Intro to Travel Hacking: Score Cheap Flights in Under 10 Minutes

If you want cheap flights, listen up! Travel hacking is for you.

Discover the secrets of travel hacking and save thousands of dollars on flights, making your digital nomad dreams an affordable reality.

Being a digital nomad is all about freedom—the freedom to work from anywhere, explore new cultures, and live life on your own terms. However, one of the biggest hurdles to this lifestyle can be the cost of travel, especially flights

While traditional money-saving techniques for flights certainly help, the technique I’m about to show you completely transforms the game.

Enter travel hacking: a mind-blowing strategy that can save you thousands of dollars and make your nomadic dreams more attainable than ever. If you were looking for that “aha!” moment that can completely change your life… 

This. Is. It. 

Ready to score some flights for less than the price of a burrito?

Keep reading until the end, and I’ll spill the beans.

Table of Contents

What is travel hacking?

Travel hacking involves strategically using credit card points or miles to score wildly discounted (or free!) travel and other perks. The process is broken down into 2 main steps: earning points, and redeeming points.

1. Earning Points

Credit card points are an ‘electronic currency’ you can trade for a variety of items such as gift cards, vouchers, hotels, and most importantly, big ticket flights.

There are a bunch of ways to earn points, and after 10 years of experience, I can safely say that these are the most important things to understand when getting started.

What is the best way to earn points?

Simply put, one of the fastest and easiest ways to earn points is by signing up for credit cards with high signup bonuses

When you sign up with credit cards, they often give you a bonus ranging anywhere from 25,000 to 100,000+ points that can be used to redeem flights. 

Sign up bonuses are the fastest and most lucrative way to earn points.

Instead of earning 1 point per dollar spent (which is the industry average), you’re accumulating tens of thousands of points in a 3 to 4 month time span.

How do credit cards points get me free flights?

Now, you’ve probably been bombarded with hundreds of credit card offers by mail, adverts, email…you name it. How can you possibly make a decision on which one to get?

Unfortunately, there are rules and regulations on how often you can earn these bonuses, so you want to make sure you are doing it strategically. 

Speaking as the girl who has easily accumulated over 1,000,000 points from credit cards, my first and foremost rule is to sign up for a high deal.

Generally, you want to look for bonuses with at least 60,000 points and higher. 

Knowing which card to open is a whole other can of worms. There are many strategies to help you pick the best cards – stay tuned for an article on this, coming soon! 

You might be wondering if you just earn these bonus points simply by signing up for a credit card. Sadly, it’s not that simple. These bonus points are rewarded after meeting the minimum spend.

Minimum spend refers to the smallest amount of money a customer has to spend on the card in order to qualify for the bonus. It states how much you have to spend over how many months.

Travel Hacking - Sign Up Bonus
Signup Bonus: 75,000 + Minimum Spend: $4,000 in 3 months

Will travel hacking hurt my credit score?

Contrary to this belief, responsible travel hacking can actually improve your credit score.

This is possible by adhering to good practices, like always paying your balances on time, maintaining good credit utilization, and opening credit cards strategically.

I’ve been doing this for over a decade, and currently have 13 open credit cards. Below is a screenshot of my credit score.

Can you believe it?

My parents were skeptical when I first started travel hacking, but as I approach 30, we now constantly joke around that my credit score is higher than theirs!

Travel Hacking - Credit Score
My current credit score, 814!

What are some other ways to earn points?

While credit card sign ups are the most lucrative way to earn points fast and easily, there are other ways to earn points such as travel and shopping portals. 

We’ll dive into these in future articles, so make sure to check back regularly, to see when these go live.

2. Redeeming Points

Now that you’ve effortlessly earned all these points by opening a few credit cards, the fun part begins—using them to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your flights. 

Have you ever thought about taking a business class flight?

Probably not. You’re probably thinking, “I’m not in corporate America and I can’t afford that. Look, I’m just trying to get from A to B without breaking the bank”. 

