Category Archives for Finance

Capital One Credit Limit Increase

How to Ask For A Capital One Credit Limit Increase

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

There will come a point in your credit card journey where your spending outweighs the amount banks allow you to spend. Hopefully, this means that your income is growing and you're able to buy more things and the bank just doesn’t know it yet. 

Capital One is actually one of the smoothest companies when it comes to increasing your credit limit and you don’t need a perfect credit score to do it. 

Let me show you how.  

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek

Step 1

Of course you have to log-in and then once you’re logged in, click on the “I want to…” with the gear symbol. 

Capital One Increase Step 1

Step 2

All the way at the bottom under “Offers and Upgrades” there is an option to “Request Credit Line Increase”. Click that. 

Capital One Increase Step 2

Step 3

A form will come up asking for things like your annual income, employment status and other questions. These things are necessary and actually required for Capital One to make a decision to increase your limit or not. 

Fill them out to the best of your ability and click Submit Request. 

Capital One Increase Step 3

Now Capital one can do a couple of different things here. They could approve your credit limit immediately. That is, of course, a good thing because mission accomplished. 

They could also take you to a confirmation page. This means that you will get notified in a few business days if your request has been accepted or denied. 

Requirements

Now, there are some things that are required to receive a credit limit increase with Capital One. 

Your account must be three months old at least. Within the past six months, you cant have received an increase or decrease in your limit on that account. Also, obviously, your account must be unsecured. 

These requirements doesn’t mean your automatically accepted if you apply. There are factors that go into deciding that. 

Factors for Credit Limit Increases

For any bank, a big one is going to be on-time payments. Your credit score and how much credit you use will factor the decision. Then you have all the things you input on the form, like your income and how much more credit you’re asking for. 

Will A Credit Limit Increase Lower My Score?

This actually depends and in some cases actually makes your score go higher. For Capital One, at the top of their request to submit for an increase it says “Asking for an increase won’t affect your credit score.”

This means that Capital One does not use a hard pull, or cost you an inquiry, when checking out your credit score. Some banks like Chase do use hard pulls and it could lower your score. 

If a bank like Capital One doesn’t do a hard pull but does give you an increase, it more than likely will increase your score because your credit utilization rate will go up. Basically your percentage of credit you use a month will go up because your limit will go up. 

To Wrap It Up

Lots of people ask for credit limit increases all the time. Some get accepted and some get denied. Now you know how to do it and what it takes to get accepted. 

If you used this post to ask for a credit limit increase from Capital One, let me know in the comments down below.

If you’re interested in learning everything about travel hacking, I have a post on the Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking for 2019 that will surely help you out so be sure to check that out.

If you know someone else that could use this post, maybe think about sharing it with them. It will probably help them out!

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek

How to Use Cashback Monitor: Five Methods to Maximize Your Cashback

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

One of the best ways to get extra points, miles, or cash back is by using a shopping portal. 

If you don’t already know, a shopping portal is a website that lists specific companies and when you purchase through that website, you get some sort of points or cash back on your purchase.

Sounds like a great deal right? By buying things you were already going to buy online, you end up getting more back in your wallet at the end of the day.

This could come with a big problem though. Each shopping portal is different and there are so many. 

How could you know which one gives you the best return for your purchase?

In this article, I’m going to share with you one of my favorite tools, Cashback Monitor.

Chase Travel Notice

What is Cashback Monitor? 

When trying to explain Cashback Monitor, I usually say, “It’s like Expedia or Kayak but for shopping portals.”

Basically Cashback Monitor collects data from most of the main shopping portals available. You then put in what store you are looking for and your preferred method of return on your purchase. Their website will then show you the different portals you can use, the rates at which you will earn, and which would be best for you.

This takes all the hard work out of guessing yourself. Nobody wants to know the rates of 25+ portals at all times but we also don’t want to lose out on points or money back in our wallets.

I usually end up recommending this website to anyone I know that is interested in saving money or wants to gain more points on their purchases (so basically everyone!).

How to Use Cashback Monitor? 

Earning cash back with Cashback Monitor is pretty simple. First, you’ll head to their website. 

Cashback Monitor

Right away, you’ll see the most popular stores on the home screen so you can always browse there but I usually just use the search bar to search for the store I’m looking for.

Let’s search for Apple just for an example.

Cashback Monitor Apple

Once I search, I come to a page that shows me the best cash back rate, travel points rate, and credit card points rate.

Now depending on what’s more important to you can influence your decision. Sometimes if a rate is equal I'll choose the travel side because that allows me to get more value in the long run with travel hacking.

Other times when I want simple cash back, I can go that option as well. With this tool, we have the option to look at everything and make the best decision.

Now this is the first and main way to maximize your cashback with Cashback Monitor. Let’s look at some more.

Set An Alert

Now, we’ll get into another section about this later but this portals don’t always stay the same. You won’t get 2% at Apple from Ebates forever. This is another reason why this tool is so powerful.

So what they allow you to do is set an alert when a certain stores rates change based on what you program it to do. You have to create an account to do this but its simple and free to do. 

Once your account is made click the option in the top right corner of the screen and then press "Manage My Alerts" in the middle. This will bring you to the screen I'm on now.

Cashback Monitor Alert

Let’s use Apple again. We can set an alert that will email us if any credit card/bank portal gives us 3 points per dollar or more.

Right now, the highest is two and if it does rise, that might influence our decision on when and where we buy from the Apple store.

View the Best Rate History

We use Cashbackmonitor to make sure we’re getting the best rate possible, right? How can we know we’re getting the best rate possible ever?

We can easily tell what’s best today but maybe we want to know if there’s been a better deal before because it might come back eventually.

That’s where the Best Rate History option comes in.

Still using our Apple example, we can see in all the portals that the best rates have fluctuated since the website started taking in the data.

Sometimes you can tell that a certain store or portal will offer a special maybe for Christmas time or a certain quarter like the Chase Freedom, and predict when you can purchase your goods that way.

Assign A Different Value to Points/Miles

I talk about this in my travel hacking post but each credit card I have usually comes with a different value that I put on it.

Like some other experts, I usually value Chase UR points at around 2 cents per point. Basically this means that I believe every 10,000 points I have I can get around $200 in value out of it.

It can of course be more if I stay at a fancy hotel or take a first class flight but it’s never lower than 1.25 cents per point because of my Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

In Cashbackmonitor though, they value Chase at 1 cents per point because that’s the value if you exchange your points for cash.

This can obviously skew the way I look at things when using their website. To me, something that gives three dollars back on the cash back side but two Chase UR points means that I come out better picking the Chase option.

Because I’m getting around four dollars in travel value there.

This is only important depending on which cards you have and if you value these points and miles that much. Some people just like the money going back in to their wallet no matter what, even if it could be a little less than the way I do it.

Either way, you’re getting money back so you can’t lose.

Personalize Your Monitor

Once I started using this feature, it became the most popular to me and I like it over any other method.

If you create an account (super simple and free), you can choose which cashback portals and points/miles programs you use and search stores just using those options.

Maybe you don’t have a Wells Fargo account or you don’t want to sign up to the 23 different cashback programs.

Just sign up to the biggest ones and only check off those options in this personalize menu.

Cashback Monitor My Monitor

You can see from the ones I have selected that I care more about the points & miles portals than cashback.

Now I don’t have to worry about searching through the programs I don’t have to find the best value for my purchase. I can go to “My Monitor” and search stores there and find the best value out of the options I have available for me.

Another important thing is that some of these programs require you to hit a certain point or cashback threshold before you can cash out. So if you make a purchase and only get $15 back but they require you to have $25 to withdraw, your money is stuck.

I’d rather have money available to withdraw in a program I use all the time than signing up for a program getting the best return possible but not being able to take out the money.

To Wrap It Up

Cashback Monitor is one of the best options to make sure you’re getting the most value out of using Cashback and Points/Miles shopping portals. There are so many portals out there and this tool allows you to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

If you want to learn more about getting started with travel hacking, make sure to check out the guide we have here and you’ll always be able to ask me questions in comments on ADP.

Have you ever used this tool? Or are you going to start using it because of this guide? Let me know in the comments down below.

Also, if you know someone else that would benefit from this post, please share it with them because it would probably help them out!

Chase Travel Notice
Reddit Churning

What Is Reddit Churning and Why You Should Check It Out

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

One of the most common questions I get when helping people with travel hacking is “Where can I learn more?”

I give a lot of advice but sometimes people want to be able to learn on their own time. There are blogs, podcasts, Facebook groups and more that help with travel hacking but the best one in my opinion has to be at Reddit Churning. 

At the time of this writing, there are over 165,000 people subscribed to this subreddit and I never see less than 400 people lurking in it at all times.

This community is the best place to learn how to travel cost effectively and still have some of the best vacations of your life. I’m going to explain everything you need to know about r/churning in this post.

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek

What is Travel Hacking?

I feel like I need to explain this for the people who happened to come here and don’t know what travel hacking is. If you don’t know, then the churning subreddit won’t help you.

Travel Hacking is the act of collecting points and miles to get you free flights, hotel rooms, and more. I’ve earned hundreds of thousands of points for myself and used them to go on vacations worth thousands of dollars and I barely pay anything.

You also get upgrades at hotels, first class tickets instead of economy, lounge access at airports and hotels that can save you hundreds on food, and much more.

If you want to learn more about travel hacking, I have an ultimate guide on how to get started travel hacking that will walk you through everything you need to know so be sure to check that out.

Why The Reddit Churning Community Will Help You

Reddit Churning

Like I said earlier, there are a lot of podcasts, YouTube channels, groups, and blogs (like ADP) that will help you learn about travel hacking. But sometimes these aren’t the best things for you.

They only answer questions that are in their posts or videos. So if you have a specific question, which you always will if you get into the game, you can’t really ask it to the big guys most of the time.

If they do answer, they’ll tell you to just read the blog and you’ll have to look through every post to see if they answer your question.

Also, and this is especially with true with the biggest ones, they only really promote the cards that give them the most upside. For example, you have a situation and you’re looking at two Credit Cards, let’s call them A and B.

A is a perfect credit card for your situation. It will give you loads of value and if you learn from the blog that it’s perfect for you and sign up through them, they’ll make $25. (All hypothetical.)

