When most people think of "travel hacking" they think of lots of spreadsheets, lots of cards, and lots of spending. While that is certainly one way to go about it, there's no reason you need to start there.
Option 1: A Cash Back Card
Chances are you have a cash back card already where you're earning 1-2% cash back on every purchase. Or you have a card that is earning some number of points per dollar. These are both good starts. If you have neither, and you really just want to get the tiniest sense of this, then we suggest getting a 2% cash back card. Do know, however, that we don't usually advocate a cash back card as worth a space in your wallet, so you might lose some opportunities down the road. If you're want to take a real step forward, we definitely suggest going with option 2.
Option 2: The Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred has pretty much been the undisputed king of starter travel credit cards for the past few years. This is for many reasons:
- For the past few years, it has had a generous 50,000 point signup bonus for spending $4000 in 3 months
- Ultimate Rewards points are one of the most valuable points to have because of their transfer partners
- It gets you access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal, where you can purchase flights and hotels with points while getting 1.25 cents per point
- It has a $95 annual fee (small compared to the market) that is waived the first year
- It earns 2x points on travel and dining
- It has a variety of other travel-related perks
The Sapphire Preferred was our first step into travel hacking, and we haven't looked back since.
If you're at all seriously interested in travel hacking, and you won't have any problem paying your balances in full every month, here's how to get started with the Chase Sapphire Preferred:
- Review your spending to figure out how you're going to spend $4000 on a new card in three months
- If necessary, review our post on hitting minimum spend without manufacturing spending
- Head over to Chase and apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Execute your spending strategy over the next 3 months
- Wind up with at least 54,000 in Ultimate Rewards Points (50,000 from the signup bonus and 4,000 from the spending required to get the signup bonus)
Those 54,000 Ultimate Rewards Points could be used toward: $675 in hotel stays or airfare, a roundtrip flight for two to Hawaii, a roundtrip flight in first class to Hawaii, or a host of other redemptions.