How to Travel for Free
Today, we’ll be talking about the question I get asked all the time, which is, “how do I travel for free?” There are a ton of ways to answer this question and even online communities dedicated to this topic. Just check out all the miles and point blogs out there, as well as Flyertalk, which is an entire community of people dedicated to talking about how to earn points and maximize their travel. For simplicity sake, we’re going to cover three basic ways to earn points: One is by flying and staying at hotels. Two is through credit cards, both promotions and through daily spend. And three is through other point bonuses. Things like dining rewards, banking promotions; basically any way to earn points that isn’t through credit cards or just by actually traveling itself. If you’re lucky enough to travel all the time for work, or maybe unlucky, then you probably stay at a lot of hotels and you probably fly a lot. Now hopefully you’re staying at the same portfolio of hotels and flying on the same or similar airlines in order to maximize your points.
If not, you really should consider it. I’ll give you an example. When I used to work for a consulting firm in DC, I used to travel all the time to Austin, Texas, and my company had an arrangement with Hilton hotels. And so when I would stay at the Doubletree, the Embassy Suites, the Garden Inn, basically all these hotels were on the same portfolio which was managed by Hilton. And so I was earning Hilton points the whole time, which I later used for a huge vacation after I left the company. The same holds true for airlines as well. I was given the choice to travel on different airlines every week, and I really chose to narrow it down to one one or two airlines, specifically United. In fact, I flew so much that I not only got some perks in terms of status, but I also gained enough mileage to have a round trip for two from DC to Hawaii, which was pretty awesome. And the hotel perks are definitely great too. So if you earn a lot of points and you end up getting more status, you end up unlocking a lot of additional perks things like late check-out, early check-in, free breakfast.
Those things are small, but they definitely add up. The last few years, my work has been more local, so I haven’t been traveling as much. As a result, I’ve been using basically method number two to earn as many points and perks as possible, and that’s credit cards. Credit cards, especially those with a specific affiliation or program, can earn you a ton of points. And I mean a ton! I actually haven’t paid for a flight or hotel in years, and that’s just based on bonuses that I’ve earned off applying for new credit cards, and also through my daily spend.
One of the biggest questions I get when I talk to people about credit cards is, “Hey, should I actually pay for the annual fee. Isn’t it too much to pay, you know, four hundred dollars, for an annual fee?” And the answer I always give people is it depends. For some people, paying the annual fee is worth the cost. Now I know it may seem outrageous to pay money to a credit card company, but actually, if you sign up for a credit card that gives you a bonus back of two thousand dollars and free travel, then paying the annual fee may not seem that bad, even if you only pay it for a year. So always keep that in mind. Sometimes you pay a little bit, but you get a lot more back in return and in value. Lastly is number three: other point bonuses. Things like dining rewards or opening bank accounts. I’ve definitely taken advantage of these type of promotions in the past. Even today, my credit cards are registered through one of the dining programs, and I gain points every once in a while just by dining at some of my favorite places to eat.
So in summary, there are three basic ways to earn points and miles. One, like we covered, is by flying and also staying at hotels. Two is through credit cards. And three is through other point bonuses. Things like dining programs and banking promotions. Now we’ll cover all these topics in more detail in future videos. However, before going any further into credit cards, I have to ask that you look at this video called “Before starting the points hobby”.
It’s not meant to be a downer, but it’s definitely meant to help you get organized before you start this hobby. It’s something that I always tell my friends and so I want to make sure I tell you as well.