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Save on travel: use points to pay for flights and hotels

To the point Airline tickets and hotels: here are our strategies for saving money on travel with credit card rewards points!

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.

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The strategies in this article are for anyone who just wants a seat on the plane and to travel as cheaply as possible.

  • students
  • backpacker
  • solo
  • with friends
  • in family
  • weekend getaway
  • world tour over several months
  • etc.

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.

For example, the National Bank Platinum Mastercard requires no income to apply for it. The welcome offer is identical to its larger counterparts.

On the other hand, the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Platinum Card and the American Express CobaltTM Card are also very accessible for people who want to easily earn points for air travel.

Too many credit cards = bad credit score?

The credit score is calculated based on several factors, but having multiple credit cards does not negatively affect the credit score if used properly.

However, credit card applications will temporarily lower the score; it will recover after a while if you keep up with your payments.

However, you should keep that in mind if you have a loan application (mortgage, line of credit, etc.) coming up. Finally, you should keep an eye on your debt limit, as you may be turned down if you have access to too much credit despite a great score.

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

Independent hotels

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.

Basically, the lowest prices for accommodation will be found on independent hotel platforms.

The following cards should be on your radar for travel savings on lodging expenses, as they are accessible to everyone regardless of income.

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.

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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!

Couchsurfing is also a good option to save money on travel and accommodation costs by staying with a local.

Marriott Hotels

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

International flights

When it comes to airfare, don’t overlook airline points (Aeroplan, Avios, etc.) for international flights in favour of travel points. Airline points are easily earned in Canada.

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.

Although the dilemma between using points or paying in cash remains, money saved is money that could be used elsewhere.

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 addition, some program s(Avios, Asia Miles, Aeroplan, etc.) allow you to build complex itineraries such as a “round the world” trip or to make the most of your points and 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.

The main advantage of traveling in business class is being able to lie down to sleep. However, tools such as Expert Flyer can tell you whether a flight is at capacity or not.

If necessary, you can strategically select seats and sit in empty rows in economy class! Be alert for the “boarding complete” announcement.

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Domestic flights

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)
21,000 points
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)
38,000 points
TOTAL 85,000 points $10,000 34,000 points $155,88 119,000 points
Tip

Some cards require you to carry $3,000 in purchases in 3 months which may be impossible for some. Instead of inventing unnecessary expenses, get grocery store gift cards. This way, you will prepay your future expenses to unlock a welcome bonus.

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!

In my case, it was impossible to pay my tuition fees by credit card. However, municipal taxes, taxes, and other charges can be paid by credit card .

My parents are not point hoarders, because they lack interest in managing their cards. So I asked them to pay my tuition by check and I paid the same amount for their taxes with my credit card. An interesting barter!

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.

For example, I have a friend who does her grocery shopping at IGA and gets 3% cash back with her BMO® CashBack® Mastercard®*. It’s the perfect card for her needs and goals.

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!

Additional card for loyalty programs such as AIR MILES, PC Optimum points, Métro et Moi, etc. are free; give them to your friends and family members who are not interested in earming for themselves.

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!

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