I haven’t talked a lot about travel hacking on my site before, but if you’ve ever read sites like The Points Guy or Points and Travel (two of my favorite blogs), you know that it is an awesome way to travel for free. If you don’t know what travel hacking is, it’s basically using every way possible to gain points for flights, hotels, and more. Earning points is not limited to flying on an airline or staying at a hotel. These days, you can earn points for almost anything.
A lot of travel hacking sites talk about the best credit cards to sign up for in order to get points. Well, a few weeks ago, I tried to sign up for one of those credit cards and, because I’m a college student, I was promptly rejected. Many students (and people in general) don’t have the credit score or the income for a credit card, but that doesn’t mean travel hacking is impossible. These are my top 6 tips for getting airline and hotel miles:
- Enter Contests. I keep harping on this contest thing because it is a low-effort and zero-cost activity that can help you gain valuable airline miles. Many airlines and travel websites hold contests to give away miles to use on any flight. Sure, you might get a bunch of spam email, but I think frequenting the “Delete” button in your inbox is a small price to pay for free travel, don’t you?
- Choose an alliance and look for mile bonuses. I am a Star Alliance premier member so I usually stick with United for domestic flights, but American Airlines also has a wonderful alliance loyalty program. With United, I can earn points for signing up for Netflix or DirecTV. There are also many other specials that cater to a variety of interests and needs, and these can also help you earn valuable miles.
- Sign up for dining and shopping miles with your debit card. You don’t need a credit card in order to earn miles at restaurants. In fact, many miles programs have partners with local restaurants in major cities. You simple sign up your credit card information on the site, and when you dine or shop at a partner business, you can earn miles on everyday purchases like lunch or dinner.
- Shop Online. Being in college, I do a lot of shopping online for textbooks, clothes, technology, etc. For a lot of these purchases, I can connect with my United account to sync up my spending with earning points. Shopping is expensive, so taking advantage of any opportunity to earn miles makes every dollar worth even more.
- Log every flight and hotel you stay in. This year, I had to fly out to various locations for interviews and business trips, and most of the time I would stay in hotels provided by the businesses. Even if you fly somewhere with your family, you may be eligible for award miles based on your fare class. Be sure to save your tickets and your confirmation numbers and log those miles!
- Know that the cheapest flights are not necessarily the best. If you are seriously trying to accrue enough airline miles for free domestic or international travel, you need to research the different alliances, choose one, and stick with it. Sometimes, I pay a few extra bucks for a United flight over a cheaper Delta or Southwest flight. This is because I get frequent flyer status on United and I want to save up all of my points towards the Star Alliance. If you spread your points earning too thin, it will take a long time before you will have enough award miles to purchase a ticket.
Use these tips, and you’ll be well on your way to earning yourself some free flights. Keep in mind that the usual domestic flight is 25,000 or more miles round trip, and an international flight can cost 100,000 miles or more. But, if you play your cards right and follow these simple tips, you’ll be flying somewhere awesome in no time!
How do you earn travel miles without using a miles credit card? Does it work well? Share your tips in the comments!