If you are here, you are well on your way to being a pro Travel Hacker! As we mentioned, we’ve been travel hacking since 2011 and we’ve earned over 2.1 million frequent flyer miles, which we have used for 102 free flights. Though when we began, the process seemed completely overwhelming. Combining our favorite and most effective resources, we’ve created this cheat-sheet to guide you to the best rewards programs, websites to monitor your credit, tools to stay organized, mileage blogs to keep you informed, and much more…to lay your path to success.
Top Airline Reward Programs
- Southwest Rapid Rewards: Our hands down favorite US domestic airline. The cheapest award flights of any carrier, two free checked bags, and NO-FEE cancellations up until 10-minutes before departure make Southwest #1!
- United MileagePlus Program: United is our favorite international carrier, as their reward fares for regional flights are very reasonable, and they have a plethora of partners within Star Alliance.
- American Advantage: As one of the largest and most popular frequent flier programs in the world, and as part of the Oneworld alliance, American partners with several different airlines to transport passengers to over 1,000 destinations all over the planet.
- Delta Sky Miles: Points are not worth as much as the others, as rewards are “expensive”. Only consider earning Delta miles if you live in a city with a lot of Delta flights in/out, such as Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Memphis, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City.
- British Airways Executive Club (Avios): These points are very good for short haul flights, as their rewards tiers are based on miles flown, and often cheaper than the other carriers. Be very careful when booking reward flights (or collecting BA/Avios miles), because BA charges exorbitant fuel surcharges.
Top Hotel Reward Programs
- Hilton HHonors: The Hilton umbrella encompasses these 12 brands.
- Starwood Preferred Guest: The Starwood umbrella encompasses these 11 brands.
- Marriot Rewards: The Marriot umbrella encompasses these 19 brands.
- IHG Rewards Club: The IHG umbrella encompasses these 12 brands.
- Club Carlson: The Club Carlson umbrella encompasses these 8 brands.
- Best Western: The Best Western umbrella encompasses these 12 brands.
Credit Scores & Reports
- Annual Credit Report: If this is your first time checking your full credit reports, request them from ALL three bureaus (you can get one copy of each per year). In following years, set a reminder each quarter to request the report from one bureau. This way you will be able to review your full credit report every four months throughout the year.
- MyFico: Some great tips to improve your credit score
- Credit Sesame: Get your free credit score each month and monitor your credit report at no cost. They’ll also send you daily monitoring alerts about changes to your credit report.
- Credit Karma: A truly free credit score. Credit Karma is free, forever. They will never ask you for your credit card or payment information.
- Bill Guard: We can not sing their praises loudly enough. Bill Guard has helped us catch fraudulent charges, interest charges, bank fees, recurring sneaky charges, and so much more. You will wonder how you ever lived without it.
- Mint: Manage your cash flow, budgets and bills from one place.
Manufactured Spends & Other Spend Tools
- The Points Traveler: Beginners Guide to Manufactured Spend with Gift Cards
- Kiva: Hit your minimum spend while doing good. Tip #1: Pick loans with a short repay period. Tip #2: Pick loans that don’t have any currency risk. Tip #3: Once the loan is repaid you can either loan it out again (we have been loaning the same $200 for 7 years now, and we are on our 25th loan across 18 different countries, how’s that for a return?), or withdraw the money into your bank account.
- PayPal: If you don’t already use PayPal, set up an account. There will be multiple occasions for you to use it. Especially if you start paying bills for your family members, this is a great way to get repaid quickly and reliably.
- Plastiq: Use Plastiq to pay for any bills that don’t accept credit cards. They take between 1.5% and 2.5%, so you will probably only want to use Plastiq to hit large minimum spends.
- Google Sheets: Just like Microsoft Excel; however it’s accessible from anywhere, including if your computer crashes. Also you can share the file with your spouse, partner, friend, etc.
- Award Wallet Pro: Great for seeing all your miles in one place, and also getting alerted when they are about to expire, or when the mileage rewards levels are about to change for a certain airline.
- Fidelity 50k United Airline Miles Offer
- Fidelity 50k American Airline Mile Offer
- Fidelity 50k Delta Airline Miles Offer