1. Play your cards right
Stefan Krasowski, who blogs at RapidTravelChai, had these four tips to give us on the art of credit card shuffling.
– “First, get as many cards as the banks will give you. Your credit scores will probably improve, if you manage them correctly.
– “Get a hotel credit card. Many of those credit cards give you elite status with that hotel. Then you can turn around, go to other hotel chains and say, ‘I have the status, will you match me?’
– “Get a credit card, usually a premium card, such as an Amex Platinum, a Citi Prestige, that has worldwide airport lounge access.
– “Scale all this with your family members. If you’re traveling with a spouse or family member, each get hotel cards and then you’ll get double the benefits.
The catch: Mismanage your cards or drop behind on your payments and you’ll be left holding a losing hand.
2. Bid in a live auction
Open auctions for airline seats have been around for a while, but for a real fly by the seat of your pants experience, at Seatboost the bidding for the last remaining first-class seats begins just 90 minutes before takeoff.
It’s teamed up with Virgin America to auction off any free available premium seats on certain routes, but getting an airline to buy into the idea took some convincing.
That’s because airlines don’t want customers to expect that they’ll win in the auction, because then the customers might be reluctant to buy those premium seats beforehand.
The catch: Bid too high and you might win the upgrade but pay over the odds for your seat. Bid too low and you miss out on your upgrade and remain stuck in economy.
3. Frequent Travel University
US-based Frequent Traveler University organizes regular seminars to teach would-be travel hackers the latest tips, tricks and methods that they say will help their students travel cheaper, better and more creatively.
The catch: Banks and airlines get wise to the hackers’ tricks and then promptly shut them down.
4. Manufactured Spending
Blogger Alex Bachuwa has developed a method of earning air miles without actually flying them.
“I just apply for a lot of credit cards and I get a lot of points, and I use those points to go wherever I want to go.
“The banks have promotions on new products all the time. They offer 50,000, 100,000, 150,000 points promotions.
“They have a minimum amount you have to spend and once you spend that amount, the points go on your account and it’s time to start looking for flights.”
But as those minimum spends are far higher than the average person’s daily expenses, Bachuwa racks in the points through “manufactured spending.”
How does it work?
First get a credit card with rewards. Then buy a gift card and use the gift card to purchase a money order. You deposit the money order into your bank account and then use it to pay off the credit card.
5. Hidden City Ticketing
Say you want to fly from New York to Los Angeles, but a ticket from New York to San Diego via Los Angeles is much cheaper. The daring traveler books the San Diego ticket, but only completes the Los Angeles leg of the trip. The practice is called “hidden city ticketing” and while it’s not a new phenomenon, software engineer Aktarer Zaman has created a search engine called Skiplagged specifically to find opportunities for “hidden city” trips. It’s so unpopular with the aviation industry, in 2014 United Airlines sued Zaman — but the case was dropped. Zaman remains unfazed.
The catch: On a practical level, you have to travel hand luggage only, as checked-in baggage will go all the way to the final destination.