Travel Hacking, Simplified: How I Got $19,431 Worth of Flights for $876

There are hundreds of articles on the internet on “travel hacking”. A fast search on Google for “how to get free flights” provides you with over 33 million results. This guide is my try at writing a simplified version so you will get your subsequent flight for FREE (whether it’s in financial system or top notch) within the next 30 days.

10 nations. 20+ cities. three continents. And over 30,000 miles flown.

Within the final 12 months, my girlfriend and I flew everywhere in the world and have lived in nations like Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Canada, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, and extra.

After talking to some individuals about our journey, it looks like there’s this false impression that we ended up emptying our wallets for our travels.

The humorous thing is, we truly spent less cash dwelling overseas than dwelling at residence (but that’s an entire ‘nother matter for one other time).

Right now, I need to speak about how we have been capable of save hundreds of dollars on our flights.

I’ll inform you exactly what we did to get about $20,000 value of flights for $876…

…and I’ll show you what you want to take action you’ll be able to fly anyplace on the earth for free (you simply need to pay taxes and costs).

It doesn’t matter should you fly coach or in a $7,000 first or business class seat. You’ll get your subsequent flight for just about nothing.

But first, a quick summary:

  • This “travel hack” was made potential by leveraging the facility of credit cards.
  • All of the points/miles I earned occurred “on the ground” without having to take a single flight.
  • After incomes the points, you then transfer them to the airline you need to fly on.
  • These points primarily flip into frequent flyer miles.
  • You don’t need lots of credit cards to do that.
  • You don’t have to manufacture any spending — you will get factors/miles with the purchases you’re already making.
  • These things isn’t a gimmick, it’s not unlawful, and it definitely isn’t time-consuming.

Additionally, an important prerequisite: it’s essential to be accountable together with your money.

You’ll be utilizing bank cards for this journey hack.

Do NOT hassle studying the remaining of this submit if you have already got a ton of credit card debt.

And in case you do, shut this web page, work on paying off your current bank card debt, and come back to this article only after you’ve finished that.

The Breakdown: $19,431 Worth of (Worldwide) Flights for $876

Since I paid for most of our flights using factors & miles, I assume displaying you a breakdown can be the greatest place to start out so you will get an concept of what they might’ve value us.

First, a disclaimer: the chart under doesn’t embrace all the flights that we purchased. I used my factors & miles solely on international flights. I undoubtedly spent greater than $876 on flights for our year-long trip. But for the purpose of this information, I didn’t embrace all the other flights we purchased outright at retail worth (just like the cheaper domestic flights).


So as you’ll be able to see, all these (one-way) flights would’ve value us over $19okay.

Our complete value? $876 in taxes and costs.

And if it wasn’t for the final minute reserving charge for our flight from Chicago to Santiago, Chile, the full truly would’ve solely been $726.

Would've only been $11.20 if it wasn't for the close-in booking fees.

Would’ve solely been $11.20 if it wasn’t for the close-in booking charges.

An enormous chunk of the savings was for the 10-hour flight from Buenos Aires to Mexico City where we — for the primary time in our lives — flew in business class. Those seats have been normally $6,970 every (loopy costly, I know).

We obtained ’em for a grand complete of $195 in taxes and costs.


Retail worth of a business class flight from Buenos Aires to Mexico Metropolis.


Booked for 125,000 miles and $195.

How I Earned Over 500,000 Miles Without Flying (and How You Can Too)

Ever since I started travel hacking, I’ve earned more than 500,000 factors/miles from a mixture of:

  1. Bank card signup bonuses, and…
  2. Clever spending.

The part concerning the signup bonuses is straightforward: depending on the cardboard you enroll for, you get tens of hundreds of points just for spending a specific amount of money in the first 3 to 4 months.

These buy requirements are often pretty affordable and doable — $2,000-$four,000 in the first three months.

As for the “clever spending” half, that takes extra mind energy but the process is straightforward, too.

All you must do is strategically use your bank cards depending on the sort of purchase you make. That is how I was capable of rack up the factors & miles fairly shortly.

