10 Journey Hacking Errors to Keep away from

Rows of seats in an airplane

I’m an enormous fan of journey hacking. It’s remodeled my travels and saved me hundreds of {dollars} over time.

Journey hacking is the artwork of signing up for journey bank cards and gathering factors and miles you can money in at no cost flights, flight upgrades, resort stays, and extra — all with none additional spending. Briefly, it’s a technique to get extra for much less.

Over time, I’ve loved numerous free upgrades, free flights, free resort stays, and different perks — all with none additional spending. Journey hacking has helped open the world to me, so I’m an enormous advocate for it, as I’ve seen what a distinction it’s made in my travels.

And, whereas the perfect playing cards and perks are within the US, journey hacking is on the market all around the globe too (Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe all have journey hacking choices today).

Since I’ve been journey hacking for years, I’ve talked with numerous individuals about taking part in the points-and-miles sport. I’ve additionally seen tons of newbies make numerous errors — errors that affect their capacity to journey at no cost (or no less than for affordable).

Listed here are the largest journey hacking errors that I see individuals making so that you could keep away from them, save your factors and miles, and make your journey greenback go additional:

1. Not Beginning at All

After I ask most individuals why they don’t journey hack, they only shrug their shoulders and say, “I don’t know. Appears laborious, I suppose.”

The most important cause that individuals don’t begin journey hacking is that they assume it’s too difficult, it’s just for individuals who journey typically (or are huge spenders), or that it’s a rip-off.

However side-stepping the points-and-miles sport totally is the largest mistake you may make. It’s akin to saying no to free cash. For those who repay your bank card every month, you’re dropping out if you happen to aren’t incomes factors and miles, that are merely perks that you just get for being sensible about your spending.

2. Not Having a Purpose

A stunning view at a nice resort by an infinity pool overseas
Earlier than you join your first card, crucial factor to do is make a purpose. Take into consideration the journey you wish to take, the place you wish to keep, and the way you wish to get there. Then get the journey bank cards that may enable you to get there.

With out making a purpose, you’ll don’t know what card (or playing cards) are greatest for you, as every affords totally different advantages that may match totally different life, budgets, and journey objectives.

Keep in mind: there isn’t a excellent card. There may be solely the perfect card for you.

Are you curious about loyalty to a model, free rewards, or avoiding charges? Would you like free flights and/or resort stays? Is elite standing crucial perk for you?

For those who simply need factors to spend wherever you select, get playing cards with transferable factors (Chase, Amex, Citi, and Capital One are the primary examples of those) as a result of you should utilize their factors with quite a lot of journey corporations. They every have their very own rewards packages and factors that may be transferred to a number of airways or resort companions or used to ebook journey straight by means of their very own journey portal web sites.

Decide your purpose(s) after which discover the playing cards that match it/them, in addition to your spending habits.

3. Not Getting Playing cards with an Annual Payment

In the case of selecting a journey bank card, many individuals balk at excessive bank card charges, which might typically be lots of of {dollars} per 12 months. Absolutely the bank card corporations are simply taking your cash, proper?

Not precisely.

Whereas it’s true that you just’ll must resolve whether or not playing cards with greater charges are price it for you, playing cards with annual charges are often significantly better than no-fee playing cards: they provide extra worth, higher bonus classes (so you may accumulate factors quicker), and different perks, reminiscent of higher journey safety and entry to particular affords. For me, even the playing cards with the very best annual charges are price it, as I’ve saved extra money on journey than I’ve ever spent on charges.

However you don’t must go for the playing cards with the very best annual charges proper off the bat. There are numerous “starter” playing cards that waive the price the primary 12 months, and after which are simply $95 per 12 months. That method, you may see whether or not it’s price it to you.

For those who actually don’t wish to pay a price however nonetheless wish to get in on the sport, the Bilt Rewards card is my favourite no-fee possibility. This game-changing card affords you the flexibility to earn factors by paying your hire (the one card that does this), plus 3x factors on eating and 2x factors on journey. It affords stable journey protections too. For those who’re simply beginning out (and pay hire), this can be a must-have card.