B is a good credit card. It gives you okay value but the blog gets paid $200 everytime someone signs up for it from their blog.

Which brand do you think the blog is going to promote?

You can’t entirely blame them because it is a business but it’s still not morally right and it screws you over in the long-term.

The great thing about this reddit post is 99% of the people there are not making loads of money off other people getting credit cards from them. They have normal jobs and all do this as a hobby.

They have very little if anything to gain by giving you the advice you’re looking for which results in unbiased and (most of the time) factual advice.

Topics

Now one of the best parts about the churn reddit community is how clean they keep everything. I mentioned before that there are over 165,000 people using it so if it was just run like a Facebook group it would be chaos.

The way they keep it in order is they have different posts and subtopics and I’m going to go over some of them and what they are useful for and what not to do in them.

Questions

The questions subtopic is pretty self-explanatory but where a good amount of the action happens.

You honestly can just go in and ask almost any question you want. Maybe you have a question on how to grow your credit score or you want to be able to apply for business credit cards.

Just a couple things to suggest. Reddit isn’t a nice place sometimes in general and it’s filled with a lot of alpha males. If you go in there and ask a basic question like “How do I get a credit card?” you might get some mean answers.

Make sure you use the search option in the subtopic to see if your question has been answered if it seems elementary.

Also if you’re asking questions about specific cards to get, they have their own thread for that so don’t ask it in the questions thread. At the top of the questions thread it will say “If you have questions about what card to get, ask here.”

Click the here part and go to that thread. They are really big in making sure there is structure and won’t answer your question if you put it in the wrong spot.

Discussions

This is the next most popular topic and is kind of a catch all for everything that isn’t a question.

You go to this thread when you want to talk about you getting accepted for a certain card or a certain hack working or not working for you.

I mostly read this thread and never really post in it. I might comment if I can give some guidance to people but this seems more like a thread for the people who stay in the subreddit for hours at a time and just want to talk to each other.

Data Points

The questions and discussions topics are an everyday thing. For example, there will be a July 4th thread for questions or discussions and then they’ll make another thread for July 5th. This is because they are much more popular.

For the next two, these are weekly threads just because they don’t get used as much but I still think they are useful to mention here if you want to start using Reddit Churning.

For those that don’t know, a data point is basically one person talking about their experience for doing a certain action. In the credit card game, this means a lot of these are questions like, “applying for Chase Sapphire Preferred with a 710 credit score, any DPs on people who got accepted?”

Chase Sapphire Preferred

So basically someone asks that question and then people who did that task recently will give their experience on it so they can help the person decide if they should do it or not.

This helps when banks change their rules without advising their customers about it (which happens a lot.)

This happened when Chase expanded their 5/24 rule to almost all cards instead of the basic ones like their Chase Trifecta. These data points helped the community find out what is considered available and unavailable quicker than any other method.

Trip Reports & Success Stories

The last one I’m going to mention is mostly a feel good post that you will find yourself in from time to time after a vacation.

Trust me, the first time you go on a trip that you paid $40 for but you should have paid $1000, you’re going to want to brag about it.

This is a place to do that and get encouragement from other people and also inspire others to do it as well.

I give thanks here when I go on a trip to the people that gave me advice on what routes to take or point redemptions to use back when I used to ask for lots of advice on there.

This isn’t one you use a lot but still a great one to know about. If you ever need inspiration to learn more, see the trips people are going on.

Now, there are some other threads in the subreddit but these are so small that I didn’t think you needed to learn about most of them on this post. If you see another thread in there and want to learn about it, just click on it and there will be a quick description and rules on how to use it right at the top.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Reddit Churning

Here is a good time to take you through why I advise people to use this as a learning tool and also a couple reasons why I make sure people are careful when using it. Just like everything else in life there is a balance and you need to be able to distinguish the good from the bad here.

The three biggest advantages to me are how fast the community will answer your questions, how structured everything is and will stay, and access to people that have been in the game since the start.

I used to ask questions in here all the time and it would only be about five to ten minutes mostly that I’m waiting to get my first response and then I’ll be getting responses all day. Now I like to answer questions to help people out and be one of those responders but either way, this all helps the learning process.

Three of the biggest disadvantages that come with using this is how hostile people are, sometimes you get answers from people who aren’t experts, and you will get some biased advice and messages at times.

Like I said earlier, Reddit can be toxic sometimes. You’re dealing with real people that usually use these platforms over the more popular ones because the way they talk to people isn’t allowed. If you ask a question that is stupid in their eyes or in the wrong thread, you’ll get some colorful comments thrown your way.

Just don’t worry about them and do whatever is necessary to help your situation. Usually when someone talks to you nasty, another member will come in to defend you.  

You also need to be careful about taking advice from only one person. That’s why this group is so great because it’s so big that you’ll always get a consensus. It’s a community that anyone can join, so the first person to answer your question could give you bad advice. If you ask a question, wait until you get a couple of responses before you take action.

And just like everywhere else, there are the bottom feeders. If you give a trip report talking about you living a great life, you could get messages from people asking to give you money or if you ask which credit card to get, someone might message you begging you to sign-up using their link.

This is common on any platform so just move along and don’t worry about it. Just kind of the way of the road.

Other Helpful Subreddits

There are a few more subreddits that I browse along with r/churning that can help you out.

r/awardtravel

This subreddit is all about ways to burn the points that you’re gaining from the churning subreddit. They have their own structure there so check them out.

r/personalfinance

This is more of a place to have general questions about finance. They are kind too conventional for me but I’ve studied personal finance methods for ten years now and like the methods that I use. If you feel like you’d like to learn more about it, then check out this subreddit.

Wrap It Up

Reddit churning can help you out in your travel hacking game almost immediately. Right when you get in, you’ll be able to ask the questions you want to ask or just read what others are saying and take in information without saying one word.

If you want to learn more about getting started with travel hacking, make sure to check out the guide we have here and you’ll always be able to ask me questions in comments on ADP.

Have you ever used the churning subreddit? Let me know in the comments down below what you think of it.

Also, if you know someone else that would benefit from this post, please share it with them because it would probably help them out!

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek
Chase Travel Notice

4 Steps to Set Up A Chase Travel Notice (Even Do It In The App!)

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

There’s nothing worse than planning a vacation abroad, getting there, and your card getting declined when you’re in line to buy something.

The banks do this for our protection. If you live in Arkansas and your bank knows this, but there is a charge on the card in Thailand, they’re going to freeze the card for your account’s safety.

You should always notify Chase of your international travel plans by sending Chase a travel notification.

Luckily, it’s really easy to set up a Chase Travel Notice and here are the four steps to doing it on a computer and your Chase Mobile App.

Best Cash Back Credit Cards

Setting up your Chase Travel Notice

Step 1: Log-in to your account

First thing you need to do is log-in to your Chase Account on the website or you can go on your app and log-in.

Chase Login Screen

Step 2: Go to Profile & Settings

If you are on a computer, click the three bar menu in the top left and a bigger menu should appear. Find Profile & Settings near the top and click that.

If you are on the app, click the icon that looks like a person in the top right of the main screen. A screen should pop up and click My Settings.

Chase Profile & Settings

Step 3: Find Travel in the menu 

On the computer, you’ll see a scrollable menu on the left side of your screen. Scroll towards the bottom and you’ll see the option to click “Travel” under the More Settings section. Click that.

On the app, once you’re in the My Settings page, scroll down until you see the “Travel” option under my settings as well.

Chase Travel Notice

Step 4: Enter the details of your trip

Click the update button and Chase will ask you for the departure date and the return date as well as the states/countries you are visiting. Don’t worry, you can pick more than one!

If any of the details of your trip changes, you can always come back to this notification and either update it or cancel it altogether. No harm, no foul.

You can also call Chase to send a travel alert

If you like to do things the old fashioned way, you can get this done just by calling the phone number on the back of your Chase card. Tell the operator that you want to set up a travel notice and they’ll guide you on what to do from there.

If you’re already outside the United States, you can call Chase’s international phone number at 1-302-594-8200.

Chase Travel Notice FAQs

Do I need to set up a travel notification? 

You don’t necessarily need to do anything. You can always not do it and run the risk of them declining you or not. In my opinion, it’s just easier to set up the notification that way you won’t get locked out of spending money in a foreign place for a good amount of time.

How long in advance can I set my notice? 

For your credit cards, you can set a notice up to a year in advance and it can only last for a year. So if you’re out of the country for longer than a year, you’ll have to go back in and update the dates once you’re there.

For debit cards, you can only set this up 14 days in advance.

Can I cancel or change my notice after submitting it?

Yes, your notice will stay under this travel section until the return date has been hit. So if you need to change any details like dates or places visiting or even cancel, you just come back to this screen and change what you need.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Some of Chase’s cards like the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited come with foreign transaction fees of 3%.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred does not have any foreign transaction fees and is a perfect card to start earning miles and points if you haven’t already. It also rounds out our Chase Trifecta nicely.

To Wrap It Up

Now you know how to notify Chase that you’re traveling. You can either use the four steps I listed above or just give them a simple call.

Either way, your account will be safe and you’ll be able to enjoy your travels in peace.

If you want to learn how to earn points and miles and get free vacations, I have an ultimate guide on travel hacking that can definitely help you out.

Leave a comment below if you used this to help you with set up your travel notifications.

Also if you know anyone else that is traveling abroad, send them this post, because it will probably help them out!

Chase Travel Notice
Chase Trifecta

The Chase Trifecta: The Best 3 Credit Card Combo You Must Have in 2019

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

One of the main topics in the credit card rewards game is maximizing the rewards you earn on the spend you already do daily.

Whether you have been earning rewards for years now or you’re just getting started, you shouldn’t change your spend much now that you have rewards credit cards.

In my opinion (along with lots of others), there is no better set-up than the Chase Trifecta.

This trifecta allows you to spend what you normally spend but still rack up tens of thousands of points a year which can mean hundreds to thousands of dollars of vacations and travel to get you enjoying your life even more.

In this post, I’m going to run you through the entire Chase Trifecta and why you should be using it. So let’s get started.

