We love to travel, but we also love to save money. The nine resources below detail how we accumulate and redeem miles and points to travel for a fraction of the cost. They have changed our life, because they have eliminated the internal struggle between frugality and adventure. I’ve shared the strategies here so that you too can travel more while spending less.
1. Get organized using my favorite life optimization tools
If you struggle with organization, opening travel rewards credit cards likely make your system go from bad to worse. Use these simple tools to get a solid foundation so that you can enjoy travel rewards to the fullest.
2. Get serious about travel rewards using my Travel Rewards Handbook
This free download will give you four tools to tackle travel hacking. The travel rewards policy will keep you out of trouble, and the travel rewards strategy will keep you focused on rewards that align with your travel goals. The credit card log will build on the organizational tools from above to make sure you don’t overlook anything when opening or managing cards. Finally, the redemption calculator will help you understand the value of your points.
3. See how I make sure to meet credit card minimum spend requirements
If you followed my advice in Number 1 above, you have adopted a financial tracker. You can use the tracker to understand your monthly credit card spending and see what type of minimum spend requirements you are capable of hitting. If you think you’ll come up short, this list will help you bridge the gap without increasing your overall spending.
4. Take the Travel Miles 101 course to learn the ins and outs
This free course explains the various rewards programs, including how best to earn and redeem their points. Travel Miles 101 also has an active Facebook group, which is a great source for answers–just make sure to search the group for your question before asking, as you are probably not the first. Want a quick audio introduction to some of the same concepts? Brad from Travel Miles 101 also gives a nice intro on one of his Choose FI podcast episodes.
5. Follow some of my favorite travel rewards sites:
- The Points Guy – my favorite all around travel rewards blog with great resources, such as this monthly points valuation guide.
- Frequent Miler – lots of great info, including charts showing signup bonus eligibility, such as this one for Marriott Bonvoy cards.
- Nerd Wallet
- Doctor of Credit
6. Get a Schwab Investor Checking Account (debit card)
Travel hacking with a debit card? Not in the traditional sense. This debit card can be used at ATMs while traveling abroad to avoid foreign exchange fees. Schwab will also reimburse all ATM fees (foreign and domestic), which means this card is by far the easiest and cheapest way to get paper money while traveling. So what’s in it for Schwab? The card comes linked to a brokerage account, but you are not obligated to make any investments. Schwab is a reputable company and one of the few I have investments with, so I will probably use the brokerage account at some point in the future.
7. Monitor your credit card accounts with Credit Karma
Credit Karma, a free credit monitoring service, let’s you verify what cards are active on your personal credit report. This comes in handy because some banks will deny you a new personal card if you have recently opened “too many” personal cards. Are you unsure whether a specific small business card posted to your personal credit report? Simply check Credit Karma. Just remember that Credit Karma does not replace your travel rewards credit card log; Credit Karma does not show exactly what type of credit card was opened nor details on earned signup bonuses. This info is important to track because many banks restrict eligibility for new signup bonuses based on credit card holding and bonus history. The credit card log ensures you only open credit cards with signup bonuses for which you are eligible!
8. See flight options with Google Flights
Booking with points? Use Google Flights to see which airlines have flights that match your plans. Paying for flights? Use Google Flights to compare airlines, airports, and travel dates to get the best value.
9. Use Award Mapper to find hotel redemption rates
This free site shows you the points redemption rates for various hotels in your destination. Award Mapper is especially convenient if you have points with multiple hotel chains and want to find the best value.