4. Not Assembly Signup Bonuses

A handful of US travel credit cards
The best travel cards supply a large introductory supply, additionally known as “welcome affords” or “sign-up bonuses.” That is whenever you earn many factors directly by spending a sure sum of money inside a sure time interval after opening your account (e.g., spending $3,000 within the first three months would possibly earn you 60,000 factors).

These welcome affords are how I earn a million factors annually. They’re tremendous necessary, as they jump-start your account and instantly get you nearer to a free flight or resort keep. Typically these affords are even large enough to get you a free flight proper off the bat!

One of many greatest errors you can also make shouldn’t be making the most of these bonuses. Once more, it’s like leaving cash on the desk (I hope you’re seeing a sample right here).

With that in thoughts, solely apply for playing cards if you happen to can meet their minimal spending necessities for the welcome bonus along with your regular spending. If you’re spending extra money than you often do exactly to get these factors, then the factors are now not free. Solely spend what you usually would and never a penny extra.

If you end up near reaching a sign-up bonus however are nonetheless falling quick, these are some issues you are able to do:

  • Ask pals or household if they’ve any massive purchases developing. You possibly can then pay for the merchandise in your card and get them to pay you again.
  • When out to eat with pals, put every little thing on one invoice and pay it along with your card. Then get everybody to pay you again individually.


5. Not Paying Off Your Credit score Playing cards Month-to-month

This can be a central tenet not solely of journey hacking however bank card use normally. Don’t ever carry a steadiness on these playing cards, because the sky-high rates of interest will wipe out any potential profit you’d get from them. For those who’re paying curiosity, the factors are now not free.

For those who can’t repay your steadiness in full, you shouldn’t be journey hacking.

6. Considering That Factors Have Intrinsic Worth

When you begin taking a look at signing up for journey bank cards, it may be straightforward to get excited at enormous sign-up bonuses and spending classes the place you may rack up lots of factors rapidly. Resort bank cards are infamous for this, repeatedly providing sign-up bonuses of over 100,000 factors and bonus spending classes that may be as much as 26x factors per $1 spent (supplied by IHG on spending for IHG properties).

However what’s necessary to know is that one level will go additional in some packages than others. The worth of some extent shouldn’t be fastened. It isn’t the identical throughout packages. One IHG level shouldn’t be the identical as one United level, similar to one Chase level shouldn’t be the identical as one Hyatt level.

When assigning a price to factors, the mathematics is definitely fairly easy: take the money worth (what you’d pay if you happen to didn’t have factors), divide by the variety of factors required, and multiply by 100 to get the per-point worth in cents. I discover The Points Guy’s monthly valuation chart to be essentially the most correct as a helpful cheat sheet to make use of as a baseline for what is taken into account a superb per-point worth.

That stated, lots of redemption comes right down to the private worth that you just assign to these factors. Would you reasonably redeem them for flying in top quality, or would you reasonably take two economic system flights for a similar variety of factors? Would you reasonably keep in a five-star resort for a weekend or keep in a three-star resort for every week?

Level worth is within the eye of the beholder.

(Simply by no means redeem factors for money. That is the least worthwhile use of factors.)

7. Not Maximizing Bonus Classes

Talking of level worth, seeing {that a} flight “prices” 30,000 factors may be intimidating, thanks to a different widespread mistake: considering that it’s a must to spend $1 to get 1 level.

However good journey hacking isn’t about getting just one mile or level per greenback spent. It’s straightforward to get 2-5x (or extra!) for each greenback you spend. This helps you earn factors far more rapidly.

For instance, I exploit Chase Sapphire Reserve when eating at eating places (3x factors), the Chase Ink for workplace spending (5x factors), and the American Categorical Platinum Card for airfare (5x factors).

By no means settle for one level per greenback spent. In any other case, it would take method too lengthy to build up sufficient factors at no cost journey.

8. Not Taking Benefit of Card Advantages and Perks

woman standing in front of departures board at Barcelona airport
Journey hacking isn’t just about simply getting factors and miles. It’s additionally about what else comes with the cardboard that may make your life and travels simpler. Many cards give you a special elite loyalty status or other extra perks. Don’t make the error of getting a card after which not taking full benefit of every little thing that it has to supply.