Best Cash Back Credit Cards

Why The Chase Trifecta Is Important

The reason why the Chase Trifecta is one of the most popular credit card set-ups out there is because of how versatile it is. If you’re on this post, you probably understand how credit cards rewards systems work.

Depending on what you’re buying, you can get 5 points per dollar when you purchase something, you can get 3 points, 2 points or 1 point, etc. 

Well, we all know that life makes us buy different things almost daily. We go grocery shopping one day of the week, get gas the next day, go to the doctor, and then run out of groceries and eat at restaurants for the rest of the week.

This set-up makes it so you are always earning as many Chase Ultimate Rewards points as possible. We’ll talk later about how valuable these are and what you can get with them.

This game is all about maximizing the spend you are already doing and picking the cards that will give you the most points for your hard earned dollars.

I want to clarify that the Chase Trifecta is probably the best out there but you can only get these cards if you are under the 5/24 rule.

This means if you have been approved for 5 or more credit cards from any provider in the last 24 months, you will automatically be denied for these cards.

Now that we know why getting this trifecta is important and the one rule preventing you from getting it, let’s get to the three cards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The first card I’m going to recommend to get is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. This card is actually the glue sticking all of this trifecta together which is why I’m mentioning it first. 

The reason why this card is so important is because you can take all your Chase UR points and if you book for travel through the Chase Portal, your points get an extra 25% boost.

That could sound intimidating so let me show you what this means.

Let’s say within all your cards you have 25,000 points. If you want to book a plane ticket, your 25,000 points equals a flight worth $250.

If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, your 25,000 points isn’t worth $250. Chase multiplies the value of those points by 1.25. This makes your 25,000 points actually worth 31,250 or $312.50. 

So in my mind, having this card allows you to basically make an extra 62.50 appear out of thin air. That’s how great this could be. (not to mention the travel partners which I’ll talk about later!)

This only involves the redemption of the points. The card itself is a great deal as well.

You get 2x points on anything dining or travel related and I can vouch that these are my two biggest expense categories out of everything I buy.

This study shows food is our most expensive purchase every year and we all know depending on our lives how expensive travel can be as well.

Wouldn’t you want a card that can give you double the points back every time you used it? This would ultimately allow you to use your UR points on some of your travel, allowing you to save the money that you would have spend anyway. How sweet is that!?

So if you’re a foodie or a roaming traveler, you’re going to end up wanting to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred pronto.

Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom Image

Now like I said earlier, the reason why the trifecta is so powerful is because you can capitalize on what you’re buying to get the most points using these three special cards. 

With the Chase Freedom, 5x Chase UR points based on what the rotating category is for that specific quarter. Basically, every quarter (3 months) Chase announces new categories that are covered. 

In recent quarters, there has been gas stations, drug stores, restaurants, and even Amazon.

Chase allows you to earn 5x points on up to $1500 in purchase in these categories per quarter or 7,500 points. When you combine this with the superpower from the Chase Sapphire Preferred where you get 1.25x the points, this equals 9,375 points.

This is an extra $93.75 towards travel that most of us spend anyway on these categories. These points add up to a lot at the end of the year.

Chase Freedom Unlimited 

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Now we have your food and travel covered and we have the rotational categories down per quarter. 

Now you’re probably thinking, “what about those doctor appointments and when I need to change the oil in my car? What card do I use then?”

This is where the Chase Freedom Unlimited comes in. 

The Freedom Unlimited is the simplest card out of all of three of these because it earns 1.5x points for every purchase no matter what it is. 

If you’re getting a haircut or paying off your Netflix subscription, you’re going to earn 1.5x UR points for both of these.

And once again, you can pair this up with the Sapphire card and get 2.25 points back basically that can be used on travel.

Basically this card is your last resort card, if you don’t have any card that will get you more, at least you’ll get 1.5x back.

How you could spend your points

Just for fun, now that you’ve learned the three cards that give you the best chance at maximizing your points in the credit card game, let’s see what you can get with these points.

You can fly around the United States and Caribbean for cheap with Southwest points

I’ve found deals for as low as 4,500 points each way. Southwest is tricky because their point value actually changes with the price of their tickets unlike United, but sometimes this can be a good thing.

When Southwest runs their sales of one-way flights for $49 or around there, make sure to check the points values for the flights. They almost always drop as well.

You can stay at a luxury hotel with Hyatt

Transfering your points to Hyatt is one of the best transfers you can make in the travel hacking game.

For example, you can transfer 25,000 points and get a free night at the Park Hyatt Maldives. This can easily be worth $1,000 depending on the time of year you go and would be worth every point.

Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa


To Wrap It Up

Everyone will have their own opinion on what the best card set-up is. Some only want cash-back cards or some will only want cards that help them with a specific airline or hotel.

In my opinion, if you want a general and diverse travel rewards option, the best one out there is the Chase Trifecta. It really helps you make the most of your everyday purchases.

Do you use the Chase Trifecta? Which cards are you missing if you don’t?

Let me know in the comments down below.

If you’re interested in learning everything about travel hacking, I have a post on the Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking for 2019 that will surely help you out so be sure to check that out.

And if you know someone that would enjoy this resource on the Chase Trifecta, please share it with them because it will probably help them out. Thank you!

Best Cash Back Credit Cards
Get A 700 Credit Score

How to Get a 700 Credit Score: Go from 0 – 700 in 90 Days

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

Credit scores are one of the many mysteries to 90% of the population. Most people know that they are important but have no idea how it works. This is scary because we need credit scores for everything.

You need one for renting an apartment, buying a car and getting utilities for your house. You even need a credit score to get a cell phone. Banks don’t like doing business people with low credit or no credit. That’s why this post is going to help you get to a 700 credit score as quickly as possible.

Now, I just want to clarify, this post is about a person starting out their credit journey or basically at the beginning of it.

If you have made some mistakes and have some delinquencies or lots of missed payments, then this post isn’t for you. It takes a little bit more than a couple months to fix that but it is fixable. We might talk about this in a later post.

I have a complete guide on how to increase your credit score that works for everyone who already has a score. But if you are new or a beginner on your credit journey then this post is for you and let’s get started.
Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek

Credit Score Basics

Now as this is for the credit card beginner, or someone who is basically just getting started or hasn’t even gotten started yet with their credit journey, I think it’s essential to go through the very basics of good credit building. 

I’m first going to explain to you the two most important things when talking about keeping your credit score high and that’s paying your bills on time and keeping your utilization low.

Paying your bills on time is kind of obvious. Missing just one credit card (or any type of loan) minimum payment drastically affects your credit score.

Credit History

If you look at the image above, paying your bills 100% of the time leaves you with an excellent grade in that category, paying 99% gives you a good score and so on.

I want to clarify this doesn’t mean you have to pay the whole bill. This just means paying or not paying the minimum that the bank is telling you to pay.

My advice is if you aren’t responsible and don’t think you can remember to pay every month, set up an auto-payment on your account. It’s easy for every major bank and I’m sure there are steps when you open your account to do it.

The second most important thing might need some more explaining. Your utilization is how much of your credit limit is being used at a certain time.

The best way to explain this is with examples. If you have one credit card, with a $1,000 limit, and you have $100 on it when the statement closes, your utilization is 10%. You just divide the amount on the card by the limit.

$100/$1000 = 10%

If you have two cards that both have a $1000 limit but you still only have $100 on one card, what is the utilization?

$100/$2000 = 5%

Credit Utilization

Now, banks want to see that you keep this number low. If you look at this new image, you can see that the excellent grade is between 0-9%. That’s the best you can be. Most financial experts say to stay under 30% but if you can help it, get to that 9% and you’ll be happy.

I promise you that if you are a new user and your utilization is above 30% and you get it down to 9% or lower, your score will increase way more than you thought it would in 30-60 days.

I’ve seen scores jump from low 600s to the 700s in a couple weeks just from them simply lowering their utilization.

So, What Next?

Now, these two things is all you really need to know to get your score up to 700. It could take two weeks or it could take two years. It all just depends on your specific credit profile and how your credit journey is going.

But I know you might be thinking, “I want my score above 700 in three months or six months, not two years? How do I do that Joseph?”

So I’m going to give you two shortcuts that I know work for most. This isn’t an exact science and it could not work. But I believe it will give you the boost you need to get the score you want.

The first one is becoming an authorized user for someone else. Basically this means that you go to your parents or someone that you know is very responsible (if your parents aren’t, do not go to them) and asking them if you can be an authorized user on their credit card.

Now this only really works if you are new to the card game. If I got an authorized user on my parents account, it wouldn’t even move my score (plus I have better credit than my parents).

But if you know someone who is responsible and you feel comfortable to ask them for this, then go ahead. Tell them that you want to be an authorized user and tell them why. I’m sure they’ll understand if you tell them it will help your credit score if they do it.

If they’re hesitant, get this. They can get you the card and then never give it to you. You don’t actually have to use the card to get the boost, the card just goes on your report with all of their history.

I did this for my sister. She asked me to help her credit so I got her an AU on my Chase Freedom Unlimited and her score boosted over 50 points in a month because of my good history with the card.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Now, some things to keep in mind. Not all cards come with free authorized users. If your parent or the person you’re asking has a prestigious card like the Amex Platinum, that card is $175 to add one authorized user.

I wouldn’t ask anyone to do that. Find a card that they have had for a long time and it would be free and ask to do it for that one.

The other thing is make sure you do this right. If the person you’re asking doesn’t have good credit, this could ultimately end up screwing you. Don’t do this with someone you look up to and then find out that they’re really irresponsible and have been bankrupt a couple times.

That will hurt your score more than you can imagine. If you handle this right though, this will get your credit score up to 700 in no time.

The second shortcut is to ask your current credit cards for a limit increase on the cards you have. This plays into the utilization factor.

I mentioned before that the best way to raise your score is by paying down your utilization. But this involves money and sometimes we don’t have the money right away to do these things. This is your next best option.

Let’s say you have a card with a $3000 limit and you have $500 on the card. That’s a 16.6% utilization rate. (Remember the math from earlier?)

