If you dream of spending your life traveling the world, you are not alone. Many people use credit card travel hacks to fund vacations, honeymoons, and tours around the world, and some people even use credit cards to fund a full-time travel lifestyle.
“We travel all the time,” says Veronica Hanson, a 35-year-old travel hacker with a husband and two young children. “We are nomads.”
Hanson shares the story of his family’s trip to Nomad Veronique. “Our latest trip started the first week of December and will include five countries. Without the credit cards, it would have cost around $45,000. Instead we paid $1600 for four people. All First Class or Delta One, all with points.
Travel hacking takes a bit of work, but once you start earning free flights, free nights, and free airport lounge access, it might be worth it. Here’s how Hanson does it and what she learned along the way.
How I started with credit
Hanson now knows how to use credit cards to earn rewards and fund international travel, but it took him a while to learn how to use credit to his advantage.
“I opened my first credit card when I turned 18,” Hanson told us. “I started getting credit card offers in the mail and accepted every one of them. Then I maxed them all out! »
It took Hanson a while to get out of the credit card debt she had racked up as a young adult and to recover from the hit to her credit rating.
“I had 24 credit cards, $17,000 in credit card debt, and a lagging credit score,” Hanson explained. “I took extra jobs, side hustles. I even ran a business in order to snowball the repayment of my debts.
Hanson is currently debt free and never plans to go into credit card debt again.
“The power of credit cards isn’t that they lend you money,” Hanson says. “The power of credit cards comes when you earn points and pay off the balance each month.”
How I got into travel hacking
Hanson’s journey in travel hacking didn’t start with credit cards. Instead, it started when she became interested in airline and hotel loyalty programs.
“Every time we went on vacation there were these loyalty programs,” Hanson said. “Every brand has one, Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt.” She and her husband decided to sign up for the Alaska Airlines mileage plan and World of Hyatt. “We were always going to cities where we could stay at Hyatt hotels.”
After Hanson and her husband became members of the loyalty program, Hanson realized that she could save even more money if she signed up for each program’s co-branded credit card. “The front desk agents kept telling us how much we could save if we got a Hyatt credit card,” she said. “I was building good credit, so I thought that was a good plan.”
Using airline and hotel credit cards helped Hanson learn how to earn and redeem points and perks like free flights and free nights. Then Hanson learned she could earn even more by switching to one of today’s best travel credit cards.
“Instead of choosing a credit card for a specific hotel, airline, or brand, choose a credit card from a major issuer that lets you transfer rewards to a multitude of travel partners,” says Hanson. “You won’t be restricted to a particular airline’s destination, for example. You will have many more options.
How to use travel cards to finance a nomadic life
“We started running Airbnb in our home in 2018 and took travel very seriously,” Hanson told us. “When the kids were 3 and 5, we took them to England, Spain and Russia all funded by points.” After the success of this trip, the family decided to become full-time travelers.
What travel cards does Hanson use to fund her family’s adventures? “We have eight or 10 travel cards,” says Hanson. “For our luxury travel cards, we chose the Business Platinum Card® from American Express because it offers the same access to airport lounges as the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card. On a personal level, we got the Chase Sapphire Preferred®.
These two best travel cards come with annual fees, just like a few of the other cards in Hanson’s portfolio. “I probably spend about $1,000 in annual fees per year,” she told us. “But consider taking four people to an airport with a six-hour layover.” Her travel credit cards give her family access to airport lounges that offer free snacks. “In 10 trips, we’ve already demolished the annual fee just by saving money on airport food.”
Even though Hanson derives the majority of her travel benefits from a few of her travel cards, she makes sure to keep her old credit accounts open, both to increase her credit history and to keep her available credit high. . “I have a few retail cards. We still have our Hyatt card. We have cards from Discover and Capital One, just a variety of cards that we will never close. For credit scores, you want to keep those old accounts active, especially if they don’t have annual fees.
How to get started with travel credit cards
If you want to use travel credit cards to save money on family vacations, Hanson has some advice: “Don’t go into debt to get into travel hacking. Make sure you can pay off every card, every month.
Once you start exploring travel credit cards, you’ll probably want to take advantage of each card’s valuable sign-up bonus. Hanson suggests taking your time with travel bonuses, first because each bonus often comes with a minimum spend requirement, and second because many credit card issuers penalize travel hackers who try to claim. too many bonuses at once. “Come in slowly. Don’t ask for five cards in a month. Earn one bonus at a time, then plan how you’ll earn the next one.
While waiting to earn your next sign-up bonus, you can take advantage of lesser-known credit card benefits, such as referral bonuses. “My husband and I refer each other for referral bonuses,” Hanson says.
You can also make strategic spending decisions to maximize the rewards you earn with every purchase. “We spend a lot of money on food, so we’re very specific about what credit card we use for restaurant purchases,” Hanson says. “The American Express® Gold Card has a points multiplier on international restaurants, compared to many cards that only offer the points multiplier on US restaurants. Knowing which card to put your charge on is very important, so you can take advantage of all the potential rewards.
The bottom line
If you plan to travel full-time or become a nomadic family, start by applying for a travel credit card that allows you to transfer rewards to a variety of brand-specific loyalty programs. Once you’ve earned your first travel sign-up bonus, apply for your next travel credit card. Make sure you can afford all the charges you make on your cards and know which card offers the best rewards for every purchase. This way you can maximize your points and miles, save money and book your next great adventure.