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Most recently, I have stumbled across the concept of travel hacking. Travel hacking involves paying very very little for a flight or a hotel stay.

Alright I admit it, I have an addictive personality.

When I was under the age of 19, I used to buy scratch and win tickets.  I don’t think I ever won anything more than $10 but the thrill of scratching those crossword puzzles was a bit too much.  I also enjoy playing Black Jack at the casinos, but mainly only in Las Vegas casinos because they give you free drinks while you play.

I few years ago, I really got into couponing.  Like to the point that I was hoarding stuff in my basement, like tissue paper and toothpaste.  I had my foray into being a wannabe extreme couponer.  Really, it wasn’t extreme at all, but to me it was!  Every time the cashier rung up my coupons I would get excited and that little “rush” of “will it or won’t it?  Will the coupon be useable? Will they accept it? Can I really pay only $1 for that item?”

I have since broken free from the addiction because I realized that the time I spent on that was a bit ridiculous and I realized that time is money…so now I have another addiction.

Most recently, I have stumbled across the concept of travel hacking.  Travel hacking involves paying very very little for a flight or a hotel stay.  Although I was involved in this a long time ago (with my Starwood Preferred Guest credit card, I remember staying at the Westin in Waikiki for next to nothing and enjoying that ocean front view that much more because it was, well… free!) I just recently got hooked again.

Travel Hackers With Experience

Rewards Canada has a great post on how to get at least 80,000 Aeroplan miles or 60,000 British Airways Avios miles for free.  It all involves signing up for credit card bonuses.  Now, if you are in debt, or if you have trouble with credit cards, you should stay away, stay very far away.  But if you, are like me who don’t really have to apply for any loans any time soon and have a reputable credit score already, a credit card application here or there won’t harm your score too terribly… especially if you want to have your flight for next to nothing and you are determined to obtain this.

Our friend Steve Zussino is also interviewed on his history of how he travel hacks his way to cheap flights and cheap hotels at nice hotels with his family.

Although this is American, Get Busy Living talks about how he booked $20,000 of flight tickets for an actual out of pocket cost of $362.80.

My Plan Of Attack

Like my mildly extreme couponing, my travel hacking plan of attack is also mildly extreme.  I’m not going to get $20,000 of flight tickets for $362.  That would just involve too much effort and too much insanity which will not be good for me.

Therefore my plan of attack is simple (I know Aeroplan are the worst to collect due to black outs, seat restrictions, etc. but they are the easiest to accumulate at the present moment):

  • Currently have >37,000 Aeroplan miles
  • CIBC Aerogold Infinite Visa offers 15,000 Aeroplan miles on sign up (it is $120 annual fee but the first year is rebated when you sign up- you need $60,000 minimum income or $100,000 household income)
  • RBC Infinite Avion Visa offers 15,000 RBC points which can be transferred 1:1 (and even with a 50% bonus to British Airways Avios a few times a year) to Avios, Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific), and American Advantage (American Airlines)- normally $120 annual fee but it may be waived provided I have a number of RBC products (such as banking, investments, etc.).  I actually used to have this card and loved it, but didn’t want to pay the $120 for the annual fee after the first year.  Here is my RBC Infinite Avion Visa review if you want to check it out.
  • Over the course of a year (or maybe two) I am planning to get these credit cards then I will have 77,000 Aeroplan points + 15,000 points that I could move to British Airways Avios from the RBC Avion Visa.
  • I know that Aeroplan taxes and fees can be killer, so once I get these points I will need to devise another plan of attack in order to utilize the points in an efficient manner without having to pay ridiculous amount in fees

Flexibility is Key

  • Although the TD® First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* sounds like a great option, I don’t like how you have to pay $120 for it to start off with.  I also don’t like how you can’t move those points to an airline points program (I like the option of transferring out points 1:1).  It might work out better without the transfer, but I guess I like that option.

Readers, what do you think of my plan?  Do you have any suggestions for alternate options or strategies?  What are your favourite travel reward cards?