Now, there’s a way to ask your bank if you can raise that $3000 limit. Sometimes it’s in your account and sometimes you have to call. Just Google the credit card you have and credit limit increase and you’ll find out how to do it.

chase credit limit increase

The bank looks at your account and if they believe that you are trustworthy, they could raise the limit anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to 2x what your limit is already. 

So now you could have a $6000 limit and you still only have $500 on the card. That is now a 8.3% utilization rate which is lower than the 9% we were looking for.

Like I said earlier, going from a 20-30% utilization down to below 10% will raise your score almost immediately.

One warning with this is just like with everything else in this game, you have to be responsible. Banks set these limits not only to protect themselves from getting in trouble but also to protect you.

If you have a $1000 limit and you always go to that limit because you think of it almost like a bank and just spend the maximum amount because you can, this isn’t for you.

Because the bank will give you a limit to $2000 and even though you’re overspending to $1000 every month and taking care of it, psychologically you’re going to want to spend the $2000 now instead and it’s going to screw you up.

I’ve seen instances where that has happened and it’s not good.

But if you’re responsible, this could be a quick way to get your utilization down and get your credit score to rise.

To Wrap it up

Now, credit scores do not raise by 50 points overnight. It does take a little bit of time so you need to be patient, especially if your score is on the lower side.

A lot of increasing your score involves constant action and just keep taking the steps that I mention in this post. You’ll see your credit score hit 700 in no time.

Did you use any of these tips to increase your score? Or maybe you have a suggestion that I didn’t recommend here? Let me know by writing a comment down below.

Once you get your score up, why not learn how to get vacations for pennies on the dollar? Check out my Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking and learn how to vacation for free or pretty damn close to it!

And if you know someone that would enjoy this post, please share it with them because it will probably help them out. Thank you!

Top Credit Cards for Travel Hacking
Cash Back Credit Cards

Best Cash Back Credit Cards of 2019 – My Top 4

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

When I sit down and coach people on how to start getting credit card rewards and points, some ask me the question, “What if I just want some easy cash-back credit cards?”

Some people can’t keep up with having 15+ credit cards like I do and changing their strategies every month. Some just want a simple card or two to use and just keep getting back cash so they can live a little better.

Lucky for them, banks know this and offer some cards that are perfect for this kind of user.

Best Cash Back Credit Cards

In this post, I’m going to show some credit cards and why they are good cash back cards. Each card is good for different reasons so we need a way to measure how beneficial they would be to you.

That’s why we can focus on these three factors to decide which card or cards would be best for you.

Earning Rates

Let’s start it out simple. How much cash-back will you earn during your purchases? Some cards have a consistent 1.5 - 2% per purchase.

Some earn you extra cash-back depending on what category the purchase is.

Earning Rates can make cash back cards completely different between everyone. There are cards that offer 5% back on Gas but if you don’t own a car then that card really isn’t worth it to you is it. It’s just case to case.

Ease of Redemption

This can easily be as big of a deal to you as the earning rate.

Do you want to earn points like Chase UR that can be used as cash or towards travel?

Do you want to be able to cash out your points and get it deposited into your account?

Some cards only allow you to use them as statement credits against your credit card. Maybe that’s a negative to you. All just depends on how you want your cash-back to actually come back to you.

Extra Perks or Factors

Most cash-back cards won’t come with lounge access or get you status at hotels, but they can offer other things. Maybe you want purchase protection or delay coverage.

Some have foreign transaction fees meaning if you use them out of the United States, you’ll pay even more.

It can also have annual fees that make having the card less valuable to you.

Things like these can be a positive or a negative and affect your plan on picking the card or not.

Which is the best cash back credit card for you?

Now that we know the three factors that we are basing our recommendations on, we can get to the cards. I set it up like this so that you can easily decide if you want or do not want certain cards.

If you want transferable points that you can use for cash or travel, then you can cancel out certain cards that don’t offer it.

If you don’t purchase much gas like our example earlier, then you can cross that off your list.

So let’s get into it!

Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom Image

Current Sign-up Bonus: $150 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from opening the card.

On normal purchases, the Chase Freedom card offers 1% back on all purchases. That doesn’t sound very good. However, there is also 5% rotating categories that change every quarter and you can get 5% back on up to $1500 worth of purchases. 

These categories change from things like gas stations and drugstores to groceries and Amazon purchases. Most of the time there is more than one category so you have more options on how to get the cash back.

Now, the Chase Freedom earns you Chase UR points. If you want you can just have the Freedom and earn 1% cash back that you can put towards a statement credit or deposit into your account.

You can also pair it with a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and use it towards travel. This is special because the CSP adds an extra 25% to your points turning a maxed out 7,500 point quarter into 9,375 worth of points instead.

This is a special travel hack and beyond just cash back cards but I thought I should point it out especially because that’s what makes this cash-back card so special.

This card also offers purchase protection and an extended warranty but unfortunately has a 3% foreign transaction fee.

We have an article if you want to learn more about getting approved for your first Chase card.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited


Current Sign-up Bonus: $150 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from opening the card.

Now, let’s say you want to be part of the Chase family but you don’t want to have to worry about rotating categories and thinking about where to purchase things.

The Freedom Unlimited is for you then.

This card offers 1.5% points on every purchase you make, no matter what you buy. Like the Freedom, this card also gives you Chase UR points so you can use them for travel, as a statement credit, or deposit it into your account.

It has the same extra perks as the Freedom like the purchase protection and extended warranty and has the 3% foreign transaction fee as well.

What some people like to do with these two is have both and use the Freedom Unlimited for all their purchases except the ones that fall under the categories for the regular Freedom card.

That is an easy and almost thoughtless way to maximize your spending without too much brain power into this credit card game.

We have a full review of the Chase Freedom Unlimited here. 

Discover It Cash Back

Discover it card

Current Sign-up Bonus: $50 back after just one purchase within the first three months.

You know what’s better than getting 5% back on rotating categories? Getting 10% back.

That’s what you get with the Discover card. Technically, you get that in the first year but it’s still awesome.

Just like the Chase Freedom, this Discover card offers 5% categories each quarter but they also have a promotion that for all new card owners, they match your rewards that you earn in the first year.

This means that your 5% you are earning in rewards turns into 10%. Not only does this happen with the rotating categories but it also happens on the standard earning rate for purchases, making the normal 1% you get 2%.

The Discover doesn’t have transferable points though so you can get the cash back as a statement credit on the card or deposit it into any account you want.

This card also has no foreign transaction fees so could be a great option if you are a consistent traveler outside of the United States.

Citi Double Cash

Citi Double Cash

Current Sign-up Bonus: This card 95% of the time doesn’t have a sign up bonus. You can always check though.

The Citi Double Cash is probably one of the simplest cards for anyone getting started in the credit card rewards game. This card gives you 1% back when you purchase something and 1% back when you pay it off.

So, basically 2% back on all purchases. No categories to pay attention to or hoops to jump through. There is two negatives though.

The first is that there is no sign-up bonus. This is usually a red flag for me because of the 5/24 rule and how the game is right now. If I’m going to sign up for a card, I usually want something substantial within the first three months to make it justifiable.

The second negative is that you can only redeem rewards in $25 or more. That means you also can’t redeem your rewards as a statement credit or a deposit (only into Citi accounts) until you’ve spent $1,250 on the card.

So it has a couple drawbacks but the positive is that it’s a very simple card that you can always use. This can be a valuable card to some depending on their situation.

To Wrap It Up

Cash runs the world. At some point, all these airline miles and hotel points could completely change up the game and make them worthless, but cash will always be the same. It’s simpler and easier to measure how you’re doing in the rewards game.

Hopefully this list of cards has given you some ideas on what you can look for in a cash-back credit card.

Please feel free to use any of the links in this post and sign up for one.

Let us know if you have any of these cards, or are signing up for one because of this post, in the comments down below.

Also if you know anyone else that would benefit from this, feel free to share this post with them to help them out.

If you'd like to learn more about travel hacking and how it allows me to travel in luxury for pennies on the dollar, read our Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking here. 

Approve Chase Card

How to Get Approved for A Chase Credit Card – How Long It Takes & Other Tips

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

Whether you are new to credit or you’re just looking to get into the Chase atmosphere of credit cards, you could feel intimidated by getting started. 

But credit card applications don’t have to be difficult. The thing is that the banks hide how they really work to confuse the consumers so they won’t learn how to game the system.

This is why you’re in the right place. I’m going to show you what factors mainly affect getting accepted for the starter cards of Chase along with an action plan on how to get accepted.

I want to preface this post with saying that we are only going to be talking about two beginner cards here, the Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

If you are relatively new to credit, Chase doesn’t just hand out access to their top of the line credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. They are more selective because they are higher value cards and that’s just how the game is.

So let’s get started with the three main guesses as to what impacts the application process the most.

Approved First Chase Card

1. Recommended Score

The first thing Chase will look at is obviously your credit score. While there is no known “if you have this number you’ll be approved” answer, we can guess based on the people who post what they have when they applied and if they got approved or denied.

The Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited are both expected to approve most for credit scores over 700. There are reports of people as low as 645 getting approved though.

I signed up for the Chase Freedom Unlimited a couple years ago and believe I had a 690 - 700 score back then. I got instantly approved.

Good Credit Score

I want to clarify that there is a big range for what can be accepted and rejected because your credit score isn’t the only factor that goes into it. You can have a 750 credit score but if some of the next factors aren’t right, you could still get rejected.

I wrote a post on how to increase your credit score that can help you out if you need it. If your application isn't getting accepted and you have a score below these levels, check out the article and get that score up and come back to this later. 

2.  Credit History

This probably affects you less if you have a higher credit score because it takes time to get to the high 700s but Chase likes people who have time on their credit cards.

Now, not as much time as you would think. Most people believe around a year of credit history is recommended to apply for a Chase Card.

This isn’t a hard rule. I had multiple credit cards for years before signing up for my first Chase Card but I know people that got approved for their first without any trouble.

Basically, think of it from the bank’s perspective. You walk in there with no credit history and they can’t tell if you’re responsible or not. Chase doesn’t want to just hand out free cards so people can take advantage and then run.

If they got screwed all the time with people taking advantage they wouldn’t be able to give such great rewards so I think it’s worth it.

