If your next holiday feels a little out of reach, maybe it’s time to get your money – and your shopping habits – working for you. Imagine exploring the world, nabbing yourself an upgrade and VIP hotel stays, all without spending an extra cent. How? Enter ‘travel hacking’. Travel hacking, or points hacking as it’s sometimes referred to, is a clever way to get you travelling further without spending more. Here are some handy hints to help you get on your way to your next vacay.
1. Enrol in loyalty programs
The first rule of travel hacking is: do not talk about travel hacking. Jokes, tell all your friends because everyone deserves to travel more. The first rule is you need to sign up for relevant loyalty programs. Not signing up is kind of like hoping to win the lottery but never actually buying a ticket. While there are many great loyalty programs available, there are some standouts, like Expedia’s OneKeyCash program. Not only can you earn and use rewards on eligible hotels, flights and car rentals, but you can also save 10 per cent or more on thousands of hotels with their exclusive Member Prices and save up to 30 per cent when adding a hotel to a flight booking.
While some loyalty programs have a sign-up fee, most are well worth the investment in the long run. Thankfully, there are some clever ways to skip some fees altogether. For example, if you’re looking to join Qantas Frequent Flyer, it is normally $99.50 to join, but you can bypass the membership fee by signing up for Woolworths Everyday Rewards (which is free to join and automatically gives you a Frequent Flyer membership).
2 Embrace loyalty
The second rule of travel hacking is you want to embrace loyalty. Consider which airline you prefer to fly with, your favourite hotel chain and where you usually do your groceries. All of these things matter when it comes to accumulating points faster and moving up those status tiers (which can allow for upgrades and VIP experiences). The goal is to funnel your spending toward one or two of those loyalty programs to ensure those points add up faster. Also, be aware of brand partnerships. For example, if you often shop at Woolworths, you can swipe your Everyday Rewards card when you pay, earning Qantas Frequent Flyer points. However, if you prefer to shop at Coles, you might want to consider Virgin’s Velocity Frequent Flyer program because you can earn Flybuys points when you shop at Coles (which are convertible into Velocity Points).
3. Travel loyalty points on the ground
Travel hacking isn’t just about scoring big when you’re on the move; it’s about stacking up your points in your everyday life. Most retail outlets partner with airlines, turning your everyday shopping into an unexpected points bonanza. We already mentioned the Woolworths and Qantas alignment through Everyday Rewards, as well as Coles and Virgin Airlines alignment through Flybuys, and below are some other outlets that will help you accumulate points:
Flybuys: Coles, Target, Bunnings, Kmart, Officeworks, First Choice Liquor and Liquorland.
Everyday Rewards: Woolworths, Everyday Market from Woolworths, BWS, BIG W, participating Ampol and EG Ampol.
4. Get your credit card work for you
While I’m no financial adviser, and it’s always good to chat with a professional before making big financial choices, it’s worth noting that you can get your credit card working for you and your travel hacking. Just ensure you’re spending wisely and not committing to costs you can’t afford.
With that considered, I will say it can be useful to opt for a card that is affiliated with your preferred airline’s frequent flyer program. You can also take advantage of certain sign-up bonuses that include thousands of frequent flyer points when you apply. Then, use your credit card for your daily expenses (like groceries) and watch the points roll in. Be sure to avoid any hefty interest charges by promptly transferring the money back onto your card after your shop. It’s like double-dipping for points – you earn frequent flyer points from both your credit card and your loyalty card without setting foot on a plane. That’s a win-win, as long as you pay your balance every month!
5. Take advantage of credit card travel insurance
One more ace up your sleeve – most credit cards come with travel insurance when you book your travels using the card. It’s a great way to save on travel insurance costs (but check the fine print to ensure you’re covered for your specific needs). Typical coverage includes travel cancellation, lost baggage, and overseas medical expenses, but all policies will vary.
A step-by-step guide to points hacking
Let’s say you’re a die-hard Virgin Airlines fan. Sign up for free to Velocity Frequent Flyer and Flybuys. Then, get yourself an AMEX credit card linked to Velocity points. When shopping at places like Coles, use your AMEX card for payment and swipe your Flybuys card. You’ll accumulate Velocity points on your Flybuys card and on your AMEX. Then, when you’re ready to book your travel, turn to Expedia. Log into your account, book your Virgin flights through Expedia (be sure to add in your Velocity number), book your hotels and other travel via Expedia and pay using your AMEX card. That way, you rack up Velocity points from multiple sources, gain free travel insurance and then earn Expedia dollars that will accumulate for your next trip.
Happy travel points hacking!