These simple tricks can save you thousands on flights and accommodations when you travel. The good news? It’s completely free and easy to implement these tips right away. Get ready to pack your bags!
How to Use Miles and Points to Travel for Free
Is there a trip you’ve always wanted to take but felt like you couldn’t? Maybe you’re waiting for the day when you can “afford” to take that trip or when the time is right personally and professionally. Well the truth is, traveling can be a lot more affordable than you would imagine. In fact, you can even travel for free using miles and points.
The cost involved with traveling can generally be broken down into 3 major categories in order of most expensive to least expensive: Flights, Accommodations, and Food/Activities. The good news? You can use points or miles to significantly reduce the cost of flights and hotels, leaving you more money to do what you want.
Before we get into the details, let’s start with the basics.
How to earn miles or points:
Points or miles are a type of reward or currency awarded by the credit card companies, airlines, hotels and car rentals to their customers. Companies have these programs to generate loyal customers.
There are 3 different ways to earn miles or points:
Sign up bonus
The fastest way to earn a large number of miles or points is by signing up for a new credit card with a signup bonus. Almost all credit card companies, airlines, and hotel chains have their own credit cards these days that offer bonuses to new members if they meet a certain spending requirement. The requirements usually involve spending a minimum of XXXX dollars within the first X months of the account opening date. Once you meet that requirement and pay off your statement balance, the companies will give add a nice chunk of bonus miles or points to your account which can range from 30,000 to 75,000 miles. That is enough for a round trip to one of your destinations or a hotel stay for a few nights.
One thing to keep in mind with meeting the minimum spend requirement is to remember that the goal here is to meet that minimum spend without spending more money than what you normally spend. We recommend that you always pay your statement balance in full every month to avoid paying interest. That way, you can travel for free and meet your credit card payments every month.
However, there are some hacks to meeting the minimum spend requirement with your everyday expenses. To learn more, click HERE
Here are some of the best sign up bonuses currently offered:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred – 60,000 bonus points worth $750
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card – 75,000 points
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card – 50,000 miles
- Hilton Honors American Express Card – 95,000 points
- United℠ Explorer Card – 65,000 bonus miles
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® card – 50,000 bonus miles
- Gold Delta SkyMiles – 50,000 bonus miles and $50 statement credit
Almost all airlines, hotels, and car rentals have a loyalty program you can sign up for. The process is pretty simple – once you join a company’s program, you get rewarded for every trip you take with them. If you travel frequently for work or fun, you should try to book your flights with the same airlines, book your hotel at the same hotel chain, and rent a car from the same company. You will start accumulating miles or points and will be able to redeem them for free flights, hotels and car rentals in no time. As an added bonus, by sticking with the same airline or hotel chain, you will also be able to earn elite status, which is the secret sauce to getting upgrades and earning points even faster. To learn more about how elite status can benefit you, click HERE
Here are our favorite airline loyalty programs:
- American Airlines AAdvantage miles
- Delta SkyMiles
- United MileagePlus miles
- Southwest Rapid Rewards points
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles
- JetBlue TrueBlue points
Our favorite hotel programs:
- Marriott Bonvoy points
- Hilton Honors points
- IHG Rewards Club points
- World of Hyatt points
Cashback bonuses are the reason why you should use credit cards instead of debit cards. When you use a debit card to pay for things, you are not getting any type of rewards or cashback bonuses. Using a credit card for the same expenses can not only help you earn rewards points or miles, but it can also help you build your credit score.
Almost all travel credit cards offer some type of rewards for spending money. For example, Chase Sapphire gives 2x points on travel and dining, and 1x points for every dollar spent. Each Chase Reward Point is worth 1.25 cents, so you are basically earning 1.25% back on every dollar you spend, and 2.5% back if it is spent on Travel and Restaurant. This may not seem like much, but these points quickly add up and can be redeemed for free travel or hotels.
Here are some credit cards with the best cashback programs:
- Chase Freedom – 5% cash back on select categories per quarter
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card – Offers 2x miles on every purchase
- Chase Sapphire Preferred – 2x points on travel and dining, and 1x points for every dollar spent
- Bank of America Premium Rewards – 2x points on travel and dining, and 1.5x points for every dollar spent
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card – 6X points per $1 spent at Marriott Bonvoy hotels and 2X points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
As somebody who travels a lot, both professionally and personally, I have funded entire trips using these simple tricks. For example, when we booked our one-way ticket to Medellin, Colombia (the first stop in our year disrupted), we bought it entirely with the Chase Sapphire sign-on bonus. Afterward, we continued using our Credit Cards for everyday payments. By the time we had to buy another one-way ticket out of Colombia, we had racked up enough points to take care of it! We were able to travel for free by simply using our credit cards.