Nearly 100 loyalty points and miles enthusiasts gathered recently at The American Tap Room in Clarendon just west of Washington DC for an evening of networking and discussion on the latest tips and strategies to utilize credit card, airline, and hotel points and miles.
Members of the Travel Hacking 101 Facebook Group came together for the second in a series of regional meet ups offering group members a chance to ditch the computer and meet in person. Traveling Dad hosted the evening in order to boost awareness about the ability of families to travel for steep discounts utilizing loyalty programs.
“The Single Best Opportunity in Travel Hacking”
Several attendees shared their stories of taking the entire family to destinations as close as New York City and as far away as the Maldives mainly utilizing credit card points. Co-host for the evening, Trevor Mountcastle — author of the Tagging Miles blog, boasted about the single best option for families in the US, the Southwest Airlines companion pass. “Don’t forget to get the single best opportunity in travel hacking” remarked Mountcastle. “The Southwest Companion Pass, whereby with 110,000 Rapids Rewards Points in a single year (which can be earned from credit cards alone), you get to nominate a companion, who can fly with you (only) for the cost of taxes.”
In order for families to get their feet wet in collecting and utilizing points and miles, you should first ensure your credit is in good order, you are credit card debt free, and your FICO credit score is above 700. Then choose a rewards earning card whose points will help you achieve your family’s travel goal the quickest.
What Card Should You Start With?
I always recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred card as a great beginner’s tool. The card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards which can be redeemed for any flight or hotel at 1.25 cents each. You can also transfer the points at a 1:1 ratio to United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, British Airways, Hyatt Hotels or other travel partners where you can redeem points for fantastic value towards free flights or hotel nights.
The Sapphire Preferred earns 2x points/$ on travel and dining expenditures and 1x points/$ on all other expenses. The card comes with a 50,000 points sign up bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. The sign up bonus alone can get you multiple free flights with Southwest and up to 10 free Hyatt hotel nights at a category 1 property.
Make sure you pay off the credit card balance every month to avoid sky high credit card interest rates, which would far outweigh the value of any rewards earned.
The next Travel Hacking 101 meet up is tentatively scheduled for this fall to take place in Chicago. A big thanks to Traveling Dad for hosting a fantastic evening!
Have you attended any conferences or meet-ups to discuss travel strategies?