need to worry about each other spending behind each others' backs on separate credit cards).

Mgmny

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2017, 05:19:48 PM »
I was just going to recommend the travel101 course.  It's really good and got me started. 

I'm not a big time hacker, just  a small potatoe, but I got the southwest companion pass, two tickets to europe, two tickets to MN two tickets to Seattle, two tickets to NY and 4 tickets to puerto vallarta all this year all for about $87.00 in airline taxes and fees.  A lot of the taxes and fees were covered by the $600 I have gotten from the reserve card this year and last.  All this by hacking about 5 cards.

To good to be true, no.  To good to last forever, I think yes maybe.

None of these cards had annual fees? Chase Sapphire Reserve is $450 a year.

katsiki

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2017, 05:46:05 PM »
One thing the course says that I find very intriguing is that spouses can sign up for a card independently of each other--so I opened up the Chase Sapphire Preferred card yesterday with my husband as the additional card holder for the extra 5k points. Is it really true that in two months, when we hit the minimum spend amount, he can then go and open up his own Chase Sapphire Preferred card and get the same 55k points deal? If that's really true (I feel like there has to be a catch somewhere!) that's pretty darn awesome and I think we should be able to swing bi-annual trips to the mainland for a good price.


Yes!  As long as he is under 5/24, he can get the card.  Watch making him (or you) an authorized user.  That also counts in Chase's definition of 5/24.

Fire2025

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2017, 08:57:04 PM »
Quote
Quote
Quote from: Fire2025 on January 30, 2017, 05:34:02 PM
I was just going to recommend the travel101 course.  It's really good and got me started. 

I'm not a big time hacker, just  a small potatoe, but I got the southwest companion pass, two tickets to europe, two tickets to MN two tickets to Seattle, two tickets to NY and 4 tickets to puerto vallarta all this year all for about $87.00 in airline taxes and fees.  A lot of the taxes and fees were covered by the $600 I have gotten from the reserve card this year and last.  All this by hacking about 5 cards.

To good to be true, no.  To good to last forever, I think yes maybe.

None of these cards had annual fees? Chase Sapphire Reserve is $450 a year.

Yes some have had fees and some have had the fees waived.  The Reserve is wicked expensive, but I signed up at the end of 2016 so I got 300.00 for 2016.  Then another 300.00 in 2017 and a 100.00 credit/refund on my Global entry fee.  So I've gotten 700.00 for that 450.00 for a net gain of 250.00 to date.  You also have to remember that with the sign up bonuses you are getting, usually, hundreds of $ worth of  travel money, so if the fee is 69.00 you have to decide if that is worth it to you.  So far I've been able to come out ahead but I've only done 5 cards, 3 didn't have the fees waived the first year.

Mgmny

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2017, 05:12:57 AM »
Quote
Quote
Quote from: Fire2025 on January 30, 2017, 05:34:02 PM
I was just going to recommend the travel101 course.  It's really good and got me started. 

I'm not a big time hacker, just  a small potatoe, but I got the southwest companion pass, two tickets to europe, two tickets to MN two tickets to Seattle, two tickets to NY and 4 tickets to puerto vallarta all this year all for about $87.00 in airline taxes and fees.  A lot of the taxes and fees were covered by the $600 I have gotten from the reserve card this year and last.  All this by hacking about 5 cards.

To good to be true, no.  To good to last forever, I think yes maybe.

None of these cards had annual fees? Chase Sapphire Reserve is $450 a year.

Yes some have had fees and some have had the fees waived.  The Reserve is wicked expensive, but I signed up at the end of 2016 so I got 300.00 for 2016.  Then another 300.00 in 2017 and a 100.00 credit/refund on my Global entry fee.  So I've gotten 700.00 for that 450.00 for a net gain of 250.00 to date.  You also have to remember that with the sign up bonuses you are getting, usually, hundreds of $ worth of  travel money, so if the fee is 69.00 you have to decide if that is worth it to you.  So far I've been able to come out ahead but I've only done 5 cards, 3 didn't have the fees waived the first year.

Right, travel hacking means you come out ahead, but you still had to pay the $450. So saying you got all that for $87 isn't true. You have to at least have paid $450 just for the CSR card.

Iplawyer

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2017, 05:47:06 AM »
We got the Sapphire Reserve and used our 100000 points to already book 6 RT tickets.  And we used the $300 credit twice.  It is a good travel hack deal.