Average Age of Accounts


3. Credit Utilization

Your credit utilization is basically the ratio of how much you currently have on your cards divided by how much limit you have on those credit cards.

Let’s say you have $10,000 of total credit limit on two cards and you have $1500 to pay off on one and $500 to pay off on another. That adds up to $2000. 2000 divided by 10,000 equals .20 or 20%.

There is no rule for the limit on what your utilization would be to get approved but most financial experts will tell you to stay lower than 30%.

Myself and other travel hackers will tell you to keep it under 10% and ideally, no utilization at all.

When you have utilization that means you’re accruing interest, and if that’s the case, then all the rewards you’re getting by using credit cards gets wiped by paying that high interest.

This is honestly the easiest factor to change though in the grand scheme of things. It could take a year to get your credit history where you want it to be or your score to go up. You can make one payment though and bring your utilization down to a better rate. It’s that easy.

Credit Utilization Ratio

5/24 Rule

This could be even more important than what I just showed you but I wanted to tell you about those factors because they affect 95% of people who sign up for Chase Credit Cards.

Now, that you know those three things, we have to move onto the Chase 5/24 rule. We will be making an article completely explaining this but to sum it up - the Chase 5/24 rule states that you can’t be accepted for certain Chase Cards if you have applied and been accepted for five credit cards in the past 24 months.

This means even if you have a credit history of 20 years and you have a perfect credit score, if you’ve gone over this 5/24 rule, you’ll automatically get rejected. It’s just programmed into their algorithm that does the applications.

If you don’t sign up for credit cards often, then this doesn’t concern you and you can move on to the next section. But if you do, stay with me.

There are a couple ways to find out if you’re over and some ways that it could be a different number than what you think but I’ll teach you the easiest way to check right now.

Go to your Credit Karma (if you don’t have one, you need to sign up.). Find the accounts tab and under every account, whether it’s a credit card or a student loan, or a car loan, it will say the date that it was started.

Only count the credit cards and see how many were within the last 24 months. This is your X/24 count and will impact how your Chase applications go.

If you are 5/24 or over, you need to wait before trying to get many of the main Chase Cards. Give it some time and come back when you have went a while without signing up for cards. 

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek

Three Phase System

So we learned the factors that most commonly go into a credit card application with Chase and about the 5/24 rule. Now we are ready to apply.

I wanted to think of the easiest way to bring you down this path for applying so this is a three phase system. If you get through one, you can go to another if not there is a way to change it up and try something else to get where you want to be.

Phase 1: Apply for Freedom or Freedom Unlimited

This depends on which card is best for you.

I recommend the Freedom to anyone who wants to earn more points or cash back but have to pay attention every quarter to see what gives them the best ROI.

If you just want a card that you don’t have to think about and can just use, the Freedom Unlimited is the card for you.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Now if you get approved, you actually move to Phase 3 so congratulations.

If you get rejected you’re going to go to Phase 2.

Here’s a different option. If you apply and you get a message coming up saying that they need some time to think about it, there is actually a number to call to talk to a person where they can look at it with you and make the decision.

This option takes computers and formulas out of the picture and let’s you have an influence on it with a person. Now they will ask you questions so make sure your social skills are there and don’t be nervous. They are there to help but they also deal with lots of angry people every day.

Say a couple niceties like “hope your day is going well” and things like that and explain that you want to make a relationship with Chase.

This part of the Phase is actually going to be Phase 1.5.

If 1.5 works and you get approved, you get to be at Phase 3.

If rejected, go to Phase 2.

Phase 2: Apply for a Chase Slate card

Now I didn’t mention this card before this because it’s not really worth mentioning in the rewards game. It actually offers no rewards and no benefits.

The reason I’m telling you to apply for this is because it is a lot easier to get approved for this card than the Freedom and Freedom Unlimited.

You can have a low 600 score and get approved for this. The benefit of this is now Chase has information on you and can know exactly how you are with payments and how responsible you are.

If you get accepted for the Chase Slate, put a couple subscriptions on it like ​Clickfunnels or buy some things on Amazon and just make sure you pay the minimum every month. If you don’t pay it off, they’ll actually know you’re not responsible and this will have a negative effect.

In 3-6 months after getting the Slate, try Phase 1 again.

If you get rejected for the Slate, get your score up to a 700+ and get your credit history over a year. Take about six months or so and then start Phase 1 again.

Phase 3: Other Chase Cards 

Phase 3 is the easy phase. Once you break through to these first two cards, all the other Chase Cards are basically at your disposal.

They are much more likely to approve you for a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred once they have a record of you being responsible in their internal system.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Once you get to Phase 3, the sky's the limit and you can get bonuses and benefits worth 1000s of dollars for signing up for these credit cards. So worth it.

Congratulations! You're in the Chase Circle Now!

Now that we have broken down the things that impact the application process and ways to make sure you are under 5/24, you should have no problem jumping into Phase 1 and seeing where the game takes you.

Once again if you want a no-hassle card that earns you Chase UR points, the Freedom Unlimited is the card for you and we have a review on that card here if you want to learn everything about it.

If you don’t mind taking a couple minutes every quarter and really maximizing your Chase UR points, then the Freedom card is for you.

You can’t go wrong with either of these cards and I recommend everyone to get the Chase Trifecta at some point early in the game anyway.

If you’d like to learn more about travel hacking, we have a post on The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking that I’m sure you’ll love.

Also check out our resource on my Top Credit Card Recommendations for Travel Hacking.

If this process works for you, or you have either of these cards, please let me know with a comment down below.

Also if you know anyone else that would benefit from this, feel free to share this post with them to help them out.

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek
Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited Review: The Sign-Up Bonus, Benefits & More!

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

When you first look at the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you might think that it is a normal cash back card. But once you start looking into how you can use it, the possibilities are endless. 

This is one of the cards I recommend the most in my free card consultations and probably the easiest to start with when you want to start getting into gaining travel points. 

Let’s take a look at what makes the Chase Freedom Unlimited worth it.

Who Should Get The Chase Freedom Unlimited?

Chase Freedom Unlimited

There are a couple different types of credit card users that should get this card. 

The first route is if you really don’t want to think hard about what credit card to use, this is perfect for you.

I have a specific card for dining, a card for hotels, a card for airline purchases, a card for groceries and so on. This isn’t the process everyone wants to go down though. The Chase Freedom Unlimited gives you 1.5x return on all your purchases which is a huge benefit and makes it easy to use in any situation.

The second route that makes this card for perfect is for those that are just getting started wanting to earn points for travel. Not only is this card relatively easy to get approved for, but it can help you have more eligibility when you apply for other Chase cards later.

It has no annual fee so once you open this card, I’ll advise you to never close it and your points on your account will never expire.

One last thing to keep in mind is this card is subject to the 5/24 rule meaning if you have opened 5 or more cards in the last 24 months, you will automatically be denied for this card.

The Sign-Up Bonus

Chase Freedom Unlimited Sign-Up Bonus

Right now, the Chase Freedom Unlimited has a sign-up bonus of $150 after spending $500 in the first three months of having the card. You also get an extra $25 bonus if you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in the first three months.

One of the great things about this credit card though is even though they say you can get $150 back, it’s actually 15000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points. This means that you can always cash out your points at a rate of 1 cent per point.

But you can also pair this card with other cards offered by Chase and use 15000 points toward airline tickets, hotel stays and more.

I just used 14,000 UR points to book two tickets to San Diego that would have cost me $310. I’ll show you how to do all this in a moment.

Vegas & SD & Credit Cards

Ways to Earn

This card earns 1.5x on every purchase, everywhere. So you don’t have to put any brainpower into thinking about if you’re going to hit a spending cap soon or if this is a grocery store or a supermarket.

Just use the Chase Freedom Unlimited every time and your points will always be growing. 1.5% if you’re only looking for cash back isn’t bad at all but there are a couple better options.

If you only want cash back, check out the Citi Double Cash Card which earns you 2% cash back on everything you purchase.

The reason why I offer the Freedom Unlimited to most first is because of what I’m about to show you for when you redeem your points.

Ways to Redeem

Now we’ve already talked about the first way you can redeem points which is turning your points into cash back. If you have 10000 points and each point is worth 1 cent, this means you can cash it out for $100.

There are some other insignificant ways to redeem like buying gift cards that also can be redeemed at 1 cent per point but if you had a choice between $100 cash and a $100 gift card, which one would you want?

The best way to redeem UR points though is by connecting this credit card with one of the other Premium Chase Cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or th Ink Business Preferred.

Combining points across cards can allow you to turn points from your spending into full scale vacations.

Having one of these premium credit cards allows you to book travel through Chase’s Travel Portal.

If you have the Reserve, you can book at a rate of 1.5 cents per point.

If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Business Preferred, you can book at 1.25 cents per point.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal

This means that your 15000 point sign up bonus can kinda be looked at like 18,750 - 22,500 points if you have one of these cards.

That’s if you use the travel portal.

There is another option though. Chase gives you the opportunity to transfer these points to airline and hotel partners. This opens you up to a lot more opportunities.

Remember how I said I got two tickets for 13,000 points earlier. This is how I did it.

One of Chase’s partners is Southwest Airlines. They had a flight going from my home airport to San Diego at $155 per person. That’s $310 for two people.

What I did instead was looked up the Southwest points it would cost me to get on that same flight. Each ticket would cost me 6,313 points or 13,626 for the two of us.

Because I had points from my Chase Freedom Unlimited Card and I also had a premium card (specifically the Chase Sapphire Preferred), I can transfer my UR points over to Southwest’s program.

So I transferred 14,000 points over and paid for our flight to San Diego with points.

Now, if you’re still following, did I save money or lose money doing this and by how much? If I cashed out 14,000 points back in Chase, I would have got $140 in cash.

By using these points with Southwest, I used that same amount of points to book two tickets for $310.

This means that I more than doubled the value of those points by transferring them out.

Redemptions like this is what makes the Chase Freedom Unlimited so powerful and much more powerful than a generic cashback card.

Recommendations on Credit Score and Credit History

Good Credit Score

Whenever I recommend a card or am giving a free consultation, I have to remember that every person’s situation is different. Some of us have great credit scores and some of us have poor credit scores.

