The rules of travel hacking
At the beginning of this year, if there are three rules of travel hacking that I want to remind everyone:
- Strategy: Objectives, Programs, Credit Cards
- The golden rule: Accumulate and use
- The credit report: Travel hacking is a marathon
Build your travel hacking strategy
We keep reminding people in the milesopedia facebook group: establish a travel hacking strategy. Too often we are asked “What is the best credit card”? But that’s taking the problem the wrong way around.
Set a goal for yourself
First of all, you need to set a goal or goals.
This can be short term or long term. It can be as simple assaving money on hotel nights or an airbnb rental for a weekend in New York City, or having a well-deserved Disney vacation!
Define the right loyalty programs
Once the goal is identified, define the loyalty programs that can help you achieve it.
Why, for example, earn Marriott Bonvoy points when you never stay in a hotel and prefer Airbnb? This would be counterproductive. Research your travel needs (lodging, airfare, road trip, groceries, gas, etc.) then consult our guides.
Choose the right credit cards
Finally, once you have identified your goal and defined your loyalty programs, it’s time to choose the right credit cards!
Thanks to your previous work (objectives and programs), it will be much easier to make the choice and not to give in to the charms of credit cards that will not be optimal for you!
To help you build your travel hacking strategy, we have designed several for you! Feel free to use these as inspiration and adapt them to your situation!
Accumulate and use
Loyalty programs are not RRSPs! Don’t collect points to use them in 3-4-5 years!
Each year brings its share of devaluations or changes in loyalty programs. So you need to be able to handle it by keeping your point balance low in programs such as Aeroplan or AIR MILES.
Prefer the accumulation of bank currencies such as :
- American Express Membership Rewards points
- HSBC Rewards points
- RBC Rewards points
- new Scene+ bonus points
- and BMO Rewards points
The first three types of points have the advantage of being transferable to other currencies (airline miles, hotel points). These will be the three currencies to focus on.
The others are travel points that have a fixed value in their respective program.
In 2020, the Aeroplan program has evolved significantly. Thanks to its new partnerships with global airlines, it allows you to fly to many destinations.
Since then, various promotions have been unveiled with American Express, CIBC and TD credit cards, linked to Aeroplan points. Moreover, the excellent option of family sharing is a great advantage for families or friends traveling together.
No changes occurred in 2020 for AIR MILES. The program allows you to earn MONEY or DREAM miles in two different accounts, and unfortunately these miles are not transferable between accounts.
We hope to see this type of transfer possible, which would be a great improvement to the program.
However, in 2021, they lost important partners such as Lowe’s, Rona, Réno-Dépôt and LCBO, as well as disappointing new products in their rebranding.
Act with caution and moderation
Too often we see new members get excited about this world of points & miles and sign up for whatever credit card offer they see here or there.
Travel hacking is a marathon.
If you have followed our method (Objective > Programs > Credit cards), you will not be among those who make big mistakes. But here is our advice to be careful.
Know the components of the credit file
The credit report is the cornerstone of travel hacking. Applying for a credit card is primarily about applying for financing (not points)!
Institutions will look at your credit report to determine whether or not you should be granted a credit card. It is therefore essential to do things right and to know the 5 components of the credit file:
- Punctuality of payments: 35
- Credit utilization: 30%.
- History: 15%.
- Types of credit: 10%.
- New requests: 10% of the total
Control your expenses
A good travel hacker knows his monthly and annual expenses precisely. For example, it allows him to plan a round of credit cards that require a certain threshold to be met in order to get the welcome bonus.
But travel hacking also requires mastery of one’s buying behavior. If you leave a balance on your credit card, you will lose out. Bonuses earned will NEVER be used to offset interest paid on a credit card!
If you are currently in this situation, travel hacking is NOT FOR YOU.
Follow the 3-month rule
In the world of credit cards, there is an unwritten rule: respect the three-month rule. That is, the time between credit card applications.
Your credit report will be impacted by any new credit card application. Leaving 3 months between each request allows him to “catch his breath”.
Ideally, an advanced travel hacker like me will not go below 3 months between requests. On the other hand, you can make several requests on the same day to compensate!
For a beginner, we recommend 1 to 2 cards every 6 months.
For an intermediate person, we can increase to 1 or 2 cards every 3 months. While for an advanced travel hacker, you can go up to 3 cards every 3 months!
Keep a low profile
Travel hacking requires discretion. Do not alert a bank if you have not received your welcome bonus immediately.
Wait a minute, read the rules for awarding (some bonuses can be awarded 6 months after the prerequisite is met)! If you don’t get your bonus, read our article“Why didn’t I get my welcome bonus? “.
And most importantly, if you know you don’t meet the requirements (for example, by having had the same card in the past), know how to let go! You can make up for it on other cards.
These few rules will help you make the right resolutions for this new year!
Feel free to join the facebook group to discuss all this with thousands of travelers and “points users” including many advanced members!
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