10 Journey Hacking Errors to Keep away from

Rows of seats in an airplane
Posted: 2/23/23 | February twenty third, 2023

I’m an enormous fan of journey hacking. It’s reworked my travels and saved me hundreds of {dollars} over time.

Journey hacking is the artwork of signing up for journey bank cards and gathering factors and miles you can money in without spending a dime flights, flight upgrades, lodge stays, and extra — all with none additional spending. Briefly, it’s a approach to get extra for much less.

Through the years, I’ve loved numerous free upgrades, free flights, free lodge stays, and different perks — all with none additional spending. Journey hacking has helped open the world to me, so I’m an enormous advocate for it, as I’ve seen what a distinction it’s made in my travels.

And, whereas the perfect playing cards and perks are within the US, journey hacking is offered all world wide too (Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe all have journey hacking choices nowadays).

Since I’ve been journey hacking for years, I’ve talked with numerous folks about taking part in the points-and-miles sport. I’ve additionally seen tons of newbies make numerous errors — errors that influence their means to journey without spending a dime (or not less than for reasonable).

Listed below are the largest journey hacking errors that I see folks making so that you could keep away from them, save your factors and miles, and make your journey greenback go additional:

1. Not Beginning at All

Once I ask most individuals why they don’t journey hack, they simply shrug their shoulders and say, “I don’t know. Appears laborious, I suppose.”

The most important cause that folks don’t begin journey hacking is that they suppose it’s too sophisticated, it’s just for individuals who journey typically (or are large spenders), or that it’s a rip-off.

However side-stepping the points-and-miles sport fully is the largest mistake you possibly can make. It’s akin to saying no to free cash. In case you repay your bank card every month, you’re dropping out for those who aren’t incomes factors and miles, that are merely perks that you simply get for being sensible about your spending.

2. Not Having a Purpose

A stunning view at a nice resort by an infinity pool overseas
Earlier than you join your first card, crucial factor to do is make a purpose. Take into consideration the journey you need to take, the place you need to keep, and the way you need to get there. Then get the journey bank cards that may aid you get there.

With out making a purpose, you’ll don’t know what card (or playing cards) are finest for you, as every affords completely different advantages that may match completely different life, budgets, and journey targets.

Bear in mind: there is no such thing as a good card. There’s solely the perfect card for you.

Are you interested by loyalty to a model, free rewards, or avoiding charges? Would you like free flights and/or lodge stays? Is elite standing crucial perk for you?

In case you simply need factors to spend wherever you select, get playing cards with transferable factors (Chase, Amex, Citi, and Capital One are the primary examples of those) as a result of you should use their factors with a wide range of journey firms. They every have their very own rewards applications and factors that may be transferred to a number of airways or lodge companions or used to e-book journey immediately by means of their very own journey portal web sites.

Decide your purpose(s) after which discover the playing cards that match it/them, in addition to your spending habits.

3. Not Getting Playing cards with an Annual Charge

In terms of selecting a journey bank card, many individuals balk at excessive bank card charges, which may typically be lots of of {dollars} per 12 months. Certainly the bank card firms are simply taking your cash, proper?

Not precisely.

Whereas it’s true that you simply’ll should determine whether or not playing cards with greater charges are price it for you, playing cards with annual charges are often a lot better than no-fee playing cards: they provide extra worth, higher bonus classes (so you’ll be able to accumulate factors quicker), and different perks, akin to higher journey safety and entry to particular affords. For me, even the playing cards with the best annual charges are price it, as I’ve saved extra money on journey than I’ve ever spent on charges.

However you don’t should go for the playing cards with the best annual charges proper off the bat. There are numerous “starter” playing cards that waive the charge the primary 12 months, and after which can be simply $95 per 12 months. That method, you’ll be able to see whether or not it’s price it to you.

In case you actually don’t need to pay a charge however nonetheless need to get in on the sport, the Bilt Rewards card is my favourite no-fee choice. This game-changing card affords you the flexibility to earn factors by paying your lease (the one card that does this), plus 3x factors on eating and 2x factors on journey. It affords stable journey protections too. In case you’re simply beginning out (and pay lease), this can be a must-have card.

