Dipping my toe into travel hacking

14117602520_7a18a71a97_zI’ve previously mentioned my dream of taking mini-retirements while I’m still young(ish). This sounds much more interesting than punching a timecard for twenty more years before getting a significant break from the working world. However, it will take some careful planning to be sure my MRs are funded, as well as the eventual big-retirement. This week, I’ve taken a step towards making it a reality: I’m gonna be a travel hacker!

Well, having one travel rewards card may not make me a full-blown hacker just yet. Being the anal-retentive gal that I am, I’m not just unabashedly jumping into this. I’ve been prepping myself over the past couple of months.

I’m responsible with my credit card usage and have proven to myself that I can pay off my balance every month. For several years, I regularly utilize the 1.5% cash back rewards on my Capital One card. However, that’s only netting me about $15 a month at my current rate of spending. I have another card with rotating bonus categories, but that too only gets me around $10 back per month. Switching to a travel-specific rewards card could get me a much better return.

On an episode of the Mad Fientist podcast, I learned about Travel Miles 101. There are lots of websites that promise secrets of travel hacking, but I particularly like how Alexi and Brad presented the information. In their free online course, they do a good job keeping the process clear, whether you chose to get into it hard-core, or with just one card. Of course, they make money from the links on the site. The information in the course and their forum is so useful, I’m A-OK using their application link.

I decided to dip into this slowly with just one card: the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It has a strong offer right now, giving you 50,000 points (worth $625 of travel) if you charge $4,000 in the first three months. That’s more than my regular credit card spending, so I’ll need to plan out some purchases and shift recurring bills around in order to hit that target.

But first, I had to get approved for the card! I wasn’t too worried about that, since I have a great credit score and no outstanding debt. But I did have to spend a little money prior to applying. Back in August, I placed a freeze on my credit to ensure that no one pilfers my money or identity. Since the new credit application would trigger a hard inquiry, I had to visit Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion websites to authorize a temporary lift of the freeze. Each transaction cost me $10. Lame, but worth the extra protection and small hassle.

Having lifted the freeze for two weeks, I filled out an online application and within 30 seconds was approved! I was shocked by how fast and easy it was. It may have helped that I already have a credit card with Chase Bank.

My next step will be an interesting challenge: spend $4,000 on that card in three months! In a future post, I’ll get into the nitty gritty of that task. I already have a few bills ready to pay once I get the card. I just don’t want to get into a mind-trap of justifying unneeded spending for the bonus.

(Image: rodeime)

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