But what if I told you that you can have a digital nomad lifestyle, with a backpacker budget, while traveling like a luxury traveler? 

That means you can wear your surf trunks and fly in business class while drinking from a private bar in the sky… for $105. 

Travel Hacking - Emirates A380
Emirates A380

Or just fly for ridiculously cheap like my partner and I did to Brazil for $11 each. Check out our amazing American Airline redemption below!

Travel Hacking - Fly for Cheap American Airlines

How do I book these amazing flights?!

In general, the best redemptions are made by transferring directly from your credit card to the airline. When it comes to travel credit cards there are 2 main types, and each have their own unique benefits. 

  1. Transferable Credit Cards: Cards such as Chase, Amex, Citi, or Capital One can be more valuable than points earned with airline or hotel branded cards because they offer more flexibility and increased award availability. For example, cardholders can transfer points to multiple programs and search for open awards across them, rather than limiting themselves to one.
  2. Co-branded Credit Cards: Cards such as Jetblue Plus Card, Delta Skymiles Gold, and Hilton Honors American Express will be tethered specifically to the airline or hotel. 
Chase transfer partners, 11 airlines + 3 hotels
United Airlines Branded Credit Card

What is the best way to redeem points– portal or transfer?

The biggest mistake people make is booking their travel through their credit card portal. I shake my head every time I hear somebody do this…

Instead, you can transfer your points directly to airlines to get a much better deal

Let’s look at an example. 

Imagine planning an epic surf trip to the Maldives, in style, aiming for one of the best business class experiences—the Qsuite. You’re giddy inside because you signed up for a Chase travel card and started earning your first set of points. But when when you look it up on Chase’s travel portal, the price is 756,840 points or $9,460. Yikes!

Travel Hacking - Qatar Flight

Before you start to cry and say “this is never going to happen”, think again. There is a hack! 

Chase has 11 airline transfer partners you can transfer points to and utilize to get a better deal. 

For example, British Airways, a transfer partner of Chase, has the same currency as Qatar – meaning you can book directly on Qatar Airways and get the SAME EXACT flight for 85,000 + $205. 

This saves you more than 670,000 points and $9,200! Think how many street Pad Thai you could buy for this!

Travel Hacking - Transferring Points

If this doesn’t make sense yet, don’t worry. We’ve got a series of articles coming your way to help you understand this concept and more!

So, what do I do next?

If that last example inspired a ‘travel hacking’ Google deep-dive, but left you overwhelmed on where to start, don’t worry, I can help

I offer free 1:1 credit card consultations to help get your travel dreams launched. 

Click the link to learn more: Free credit card consult.

Ready to travel more and better for less? Have a stalk on my Instagram @lets.go.miles where I show you how to best utilize points and miles to save you thousands of dollars on travel.

I promise you’ll find value here! 

And as always, if you’re curious about anything mentioned today, leave a comment below and I’d be happy to help. 

Stay tuned as we further explore the exciting world of travel hacking to help your grandiose travel dreams come true, at a fraction of the price. 

Michelle's travel hacking journey began in 2016 with a $21 flight to Thailand using points. Since then, she's become a master of maximizing points and miles, funding her adventures around the world- from surfing in Sri Lanka, meeting tribes in the Amazon, and diving in the Philippines. Points and miles have wildly transformed her life, and she loves helping others experience the same. Michelle has guided over 1,000 people in starting their own points and miles strategies and has booked award travel for hundreds, helping them all achieve their travel dreams.
Picture of Michelle Pine
Michelle Pine
Michelle's travel hacking journey began in 2016 with a $21 flight to Thailand using points. Since then, she's become a master of maximizing points and miles, funding her adventures around the world- from surfing in Sri Lanka, meeting tribes in the Amazon, and diving in the Philippines. Points and miles have wildly transformed her life, and she loves helping others experience the same. Michelle has guided over 1,000 people in starting their own points and miles strategies and has booked award travel for hundreds, helping them all achieve their travel dreams.

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