The Blog Single


    When I mention points or miles to illustrate how I can travel further and for longer -and for less and less, I am met with the backlash.

    People comment on social media posts or write me emails saying that points and miles are money, come at an expense, aren’t simple to obtain, and only work within the United States, and that miles and points are BS.

    “Matt…not everybody has points or miles. You know I’m a travel writer…and yet I’ve never signed up for frequent flyer programs. I do not have issues or miles to redeem. Likewise, some people haven’t saved enough points to fly without cost.

    “It seems like saying, “I could be saying that you go on a camping trip. However, it’s too simple, and we’ll talk about cruising instead. Now, earn 100,000 Airmiles to go on this two-week cruise, and you’ve received $1,000 to play with on the ship!

    However, I do not believe using miles or points is unjust or cheating.

    For me, miles and points are free cash. They are accessible to me. I’m not sacrificing anything for these. I see them as an added benefit for being more careful about spending.

    I’m sure many of you view mileage and points as a chance to earn a time cost. But I don’t consider them in that in that way. They’re just something I experience when I invest the money I would have otherwise spent.

    The Myth of the Scam

    A scam suggests that there’s something shady happening and that there’s some scam or a catch. A lot of people see the practice of hacking travel in this way. When presented with “free flights and hotel rooms,” they believe it’s just too fantastic to be true. The thought that someone will leap out from behind the curtain to shout “Gotcha!” while laughing madly and then stealing all their cash.

    In the simplest sense, many people believe that using points and miles aren’t effective or that they’re tough to obtain, and you’ll have to be a bit crazy to get them, or that you’ll have to shell out a lot of money to get them:

    “Collecting miles requires spending money. For instance, suppose you need the equivalent of 80,000 miles to earn an award flight and find an offer to sign up for 40000. This means that you’ll need to pay $40,000 in order to earn the remaining 40k miles. In order to redeem hotel points to get free rooms suppose you’re planning to stay for seven days and the rooms cost 15,000 per night. This is another 105,000 hotel points and a further $105,000 in spend. Even if your hotel credit card offers two-for-one point, that’s still $52,500 spent. For me to take an excursion for $1000, I’ll need to bill $92,500.”

    What about the charges?

    When you book flights using miles and points, there are some taxes and fees to pay, but these are less expensive than a complete ticket. Hotels don’t have to charge these costs, meaning the points and miles cost nothing. (Also, certain credit cards permit you to erase charges from them, making the expenses virtually zero.)

    Then, they will refer to high credit card charges that could amount to hundreds a year. It’s probably a scam since the firms that issue credit cards are getting your money.

    When deciding which cards with higher costs are worth the price, be aware that high-end credit cards offer perks and points-earning rates that exceed the fees (if you use them).

    The annual fee of $550 appears to be a lot; however, when you add in the credit for travel (effectively erases $300 worth of charges listed for a trip in my statement), The cost is less than $250. I earn over $250 value of points with the card each year. The additional perks and benefits compensate for the price, too. If you think about it in this manner, you’re the one who is acting like a gangster, not the credit card companies!

    Remember that the Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the top cards on the market. There are plenty of alternative card options for travel with less annual costs, such as cards with no fees whatsoever. Hacking your travel plans is all about finding the perfect card(s) that match your style of travel and objectives by utilizing banks to get you there, not the reverse.

    You can choose, for instance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, a “starter” version of the more expensive Reserve card. It offers 2x points when traveling and 3x points on eating out, online grocery services, and a selection of streaming services, in addition to other benefits, and costs $95 annually.

    Then, you can use the Bilt Rewards credit card with no annual fees, which allows you to earn points when you rent (the only card to do this) and 2x for travel.

    My hotel credit cards allow me to stay for free throughout the year. Also, the airline’s credit card includes free checked bags that save me hundreds of dollars annually!

    My credit rating has increased since I have an improved credit score red, used debt, and a great payment history. (And my friend Gary mentions, “What good is a credit score if you don’t use it?”)

    If travel hacking is that great, why can’t more people exploit it?

    If I ask people what they do to travel hack, they look at their shoulders and say, “I don’t know. Seems hard, I guess.”

    People believe that since travel hacking appears to be complex, it is likely to be.

    Furthermore, travel hacking appears to be against everything we’ve learned about finances. We’re taught to see credit and money singly:

    “Credit cards are not good. They are bad companies. Don’t pay any fees. Your credit score is important and doing this will affects it. You’ll never be able to get an loan.”

    However, that’s all nonsense. The myth is perpetuated by ….well, I’m not sure who; however, people continue to believe it’s true.

    When you can pay all your debts on time and reasonably use your money, then not accumulating miles and points is refusing to receive free money. This is telling yourself, “I don’t want to be rewarded for my good spending habits.”

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