Point hacking or travel hacking as it’s known is by far the best way to travel in luxury on a budget. How so?
By maximising credit card, hotel and airline loyalty programs, you can minimise your total travel expenses to a fraction of the retail price. Points & travel hacking allows me to travel in style throughout the year, simply by applying methods and tricks accessible to almost anyone who is willing to learn.
Travel hacking is the art of obtaining frequent points in the cheapest possible fashion and then redeem them for extravagant travel without actually paying the price.
How to get started with points/travel hacking?
On this page, my aim is to give you a brief overview of how you can get started on your point hacking/travel hacking journey. The aim here is to bring you up to speed as fast as possible so you can understand the basic concept and hopefully get a basic understanding about the value points and miles can bring you.
If you’ve stumbled upon this points hacking/travel hacking page, I assume you’re a total newbie to the game. If you’ve already redeemed points for business or first class flights, this intro guide probably isn’t for you! Continue on points hacking and maybe one of our other frequent flyer guides can be of value to you.
Before we jump into the nitty-gritty of how it all works, I would like to lower your expectations…
The biggest myth about frequent flyer points and miles is those claiming “I travel business or first class for free”.
Guess what, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and the same is the case when it comes to points hacking. Anyone telling you this hobby is free is simply lying (usually to get attention and click-bait you with some catchy headline).
Now that I’ve crushed your points hack dreams of travelling the world for free, here’s the cool thing: frequent flyer points allow myself and many others to fly in premium cabins for a fraction of the price. Usually, the cost of our flights is less than the price of an economy ticket.
Points/Travel Hack Tip 1: Patience
As a frequent flyer points newbie (and aspiring travel hacker in Australia), you will probably be scared off by the number of miles and points required to actually fly business or first class. All I can say is, Rome wasn’t build in a day, and neither is your points balance. When I started with this ‘hobby’, It took my 1 year of hustling to save up enough points to make my first redemption in business class for 2 passengers from Australia to Europe. A lot of people I talk to expect to hear about some magic trick which will allow them to travel for peanuts and zero work. Tomorrow.
The Good News
Here’s the good news, if you’re somewhat financially savvy, have a steady income (sorry but frequent flyer points aren’t a great hobby if your only objective is to save money. You need to pay in order to play) and are willing to learn. Some people (myself included) become obsessed with frequent flyer points; it’s all we think about. Every. Single. Day.
We talk about it all day long, and eventually, you will find that family disowns you and friends zone out as soon as you start talking about your latest ‘points’ hack. This OK and totally normal, I’m happy to let you know that there are online communities FULL of people like us who nerd out over points and luxury travel.
For those that want things ‘now’ and preferably with no effort involved… I wish you good luck, but this hobby probably isn’t for you either. It scares me to think about all the time I’ve spend reading, writing and talking about points and travel hacks.
Now, if you’re a normal person (e.g. Not like me) and your only goal is to fly long haul somewhere nice once a year with your partner, preferably in business class (or first), I have great news for you! It’s totally doable.
Getting The Points Without Flying
Now you’re probably thinking… what the hell is this nonsense, I have no time to fly around and earn frequent flyer points just so I can redeem them for business or first class flights once a year.
It’s OK! The great thing about frequent flyer points (and point hacks) is that you don’t actually need to fly to earn them! In fact, I hardly earn any points from actually flying.
The reality is that the frequent flyer programs run by the airlines are a massive cash cow. Heck, in some cases the frequent flyer program is more profitable than the actual airline itself! The way frequent flyer programs make their money is by selling the points to companies who will then use them (the points) as a marketing tool to get you the consumer to use their service or buy their product.
The reason frequent flyer programs are so profitable is because you can redeem your points for many things: toasters, treadmills and other random crap with a low cash value. And guess what? The majority of people will spend their points on these material things or cash them in for vouchers.
If you’re reading this, you’re the minority.
As it stands, the minority redeems their points for luxury travel which would otherwise cost tens of thousands while the majority redeems their points for toasters. Ying and Yang!
