Greig Santos-Buch

How To Get Free Flights – An Introduction To Travel Hacking and the Reward Points Game

Hundreds of readers and many of my closest friends often ask me – “how are you able to travel so well… and so frequently? Doesn’t it cost a ton of money? How do you find the time?”

The short of it is, I leverage a concept known within the blogosphere as Travel Hacking. It’s not as sinister as it sounds, and it certainly isn’t something out of reach. You too can begin to live the life of traveling you’ve always wanted – as long as you learn how to employ a variety of efficient travel strategies responsibly. I’ll teach you.

This article is the first in a 4 part series geared towards teaching my fellow travel enthusiasts how to travel on the cheap, without sacrificing the quality of your itinerary. In fact, you’re more likely to have a luxurious trip if you employ the methods you learn in this series. You’ll learn how to get free flights, free hotel stays, rental cars and more. 

How to Get Free Flights | Travel Hacking Guide Part I | Winetraveler.com
Image by Beringer Vineyards featuring Murad Osmann & Nataly Osmann.

So What Really Is Travel Hacking?

It all starts with loyalty programs.

Let’s start with defining what your typical loyalty program is:

A loyalty program is, in short, a rewards program – offered to both potential customers or existing customers of any company that’s looking to retain your – you guessed it – loyalty.

These companies offer customers incentives to stay with them. These incentives can come in the form of discounts, free “swag,” services, or virtual currency that can only be used with the company that offers it. While there are thousands of programs in existence today, ranging from retail to cuisine, we’ll be focusing on the ones that pertain to travel.

RELATED: How To Find The Best Flight Deals To Europe

Commonly known as Frequent Flyer programs, air travel rewards programs have been around for well over 3 decades. While airlines have been incentivizing their customers to continue flying with them for years; hotels, travel insurance and car companies have all opted to get in on the action. But what’s in it for them?

Enter the travel credit card.

Airlines and hotels sell hundreds of millions of miles to banking institutions at certain valuations every year. They do this knowing that the majority of miles sold to the banks will never be claimed. The banks then take these miles and offer them to potential customers through their co-branded credit cards.

RELATED: The Best Wine Credit Cards to Save Money on Wine Travel

These credit cards more often that not come with tens of thousands of points that are attainable simply by signing up and hitting a minimum spending threshold.

The Power of the Signup Bonus

These signup bonuses – with one credit card alone – can very often earn an individual free or near free round trip flights or hotel stays. Taking into account that one individual in good credit standing can apply for more than one travel rewards card, these signup bonuses add up quickly. Compounded with this, your significant other and children can also apply. The end result? A crap ton of rewards.

This is where the concept of responsibility comes in. Earning points and miles with credit cards can earn you, your family and even your friends hundreds of thousands of miles. Redeemable for numerous flights, hotel stays and car rentals. However, the most lucrative travel rewards credit cards require that the consumer or business professional maintain excellent credit standing. In addition to maintaining a great credit rating, you need to manage your finances appropriately,. Don’t over-extend your ability to apply for credit cards.

We’ll dedicate an entire part of this series on how to responsibly manage your travel and credit card situation. This way, both your credit rating and standing with travel rewards programs remain in good condition.

Note that in addition to signup bonuses, the right travel credit card can provide numerous other benefits. These can include primary car rental insurance, trip cancellation coverage, ongoing mileage earning potential for spending in certain categories, free baggage check, no foreign transaction fees and a whole lot more.

SPG Rewards Program | Travel Hacking Guide | Winetraveler.com
Starwood Preferred Guest, recently acquired by Marriott Rewards, has offered one of the most lucrative airline & hotel loyalty programs to consumers and small business owners. The two programs will ultimately combine, though we’re still waiting to hear the details on exactly how.

Choosing the Right Travel Hacking Strategy

Keep in mind that the RIGHT travel hacking strategy completely depends on you. Everyone has different spending habits and travel dreams that are important to them. That being said, it’s important you select the right programs, products and overall strategy that fits your lifestyle. We’ll help you figure that out as this series continues.

What the rest of this series will cover:

  • Which rewards programs to apply for
  • Which credit cards to apply for
  • How to utilize your signup bonuses
  • How to manage your rewards programs, points and miles
  • Categorical spending and accruing miles
  • Maximizing your daily spend to earn points
  • Doubling down on earning points and miles
  • Which programs will take you the furthest
  • Managing your credit responsibly
  • Buying, trading and spending rewards
  • How to spend your earned miles
  • Finding the time to travel often
  • Earning miles by flying
  • The hidden benefits of the using the right credit cards
  • Tying it all together
  • …and so much more.

How To Travel Hack | An Introduction | Beginners Guide to Travel Hacking | Winetraveler.com

 

Stay with us for the next month as we release each part of our 4 part series in weekly increments. At the conclusion of this series, it will be available for download as a free eBook for your convenience. You’ll learn to travel as much, or as little as you want – just know that you have the flexibility to pick up and do so when it’s convenient for you! Subscribe below to our free eNewsletter so you don’t miss a thing.


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Greig Santos-Buch
Co-Founder at Winetraveler.com
Greig Santos-Buch is a Co-Founder at Winetraveler.com and a WSET 2 sommelier. He works with several brands focusing on experiential and immersive-style travel.

In his spare time, you can find him hiking with a bottle of Cabernet Franc in his backpack or scuba diving trying to talk a reef shark into trying Swiss wine.
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