4. Not Assembly Signup Bonuses

A handful of US travel credit cards
The best travel cards provide a large introductory provide, additionally referred to as “welcome affords” or “sign-up bonuses.” That is once you earn many factors directly by spending a sure amount of cash inside a sure time interval after opening your account (e.g., spending $3,000 within the first three months may earn you 60,000 factors).

These welcome affords are how I earn a million factors every year. They’re tremendous essential, as they jump-start your account and instantly get you nearer to a free flight or lodge keep. Generally these affords are even large enough to get you a free flight proper off the bat!

One of many largest errors you can also make shouldn’t be benefiting from these bonuses. Once more, it’s like leaving cash on the desk (I hope you’re seeing a sample right here).

With that in thoughts, solely apply for playing cards for those who can meet their minimal spending necessities for the welcome bonus along with your regular spending. In case you are spending extra money than you often do exactly to get these factors, then the factors are not free. Solely spend what you usually would and never a penny extra.

If you end up near reaching a sign-up bonus however are nonetheless falling brief, these are some issues you are able to do:

  • Ask mates or household if they’ve any giant purchases arising. You may then pay for the merchandise in your card and get them to pay you again.
  • When out to eat with mates, put every part on one invoice and pay it along with your card. Then get everybody to pay you again individually.


5. Not Paying Off Your Credit score Playing cards Month-to-month

It is a central tenet not solely of journey hacking however bank card use normally. Don’t ever carry a steadiness on these playing cards, because the sky-high rates of interest will wipe out any potential profit you’d get from them. In case you’re paying curiosity, the factors are not free.

In case you can’t repay your steadiness in full, you shouldn’t be journey hacking.

6. Considering That Factors Have Intrinsic Worth

When you begin taking a look at signing up for journey bank cards, it may be straightforward to get excited at large sign-up bonuses and spending classes the place you’ll be able to rack up numerous factors shortly. Lodge bank cards are infamous for this, commonly providing sign-up bonuses of over 100,000 factors and bonus spending classes that may be as much as 26x factors per $1 spent (supplied by IHG on spending for IHG properties).

However what’s essential to know is that one level will go additional in some applications than others. The worth of some extent shouldn’t be mounted. It isn’t the identical throughout applications. One IHG level shouldn’t be the identical as one United level, identical to one Chase level shouldn’t be the identical as one Hyatt level.

When assigning a price to factors, the mathematics is definitely fairly easy: take the money value (what you’ll pay for those who didn’t have factors), divide by the variety of factors required, and multiply by 100 to get the per-point worth in cents. I discover The Points Guy’s monthly valuation chart to be essentially the most correct as a helpful cheat sheet to make use of as a baseline for what is taken into account a great per-point worth.

That stated, numerous redemption comes all the way down to the private worth that you simply assign to these factors. Would you fairly redeem them for flying in top notch, or would you fairly take two financial system flights for a similar variety of factors? Would you fairly keep in a five-star lodge for a weekend or keep in a three-star lodge for every week?

Level worth is within the eye of the beholder.

(Simply by no means redeem factors for money. That is the least precious use of factors.)

7. Not Maximizing Bonus Classes

Talking of level worth, seeing {that a} flight “prices” 30,000 factors might be intimidating, thanks to a different widespread mistake: considering that you must spend $1 to get 1 level.

However good journey hacking isn’t about getting just one mile or level per greenback spent. It’s straightforward to get 2-5x (or extra!) for each greenback you spend. This helps you earn factors far more shortly.

For instance, I take advantage of Chase Sapphire Reserve when eating at eating places (3x factors), the Chase Ink for workplace spending (5x factors), and the American Categorical Platinum Card for airfare (5x factors).

By no means settle for one level per greenback spent. In any other case, it is going to take method too lengthy to build up sufficient factors without spending a dime journey.

8. Not Taking Benefit of Card Advantages and Perks

woman standing in front of departures board at Barcelona airport
Journey hacking isn’t just about simply getting factors and miles. It’s additionally about what else comes with the cardboard that may make your life and travels simpler. Many cards give you a special elite loyalty status or other extra perks. Don’t make the error of getting a card after which not taking full benefit of every part that it has to supply.

