Author Topic: Travel hacking for European residents  (Read 698 times)

Hula Hoop

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Travel hacking for European residents
« on: March 09, 2019, 04:56:07 AM »
I was just wondering if any other European residents have any travel hacking advice they'd like to share.  I'm an American living in Italy.  I signed up for an Alitalia Amex card a bit more than a year ago so that I could earn Alitalia points while shopping.  This is the first time I've seen a proper points credit card here as credit cards (rather than debit cards) are rare here and it's generally still a cash based society so I signed up.  Anyway getting the card was a huge ordeal but I finally got it.  I've accumulated quite a few Alitalia points so hopefully they won't get eliminated again during the Alitalia bankruptcy proceedings.  I've run into a bunch of issues though and not sure if there are some better options out there in other Euro zone countries:


1) credit card usage is low here so I can't pay many of our bills with a credit card

2) even if a store does take credit cards, they tend not to take Amex as it has very high fees


3) I would have had to spend Euro 15K in a year to get a companion fare and being mustachian and not being able to pay many of our bigger bills with a credit card (for example, new glasses for my husband, medical bills, kid's school lunch bills etc - none can be paid with a CC) I didn't manage to make the threshold


Generally, I notice that the American 'travel hacking' credit cards are better as thresholds to obtain various bonuses are lower and Americans are able to use their credit cards more often.  Do other european residents have any advice - has anyone been able to successfully travel hack here in Europe?

Anette

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Re: Travel hacking for European residents
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2019, 05:43:46 AM »
No, no great success at travel hacking in Germany.
Ptf, hopefully someone has great advice?  :)

Linea_Norway

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Re: Travel hacking for European residents
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2019, 05:48:37 AM »
The is a norwegian site InsideFlyer.no, which I read about this week. You could have a look (translated) and see if there is anything useful for you in it.

We in Europe don't typically get those signing bonusses thatvthe Americans get. I have a cash back CC that I use to pay my groceries. I can transfer the bonus sum to my bank account, or to an airline bonus program or a hotel bonus program. I have never bothered to do that. I fly so seldom that I never use up the bonus points. So I put the money in my bank account.
I get the impression that it might pay off to just book flights on the cheapest days. And use any bonus points as a reduction on the next flight.

Imma

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Re: Travel hacking for European residents
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2019, 08:06:53 AM »
There are very few places that take credit cards in my country and if they do they generally charge a fee. In my previous job, we used our business Amex card a lot to pay bills from American suppliers and then paid for business trips with those points, but it's true Amex is not very popular here.

My partner travels a lot and he finds very good deals all the time. From the figures I read on this forum, I think airfare is generally cheaper in Europe and there's also the option of taking the train or bus. Cheap travel is possible, but not through points schemes as far as I know.

In my country we have a points scheme called Air Miles and you can use the points for lots of things, not just travelling. I use the points to pay for groceries. This card is also linked to my Mastercard so I get points when I spend with that card. There are some clever ways to get more airmiles points, but all in all those schemes seem to be a lot less generous than the things I read about on MMM. Couponing is also something that seems a lot more profitable in the US. Through my Mastercard I can get discounts at certain hotel chains, car rental etc but those are usually not the cheapest options so they're not interesting for a mustachian.

Hula Hoop

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Re: Travel hacking for European residents
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2019, 11:03:07 AM »
Air travel within Europe is inexpensive if you use low-cost carriers like Ryanair but we travel across the Atlantic to visit my family in the US quite often so I was interested in airline points cards.  We also dream of various other trips like Japan and South America and it would be nice to be able to travel hack those.  I don't think fares from European cities to Japan, South America and North America are that cheap.  I guess there is always Norwegian Air though.


Anyone had any luck 'hacking' hotel stays the way Americans on this site seem to do it?  We generally use Airbnb for hotel stays when we travel within Italy or within Europe but it might be nice to have some other options.  I've thought about doing a home exchange since we live in the center of a touristy city in Italy but I'm a little uneasy about having strangers stay in our place.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2019, 11:05:07 AM by Hula Hoop »

Hirondelle

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Re: Travel hacking for European residents
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2019, 01:21:37 PM »
Hula Hoop - check out SecretFlying for some good cheap flight deals.

