To get started on your travel freedom journey, there are a few important things you’ll need to do. This will involve a bit of research and preparation so that you are confident and efficient in your plan of attack. Make sure you do these before diving in, so that you do this the right way. Remember, your credit is important in life, so don’t use it for travel hacking if you aren’t in the right place to do so.
CHECK YOUR CREDIT SCORE
First of all, You’ll want to go check your credit score if you don’t already know what it is. Credit Sesame is a good way to check your approximate score for free. If your score is around 700, you’re in good shape to use your credit to earn thousands or millions of miles. Also be sure that you are in a good place personally to use your credit for points and miles. As I’ve said before, if you’re looking to take out a large loan in the near future, it is not a good time to apply for any credit cards.
CREATE A POINTS AND MILES WALLET
Through your journey with Travel Freedom, you will be using many different types of miles and points from an array of service providers. You may have miles with five different airlines, two banks, and 3 hotel groups at any given time. You’ll want a way to organize these miles and points as well as the usernames and passwords used for each login. The easiest way I’ve found to keep track of them all is to aggregate them all in one place – Award Wallet. Here, you will create your own account, where you’ll input all of your account numbers so your logins, balances and expiration dates will be tracked.
Their FREE version is fine to begin with, but as you have more accounts you may be interested in paying for their upgraded account that has a few more features. If you will be travel hacking along with your significant other, you will both want to make an account, and then link the two so you can see both while logged in.
REVIEW YOUR MONTHLY SPENDING BUDGET
Ok, now that you know your credit is in a good place, and you have a wallet to keep track of all your points and miles you’ll be accumulating, you’ll need to look at your monthly spending. You’ll want to verify how much you spend that can be put on a new credit card per month. This is because most credit card signup bonuses are given to you after you spend a certain amount of money within the first few months of having the card. You will need to know how much spend you’re able to put on the card so that you know if you can meet the minimum spend to release your signup bonus.
Once you know how much you spend monthly, you can calculate whether or not you can reach the signup bonus of each card. There are ways to “manufacture” spend, to up this level if needed, which I will get into in another blog post. A great resource to learn about manufactured spending, is at The Frequent Miler, travel blog. Now you know what credit cards you can afford to meet the minimum spend for your bonus.
PLAN WHERE YOU WANT TO VACATION FIRST
At this point, you could jump in and apply for the best credit card offer you can find, but I don’t believe that’s the best option. I made the mistake of doing this and wish I had started out slightly different. Before applying for anything, MAKE A PLAN. Where do you want to travel to? Do you want to get a flight with miles, or do you want to book a free hotel with points.
You have some research and decisions ahead of you. Once you find the location you’d like to travel to, you’ll need to research what airlines fly between your home airport and your destination. Then which of those airlines has the lowest price in terms of miles to fly between the two. Or, if you would rather get free hotel rooms during your stay, you’ll need to know what hotels are in the area and of those, which ones have a rewards program (most do!).
Google will be your friend in this research, but here are a few other resources from our friends over at Million Mile Secrets – another travel blog:
CHOOSE A CREDIT CARD OR CARDS
Ok, final step! Depending on all the research you’ve done in the above tasks, find a credit card or multiple credit cards that fit your travel plan. There are credit cards that offer points and miles directly with hotels and airlines, and there are credit cards that offer their own points system. Some of these bank reward systems such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Member Rewards, offer the ability to transfer to a multitude of airlines and hotels. These are my favorite types of credit card bonuses because of the versatility of the points. Remember, not all points are valued equally. Some may be better for one vacation and another may be better for your next vacation.
You’re so close to your first vacation using points and miles, you can probably smell it! Let me know how it’s going. I’m here to help you!