Travel Hack sounds crazy but there are ways you can minimize what you spend on travel for you and your family. It will allow you to use your extra budget on experiences during your trip rather than the flight, hotel, or car. Below is the method I use to build miles. I can travel to Europe every year and not pay for flights, sometimes that includes hotels or cars as well.
Travel Hack #1 – Build Miles through every day Spending
There are many scams in the world, and when you hear something that sounds too good to be true, you step away and don't want to get involved. Flying for free might be in that category, so many people don't investigate further.
I can honestly tell you it's legit; I build enough miles every year without flying to bring my family to Europe for free. You have to pay taxes on the ticket, but that cost is minimal.
Recently I explained the travel hack to some friends who thought it was too complicated and too much effort. Please trust me here; it's so simple that you'll kick yourself for not getting on board earlier once you understand how it works. First, I will list the various ways you can earn miles without flying and then explain what I do. This is how I do the travel hack.
Airline Shopping Portals
Most airlines have online shopping portals, a great way to build miles quickly. You add a simple step to your usual online shopping. Sign in to the shopping portal of your choice, click the store you want, and bring you to that website. Depending on how many miles they offer, it will automatically hit your account a few weeks after you complete your purchase.
I use the United extension you can add to your browser, which means I never need to sign in. The miles offered by any store show up when I search and automatically hit my account if I make a purchase. It doesn’t matter if you use a credit or debit card; you will get miles this way.
Cash Back Monitor is a portal aggregator that will compare the miles each airline offers. The bonus miles change constantly, and coming up to major holidays, they can often double or triple the miles they offer. If I have a large purchase,
I usually wait for a promotion to get the most miles possible. I think it’s a good idea to concentrate on one airline and let your miles build. If you use too many, you will spread thin and have miles in multiple accounts but not enough in one account to book a trip. You will be amazed at how quickly your miles balance grows.
Apply for a mileage card that offers a large sign-up bonus, and make sure you spend the minimum, which is usually $3,000 in the first three months. Currently, these cards are only available to people with a US address.
Something important to remember before you apply for any mileage credit cards. You MUST pay your bill in full each month, or it’s not worth it. The interest rates are high on these cards going from 17% to 25%.
Below are the two credit cards that I currently use. The reason I use two is due to the different points they offer. I use the Chase Sapphire Reserve for dining and travel as you get 3 points per dollar. Chase will give you 1 point for everything else. That’s why I change to the Capital One card because they offer 2 points per dollar for everything.
Mileage X App
United Airlines also has a Mileage X App that you can download to your phone as a gift card app, and while it doesn’t have a massive list of stores, it’s still a great way to earn extra miles. I use this in conjunction with the shopping portal.
3x points for dining & travel
1x points for everything else.
Signup Bonus as of the date of this article – 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee $450 | 3X points on Travel & Dining Worldwide | Can Transfer miles to Airline Partners | Global Entry Fee Credit | $300 Annual Travel Credit | No foreign transaction fees | Complimentary Airport Lounge Access
The annual fee seems high, but you get a $300 travel credit, so the yearly fee is $150. There is no limit to the points you can earn, and they will not expire. You can also transfer your miles to their airline partners.
Capital One Venture
2x points for everything
10x points if you book on hotels.com
Signup Bonus as of the date of this article – 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, then $95 | 2X miles on everything unlimited | 10X miles on hotels | Can Transfer miles to Airline Partners | Global Entry Fee Credit | No foreign transaction fees | Complimentary Airport Lounge Access
There is no limit to the points you can earn, and they will not expire. You can also transfer your miles to their airline partners.
One word of caution – do not use ad blockers. If you do this, the shopping portals will not track your spending, and you won’t get miles.
Mortgages | Loans | Taxes
You can earn miles by applying for a mortgage or loan. Since I’m focusing on United, I will list what they have but keep in mind the other airlines will have similar offers. United works with Quicken Loans, and you can earn 25,000 miles when applying for or refinancing a mortgage.
They work with Lending Club for regular loans, which offer 1 mile for every dollar borrowed up to 40,000 miles. Again, all these offers can change from time to time, so do some research with the different airlines before you make your choice.
You can pay taxes by credit card through the IRS website. Why not earn miles for taxes? It makes it less annoying when you are paying them. Keep in mind there is a fee to do this, usually around 1.95% of the total amount due if you choose to do this time as you apply for new credit. That way, you will hit the minimum spending amount faster.
pointshound.com | rocketmiles.com | booking.com
You can rapidly increase your miles using any hotel booking website above. As with the shopping portals, you get miles | points for booking through them. Always shop around to make sure you are getting the best deal. Use the portals above and the usual travel websites you are familiar with to compare prices.
Also, don’t forget you will get 10x to one dollar if you book on hotels.com with the Capital One Venture card. For booking.com, you have to go through the United shopping portal, which currently offers 3 miles per dollar.
In addition to shopping portals, many airlines offer dining rewards programs. Take advantage of new member bonus offers they may have or wait for one before your sign-up.
Enroll with your preferred airline, and enter your address and a credit card. In my case, I use the Chase Sapphire Credit Card because I will get 3 miles a dollar for dining rewards. You can add as many credit cards as you want.
Once you enter your address, you will see a list of restaurants participating in the program nearby. You don’t have to do anything else, as the points automatically hit your mileage account. You can only earn rewards with one airline because the program is run by Rewards Network, which monitors all the airlines.
How the Travel Hack Works
The concept of what I do works with most airlines and cards, so I will talk about the ones I currently use. On a side note – if you have bad credit and are declined, you can still build up miles using a debit card with the Mileage X app and shopping portals.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – bonus sign-up is currently 50,000 miles with a new credit card.
- Shopping Portal – I use the United Mileage Shopping Portal
- Mileage X phone app (fewer stores but still good) – this is a gift card app through United
Here is an example of how the process works. I want to buy a $200 jacket at Banana Republic. I tried it on in the store, so I know I love it and what size I need. I go home and do the following:
- Log into the United Airlines website, go to the shopping portal. Click “All Shops,”, then click on Banana Republic, promoting and giving 10 miles’ dollar. The link will bring you to the BR website. I choose the jacket and begin checkout – once I figure out what the total will be, including taxes & shipping, I go to the Mileage X app. $200 = 2,000
- Log into the Mileage X app on my phone and look up Banana Republic. I buy a gift card for $200 – BR offers 5 miles dollar in Mileage X $200 = 1,000 miles.
- I used my Capital One Venture card, which gives 2 points per dollar to buy the gift card; $ 200 = 400 points.
- I return to the BR shopping cart and enter the gift card number and pin.
TOTAL MILES = 3,400 miles | points for spending $200
The whole process took me less than five minutes.
Note that the miles above are building up in two locations. Mileage X and the United Mileage Shopping portal put the miles into your United Airlines account. The Capital One miles live in their travel portal.
I always shop this way; I rarely buy anything in-store. With a super saver United award, you need 60,000 miles for a round trip from San Francisco to Europe to give you an idea of miles.
Some websites are dedicated to just this – how to earn miles quickly. Two of the larger ones are The Points Guy and Million Mile Secrets. I look at those websites every few months to see if there is anything new that I am not aware of.
Remember, credit card offers change frequently, so those websites are good tools to help you educate yourself as you delve into the world of miles. This travel hack has worked for me for many years; why not try it?
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