I’ve Traveled the World for 5 Years and Never Paid for a Flight

And, no, I’m not Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘Catch Me If You Can’.

Photo by Avery Evans on Unsplash

I love to travel. But the idea of a life full of travel was always a pipe dream to me. Of course, I wanted it, but I knew there was no realistic way to keep affording it over a long period of time.

That is when I first started learning about the greatest “travel hack” I have ever come across. The travel hack that has changed my life and my future; travel rewards credit cards.

The idea of travel rewards credit cards is simple. The rewards that credit companies offer are to attract your business. For the consumer (you), you are benefitting from these rewards for no extra money or effort spent.

Each company and each card presents a different reward system. If you use this system to your advantage, the sky is the limit on the benefits you can reap.

The amount of rewards you receive depends only on your commitment to staying on the road longer.

What is Travel Rewards?

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Travel Rewards can mean a lot of things. For the sake of making things simple, I will put it this way:

Travel rewards are points you earn on every dollar you spend.

You can redeem these points for any number of travel-related purchases. Note: Usually, 100 points is equal to one dollar.

Each credit company has a different set of redeeming policies. You should review before choosing a card. For the most part, every company’s policies are very similar.

Often, credit companies will have their own portal to redeem points. Such as the Chase Rewards portal which goes through their travel industry partners. Sometimes, it benefits you to redeem through their individual portals. Generally, points you earn have even more value when you redeem through their portal.

Where to start?

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Getting into the travel rewards “game” can be intimidating. First, it is important to have a basic knowledge of using credit cards.

There’s so much information to take in and, anytime you are risking a dip in your credit score, it’s awfully scary. But here is the thing; you aren’t risking a decrease in your credit score at all — if so, it is a very minimal, temporary dip.

This year, alone, I got accepted for five new travel rewards cards. The impact it had on my credit score?

Absolutely nothing.

It is all about timing and self-organization.

I usually have two big sign-up periods per year. Although, I know other travelers who have big sign-up periods three or four times per year.

A typical “big sign-up period” for me means applying for 2–3 credit cards at a time. Whichever cards offer the best rewards that month. Because, each month, reward offers change for each card.

Typically, your credit score may dip up to 20 points because of various reasons. The credit bureau isn’t very transparent about why. But by the next “big sign-up period”, it should have climbed back to your original score.

All you have to do is pay your bills on time and in full each month. Credit repair is very simple in this case and happens almost automatically.

SO IMPORTANT: Don’t invest yourself in this hack if you can’t afford a credit card. Trust me, it is not worth it. More importantly, make sure you have a basic knowledge of using credit cards.

What is the goal with travel points?

Credit companies award you a point per dollar that you spend. Yet, 100 points only redeem for one dollar. At this rate, you would have to spend a lot of money to receive a substantial reward.

Luckily, credit companies also offer “minimum spending rewards” which should be your focus. These minimum spending rewards are to make sure the consumers (you) are using the company’s card often.

For example:

Capital One will say you need to spend $2,000 within the first three months of the account opening to earn the reward. A minimum spending reward of 50,000 points is not uncommon.

That reward is equal to $500 in travel spending. Now, that’s substantial.

A 50,000 point reward offer is not only common but low compared to other minimum spending offers out there. Now, you can easily see the potential of this travel hack.

How to meet minimum spending requirements

I understand not everyone has $2,000 to spend within a three month period. Or, even the opportunity to spend that much.

The key is to apply for these cards when you have big expenses to pay in the immediate future. Don’t spend extra money to meet minimum spending requirements. The goal is to spend normally and reap rewards.

Earn free flights, it’s easy!

Getting into the travel rewards credit card travel hacking game can be intimidating. And it may take a lot of initial research on your part.

With that being said, you get what you put into it. There is no limit on how many points you can earn.

When readers ask me how I manage to afford my travels, I tell them it definitely isn’t from the money I earn from blogging.

Instead, I find ways to cut the costs of travel by using travel rewards points. It has been one of the greatest secrets I’ve ever learned and I hope you find it to be as beneficial.

Please, feel free to reach out to me with any rewards card concerns. I know this is a confusing concept and there is still plenty I’m trying to learn about it, too. We can learn together.

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Read More:

15 Life Lessons I Learned From My Boldest Decision Ever
 Written 5 years ago, each lesson has withstood the test of time.medium.com

The Brutal Truth About Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone
 Why a little bit of risk can change your lifemedium.com

4 Ways to Grow Into a Real Traveler
 The travel that you won’t find on an Instagram feed.medium.com

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