Everyone loves to travel, have new experiences, learn about new cultures, taste delicious food, but what holds most people back from traveling is money.
After paying for airfare and all the fees, figuring out ground transportation and paying for hotel accommodations, you’ve already eaten more than half of your budget. So, everyone always wants to know, how can they travel the world for less? Well, my friends do I have an amazing story for you!
Recently our longtime family best friend traveled to Thailand and Japan for two weeks, and when he got back we got to talking about his trip. He revealed to us that he ONLY spent $1,000 on his whole trip…Okay, now that you have picked-up your jaw from the ground, let me reiterate that he only spent $1,000 on his whole trip! Honestly, I have shoes that cost more than that! So how did he do it?
Well, he is a “points ninja” and shared with us some of his secrets of the trade. He shares that there are many strategies to racking up points, depending on what you value the most. The Points Guy (Link) is a great place to start and keep track of deals (including especial travel offers and credit card reviews).
Hotel Brand Loyalty
This guy has more SPG hotel points then he knows what to do with. For those of you who are not familiar with SPG, this is the Starwood Preferred Guest program that allows loyal clients to rack up points for every stay and leverage those points for future stays. Our friend only stays at Starwood hotels (which has expanded to include Marriott hotels and Ritz Carlton hotels, so you have more options), so he enrolled in the SPG loyalty program to rack up points. After all the work travel he does, he was able to accumulate over 100,000 points to cover his stay at the W Hotel and St. Regis on his trip to Thailand and Japan. All for free!
If you’re loyal to a specific hotel brand checkout their loyalty programs they and sign up for them. Most of these programs are a simple form you fill out online, no credit checks, no credit cards, just a plain ol’ loyalty program. Now, if you get their credit card, there are sign-on bonuses and additional perks, but remember don’t over do it with credit cards! I’ve stopped Alex MANY times from getting more credit cards, lol.
Leverage Credit Card Points
You’re either two kinds of people in this world, the cash back people or the points people. For our friend, he’s a points guy and carefully leverages these points to book a trip to Asia for basically free!! He was able to leverage the Chase Reserve and Preferred sign-on bonuses to cover the costs of the trip. The first credit card he signed up for was the Chase Reserve card which had a sign-on bonus of 150,000 points. He then signed up for the Chase Preferred card which had a sign-on bonus of 100,000 points. So now, he has 250,000 points that he converted in to American Airline points and Hyatt points to cover his airfare and one last hotel accommodation.
Therefore, definitely leverage sign-on bonuses from credit cards. A lot of the credit card giants have promotions like “sign up today and get 100,000 points.” If you’re in the market for a new credit card and you’re shopping around for one, look at what their sign-on bonus consists of and see if they have any airline or hotel partnerships. Most credit cards have these types of partnerships and they will let you transfer points from the credit card to their partner airline or hotel. These types of programs really help cover airfare costs!
As for another tip, our friend shared that he always leverages competition between different programs to gain the highest status / benefits across different programs (e.g., hotels or airlines). For example he used his SPG status to gain globalist status in Hyatt, which allowed him to then get a suite upgrade in Tokyo for free (he also converted chase points into my Hyatt account to book the hotel via points). Also, he shared that the credit cards he has offer value beyond points, which can make a trip exponentially better / cheaper. For example, ambassador status in SPG automatically gives you President’s Circle for Hyatt, giving you access to top quality cars for competitive prices. Most of the premium cards also give you travel credits which pretty much pay for most of the annual fees themselves. This doesn’t include other travel related benefits such as free Global Entry or access to Lounges.
Wow. For me personally, the points game is too intense, but it clearly works!
Track Your Points
You must be wondering how do you track all of these points?! Our friend uses this app called Award Wallet. He uses it to track all if his reward programs and all his points across multiple credit cards and loyalty programs. Its your one-stop-shop to organize and manage your points. Take advantage of apps like this so you know how many points you have and where you can spend them. This will help you travel for free when the time comes!
It is possible to travel at little to no cost, you just have to know how to do it and what programs to leverage to your advantage. So, here are our tips in a simple and organized fashion:
- First, figure out what hotels or airlines you are loyal to
- Sign up for any of their free programs
- Get a credit card that has amazing sign-on bonuses or great partnerships with hotels and airlines
- Track all your points so you never miss a beat with Award Wallet or any other app that helps
Oh, one last thing ..a lot of people have been taking advantage of the ridiculous sign on bonuses banks are offering for opening a new checking account without receiving any credit inquiries. For example, having $15K in a checking account for 3 months and you get a $500 bonus deposited into your account.
Talk about free cash for your next vacation! : )