Travel hacking isn't a thing in Europe as far as I'm aware. Sure you can be loyal to an airline and save up the points. Personally I don't really do the type of travel that involves hotels, car rentals or other stuff typically available to use either the CC or the points for, so I don't know how worthwhile these programs are. Neither am I loyal to any airline as the cheap flights I have never seem to be from the same alliance and the price difference isn't usually worth going through the alliance-one :)

Is it an option to do a home exchange with people you know? I think you are traveling with kids so options like couchsurfing may be not so viable.

NorthernMonkey

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Re: Travel hacking for European residents
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2019, 01:36:27 PM »
Travel hacking is different in Europe. It doesn't involve credit cards and points, it involves knowing where the cheap flights are and the cheap times to fly. Using cheap train tickets to fly into and out of different places. Travelling with carry on bags only to avoid charges.

I few return to Berlin for 45 from England last month.

Hula Hoop

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Re: Travel hacking for European residents
« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2019, 03:52:43 AM »
NM - as I mentioned above I'm not so interested in travel hacking within Europe (I'm quite familiar with Ryanair and Trenitalia etc.) but between Europe and other continents.

daverobev

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Re: Travel hacking for European residents
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2019, 04:11:27 AM »
NM - as I mentioned above I'm not so interested in travel hacking within Europe (I'm quite familiar with Ryanair and Trenitalia etc.) but between Europe and other continents.

You'll have to see if there are any net positive manufactured spending options. Or long term zero percent cards, where you can defer the cost.

AFAIK basically no, nothing even remotely like what is available in the US and to a lesser degree Canada; the cap on card interchange fees just kills it (which is a good thing, IMHO - the cap on fees!).

You could look into matched better, and bank account sign up bonuses. Both of these are decent in the UK, but I have no idea with Italy.

I do know that in France they charge you a monthly fee for even having a basic bank account, which seems crazy to me, but there you go.

Hula Hoop

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Re: Travel hacking for European residents
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2019, 07:53:11 AM »
I wonder if I could open a credit card account in the US next time I'm there with a good sign up bonus and use it here in Italy.  I'd have to check the exchange rate and fees for international use.  might be worth it.

daverob - they charge a fee here too just for having a bank account or a "credit card" (actually here in Italy they only have debit cards not true credit cards).  It's insane.  I used to have an ING account though that didn't charge those fees but when I refinanced my mortgage was forced to open an account at the mainstream bank where I refinanced which does charge those fees.

daverobev

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Re: Travel hacking for European residents
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2019, 08:24:08 AM »
You can certainly do some level of US based stuff if you have a physical address you are willing to have on file (mail doesn't need to go there, you can get a mailbox - also in the US - which will forward stuff on).

Hula Hoop

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Re: Travel hacking for European residents
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2019, 08:43:00 AM »
dav - I use a relative's US address for various banking things so I could also sign up for a CC while I'm in the US next time.  Thanks.

Imma

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Re: Travel hacking for European residents
« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2019, 09:01:31 AM »
I think that's probably the best idea. The next problem is finding a way to spend enough money to earn enough points, but I guess you could at the very least use the card when you're in the US and pay for flights with the card. If you link the card to you paypal account you can get points for internet purchases as well (although I don't know how big paypal is in Italy).

We also pay for our bank account and there's a yearly fee for the credit card as well, but at least it is a proper credit card with buyer's insurance etc. In my country a credit card is seen as a regular loan and there are very strict rules about providing loans, so it's difficult to get a decent limit. Our limit is 1000, we recently applied to have it extended to 2500, which is less than our monthly income + we have a perfect credit score, but we were denied. I imagine other European countries probably have similar strict rules.

Hula Hoop

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Re: Travel hacking for European residents
« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2019, 12:45:28 PM »
That's interesting, Imma.  They don't have credit scores here in Italy and when you apply for a loan (such as a mortgage) they look at the type of job contract you have rather than a credit score.  It's a very strange system as, of course, many people with permanent job contracts are horrible with money but they have no way of telling that.

What they call "credit cards" here are always linked to a bank account and they take the amount in full out of the account at the end of the month. I suspect that this is linked to the lack of credit scores - since they can't tell if someone is good with credit, they don't issue credit cards.