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If, like me, you don’t have unlimited money to travel, you might want to learn how to make the best use of miles and points to travel for free or cheap. Here are the two challenges:

  • Collecting a bunch of points/miles
  • Knowing how to optimize those points/miles when using them

Today, we’ll focus on the first item. I’ll give you a few different options, and you’ll be on your way!

The biggest source of points/miles is credit card signups, so we’ll start there. Don’t be discouraged if the multiple credit card strategy doesn’t work for you, we’ll discuss other strategies later.

Can anyone do this? Here’s a quick test:

  • Do you have a good credit history? I’ll talk more about credit later. Make sure to follow the blog!
  • Can you handle credit cards and avoid the temptation to get in debt? You should be able to pay them at the end of the month.

They way it works is the following:

  1. Sign up for a credit card with signup bonus
  2. If approved, you have X days (usually 90 days) to meet a minimum spend (you have to actually use the card and meet a certain quota- we’ll also cover some tips on that later).
  3. After meeting the minimum spend, shortly the points/miles will be deposited on your account.
  4. DO NOT KEEP A BALANCE. Pay the cards in full each month. Free miles are not free if you rack up debt and high interest fees.
  5. Wait 11 months, use the cards in your daily life; refer to #4.
  6. Decide if you want to keep the card (most have an annual fee) or you can cancel the card and skip the fee (most cards give you first year free).

Sounds complex? Don’t worry, it’s not. Some advanced topics can get more involved, but you don’t have to be an expert to use the miles/points.

So which credit cards should you get? I’ll give you a few suggestions, you can do as little or as much as you feel comfortable doing.

I’ll start with a trick question. Do you have a favorite airline or a favorite alliance? Many airlines belong to an alliance, which lets you redeem miles from one airline in another, as long as they belong to the same alliance. More on that later.

Easy question, right? You might already have a favorite airline! Well, not no easy. See, each airline has different rules to redeem miles. Maybe you have a favorite domestic airline, but their international redemption rules are not favorable and you want to travel internationally. So it becomes a chicken and egg problem. You need to learn the rules of all the airlines, before choosing which airline you want to collect miles from, and then choose which credit card you want. Well, I’ll skip that step for now. I’ll suggest some cards that are multi purpose. Later, you can decide how deep you want to get, and if you keep reading you’ll learns which are the best cards for you!

Below are two suggestions. Pick one, and go for it! Don’t forget to meet the minimum spend within 90 days!

CHASE Sapphire Preferred (link): Why? this is one if the best general purpose cards you can get. It has a generous bonus, and it collects points. Chase calls them Ultimate Rewards points. The benefit is that these points are transferable to several partners, so you are not tied to a specific program. You can transfer to several airlines and hotel chains.
$95 annual fee, fist year free. Must charge  $3,000 within the first 3 months.

Amex SPG (link): Why? Similar to the Chase Saphire preferred. This card is SPG branded (Starwood Hotels), but these points can also be transferred to several partner airlines.
$65 annual fee, fist year free. Must charge $5,000 to the card within the first 6 months.

Do you have a favorite airline? They probably have a credit card. The redemption may not be great, but if you fly a lot with them, having the card might get you some additions perks (free carry-on luggage, priority boarding, extra miles when you use the card, etc), so it might be worth looking into it.

Want to know which cards I got? I’ll tell you my story later.

Have a question?
I’d love to help! Email me: travelasahobby@gmail.com
Follow me on twitter: @travelasahobby

A quick lesson in geography and history

In a previous post I mentioned I could not sign up for some credit cards and there was a peculiar reason. Why do I keep talking about credit cards in a travel blog? Don’t worry, we’ll get there. Make sure you subscribe to the blog ;-).

So how come I couldn’t get the credit cards I wanted? Well… I live in Puerto Rico. How is that relevant? I’m going to try and leave out politics aside (most of it anyway), so let’s begin…

Do not be ashamed if you know nothing about Puerto Rico, that’s what I’m here for. Let’s start; this is Puerto Rico:

This is Puerto Rico
Island of Puerto Rico

 

This is Puerto Rico in relationship to the rest of the world:

Here is Puerto Rico
Here is Puerto Rico

I can link to Wikipedia’s article on Puerto Rico (click here), but most likely you won’t read all of it. So now you have an idea WHERE Puerto Rico is, but WHAT is it? Is it a country? Is it part of the USA?

The answer is yes, to both… sometimes… maybe. Puerto Rico is a territory that belongs to the US of A. Puerto Rico uses US currency, we use the USPS and people born in PR are US citizens. So why the confusion? Well, the first thing you’ll notice, is that Puerto Rico is not attached to the US.

So what? Neither is Hawaii (or Alaska, for that matter). Don’t people in Puerto Rico speak Spanish? Yes, most of us do. Both English and Spanish are official languages and many people speak both, but the main language is Spanish. You see, Puerto Rico used to belong to Spain many years ago, so that explains the difference in culture and language. This guy wrote a longer post with more history and political details (in case you are interested): http://manuelmonserrate.tumblr.com/post/55797439961/puerto-rican-citizenship-status-in-the-us-for-dummies.

So what does that have to do with travel and credit cards? Well, for a long time the credit cards from the big US banks that offer the large miles/points signup bonuses were not available to Puerto Rico residents. I still don’t know if there was any legal reason why, but earlier this year I discovered that some banks started offering their cards to residents of Puerto Rico! Still, not all banks do it, but it was enough to allow me to get started collecting miles/points.  I should be used to this by now, but I’m not. When ordering anything online, it’s always a fun game to fill the form and try to guess if Puerto Rico will show up as a US territory, if it will be a separate country or if it shows at all!

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

-Part-time traveler

So about me…

Who am I? Well, I’m a computer engineer, I work in IT, and I want to travel more! I haven’t traveled much outside of the US (not even that much inside the US), so my goal is to collect enough miles and points to be able to do at least one international trip per year. I know it’s possible to collect enough points for several trips, but I currently have a full time 8-5 job with limited vacation days, etc. In that aspect, I can probably relate to a large portion of the population; I don’t make the big money, I have a normal job, and I want to travel for cheap!

Follow me if this sounds interesting to you!

-Part-time traveler

Hello world!

Is this another travel hacking blog from a travel expert that always travels in business class and stays in 5 star hotels all over the world for pennies because he has millions of miles/points from credit card applications and other tricks?
Ha! Far from it. In fact, I just began collecting miles and points a couple of months ago (at least the smart way) and I have only been out of the US twice- and both times it was work related. This is the real beginning of my journey. I want to share all of what I learn along the way as well as write about some of my travel experiences.

I’ve been following the world of “travel hacking” for a few years now, and remember reading this article about living like James Bond http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2011/09/12/live-like-james-bond/ and immediately wanting to get started into the miles and points collecting game. There was one thing holding me back. I couldn’t get the credit cards with the large sign up bonuses, and there’s a very particular reason why… probably not what you think. Stay tuned for the story.

-Part-time traveler