Most of you all will not believe this, but I flew to Taiwan on a plane ticket that cost $5.60. Yes, you are not misreading my words. My plane ticket cost about $5.60.
My brother asked if I negotiated the ticket down from $6.00 to $5.60. Of course, he was joking. I am not sure if he realized that I was serious.
I told numerous people of how much my ticket cost. I told my minister about the cost of the ticket, and she asked if I needed a good lawyer, assuming that I had broken some sort of law. I mentioned to her that I used something called Travel Hacking. She may have worried even more, reaching for her phone to call the church lawyer, but I told her it was all legal.
Before you assume this is illegal, travel hacking is term used to describe the process of acquiring cheap accommodations and flights through hotels, couch surfing, hostels, