A Step-by-Step Travel Hacking Guide for Earning Credit Card Miles

Last week in my post "How to Fly to Europe for $100 or Less: A Travel Hacking Guide" I covered the basics of how to get almost-free international travel, using a real life example from my own life, i.e. How I'm Planning to Get to Spain for Cheap. Read that post first if you haven't already and then come back here.

Today I'll walk you through a step-by-step guide on how to go from zero miles to at least 60,000+ miles—enough for Round-trip Travel to Europe in 6 months maximum! All while paying zero fees and not spending anymore than you normally would. Sound too good to be true? Well keep reading.

1. Plan six months out. Apply for one of the cards mentioned above and meet the minimum spend in 90 days. Since the United card has a big 50,000 mile bonus right now I'd start there. Spend the current $2,000 minimum in 90 days. Buy things you’d normally be buying anyway—from gas, to groceries, to whatever—most people can make this pretty easily in things they already buy in 90 days

2. Apply for at Credit Card with a good mileage bonus. Make sure you can make the minimum spending requirements, usually $2,000-$4,000 in the first 90 days. 

3. Create a simple spread sheet to keep track of the cards you have. Make columns for when you applied, if you were approved, any minimum spends, and the number of miles you have in each account. It’s very helpful to have all this info in one spot. Here's a section of mine to give you an idea.

Here's my sample spreadsheet

Here's my sample spreadsheet

As you can see I have a section for OPEN or CLOSED, The mileage bonus, Annual Fee, and Number of Miles, and other relevant info. The exact method isn't import just figure how to track your cards and miles.

4. Pay your credit card bill on-time and in-full and avoid those finance charges and late fees!

5. Apply for your other card once you are close to meeting the minimum spend on the first card. Meet the minimum spend requirements on this card. 

6. Start Looking for Flights! Soon your points bonus will post for your first card—then it's time to start looking for flights! I’ll cover the finer points of this another time. But for now both United and American among others have pretty simple online search engines you can explore on your own.

7. Cancel your card before the annual fees are charged, usually after one year. 

Congratulations, you just earned a free round-trip ticket from North America to Europe! If you did it right you paid no annual fees, no late fees, no interest, and you didn't spend anymore than you otherwise would!

The Bottom Line: This process works! It's predictable and requires nothing from you other than applying for a couple cards and managing them well.

Bon Voyage!


**People often wonder if this hurts your credit. I had great credit when I started this experiment over a year ago and it’s only gone up from there. I never carry a balance and always refuse to pay annual fees.