Travel For (Almost) Free – The No-Backpacking Edition

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I love to travel. Doug loves to travel. Our kids all love to travel. But it can be very cost prohibitive. Even when Doug and I are talking about prices on last-minute cruises, which can be very alluring, the cost of flying to a port will put the conversation to rest. I feel really passionately about being able to show my kids as many places as I can and giving them great memories. I think it’s one of the most important things I can provide for them.

I can’t remember how I stumbled upon the Points and Miles for Travel game in late December of 2016. I always thought that the people who used points and miles for travel were the ones who either a.) traveled A LOT for their jobs or b.) had scads of money and spent it flying all over the world. But Points and Miles Hobbyists – it’s actually a hobby – travel all over the world for really, really cheap and sometimes for free by taking advantage of points and miles from credit card sign-up bonuses and everyday spending. The more I read up on it, the more I was intrigued.

*Disclosure: my mother would not approve of this, I mean at least until I prove to her that it works. I think she was 37-years-old before she got her first credit card and that was only because she applied and was denied for a car loan due to a lack of credit history. She still questions me when I pull out my debit card to pay for groceries “Why you haf to use credit card all da time?”

I follow a lot of these hobbyists/bloggers on social media and their blogs are full of information that frankly, can be a bit intimidating and confusing. There are a few top bloggers that have turned points-and-miles hunting into a profession and have gotten rich through sharing their knowledge and monetizing their sites. The Points Guy, One Mile At A Time, and Million Mile Secrets are just a few to start with for not only their breadth of knowledge on the subject but because they are actually interesting reads, as well.

When I started talking about points with Doug, his response to me was “Points and miles are meaningless to me unless you tell me what they will get me.”  Well, it’s a complicated answer.  Some of these currencies (that’s what I will call them) are worth actual dollars and cents for you to use as cash back, credit card statement credits, or payment towards merchandise that you buy from online retailers such as Amazon.  Other times you might elect to use a currency toward award travel such as free or upgraded flights or hotel stays.  Depending on how you use your currency will determine the value of said points or miles.

Let me try to make it a little more understandable.  Chase bank has a program called Ultimate Rewards.  They are considered by most of the people in the industry, if not all of them, the most valuable points currency on the market currently.  If I had 50,000 Ultimate Rewards, they would be worth $500 toward my credit card statement if I chose to redeem them that way.  But if I decided to transfer those points to an airline partner such as Asiana Airlines, for 50,000 points I could fly first class from JFK to Paris, a flight worth approximately $7,000-$8,000.  That’s kind of no-brainer, unless you need the $500 more than you need luxury travel, but I mean…

Two things that you absolutely need to have to participate in this hobby:  good credit and discipline to pay off your credit card balances every month.  If you can’t do the latter, then the interest you pay will negate any savings that you accrue from your points and miles.  Don’t bother with it if you can’t spend wisely and pay off timely.

Some misconceptions about credit cards and credit scores:  too many credit card applications or too many open credit card accounts will damage your credit.  False.  You can read more about that on The Simple Dollar.

I am just getting started with this obsession of mine and I’ll keep you posted on my progress, both my successes and my failures.

Do you collect points and miles?  Do you have any dream vacations that you want to make a reality?  I would love to hear from you!

 

 

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