Travel hacking - have you heard of it? Most people have, but how do you feel about it? There seem to be enthusiasts and skeptics, with few people on the middle ground. Travel hacking in the sense I’m going to talk about it means getting free flights from spending money you already planned on spending in the first place.
Sounds like a pretty neat idea huh? Getting free flights from your normal spending might seem too good to be true, but plenty of people have done it and are doing it. And they’re saving thousands of dollars in the process.
Just a little backstory for you. We bought a house at the beginning of the summer and have been doing little renovation projects since then. We’ve done things like totally gut the backyard, add a fence, painting literally EVERYTHING, and ripping the jungle out of the front yard. We found a few interesting things ripping the jungle out that’s for sure.
The next big projects for us are installing flooring throughout the house and a kitchen remodel. I’m a bit nervous about the kitchen remodel since I’ve never actually remodeled one before. But I will be using Google and Youtube for some help. The biggest things we’ll be doing is replacing cabinets and installing a dishwasher since we don’t have one now (yikes!). We don’t plan on hiring installers to do any of it so it should be a learning experience :)
Taking the Plunge
My wife and I decided to take the plunge recently and try our hand at travel hacking. We opened up a Capital One Venture Card a week ago. Are we crazy for doing this? Why did we even choose this card?
First off, we love to travel. We haven’t traveled as much recently since we bought a house for obvious reasons. Traveling the world and making memories means much more to us than buying material items. Seeing places and experiencing cultures is infinitely better than buying a new car.
Second off, we already do earn cash back with many things from the credit cards we do have. We have most of our expenses revolving through a credit card that earns 2.5% on everything which is one of the best deals out there when it comes to everyday spending.
I’ve heard of travel hacking before and honestly, was more of a skeptic than not. But after reading more into it, I decided it’s a much better deal than the typical 2.5% cash back frequent flyer cards help us since we love to travel. So, it’s basically a win-win situation if we went this route.
You should know there are a few requirements to get the perks from travel hacking and gather up all those free points :)
What are the Requirements to Travel Hack?
To travel hack, you typically need to spend a decent amount of money within the first few months of opening a card. The typical sign-on bonus I’ve seen is “Spend $3,000 in 3 Months” and in return, you’ll get 50,000 bonus points or some variation of that. 50,000 points equates to $500 in free flights which is pretty decent in my opinion.
There are a few things to keep in mind with these sign-on bonuses though. Some questions you should ask yourself before you get a credit card in order to travel hack include:
1) Are you responsible with your money?
2) Are you planning on spending a good chunk of change ($2,000 - $3,000) in the next few months?
3) Can you pay off your monthly spending at the end of the month so no interest accrues?
4) Are you organized and can you keep track of when you opened the card and when annual rates begin so you can cancel the card or manage those rates?
If you answered no to any of the above questions then you should not travel hack (or not yet at least). You should have an emergency fund and no consumer debt before you do this or at least be paying it off in the very near future.
Why We Chose the Capital One Venture Card as Our First Travel Hacking Card
Capital One seems to have some pretty decent cards. My wife had a starter credit card with them and I’ve had a card with them but got rid of it because it was only earning 1.5% cash back. Earning cash back is fantastic, but would you rather get 1.5% cash back or a 15% return?
Of course the 15% is what we all want! Getting anything above 2.5% cash back is almost unheard of, so how the heck do we get 15% or more back? The answer is to pay attention to the sign-on bonuses for the frequent flyer cards.
The Venture Card sign-on bonus requires $3,000 spent within 3 months to get 50,000 miles. 100 airline miles typically equates to $1, so 50,000 points = $500. Getting $500 back for spending $3,000 is almost 17% return on the money you’re spending!
That’s pretty decent in my book. Travel hacking is starting to sound like a more and more viable option now :)
What We’ll Get from Travel Hacking
We plan on doing the bulk of our kitchen remodel in December while I’m on winter break from school. That way, I can devote more time to demolition and remodeling. We’ve already spent $1,000 on appliances and will spend upwards of $2,000 on the cabinets and countertop.
This $3,000 that we will already be spending will get us $500 in free flights which will take us to the east or west coast or be a decent percentage of an international flight. This is the first time we’ve done this though so I’ll be recording the experience we have and I will update you in the future so stay tuned.
If you have been worried about bridging the gap to travel hack, then research what card will work best for your situation and take the plunge! If you don’t like it, you can always cancel it sometime down the road. If you aren’t sure where to start, here’s a list of the best travel cards of the past year from Forbes.
What are your personal experiences travel hacking or thoughts about it? Share about it below in the comments section :)