You see, every card has a points multiplier based mostly on sure varieties of purchases.

One card I use, for example, provides me 3x the factors for every buy I make on eating places and travel-related stuff. For each flight I e-book, I’d use this card as an alternative of all the other ones I have as a result of they’d solely give me 1 level for every greenback I spend.

I have one other card I use specifically for certain enterprise bills because they provide me 5x the points for every greenback I spend with them.

See where I’m getting at here?

The perfect part is that the stuff I use my credit cards on are for purchases I’m already making: food, journey, business-related bills, and so forth.

This, by the best way, is the rationale why I never use cash to pay for stuff.

You don’t get something again when paying with cash. Then again, you get “free money” each time you employ credit cards.

Now you is perhaps wondering…

“Uhhh aren’t credit cards evil? Won’t they hurt your credit score?”.

Nope, that’s a standard false impression.

For those who repay your stability each month on time and in full, your credit score rating will truly go up.

And that’s what’s occurred to mine up to now couple years.


There’s this thing referred to as the Credit score Utilization Ratio, and to place it simply, the smaller your stability is compared to your general credit score limit throughout all the banks you’ve got an account with, the higher your credit score shall be.

As of scripting this, my cumulative credit limit with all of my playing cards is just about $100,000. My complete stability at this actual moment? $500. And all of it is going to get paid off utterly by the point my subsequent cost is due.

So long as you don’t hold a stability (or a minimum of pay most of it off each month), your credit score score will truly go up regardless of the quantity of credit cards you might have.

The only time your credit rating gets affected negatively is once you don’t repay your stability.

How to Get Free Flights with Credit score Cards

Let’s get proper to it.

Step #1: Get These Playing cards

Most of the factors I’ve earned got here from three bank cards that I contemplate the most effective “starter” playing cards:

And in case you have any of these playing cards already, contemplate getting the Chase Sapphire Reserve. This is my new favourite card, and also you’ll see why later.

These are the bonuses and point multipliers (as of scripting this) that you simply get with every one:

Chase Sapphire Most popular

  • Signup Bonus = 50,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first 3 months.
  • 2x factors for each dollar spent on travel and dining.
  • 1 level for every greenback on all the things else.
  • $zero intro annual payment then $95/yr afterward, which  I wouldn’t worry about as a result of the quantity of money you get again from the card far surpasses the payment.

The cardboard is metallic, by the best way, not plastic.

Chase Freedom

  • Signup Bonus = $150 money again after spending $500 in your first 3 months.
  • The Chase Freedom Unlimited = 1.5% cash again on ANY purchase.
  • The Regular Chase Freedom Card = 5% cash back on certain classes that change every quarter and 1 point for every greenback on all the things else.
  • No annual payment.
  • Observe: when you’ve got the Chase Sapphire Most popular card, your $150 money back can truly be “turned’ into 15,000 points (which you’ll be able to then transfer to an airline as miles).

Chase Ink Enterprise Most popular (a enterprise bank card)

  • Signup Bonus = 80,000 points after spending $5,000 within the first three months
  • 3x factors for each greenback spent on journey, delivery providers, internet, cable & telephone providers, and promoting purchases made with social media websites and search engines like google and yahoo akin to Facebook Advertisements and Google AdWords.
  • Annual payment of $95, which I additionally wouldn’t fear about because the amount of money you get back from the cardboard far surpasses the payment.
  • Previously referred to as the Chase Ink Bold.
  • When you have a enterprise and you’re already making purchases on the classes mentioned above, this card is a should. You’re dropping out on rather a lot of free travel (or money) in case you don’t.

Chase Sapphire Reserve (my present favorite card)

  • Signup Bonus = 100,000 factors after spending $four,000 in the first 3 months.
  • 3x points for every dollar spent on journey and dining.
  • 1 point for every dollar on every part else.
  • Consists of perks and benefits like: a yearly $300 journey credit, $100 reimbursement for International Entry & TSA Pre, complimentary entry to 900+ airport lounges everywhere in the world, and more.
  • $450 annual charge, which  I wouldn’t worry about because the worth you get again from the cardboard far surpasses the payment. The yearly $300 travel credit itself principally brings down the annual payment to only $150/yr.