How did you use the 100K to book six tickets?  I feel like the most I can get is 4...  I have 80K points on my ink posting next month and 100K on the CSR coming in April after I hit minimum spend.
I used it like $1500 in cash and booked the cheapest tickets where I wanted to go through their website.  If you transfer your 80K over you'll have $2700 to spend.  It goes a long way.  I did not try and transfer to an airline program because all too often - seats are not available when I want to use them.

pigpen

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2017, 06:14:06 AM »
If you like to travel and are probably going to do it anyway, travel hacking in general is definitely worth it. My wife and I have been taking an approach similar to what you're thinking about -- one card at a time, no manufactured spending or anything like that. It's taken pretty minimal effort. I did a spreadsheet similar to the one from Travelmiles101, and just keep up with the dates when we opened the cards, etc. Takes about 2 minutes when I open a card. My wife's not as interested as me, so I just volunteer to keep up with it, and she volunteers to take free flights with me. I'll bet your husband would agree to the same arrangement if you proposed it.

We haven't been doing it for long, but have already flown to Chicago to see her family using points, got tickets to Zimbabwe for a trip this summer using points, and got a cheap internal flight in Zimbabwe from Harare to Victoria Falls for the trip for the two of us and for my sister, who'll be joining us -- also using points. Give it a shot.

Fire2025

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2017, 09:53:35 AM »
Quote
Quote
Quote from: Fire2025 on January 30, 2017, 05:34:02 PM
I was just going to recommend the travel101 course.  It's really good and got me started. 

I'm not a big time hacker, just  a small potatoe, but I got the southwest companion pass, two tickets to europe, two tickets to MN two tickets to Seattle, two tickets to NY and 4 tickets to puerto vallarta all this year all for about $87.00 in airline taxes and fees.  A lot of the taxes and fees were covered by the $600 I have gotten from the reserve card this year and last.  All this by hacking about 5 cards.

To good to be true, no.  To good to last forever, I think yes maybe.

None of these cards had annual fees? Chase Sapphire Reserve is $450 a year.

Yes some have had fees and some have had the fees waived.  The Reserve is wicked expensive, but I signed up at the end of 2016 so I got 300.00 for 2016.  Then another 300.00 in 2017 and a 100.00 credit/refund on my Global entry fee.  So I've gotten 700.00 for that 450.00 for a net gain of 250.00 to date.  You also have to remember that with the sign up bonuses you are getting, usually, hundreds of $ worth of  travel money, so if the fee is 69.00 you have to decide if that is worth it to you.  So far I've been able to come out ahead but I've only done 5 cards, 3 didn't have the fees waived the first year.

Right, travel hacking means you come out ahead, but you still had to pay the $450. So saying you got all that for $87 isn't true. You have to at least have paid $450 just for the CSR card.

The CSR card gives you $300.00 annually.  I signed up in 11/ 2106 paid $450.00 got $300.00 of free travel money, on top of the 100,000 points.  Then 01/ 2017 got another $300.00 plus $100.00 dollar refund on Global entry.  And I still had 100,000 points.  That's a net positive of $250.00.  I don't pay another $450.00 until 11/ 2017, so I can cancel the card any time this year and be ahead $250.00.

And the 100,000 points will pay for at least 4 international round trip tickets.  Two tickets are to Europe and valued at $750.00 each, I already have these, going in to Chelsea Flower show in May. Woohoo. 

I really don't see how you can say I'm not coming out ahead.  But maybe I'm missing something.  But this works for me, maybe not for everyone.

Candace

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2017, 10:38:16 AM »
There's a free course on travel hacking:
http://www.travelmiles101.com/travel-rewards-course-registration

I just signed up a week ago but have already learned a good bit since I'm new to this as well. Definitely would recommend this, it's only one email a day so it's not too much information at once. They aren't trying to sell you anything. They just have affiliate links for credit card sign ups (just like MMM does).

If you're just starting out and have not had 5 or more credit card applications in the past two years, start with the Chase cards first.

Here's a guide on Chase cards specifically:
https://www.reddit.com/r/churning/comments/5mhaai/beginners_chase_guide_for_folks_under_524/

Just signed up. Thank you to those who recommended this course. It looks perfect for me. Right now I use cash back cards exclusively, partially because I was bewildered about how to use travel cards. This course will help me get organized and optimized for the travel cards.

englishteacheralex

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #15 on: February 02, 2017, 01:17:37 PM »
Yeah, I'm pretty excited about the travel hacking thing right now. The 101 course is gold, I tell you, gold! I'm also enjoying their facebook page.

Mgmny

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #16 on: February 02, 2017, 03:52:07 PM »
Quote from: Fire2025link=topic=67824.msg1412144#msg1412144 date=1486007824
Quote
Quote
Quote from: Fire2025 on January 30, 2017, 05:34:02 PM
I was just going to recommend the travel101 course.  It's really good and got me started. 

I'm not a big time hacker, just  a small potatoe, but I got the southwest companion pass, two tickets to europe, two tickets to MN two tickets to Seattle, two tickets to NY and 4 tickets to puerto vallarta all this year all for about $87.00 in airline taxes and fees.  A lot of the taxes and fees were covered by the $600 I have gotten from the reserve card this year and last.  All this by hacking about 5 cards.

