Travel hacking is a marathon… not a sprint!

To the point Recent examples tend to support the view that many credit cards issuers and loyalty program managers are tightening the rules. So this is a good opportunity to mention milesopedia's Golden Rule: travel hacking is a marathon... not a sprint!

Travel Hacking in Canada is the art of mastering rewards programs and credit cards to travel -almost- for free. However, there are some important rules to know.

Moderation is always best

But in the vast majority of cases, for a family, this action plan should be spread out over a year.

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Credit card applications

Sure, you can apply for several credit cards on the same day in order to reduce the impact of these applications on your credit report, but you have to be smart about it too!

Ask yourself:

Would a credit card issuer consider it normal for you to sign up for one card in January, another in April and another in July? And that afterwards, you only spent the strict minimum to unlock the welcome bonus, without continuing to make some purchases on the card?

Diversify your credit card applications throughout the year: first, you’ll apply for a CIBC credit card, then a BMO credit card, and finally a Scotiabank credit card. And in the meantime, several American Express cards, depending on welcome offers.

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Repeated bonuses

Unlike the U.S., where the market has seen a major tightening of the rules on repeat bonuses in recent years, Canada seemed untouched until now.

However, in recent years, issuers seem to be trying to curb this by imposing new restrictions. For example, American Express has gradually relevé or expanded the thresholds for earning welcome bonuses from the :

Even though the “lifetime bonus” rule had been put in place in 2015 by American Express, it was never likely to be implemented until 2020. At that point, American Express’ actions were drastic. It unilaterally closed without notice all the accounts it considered to have abused this rule. All points earned in the accounts of the targeted cards have been cancelled.

Then, Scotiabank recently introduced a new limitation requiring not to have held the same product for the last 24 months in order to obtain the welcome bonus as for the :

Secondly, TD Bank has introduced a rule that you can’t get a welcome bonus if you’ve already opened the same type of card in the last 12 months like for the:

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Limitations on application

Aside from repeated bonuses, some issuers want to protect themselves from points hoarders.

So take your time and space out your requests to certain issuers!

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The means to reach requested expenditures

In this article, we have discussed many ways to achieve the spending required by credit cards issuers to help unlock bonuses:

All these tips are still entirely valid today.

Second, there are ways to apply for for cards that require little or no minimum spending. My colleague Aline has listed various strategies to easily earn points. In addition, there are also ways specifically for credit cards that earn cash back.

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On the other hand, American Express has put a stop in 2019 on other means used such as prepaid gift cards that are “cash equivalents.”

Do not confuse the following:

  • Prepaid Vanilla gift cards (which can be used as “cash equivalents” and which we do not recommend)
  • with store gift cards (like SAQ, Home Depot…) which are restricted to the banner.

In this case, moderation is much better. Rather than racing to unlock your bonuses through this method, take your time.

Besides, it’s not optimal to sign up for two credit cards simultaneously, each asking you to spend $3,000 in 3 months, and then not be able to reach that level of spending. Therefore, it would be wiser to apply for to only one card in this case.

Take…. your…. time, like in a marathon!

Abusive behaviour and red flags

In an effort to eliminate any behaviour that appears abusive to an issuer, avoid:

  • Declare an annual income of $40,000 and make $10,000 in monthly purchases on your card
  • Buying stuff every day at the same store with the same purchase amount (gift cards, anyone?)
  • Calling the credit card issuer to find out when your bonus will be received
  • Keeping a card open for 3 months, getting its bonus, and closing the card

Indeed, the last thing you want is to receive a call from the card issuer fraud department!

So if you know you’re in the wrong… you don’t call a credit card company: you keep a low profile. And avoid any “abnormal” behaviour.

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The basic rules of smart travel hacking

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Bottom Line

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!
Jean-Maximilien is an expert in Canada and France about Loyalty programs, Credit cards and Travel. He is the Founding President of Milesopedia.

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