Listed below are the perks I personally prioritize:

  • No overseas transaction charges
  • Free lodge stays
  • Lounge entry
  • Free checked baggage
  • Precedence boarding

You may need completely different priorities, however irrespective of the case, remember to discover the advantages of your chosen card(s) and truly use these that include it.

9. Not Getting Transferable Factors

Transferable factors are these you can switch to completely different applications. These are on the coronary heart of each good journey hacking technique.

Nonetheless, many individuals shrink back from utilizing them, because it appears too sophisticated. They may get a card with transferable factors however redeem them by means of a journey portal or select to get money again as a substitute. But transferable factors are how one can get superb worth.

You may earn transferable factors with bank cards issued by Chase, Capital One, Bilt, Citi, and American Categorical, although needless to say these are all separate “currencies.” With Chase, you earn Final Rewards factors, whilst you earn Membership Rewards factors with American Categorical.

These factors are transferable not to one another however fairly to their respective airline and lodge companions, with whom you’ll be able to then e-book a flight or lodge keep.

It’s typically higher to get transferable factors than, say, airline-specific factors (akin to you’d get with an airline bank card), as these can’t be moved anyplace. Delta factors can solely be used on Delta flights (or their alliance companions), and for those who discover a higher flight with United, that’s too unhealthy — you’ll be able to’t use your Delta factors to reap the benefits of it.

Whereas it may appear sophisticated, it’s simpler than you suppose — it’s nearly discovering the precise card on your wants, shifting factors to an airline or lodge accomplice, after which reserving. This course of is less complicated than ever because of the brand new points-booking search engine, level.me.

(I additionally go extra in-depth into transferable factors and how you can use them in my Journey Hacking Information.)

10. Hoarding Your Factors

A Delta airplane climbing into a bright blue sky after takeoff in the USA
Many individuals, as soon as they amass some factors, are afraid to make use of them in any respect. They both don’t know how you can use them or need to look forward to the “absolute best worth.”

However factors burning a gap in your digital pocket aren’t going that can assist you. The worth of factors adjustments on a regular basis as bank card firms, accommodations, and airways alter their applications. Sadly, which means your factors might lose a major quantity of worth in a single day (don’t fear, this doesn’t occur often, however it does occur).

Factors are meant for use. They’re a automobile for getting you free flights and accommodations so that you could get on the market and see the world. Don’t sit round watching your factors steadiness climb greater and better — use these factors, get on the market, and begin touring!


It’s by no means been simpler to earn free flights, lodge stays, and different journey perks. And whereas there are some widespread errors to keep away from and the training curve can appear steep, when you get began, all of it comes into focus shortly, and also you’ll be questioning why you didn’t begin sooner.

So long as you make concrete targets, repay your invoice every month, and focus your spending on the precise card(s), you’ll have the ability to get pleasure from time-saving perks and free journey very quickly — and all simply by spending the cash you’ll have spent anyway!

Guide Your Journey: Logistical Suggestions and Tips

Guide Your Flight
Discover a low cost flight by utilizing Skyscanner. It’s my favourite search engine as a result of it searches web sites and airways across the globe so that you all the time know no stone is being left unturned.

Guide Your Lodging
You may e-book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you wish to keep someplace apart from a hostel, use Booking.com because it constantly returns the most affordable charges for guesthouses and accommodations.

Don’t Neglect Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will defend you in opposition to sickness, damage, theft, and cancellations. It’s complete safety in case something goes flawed. I by no means go on a visit with out it as I’ve had to make use of it many occasions previously. My favourite firms that supply the perfect service and worth are:

Wish to journey without spending a dime?
Journey bank cards let you earn factors that may be redeemed without spending a dime flights and lodging. They’re what preserve me touring a lot for thus little. Take a look at my information to selecting the correct card and my present favorites to get began and see the newest finest offers.

Able to Guide Your Journey?
Take a look at my useful resource web page for the perfect firms to make use of once you journey. I listing all those I take advantage of once I journey. They’re the perfect at school and you may’t go flawed utilizing them in your journey.