Some of us have had credit cards for 5+ years and some have had cards for 6 months.

All these things play into effect when applying for these cards.

With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, I recommend you have a credit score of 690+. If you don’t have a score this high, check out our post on how to increase your credit score which will help you out so you can get to the point where you can start applying for cards like this.

I also recommend that you have a credit history of at least 6 months. This means that you’ve held another credit card even a secured or student credit card for at least that time period.

This helps show Chase that you are reliable and trustworthy enough to have card with them. 

Of course, having these factors doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get approved so don’t get mad at me if you don’t. Also these rules aren’t set in stone so you might be below this and get approved as well.

No one knows (besides the banks) how these algorithms work but we can make our best guesses. 

Also one more reminder that this card counts with the 5/24 rule. This means if you have gotten more than 5 new cards in the last 24 months, you won't be eligible for this card. Don't even bother applying because you'll get automatically rejected. 

To Wrap It Up

With a lot of premium cards, you have to be able to know every detail of your card, when to use it, when not to use it, how much you need to spend on it and so on.

With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, it’s so simple that it is my #1 everyday, non-bonus spending card. This means I use it on things that don’t fall into other categories where I have a better card.

If you’re just starting out with credit cards or you want the simplicity of having an everyday card, I wouldn’t look any further than the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Do you have the Freedom Unlimited or do you want it? Let me know in the comments down below!

Also want to learn everything possible about Travel Hacking? Check out our Ultimate Guide on Travel Hacking post now!

Credit Cards & Vegas & SD

Travel Hacking 101 – The Ultimate Guide to Becoming A Travel Hacker

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

In this ultimate guide of travel hacking, you’ll learn how to travel for significantly less and be able to vacation and indulge yourself more than you can ever imagine.

I’ll teach you what travel hacking is, which kind is best for you, and the ins and outs of travel, airline, and hotel credit cards. You don’t want to miss the top notch hotels I’ll show you how to get in this guide with certain credit cards.

What is Travel Hacking?

Travel Hacking

Travel hacking is the act of collecting points from banks, hotels, and airlines to travel for free or for huge discounts.

We all know what loyalty programs are. A good one is every tenth cup of coffee you get a free cup.

This makes most people think that travel loyalty programs are the same. Spend 1000s of dollars and maybe you’ll get a free checked bag.

I'm going to teach you that you don’t need to spend money outside of your daily spending to earn these points and miles for free. The way to do this is to take advantage of what is being offered to get these flights, hotels, and even cash for free.

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek

Is Travel Hacking for You?

Now, travel hacking isn’t for everyone. There are some people that I wouldn’t recommend to get into this hobby.

Probably the most important requirement to get started travel hacking is that you must be 100% fiscally responsible. I’ll get into credit cards and everything a little bit later but we all know credit cards have insanely high interest rates.

The only way this will work is if you’re able to pay 100% of your balance each month.

Is travel hacking for you

Because if you use a credit card to get 15% of your spend back in free travel but you’re paying 24% in interest that doesn’t really make sense, right?

Most people that do this hobby/lifestyle are either very number-driven and can remember when cards are due and what they’re charging where. Or they have a system to keep track and stay on top of things.

Stephen Liao racks up millions of points and says that being number-driven can help you out a lot in this game but it isn't necessary. 

Stephen Liao

Usually the second group keeps auto-payments on all their cards and a spreadsheet just to keep track once you get a good collection of cards.

If you’re applying for mortgages or other loans, travel hacking shouldn’t be done at least six months from when you think you’ll start applying. We’ll get into this a little bit later about how doing all this affects your credit score (believe it or not, it makes it higher!).

But for now, you don’t want the flow of signing up for new cards on your report when it’s time to get that huge mortgage.

Speaking of which, if you have zero credit or below a fair level of a score (650 or below), you probably won’t be able to get far.

90% of the recommendations I’ll give you around credit won’t work unless you have a 700+ score.

If you are in the category of 650 or lower credit score and even if you’re in the area of 650-699, you should focus on simple tactics to build your credit.

Learning to increase your credit score is essential and everyone needs to learn it.

This won't work if you don't want to do any work.

Travel hacking isn’t entirely just go crazy with no strategy and don’t put any kind of thought into it. It’s actually entirely strategy and thinking.

Which sign up bonus is best?

Is this bonus better than the past history of bonuses for this card?

Should I use card A or B for this redemption?

Do I pay with this card or that card?

How will my next vacation be free?

These are all questions I ask myself when I’m thinking about being a travel hacker and if you don’t have the patience, stamina, or brainpower to do this, this probably isn’t for you.

thinking hard gif

What we won’t cover here

Now this is a guide to getting started. So there are things involved with travel hacking that won’t be brought up here that some hardcore guys think should be in this post.

I just want to clear the air here and explain some things I won’t be talking about if you’re looking for those answers here.

These are all things I’ll talk about in future posts but for now it doesn’t make sense to go in my guide for getting started.

I’m not going to talk about manufactured spending. There are some good ways of doing this and lots of ways that could end up getting all of your accounts closed.

Basically, this is creating fake charges and putting the money back into your checking accounts without spending any real money.

It’s a dirty game and banks and credit card companies are getting more aware of it and they will take all of your points and shut down all of your cards - they have the right to do it too!

Status with companies is a huge ball game and one of my favorites when it comes to travel hacking. I got upgraded to a better suite because of my hotel status in Vegas and I reserved a basic rental car and got to drive a convertible in San Diego because of things like status.

Mustang Rental Upgraded

But I’m not going to talk about it too much here just because getting status with these companies can be it’s own ultimate guide.

Not really going to get into churning here just because it's more advanced. Churning is basically signing up for a card, getting the bonus, cancelling the card, then signing up again as soon as you're eligible.

Banks are getting savvy to this as well and you can end up with your accounts being shut down if you aren’t careful.

Using The Game to Our Advantage

Now we are already so far into this guide and I bet you’re thinking this all sounds great but what exactly is travel hacking about? What is the process to get started? Well here we go…

Becoming a travel hacker means that you are using the rules of credit cards, airlines, hotels, banks, and other travel topics to win at their own game.

Think about a credit card for a second. There are a couple different levels of credit cards but let’s break them down.

You have Credit Card A.

This card gives you no points, you get no cash back, it’s basically just a piece of plastic in your wallet and it’s building your credit. These cards have no offer when you sign up with them but they have the easiest approval odds and basically anyone can get them.

Credit Card A

Most likely someone you looked up to told you to get a simple credit card and that’s the one you have. Nothing wrong with that but you’re going to learn why that card is worthless (besides the age of it) to you.

Then there’s Credit Card B. It is a good card. Every time you use it, you get 1-2% back in cash or points. Usually no or very low annual fees on this card and they usually are where most travel hackers start when they want to get into the early game.

They usually have pretty easy sign up bonuses like get “$50 back after your first purchase” or “spend $500 and get $150 back in points.”

Credit Card A & B

This sounds pretty good right?

Now let’s look at Credit Card C. These are the big ones. You get 5x points when buying airplane tickets or 3x points on every dining option you can think of.

They give you access to airport lounges, you get credits back when you purchase within certain categories like travel, you get free nights and status with hotels, you get priority boarding and free checked bags with airlines and lots more that we will get into below.

Now what’s the bad side about Credit Card C? They are expensive to get (annual fees) and they aren’t available to anyone (must have good credit).

Most of these annual fees range from $95 a year to $550 a year!

Now 90% of people are going to tell you that any card with an annual fee isn’t worth it. Why spend that much money on a piece of plastic that stays in your wallet?

Because of the huge expected value you’ll get that outweighs the annual fee.

Most of the luxurious cards could involve you paying $400+ for the annual fee but you’ll get thousands of dollars back in value when you factor in the sign up bonuses and the benefits from the specific cards.

Now I feel you asking, “Joseph, I want to know these cards already and find out which one is right for me!” I’m going to get to that but first I got to explain why credit card companies do this.

You see, these sign up bonuses aren’t cheap. I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and got 50,000 points after hitting the minimum spend requirement of $4000 in three months.

Now with Chase Ultimate Rewards points I could cash that 50k out for $.01 per point meaning I get $500 back just for hitting a bonus. That comes out of Chase’s pocket.

I actually made that bonus worth more than $800 because of certain tactics that I go into detail in this resource and you can find out about that in the link below.

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek

Anyways, on the bank's side, $500 to get a credit card customer is pretty expensive. These banks are averaging 25,000 people getting new cards every day. 

Why do credit card companies do this?

The most obvious reason is because they want to make the money off the interest on your card. Remember in the earlier section where I said travel hackers must pay off their card every month. This is why.

I’m getting $500 back off $4000 spent. I’m getting 12.5% back on the low side of redeemable points which you’ll see what I mean later. But if I’m getting 12.5% back and I’m paying 20% in interest what happens?

I’m paying 8% more interest than if I just paid cash. So it makes no sense if you’re trying to hack the system.

Pay your Interest Rates

But banks know that a lot of people do this. We all know at least one person who has a maxed out credit card gaining interest each month and they’re only paying the minimum amount.

I sure hope this isn’t you. But this is how the banks make more money than they are paying on the sign up bonuses. That’s their first revenue stream on making their money back.

The second stream is from processing fees. Every time you swipe any card, debit or credit, the place of business that you are purchasing something from, has to pay fees to everyone in the middle handling the money situation.

If you have a Hilton credit card from American Express that’s hooked up to your Apple Pay and you scan it on a machine at a food truck, Hilton gets a cut, Amex gets a cut, Apple Pay gets a cut, and the company that owns and operates the credit card machine gets a cut.

You’ll find a lot cards will do things like give you a free hotel night or some other benefits once you hit a certain threshold of spending with that card because you’re making them money every time you use it.

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek

Even if you’re paying off your card 100% with no interest before the statement date, the bank is still making money off you so they can’t be too upset.

You also can’t be too upset because by putting certain daily expenses on different cards, you’ll see in just a second how beneficial it can really be.

Introduction to Bank Credit Cards

Top Credit Cards for Travel Hacking

Now we’re going to get into the good stuff. I’m going to walk through how Bank Credit Cards like Chase, Amex, Citi and others work and what some of these credit cards can get you when you get their sign up bonus.