To good to be true, no.  To good to last forever, I think yes maybe.

None of these cards had annual fees? Chase Sapphire Reserve is $450 a year.

Yes some have had fees and some have had the fees waived.  The Reserve is wicked expensive, but I signed up at the end of 2016 so I got 300.00 for 2016.  Then another 300.00 in 2017 and a 100.00 credit/refund on my Global entry fee.  So I've gotten 700.00 for that 450.00 for a net gain of 250.00 to date.  You also have to remember that with the sign up bonuses you are getting, usually, hundreds of $ worth of  travel money, so if the fee is 69.00 you have to decide if that is worth it to you.  So far I've been able to come out ahead but I've only done 5 cards, 3 didn't have the fees waived the first year.

Right, travel hacking means you come out ahead, but you still had to pay the $450. So saying you got all that for $87 isn't true. You have to at least have paid $450 just for the CSR card.

The CSR card gives you $300.00 annually.  I signed up in 11/ 2106 paid $450.00 got $300.00 of free travel money, on top of the 100,000 points.  Then 01/ 2017 got another $300.00 plus $100.00 dollar refund on Global entry.  And I still had 100,000 points.  That's a net positive of $250.00.  I don't pay another $450.00 until 11/ 2017, so I can cancel the card any time this year and be ahead $250.00.

And the 100,000 points will pay for at least 4 international round trip tickets.  Two tickets are to Europe and valued at $750.00 each, I already have these, going in to Chelsea Flower show in May. Woohoo. 

I really don't see how you can say I'm not coming out ahead.  But maybe I'm missing something.  But this works for me, maybe not for everyone.

You misunderstand me. Yes you are coming out ahead. My wife and I both have the CSR, so I understand how great it is, and generally how travel hacking works.

I was taking issue with you saying you only paid $87 for everything in your post, when I know you had to pay at least $450 for the card. $87 is less than $450, so I don't think you're being honest about the $87.

Does the $300 travel credit, and $100 global entry, and $1500 chase  ultimate rewards pay for the $450? Yes. Did you still need to pay $450? Yes. So saying you only paid $87 for global entry, $300 travel credit, and $1500 of chase rewards isn't true.

Plus whatever cost the MS might have cost you.

FIREby35

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #17 on: February 02, 2017, 06:47:05 PM »
My famiky of five just flew from Nebraska to Chihuahua, Mexico to Zihuatenajo, Mexico for $200 including extra baggage Nd taxes. Also uncluded a ticket fo Grandma from Chihuahua to Zihua. So, yeah - it is a real thing. You should do it.

Bikeguy

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #18 on: February 27, 2017, 01:41:20 PM »
Been travel hacking for over 10 years.  Have taken my family of 5 to many places, the latest being Costa Rica and Italy, all on FF miles. 

2 cruises, multiple trips to Hawaii.

Would you pay $450 to get over $2000 in value?

Simple math.

Too good to be true?  The credit card companies can give the bonus to 3 people and if one gets in over their head, they make money.

There are seminars where you will meet like minded people.  FTU, Chicago Seminars, stuff like that.

Here's a trip I did, using FF miles and hotel points.

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-reports/1422076-using-delta-miles-virgin-australia-new-zealand-queenstown-sydney-pictures.html

And if you want to come to a free event, unlike the one's above, here is one I put on.

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/communitybuzz/1818697-ann-arbor-art-fair-do-13-dtw-july-22-23-2017-a.html#post27839470

There is more detail of what happens in the threads of the previous seminars I put on.

ketchup

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #19 on: February 27, 2017, 02:57:11 PM »
Yup, it's real.

I've stumbled into it recently and so far am aligned to have roughly (once all spend requirements are met):

63000 Amex MR points
77000 Chase UR points
133000 AA miles
31000 Alaska miles
40000 SPG points
60000 LifeMiles

Yinzer

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #20 on: February 28, 2017, 08:15:19 AM »
I've been doing this pretty regularity for the past 6 years now and can reassure you there is a HUGE upside but different strokes for different folks so do what you're comfortable with. My brother does this in more moderation than me and still reaps the benefits every year or two with very cheap travel (last year he went to Belize and Colorado, a couple years ago it was Europe).

In the 6 years I've been doing this I've offset 7-8 domestic US flights, a honeymoon to Thailand, trips to Spain and Mexico, etc. Granted, this is definitely a time-consuming hobby but for me I enjoy it very much. 

The best advice I can give anyone is to start with the next trip you want to take, then find the best miles/points program to cover it and build that account balance.

katsiki

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Re: Travel Hacking: Reassurance that this isn't too good to be true
« Reply #21 on: February 28, 2017, 12:57:45 PM »
To Yinzer's last point: I have found this tool from the Mad Fientist to be helpful lately.  There may be better tools but this one seems to be pretty good.

http://madfientist.cardratings.com/