Friday, December 13, 2019

Travel Hacking 101

I first got into travel hacking over fifteen years ago, while we lived in the bay area. We got a Southwest Airlines credit card and began accumulating Rapid Rewards Points. It’s how we afforded to make trips home during the holidays. Ever since then we’ve had Southwest credit cards and have continued to do this.

However, I really got into travel hacking eighteen months ago. That’s when I discovered the ChooseFi podcast and website. From there I learned that the secret to true travel hacking is to take advantage of the bonuses that credit card companies offer when you open a new account. 

One of the things I learned was that the Southwest Companion Pass is the holy grail of travel hacking. I learned that in order to get it you needed to take 100 1-way flights (that wasn’t going to happen) or you needed to accumulate 110,000 Southwest points (that number has since gone up to 125,000). That seemed like a daunting task as well, but that’s where opening new cards comes in. 

You may be wondering what is so great about the Southwest Companion Pass, so I will happily tell you. Once you have it, it allows a companion to travel for free, and this is good for the entire year that you receive it, plus the next year. 

Towards the end of 2018 I started preparing, so to speak. I applied for a Chase Southwest business card and a Chase Southwest personal card. They both required a certain amount of spending within the first few months. I made sure to hit the spending at the beginning of 2019 so that the companion pass would be good for 2019 and 2020. 

Around February, 2019 I received notice that I had the companion pass. Now I could begin using it. And use it we have. The great part is that not only did I have the companion pass, but I also had an additional 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points. This meant that not only did my companion (Mandy) fly free anytime I flew, but we would all be flying free using points.

By the end of 2019 our family of four will have taken trips to Dallas, Denver and Orlando, and Mandy and I will have gone to Chicago. And our total for airfare during this time: $0!

One question that is often asked is how one does this much spending in order to get the bonuses. Some cards require $1000 during the first three months, while others are $3000-4000. That can definitely be a challenge. I have a business that requires a lot of spending, so that has helped me. I've also gotten good at timing large expenditures, pre-paying bills and even buying gift cards to places like Amazon and Kroger. 

I probably don't have to say this but I will anyway...the one key here is that you have to pay off your credit cards in full every month. If you don’t do that, then you shouldn’t travel hack.

Part 2 of this post will be tomorrow, as I’ll share our big challenge for 2020. 

I’ll end this post by sharing a few of my favorite cards. I’ll share more about some of these tomorrow. Note that if you are going to sign up for one, it would be awesome if you’d sign up through these links, as it will help both of us out!

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