Protip: these playing cards are all from the identical bank. In case you apply for one and get authorised, apply for another card or two on the identical day because they’ll present up as ONE inquiry on your credit report.

Solely need to enroll for one card for now?

In case you own a enterprise, get the Chase Ink card.

In the event you don’t, get the Chase Sapphire Most popular or Reserve.

Just be sure to not get the Chase Freedom card by itself because you gained’t be capable of switch your factors to airline companions until you also have the Chase Sapphire or Chase Ink cards.

Step #2: Hit Your Introductory Bonus Spending Requirement

Assume of the subsequent huge buy(s) you’re going to make, and put them on the cardboard.

Don’t have massive purchases arising? Pay every part in your card going forward.

One other factor you are able to do is to pay any upcoming bills forward of time. Call up the corporate, and ask them in case you pays the subsequent 2 or 3 months’ payments forward of time.

By the best way, why is the bonus points an enormous deal? Because something like 40,000 factors is the equivalent of $400 money or about $800-$1,000 in flights for those who transfer them to an airline’s frequent flyer program.

Step #three: Switch to Associate Airlines

Once you earn points, there are two methods you possibly can redeem them:

  1. As cash or a credit to your stability.
  2. For award flights (or even for lodge stays).

If there’s one thing you’re taking away from this publish, it’s this: do NOT redeem the factors you earn as money.



Chase Financial institution’s associate airways and lodges.

As I stated earlier, 40,000 points is the equivalent of $400 when you redeem as money.

BUT, in the event you switch those same factors to an airline’s frequent flyer program, they’re value far more.

So my recommendation is to switch the points to airways as miles as an alternative.

Notice: banks like Chase now provide the option to e-book flights on their website which save you 25% of the entire value of the flight. I would still switch the factors to an airline as a result of they will nonetheless be value so much extra.

Step #four: E-book Your Free Award Flight to…Anyplace.

When you hit your minimal spending requirement and get your signup bonus factors, you’ll have enough points to e-book a free home flight or two.

Most domestic round-trip flights only “cost” about 20k-30okay miles depending on the place you’re going. First and business flights value extra, clearly.

And in the event you don’t use these factors immediately and you strategize your spending based mostly on the purchases you make, you need to be capable of gather sufficient points to fly anyplace on the earth for free.

Methods and Different Things to Know

Once more, this was a simplified information to travel hacking so I’ve neglected a number of items of info that you simply don’t actually need to know (but).

I don’t wanna depart you hanging, though, so listed here are some other useful ideas that you must maintain them in the again of your thoughts:

  1. Use your credit cards for every part. Don’t pay cash for something until you must.
  2. Additionally: don’t use your debit card to pay for anything, ever. Bank cards offer you 1%-5% back. Debit playing cards offer you a grand complete of zero%.
  3. Oh, and also you get some superior benefits, too, like Journey Cancellation Insurance coverage, Rental Automotive Insurance, Travel Accident Insurance coverage, and extra. All of these belongings you get just for utilizing your card.
  4. Don’t get airline bank cards at first. Their points/miles packages suck. You get 2 or 3 miles for each greenback spent… on their flights. Every thing else? Only a mere 1 level.
  5. Only get a brand new card every 6 months or so. I don’t keep in mind the technicalities of it, however it seems better to the credit score bureaus should you wait that long before getting a new one.
  6. Until, of course, if the playing cards are from the identical financial institution like I talked about earlier. In the event you get permitted for a Chase card and are considering of getting one other, apply for that different card on the identical day as a result of a) you’ll almost definitely get authorised with no drawback and b) it counts as one credit score inquiry.
  7. A rule of thumb that I utterly made up but go by: if the price of a one-way flight is $400 or much less, pay for it as an alternative of using factors. I’d somewhat save the factors for a later flight that’s costlier.

Further Studying and Assets

Listed here are some great websites to comply with if you wish to learn extra about travel hacking:

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