Article comments

19 comments

If you’re serious about collecting Aeroplan miles using credit cards, then you should check out my in-depth Aeroplan credit card comparison that I just updated yesterday. I created a ranking system to fairly rank each Aeroplan credit card available and there is a big table that lists them by order of rank. I also go into detail on each of the top 5 in regards to what makes the card good.

http://www.howtosavemoney.ca/Rewards/Airline/Aeroplan/CreditCards

Daisy says:

I adore travel hacking. Why not get free travel just for spending money? I use my cards for everything so I can ensure that I am getting all of the rewards points possible, so we can go on free trips here and there. I have the Gold card and am impressed by the points we’ve been able to accumulate so far. It does offer a lot more points that some of the cards, but I think it takes more points to travel.

Marvin says:

We do the same thing every year for our summer vacations. We plan on staying practically free at some of the high end hotels.

Shannon says:

Ps I love your blog and have referred it to many friends in Vancouver and Calgary!

Shannon says:

So recently, YYC guy, Chris Myden, whom you should definitely be following (YYC and YVR sites below). Posted this deal with the Aeroplane Gold American Expresss. If you use my referral link above you get 30,000 points upon signing up (usually 20,000 as you mentioned), first year $120 fee is waived (cancel within the year) and with each friend you refer, up to 5, you get an additional 10,000 points – total 70,000 points. Enough for a flight almost anywhere (I’m going to South Africa!)! Once you get you’re card, you need to spend $500 in the first three months, caution 30% interest!!!! So for those who are bad with credit cards again, stay away! After 3 months the points are available for use, you just pay taxes and fees, the same as other airlines points programs. You get your referral info with the card and can send out a link to all your friends like I have above. Awesome program, again just watch out for that 30% interest rate.

http://www.yycdeals.com

http://www.yvrdeals.com/author-Chris-Myden-Vancouver-travel-deals-enthusiast

Also, join the email list on Chris’ link above, he doesn’t send out emails very frequently but when he does, you know they’ll be gems!

Happy travelling!!!

Kyle says:

That’s pretty cool Shannon! Good for you taking advantage of this!

Maria says:

I’ve been looking into Scotiabank’s Aeroplan Platinum Visa. They waive the first year’s $120 annual fee and you get $300 in credits just for signing up.

Kyle says:

Nothing wrong with that, I’ll still take the Aspire Mastercard though when you look at the points differences.

Angie says:

Capital One Aspire Master Card is my favorite. Each year you pay their annual fee, bonus points are awarded to you. Plus, you can use your points to pay for any airline, car rental, hotel stay etc taxes included. No black outs!! Basically, you book your trip with the card then use your points to pay for the travel cost. We put everything on our card so accumulating points is easy. Last year, we accumulated $1,000 towards our trip. A great feeling!!
I wouldn’t be signing up for a bunch of credit cards as I would like to keep my credit score in check.

Kyle says:

Hey Angie – I’m an Aspire fan as well. Not sure on your theory about hurting your credit score though. Unless you are getting into the 7+ card territory and then cancelling them before they naturally go out of date, I’m fairly certain you’re not going to hurt your score much at all.

VM says:

What do you mean by “before they naturally go out of date”? I have a few credit cards from years ago that I keep meaning to cancel but haven’t gotten around to it (I know, I know, I should just do it). Is there a point at which inactivity shuts them down?

Kyle says:

Yup, if you look at the expiry date on your card VM it will say when they were no longer valid.

BeachBoy says:

For the fees/taxes, you need to spend time online on the aeroplan site.
By going through Swiss the cost went from $450 to $99… that’s for one wekk in Prague AND one week in Italy on the same trip… talk about cheap flights!!!

Kyle says:

Awesome. Thanks for sharing BB.

Elena says:

What a great idea! If I didn’t have a new baby, I’d definitely copy your game plan for a nice little vacay!

Good luck 🙂

Christine says:

I’m all about cheap travel but am leary of signing up for a bunch of credit cards… Question, do you cancel them before being charged the annual fee (i.e. after the free first year)?

Kyle says:

Hey Christine, if you call the credit card company and threaten to leave if they don’t drop the yearly fee they almost always drop it. The competition and threat to leave is real after all.

BeachBoy says:

CIBC Aeroplan hasn’t dropped any of the fees in the last few years, many, many people on RFD have tried. They won’t budge.
Maybe with the new TD card they might be more willing.

Kyle says:

Interesting. Would have never guessed that. I assume if the folks from RFD say it can’t be done, it’s a pretty done deal then.