I’m going to mix in a couple easier cards and also some advanced cards but we’re not going to go over secured cards or cards that don’t offer anything of value.

Keep in mind that almost all of these cards generally need a recommended credit score of 700+ and above. This doesn’t mean that you will get denied if you have a score below that and it also doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get approved if you’re above it.

Don’t come back to me yelling because that’s my warning to you. Every company and application is different.

One of the earliest things you’ll learn on your journey to becoming a travel hacker is the Chase 5/24 rule. The Chase 5/24 rule states that you can’t get a good amount of Chase credit cards if you have gotten 5 or more credit cards within the last 24 months.

This means if you have gotten two Chase cards, two Amex cards, and two Citi cards in the last two years, you’ll automatically be denied for about half of Chase’s cards. If a card is being issued by Chase, you need to research and see if it is affected by this rule or not.

Because of this rule though, most people’s strategies involve getting Chase cards first. Think about it. If we sign up for five cards with other banks, you can’t get any Chase cards for two years.

But if you sign up with the Chase cards and get them first then you’re free to get whatever after that and not worry about this rule. This is just one of the ways that strategy plays a big part in this game.

Now let’s get into some different bank cards and what they all mean.

Because of the 5/24 rule, I’ll start with some Chase cards first. That is usually what I recommend to people when I do one-on-one coaching with them on travel hacking.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited

The first card I try to start people with is the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. This card is a no annual fee card and the sign up bonus gives you 15,000 Chase UR points after spending $500 in your first three months.

The card is a pretty great everyday card because it gives you 1.5x points back on all your purchases. So if you spend $100 on a car repair, you get 150 points into your account. You’ll see later about different category spend and how to utilize it.

Now with each one of these cards I’ll explain some things you can get for obtaining the sign up bonus. I’ll either show you a cool redemption with it or the cash value of it depending on the card.

Because the Chase Freedom Unlimited is technically a cash back card, you can really only redeem those 15,000 points for cash back at $.01 a point. This means your 15k bonus gives you $150 back. That doesn’t sound bad at all but we’re travel hackers now and travel hackers always want more.

I’m going to show you how to turn this into more right now.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Let’s get into one of Chase’s premium cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred. This card is powerful because not only can you redeem for cash back but you can transfer it to the hotel and airline partners that Chase has.

Chase Transfer Partners
Chase Transfer Partners

So with this card I can transfer any of my Chase UR points to United, Southwest or any other airline partner and redeem it for flights. I can also transfer it to Hyatt, Marriott or other hotel partners and get free hotels with it.

I’m not going to get into the exact actions to make this happen because I can do that at another time.

Now the Sapphire Preferred is definitely on a different level than the Freedom card. It comes with a 50,000 point sign up bonus after $4000 spent in three months. Now this could be very difficult for some of you.

After the credit card section of this post, I’ll talk about some ways to help yourself reach these high requirements in a way that is simple, efficient and without buying things you would never use.

Now because this is a premium credit card, it comes with an annual fee but it’s not bad at all. It’s a $95 annual fee and it’s actually waived within the first year. This means that you can test out the card and get the sign up bonus before even paying $95 for it.

You get 2x points on everything you buy within the travel and dining categories. Travel classifies as airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, passenger trains, buses, taxis (including Uber and Lyft), limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways and parking lots and garages.

Any company that serves food or drinks should count as a dining purchase including bars, coffee shops, and food delivery services. As long as the business registered as a resturarant when applying to accept credit cards, the purchase should qualify for 2x.

Now let’s talk about that 50,000 sign up bonus. Just like with the Freedom Unlimited, you can cash it out for cash making that 50k equal to $500. If you have $4000 in bills, who would turn down paying your bills and getting $500 back?

Now another option that you have with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and their more luxurious card the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the option to use their travel portal and pay for anything travel related with points.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal

If you want to stay at a hotel that you can’t transfer to, this is how you would do it.

Basically the travel portal takes the cost of the hotel, or flight, or rental, or even ticket to certain things and it’s proportionately calculated into points value. If you are using the CSP it turns into 1.25x cents per point and 1.5x cents per point for the CSR.

Now I know that made no sense to you so I’ll give you an example.

Let’s say we have a hotel room that costs $250. With the CSP, you can use 20,000 points to pay with Chase points instead of cash.

If you remember, if we wanted to cash out 20,000 points we would get $200. So we’re actually turning $200 into $250.

If you want to go on a flight that’s $625 to Europe, that would cost you 50,000 points. So you’re turning $500 of the cash in value to a $625 flight.

Now the last way you can use points is the best and that’s transferring out. This is different though and can get kind of difficult for some people.

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek

Transferring points to airlines and hotels can become very confusing and you have to make sure the math is good for you. But a good rule of thumb for transfer partners is to try to get at least $.02 per point here.

So let’s say you are finding a flight to Hawaii. You find one that is $700 and it costs 35,000 miles. 700 divided by 35,000 equals .02. This means that the value you would be getting for 35,000 points is 2 cents for this $700 flight.

If you find this flight to Europe for $350 and it is also 35,000 points. 35,000 divided by $350 equals .01 or 1 cent per point. This is where redeeming here wouldn’t make sense.

You would get more value finding the flight on Chase’s travel portal because this same flight would be worth 28,000 points, saving you 7,000 points.

Transferring points is where you get some tremendous value and I’ll go through some of the best redemptions that you could get from the Chase Sapphire Preferred sign up bonus.

Here’s some crazy things you can get with 50,000 Chase UR points.

Two Nights at Maldives Hadahaa Resort

Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa

This wouldn't be your average vacation. These Villas are some of the best in the world and the weekend that I randomly inputted came out to only $2,125 A NIGHT for these villas.

Now 99.999% of people can't afford that. But what you can afford now is signing up with a credit card and getting to stay for two nights at 25,000 points a piece. Making your weekend getaway cost you 50,000 Hyatt points. 

Because the room cost is $2,125 and the point cost is 25,000, we can figure out the cost per point value we are getting here is 8.5 cents a point. We get that by dividing the cost which is $2,125 divided by the points which is 25,000.

2,125/25,000 = .085 * 100 = 8.5 cents. 

A great redemption value is two cents and you're getting more than 4x that! Just make sure that you send Chase a travel notice to let them know you're going out of the country. 

Extra tip: you and your significant other get this card and you have a 4 Day Getaway.

Introduction to Airline Cards

Now we all know bank credit cards aren’t the only kind of credit card you can have. Airline credit cards are pretty much the second most popular after bank cards and rightfully so.

Now I’m going to give you my opinion here and a good amount of the community agrees with me but 95% of the time bank credit cards are going to be the card you’re using.

Airline cards and hotel cards, which we’ll get into later, give points that are only useful for one thing. That’s using the points with their own company.

Now this is bad for two reasons. The first one is because let’s say you have 100k Delta points and you want to go to Europe. You can only go a specific week and Delta doesn’t have anything available that week because their flights are full.

You’re basically out of luck here. Unless you want to pay with cash, you can’t go on this trip. Now if you had 100k Amex points or Chase points, it would take a lot more for 10 or 15 different transfer airlines to be full to get you over to Europe.

The second reason that bank points are a lot nicer than airlines is because banks can’t devalue their points too much.

Let’s say you have family in Canada and you always fly United Airlines home. It costs 20,000 points to get there and 20,000 to get back. Nothing is stopping United from changing the point cost for this flight to go from 20,000 points to 30,000 points.

So your flight home could go from 40k points to 60k points overnight!

not good gif

This happens a lot and it’s just part of the game. That’s why I’m recommending for you to focus on everyday spending on bank credit cards.

Now I wouldn’t have a section talking about Airline Credit Cards unless there was a reason for them in this game and of course there is.

Airline cards sign up bonuses are some of the best in the game. Almost all of them give you enough to get a round-trip flight and some give you a chance to take a business class international flight as well.

Let’s go into some of these cards…

United Explorer Card

United Explorer Card

The United Explorer Card is offered by Chase and you need to be below the 5/24 rule to be accepted. If you’ve gotten more than five new cards in the last 24 months, you’ll be automatically denied for this card.

It has a $95 annual fee but it’s waived in the first year. It comes with a 50,000 point sign up bonus and you need to spend $3000 within the first three months.

I’m not even going to mention the points you get on spending because like I said, once you hit the sign up bonus you probably shouldn’t use this card unless you only will fly United.

But now you’re thinking, “If I’ll never use the card, why would I keep it?” This is a good question and depends on your use of it.

It comes with extra perks that can justify you keeping the card.

The first perk is that you get free checked bags for you and one other person when flying with United. It costs $25 per bag to check so if you take one round-trip flight with someone that would be $50 on the way there and $50 on the way back.

This already makes you positive (only a little) over the annual fee.

You get a $100 credit for Global Entry which is a great perk and one I’m taking advantage of soon.

You get priority boarding and a 25% discount on in flight purchases. That $10 vodka and Sprite just went down to $7.50!

You can use this 50k sign up bonus to fly anywhere in the United States on four flights. 12,500 miles gets you anywhere in the continental United States. This could be two round-trip tickets for free or four one-way tickets.

Most airline cards work the same way and I think you get the gist of it.

Introduction to Hotel Credit Cards

Now we’ve gone through bank cards and airline cards. Now we’ll move on to the last and probably my new favorite category of credit cards which is hotels.

It’s very hard to find a hotel credit card that isn’t worth keeping because 75% of them offer a free night every year that you keep the card.

This means you pay an annual fee of $79-$95 and you get to use it at certain categories of hotels but these hotels usually cost $300-$500 a night. Plus a lot of them give you some sort of status with the hotels meaning you might get some upgrades, free breakfast, gifts and more.

Just like with airline credit cards, spending on hotel cards usually aren’t recommended unless you’re staying at the hotel. But the main difference is if you’re getting those free rooms, most likely you’re getting positive value from keeping the card before you even factor in the sign up bonus.

Speaking of bonuses, hotel cards have some of the highest you’ll find in the credit card game.

