On Milesopedia, we give you strategies to travel more and travel better. However, the term “travel better” can also be defined as “travel without coming back broke”.
In the Milesopedia Facebook community, we often see questions about step-by-step strategies. All this to simply save money on travel, without having high-end hotels or business class flights in our sights.
The strategies in this article are for anyone who just wants a seat on the plane and to travel as cheaply as possible.
- with friends
- in family
- weekend getaway
- world tour over several months
The world of credit card points for travel savings
The objective will be to earn mainly reward points for travel and make up the difference with what you’re saving. It seems that most people do the opposite since it seems more logical.
But travel hacking is a very lucrative game when you master it!
The Beginner’s Guide is a must-have for people who want to save money on travel simply by optimizing their spending habits.
Credit cards easily accessible to all
The range of credit card choices for students is not huge, since your credit history and income are limited. However, with the right strategy, one can quickly climb the ladder to become a travel hacking expert.
Students and people with low incomes are eligible for a variety of credit cards that do not require a minimum income. On Milesopedia, we have a card comparison tool that allows us to filter credit cards according to our situation.
By indicating zero personal income, 74 credit cards are available.
The points strategy for saving money on travel
Before choosing a credit card, you must make a budget. Then, figure out your consumption habits and ensure a sound management of your expenses: this is how you can optimize the return in points on each purchase.
The objective and types of reward points to prioritize
During my college summers, I was able to take several backpacking trips; these trips lasted on average 3 to 4 months.
The goal was always the same: to travel longer and experience more in the most economical way. Luxury and business class were not a priority at all.
So, the strategy for earning reward points was almost identical for all these trips; focus was on travel points.
The cheapest accommodation possible
To travel the world in the most economical way possible, you should mainly turn to travel points that can be applied to your purchases.
In short, using this type of points is very simple. You only have to book the cheapest hotel (or bed) with your credit card.
Then, since the expense is categorized as “travel”, the points can be used to reduce the balance owing on the credit card statement, and save money on travel.
Youth hostels: a goldmine for saving money when traveling
Youth hostels or hostels should always be an option to consider when trying to save money while traveling.
These facilities are not just for backpackers. Indeed, this false image can lead you to overlook them, but it is an excellent opportunity to save money on your trip.
Hostels offer mostly dormitory-type beds that can accommodate up to twenty people in the same room. You pay for each bed you use, so if you are traveling alone, it won’t be very expensive. Common lounge areas and kitchens are usually available and bathrooms are also shared.
Hostels sometimes have private rooms as well: these may or may not have shared bathrooms. These rooms are an excellent compromise between privacy, comfort and economy. You will have to pay a little more than for a bed in a dormitory, but the rate is still interesting even if you are alone.
In addition, hostels often offer social activities and excursions at a lower cost. This way, you can also meet people easily!
Although a Marriott hotel is much more comfortable than a youth hostel, the latter will always be cheaper.
However, the welcome bonuses on Marriott Bonvoy credit cards are quite generous. This way, you can easily earn points to save on travel with these hotels!
In fact, there are several sweetspot destinations for the Marriott Bonvoy program where a credit card can give us up to 16 free nights!
A good strategy would be to incorporate the Marriott Bonvoy sweetspots into our itinerary, then supplement with the independent hotels at the other locations.
What better way to save on travel than with free luxury!
The cheapest possible airline tickets
There are several credit cards available to earn airline points. The following two cards stand out for saving money on airfare when traveling.
TD® Aeroplan® Visa Platinum Card : Earn 1 point† per dollar on all eligible gas and grocery purchases. (If your income allows, its big sisters offer more points per dollar spent).
American Express CobaltTM Card: Earn 5x points on eligible food and beverage purchases made in Canada. This includes grocery stores and food delivery services
In fact, they allow you to earn more points for the main expense item for most people: groceries.
So even if your valuation calculation is not optimal, the points you hold can help you get a hard-to-pay-for airline ticket otherwise.
If you are paying a ticket cash, again consider travel points applicable on the purchase to save on travel!
In fact, earning enough airline points to travel around the world will be much easier than earning $5,000 to pay for all the airline tickets.
Then, turning to travel points applicable on expenses will be preferable when low-cost airlines serve our destination. Especially in Europe and Asia, lowcosts are hard to beat.
However, if you run out of travel points and have air points left over, you can still use them in the same way as in the previous point.
Avios miles can cover the majority of your domestic flights, in Australia and Japan for example, and surpass the savings of low-cost airfare.
Example of a credit card strategy available to everyone to save money when traveling
When venturing into the world of credit card rewards, it quickly becomes apparent that the most successful strategy lies in credit card applications for welcome bouses.
For beginners, we recommend starting with one. Then, space the applications at least 6-9 months apart depending on your ability to meet the required expenses to unlock the welcome bonuses.
Then, once you become more comfortable with credit card management, you can increase the number of credit card applications, and move them closer together over time.
|CREDIT CARD||BONUS||MINIMUM EXPENSES||REWARDS||ANNUAL FEES||FINAL HARVEST IN POINTS|
|TD® Aeroplan® Visa Platinum Card||20,000 Aeroplan points||$1,000 during the first 90 days||1,000 Aeroplan points||$0 (no annual fee
the 1st year)
|American Express CobaltTM Card||30,000 Membership Rewards||$6,000
spread over the first year
|30,000 Membership Rewards||$155,88||60,000 points|
|National Bank Platinum Mastercard||35,000 NBC Rewards points||$3,000 over 3 months||3,000 NBC Rewards points||$0 (no annual fee
the 1st year)
|TOTAL||85,000 points||$10,000||34,000 points||$155,88||119,000 points|
Paying tuition, taxes and fees with credit card
By default, tuition fees are payable by check or bank transfer. However, some institutions allow payment of these fees by credit card with or without additional fees. Just ask!
Otherwise, there are ways to pay for all kinds of bills by credit card (school and municipal taxes, taxes, Hydro-Quebec, etc.) with Plastiq and PaySimply. Sure, there are fees to consider for using this service, but to unlock a bonus, it may be worth it!
Helping each other with friends and family
Make the rounds of the trusted people in your circle and target those who have no interest in travel hacking. Their expenses can help unlock your welcome bonuses. Then, to make up for the points or discount they couldn’t earn themselves on their purchases, you can give them a discount to make it fair.
It doesn’t earn enough rewards to justify the annual fee of a card with a better earning rate. Also, she is not interested in managing it all.
So I buy her a $100 giftcard at IGA with my American Express CobaltTM Card Then she transfers $97 to me, while this amount helps me reach expenses to unlock a welcome bonus. So I’m not taking anything away from her that she would have gotten without me.
This is comparable to using services for bill payment or buying points. To unlock a bonus or to use those points at a higher value, it might be worth it.
Likewise, when I’m at a restaurant with friends, I always pick up the bill if they bring out cash… No need to deny those friends, because they help you save money when you travel!