Listed here are the perks I personally prioritize:

  • No overseas transaction charges
  • Free resort stays
  • Lounge entry
  • Free checked baggage
  • Precedence boarding

You might need totally different priorities, however irrespective of the case, remember to discover the advantages of your chosen card(s) and really use these that include it.

9. Not Getting Transferable Factors

Transferable factors are these you can switch to totally different packages. These are on the coronary heart of each good journey hacking technique.

Nevertheless, many individuals shrink back from utilizing them, because it appears too difficult. They may get a card with transferable factors however redeem them by means of a journey portal or select to get money again as a substitute. But transferable factors are how one can get superb worth.

You possibly can earn transferable factors with bank cards issued by Chase, Capital One, Bilt, Citi, and American Categorical, although remember that these are all separate “currencies.” With Chase, you earn Final Rewards factors, whilst you earn Membership Rewards factors with American Categorical.

These factors are transferable not to one another however reasonably to their respective airline and resort companions, with whom you may then ebook a flight or resort keep.

It’s usually higher to get transferable factors than, say, airline-specific factors (reminiscent of you’d get with an airline bank card), as these can’t be moved anyplace. Delta factors can solely be used on Delta flights (or their alliance companions), and if you happen to discover a higher flight with United, that’s too dangerous — you may’t use your Delta factors to make the most of it.

Whereas it might sound difficult, it’s simpler than you assume — it’s nearly discovering the best card to your wants, transferring factors to an airline or resort companion, after which reserving. This course of is less complicated than ever because of the brand new points-booking search engine, level.me.

(I additionally go extra in-depth into transferable factors and the best way to use them in my Journey Hacking Information.)

10. Hoarding Your Factors

A Delta airplane climbing into a bright blue sky after takeoff in the USA
Many individuals, as soon as they amass some factors, are afraid to make use of them in any respect. They both don’t know the best way to use them or wish to look forward to the “absolute best worth.”

However factors burning a gap in your digital pocket aren’t going that can assist you. The worth of factors adjustments on a regular basis as bank card corporations, inns, and airways alter their packages. Sadly, meaning your factors might lose a big quantity of worth in a single day (don’t fear, this doesn’t occur regularly, but it surely does occur).

Factors are meant for use. They’re a car for getting you free flights and inns so that you could get on the market and see the world. Don’t sit round watching your factors steadiness climb greater and better — use these factors, get on the market, and begin touring!


It’s by no means been simpler to earn free flights, resort stays, and different journey perks. And whereas there are some widespread errors to keep away from and the educational curve can appear steep, when you get began, all of it comes into focus rapidly, and also you’ll be questioning why you didn’t begin sooner.

So long as you make concrete objectives, repay your invoice every month, and focus your spending on the best card(s), you’ll be capable of take pleasure in time-saving perks and free journey very quickly — and all simply by spending the cash you’d have spent anyway!

E book Your Journey: Logistical Ideas and Methods

E book Your Flight
Discover a low cost flight by utilizing Skyscanner. It’s my favourite search engine as a result of it searches web sites and airways across the globe so that you all the time know no stone is being left unturned.

E book Your Lodging
You possibly can ebook your hostel with Hostelworld. If you wish to keep someplace aside from a hostel, use Booking.com because it constantly returns the most affordable charges for guesthouses and inns.

Don’t Overlook Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will defend you in opposition to sickness, damage, theft, and cancellations. It’s complete safety in case something goes mistaken. I by no means go on a visit with out it as I’ve had to make use of it many instances prior to now. My favourite corporations that supply the perfect service and worth are:

Wish to journey at no cost?
Journey bank cards permit you to earn factors that may be redeemed at no cost flights and lodging. They’re what maintain me touring a lot for therefore little. Take a look at my information to choosing the right card and my present favorites to get began and see the most recent greatest offers.

Able to E book Your Journey?
Take a look at my useful resource web page for the perfect corporations to make use of whenever you journey. I record all those I exploit after I journey. They’re the perfect in school and you may’t go mistaken utilizing them in your journey.