One of the biggest customers for airline rewards are financial institutions: banks and credit card companies. And here lies the biggest opportunity for someone that doesn’t actually fly, to earn frequent flyer points — a lot of them.
Here are some way you can earn a lot to points and start points hacking without stepping a foot inside an aircraft:
Points Hack Tip 2: Credit card sign up bonuses
Most banks and credit card companies will try to compete in the market to win over the customer by offering big sign up bonuses. This allows you to earn hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer points with a single sign up. Personally, I have 8 active credit cards under my name, and if you’re wondering; my credit score is outstanding (check our credit score guide here).
For the best sign up bonus deals visit our frequent flyer card page!
Points Hack Tip 3: Spend every single dollar on your card
Now that you have a card or two, it’s time to get savvy. Personally, I don’t spend any money in cash or via debit card unless there really isn’t another way.
This means that my cash is safely tucked away in my high interest-earning bank account, working for me while I make use of the credit the banks have allocated to me.
Now here’s the crucial thing: you need to be in control of your finances! It’s very easy to overspend so it’s vital that you know what you can afford and pay your card balance in FULL every month.
This way you won’t pay any interest. Paying interest on a frequent flyer card will quickly render any points earned useless. The other thing you need to focus on is getting the maximum points for every dollar you spend. For example, certain cards will pay you 1.5 points per dollar for shopping at a supermarket while others might only pay 0.5.
This is where some learning is required in order for you to use the right card for the right transaction. It’s all about optimising, and although on a small transaction it might not seem like a big deal, when you add it up over the years, the difference is staggering.
Points Hack Tip 4: Get points for shopping.
Whenever you need/want to spend money you need to ask yourself, can I get any extra bonus points apart from using my frequent flyer credit card? More often than not, the answer is yes! In Australia Qantas, Virgin, Singapore Airlines and Asia Miles all have only portals where you will find retailers such as David Jones, eBay and the likes who offer you bonus points by simply click through on their links.
Points Hack Tip 5: Play the supermarket game.
Aldi might try to convince us it takes 70 years to save up enough points for a hairdryer by shopping at Coles or Woolworths; we’ll I’m happy to call them out on their bullshit. Savvy shoppers can easily earn a lot of points through the supermarket programs.
All you have to do is keep an eye out for the targeted promotions they send you. Usually, the supermarket giants will try to get you to spend a certain amount to get X amount of bonus points.
By signing up to multiple accounts, you can trick their systems and pick and chose the offers that work for you. Not using one Flybuys card for a few months will usually prompt the loyalty system to send you an offer to get you to come back. You just have to beat them at their own game.
Points Hack Tip 6: Dining and wining.
Next time you’re out, pick up the tab! Your friends will think you’re fantastic (until you ask them to repay you in cash), and you walk away with the points. On top of that, there are portals such as Qantas Restaurants which give you points for simply making a restaurant reservation with them. Easy. Wine drinkers are in luck too; Qantas has an online wine shop which sometimes offers great bonus point deals. However, you have to do the maths to see if the deal is actually a deal.
Summing Up: How To Get Started With Points/Travel Hacking
To get started, I would recommend you set a goal first; where do you want to travel, how many tickets do you need, in which class and with what airline?
Once you figure that out, it’s time to get to work and chose the frequent flyer programs which will enable you to reach your travel hacking goal. In Australia, the main suspects are of course Qantas (check our Qantas Classic Flight reward guide here) and Velocity Frequent Flyer but don’t let that limit you. They are by far the best programs out there, BUT they are the easiest when it comes to opportunities to earn a lot of points.
Once you get more advanced and delve deeper into the realm of frequent flyer points, you will soon figure out that there are a lot for programs out there which you can use.
Check out our frequent flyer guide page for lots of detailed guides!
Although it’s best to focus on only a couple of programs as a beginner, my advice is always to go with a flexible reward program. For example, Amex Membership Rewards lets you transfer to a range of airline partners at 1 for 1 ratio. This way, you can figure out the most cost effect or most fun route to get to your destination and transfer points to the program, which is best suited for your plans.
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