Let’s go through a couple and see what you can get…

Hyatt Credit Card

The Hyatt Credit Card has a two tier sign up bonus. You get 40,000 points after spending $3000 in three months and you also get 20,000 more points if you spend $3000 more in the first six months.

Basically spend $6000 in six months and you’ll get 60,000 Hyatt points.

Want to spend some time in Paris? You can stay at the Hyatt Paris Madeleine and check out the Eiffel Tower for two nights at 25,000 points a piece and still have points left over.

Or maybe you want to see the ball drop in Times Square.

Stay at the Hyatt Times Square New York for 25,000 points a night but make sure to have give plenty of time before booking. These rooms go fast! This view would be crazy!

Hyatt Times Square Ball Drop

After the first year and you pay your annual fee renewal, your loyalty account receives a free night credit that can be used at any category 1-4 hotel in the world.

This free night can easily be worth $300. The annual fee is $95.

You can get this card along with your significant other or travel buddy and pay $95 each year and take a fancy weekend trip that can easily be worth $600 - $1000 a weekend. All by paying just $190 a year in annual fees.

Ways to hit sign up bonuses

Now part of the travel hacking game is getting all these cards to hit sign up bonuses. You’re probably thinking that you only put $200-500 on credit cards a month right now. You’ll never be able to hit these $4000+ sign up bonuses.

That’s not true. I am going to show you a couple easy ways that you can hit these and do it in a way that you won’t get in trouble with the credit card companies.

Now my first tip is to always have a strategy before getting the card. If you don’t have a lot of spending coming up and you want a card with a $5000 minimum spend, you should probably just play it safe and get one with a smaller minimum requirement.

I’ll never go to get a card with one of these huge sign up bonuses unless I can plan out exactly how to get to those $4000 and $5000+ numbers.

Next is if you don’t have too many expenses in your life you should probably only go for one sign up bonus at a time.

You might be thinking who signs up for multiple cards in the same month and you’ll be surprised.

Once you take action on this stuff, you’ll be gaining confidence after you start hitting these bonuses and you’ll maybe think you can do more than one at a time. I wouldn’t start it in the beginning phase just because you don’t want to miss out on the bonus from a silly mistake.

The first actionable tip I would suggest is to make the card you’re aiming to hit the bonus your primary card. You can use a different card if it has a specific purpose and you need the extra insurances on it or another benefit but mostly use your new card until you get the bonus.

The second tip is to pay your rent with the card. Most people don’t know you can do this but if you have a high rent cost and you don’t have much else that you pay for to hit minimum spend you can use a company like Plastiq.

Basically you pay Plastiq and these guys send a check over to your landlord or whoever receives your rent. Fair warning that there are fees with this and I wouldn’t say to use this for whenever you’re not going for minimum spend. You can also do this with mortgages, car payments, and many other things.

But when you need a big number to hit that bonus that will get you $1000+ in value, you wouldn’t mind paying an extra $30 or so for it.

The third tip also involves necessities. You can always pay for future bills now. You can do this with utilities, rent, and I actually do this with car insurance.

I save up and every six months, I pay $1200 or so for the next six months instead of paying $200 each month. $200 barely makes a dent in most sign up bonuses but $1200 sure can make a difference. I just plan out a specific card to get around that time and go to town.

Here's a bonus: Some people reading this will now say, “Hey I don’t pay rent or have any expensive bills like this.” Well maybe you still live at home or you are in a lucky situation where you’re living somewhere for free.

Talk to someone you trust about maybe charging their bills to your credit card and then them just reimbursing you. I did this when I was younger with my parents. They paid their car insurance and phone bills with a transfer from their checkings every month.

With all of their kids, these two bills added up to over $1500 a month so I would charge it on my cards and they would just either give me the cash or transfer me the money and I would pay it off.

It was an easy way to hit those high minimum spends without me worrying about buying something ridiculous I don’t need.

This last tip is something I only really recommend if you have around two weeks left and still need to hit around $500 or so. This is to go to your grocery store or any store that you would think and buy gift cards to places that you shop all the time.

I say grocery stores because this is probably the easiest. If you shop at Trader Joe’s every week and spend $200 a month there, you know you’re going to be doing that for the next three months.

Gift Cards

Why not buy gift cards now to ensure you’re going to hit the minimum spend and then just use up those gift cards how you normally would spend?

Amazon would be another perfect place to do this if you shop on there frequently. You can go and buy $500 of gift cards and just use that until the balance is gone.

I don’t advise you to do this all the time just because I don’t like getting bogged down with having all these gift cards to different places, especially because you probably would buy more than you need if you have a huge amount of gift cards. 

But it is the perfect way if you have that little bit left to ensure you'll hit the bonus.

So here are a couple different ways to hit minimum spend that is easy. The main thing about hitting these bonuses is to not spend more than you usually do.

Most people saw the first part of this ultimate guide and probably think, “oh I have to spend $4000 in three months. Let’s go buy a new computer or a drone." Or "let's go spend some money at the club and act like a huge alpha male.”

Obviously if you were going to spend that money anyway that’s great and you’ll get a free trip out of it.

But travel hacking is all about optimizing your spending that you do everyday. 

Not spending beyond your means just to get a “free” flight because that doesn’t really make the flight free.

F.A.Q.

I know by now you probably have a lot of questions if you made it all the way through this article and I wanted to take this time now before sending you to start taking action to answer some of the most common ones I get.

1. Won’t this hurt my credit score?

Credit Karma Snippet

95% of the people don’t know how credit scores really work and that’s why they believe this will hurt your score. Honestly, the best travel hackers I know are in the 800s with their score. Opening a new account will have a small temporary hit of a couple points but it moves back up.

As long as you build a base out of cards that you’ll keep for life, you can apply, open, upgrade, downgrade, and close cards without really worrying about your score taking a hit.

2.What are the best airline and hotel programs to start looking into?

This question has a different answer for each person and the only answer I can give here is it depends on your vacation plans and situation.

For hotels, I almost always recommend to just look into the next plan you have and what hotels they have around there. If you’re planning to go to France and you find a really nice hotel there that you want to stay at, think about ways to get points to use for that trip.

Another consideration is to find out if you have status with any hotels from having certain credit cards. If you have a hotel credit card, you probably can get some kind of status and even some premium bank cards come with status as well.

For airlines, this one almost always is based on where you live. Major airlines have different hubs around the United States and this plays a big factor in who you’re going to be using.

Check out the major hubs list here.

If your main airport is the Atlanta airport, then that is a hub for Delta. This means that most of the flights going in and out of that airport are run by Delta. They’ll have the most routes and you’ll end up using them the most.

It doesn’t make sense to focus on getting a lot of Southwest miles besides from sign up bonuses in this case because  Delta will almost always have better routes and coverage.

3. How do I get my credit score up so I can start travel hacking?

I’ve done a whole post on this so you can read how to grow your credit score here but I’ll give you a short synopsis here.

Get Credit Karma and see where you stand with all six major factors. Focus on getting your credit utilization down to below 10%. Then focus on building a base of cards that you’ll have for life so they grow your average age of accounts. 

The longer you keep your utilization below 10% while growing your average age of accounts, your score will keep jumping up month after month. 

One easy way is next time you're sitting down and watching Netflix or a Ted Talk, just open up your computer or phone and get on Credit Karma to check. That's what I do once every two weeks or so. 

4. What is the best travel credit card for me to get?

Just like question 2, this is entirely different for every person. Like I said earlier if you don’t have some of the main Chase cards, you should probably look into those because of the 5/24 rule.

I actually offer some free card consultations from time to time and you can sign up for one of those here. I have to ask you some questions about what cards you have and where you’re planning to go but you’ll get an answer pretty quickly.

It’s a perfect way find out what card to apply for.

Tools And Resources I Use

Before you start going into action, I want to give you some tools and resources that can help your travel hacking get started and take it to the next level. 

Credit Karma - You need to use a service to check your credit score, keep track of the cards you have opened and when you opened them, along with track your utilization and average age of accounts. Credit Karma can do all of this for you easily.

AwardWallet - You'll be getting lots of points and miles and it's going to be hard to keep track of all of them. Some of these points expire and it will be really bad if you have 50,000 Marriott points and they expire on you and you can't use them. AwardWallet helps you keep track of all points programs out there and they also keep track of things like when they expire and when your balances change. 

Seat Guru - Want to make sure you're seat is inline with a window? Maybe you want that extra leg room? Or what if you're on a long international flight and you don't have a plug on your seat? Check Seat Guru and just input your flight information and it will tell you which seats are the best and which seats you want to avoid. 

Google Flights - This is Google's flight booking service which access all airline websites and shows you the prices of flights from each airline. You can search within days, weeks, or months if you're flexible to really find the lowest cost flight. 

Kayak - Sometimes Google Flights doesn't always show the lowest price though. You should always do a couple different techniques when researching a trip. I usually check Google Flights, then check Kayak, then go into my Chase Travel Portal and find the price there. I enjoy Kayak more but you can use Priceline, Expedia, or all the other options. 

The Points Guy - Probably the biggest travel hacking blogger out there. He's got millions of miles and points and is never going to stop travel hacking. I read his posts all the time and actually use his posts to know what to value certain miles and points at to see if I'm getting a good deal. If he says something is 1.5 cents a point and my specific redemption is 1.7 cents a point, I know I'm getting a better than average deal. Check TPG current valuations here. 

The Points Guy

Doctor of Credit - DoC is more of a news site about credit cards and even offers things like checkings account bonuses you can get and other options for you to make or save some money. His site is kind of bland so don't expect to be entertained for hours but if you want more information about different cards, DoC is a good place to look. 

Let's Get Started

So you've made it all the way through this post and thinking one of two things...

The first one is "I'm pumped! Let's do this!"

The other thought could be "Isn't this a lot of work for a vacation?" I agree with this in some aspect. 

The average cost per vacation is $1145 and that's only for four days. If I get that same vacation for $300 doing this, I can go on three vacations for the price of one. 

All by learning how to optimize my spending. Sure the tracking, spending, and applying for cards can be tedious. 

But when you book a flight or hotel using points and brings you around the world for basically pennies, this small effort is more than worth it. 

What do you think about travel hacking? Do you have any other tips or strategies? Comment them below!

Travel Hacking Joseph Sleek