Written by Tim Ferriss
Flights and Airline Points - I normally fly about 40,000 to 50,000 miles per year, which earns me enough frequent flier miles for a free flight in economy almost anywhere but you don’t need to have to fly to get a free flight – you can use branded travel credit cards and their sign up bonuses to fly free. I’ve accumulated close to a million miles by taking advantages of credit card bonuses.
If you really want to nerd out and get obsessed like I am, the links below will help turn you into a point hacker pro.
The Points Guy
Million Mile Secrets
Hack My Trip
If you want to keep it simple, it’s best to just get one to two travel credit cards. Here’s what you do:
1. Sign up for a branded airline credit card: All U.S. airlines have a branded travel credit card that gives you 25,000-50,000 points when you sign up and meet their minimum spending requirements (which is sometimes just one purchase). Airline credit cards are the best way to jump-start your mileage balance. You can gain a lot of points really quickly. Personally, I use American Airlines Citi Card but for someone just starting out, I would consider getting two cards: one for your favorite airline—whatever it is–and a second card that has flexible points, i.e. points that can be used on any airline. Probably the best beginner card the second card is the Chase Sapphire Preferredbecause it’s easy to get, has a lower annual fee, and a larger sign up bo
2. Sign up for a non-airline credit card: Sign up for a non-airline credit card like a Chase or American Express card. You can use the points earned from these cards and transfer them to your preferred airline. Used in conjunction with step 1, you earn a lot of points very quickly. I recently got two Chase Ink cards and received 120,000 points, which I can transfer to a variety of different airlines.
3. Watch out for special promotions: I sign up for all the airline email lists on the airlines website. I always watch out for special 2-for-1 mile deals, or when they have special card offers to earn extra miles. American Airlines gave me 1,000 miles for watching a demo on their new shopping toolbar. I once got 5,000 miles for joining Netflix! Often times you get miles for filling out surveys or they will give you a 100% bonus on purchasing miles. Promotions help big time, and airlines seem to always be offering them. Utilizing promotions over the course of a few months can yield big results.
Words of caution: While it’s true that “churning and burning” (i.e. opening an closing a lot of credit cards at once) can hurt your credit, opening a few accounts over a year won’t kill your credit rating. I’ve been opening and closing accounts for years and I still have a credit score close to 800 and have never been denied a card. [Of course, be sure to pay off the balance/debt on the cards so you don’t pay fees, but I hope that goes without saying.] (A complete guide to the ins and outs of travel credit cards can be found here)
Accommodation: Hotel points are just as good as airline miles. I usually sign up for one or two hotel cards to get points for a couple of free night stays in any destination I visit (Recommendation: Starwood American Express). Hotels are not my first accommodation option but in case I can’t find budget accommodation or just want to pamper myself, these points are a good back up.
Bank fees: Don’t give banks your hard earn money via needless fees. If you’re American, you can avoid all ATMs fees by getting a Charles Schwab ATM card (no fees and they reimburse you for other bank’s fees). For non-Americans, join a bank in theGlobal ATM alliance. This is a group of banks that have come together to waive each other’s fees. Additionally, use one of these credit cards that don’t have any overseas transaction fees:
American Express Platinum
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Any Capital One card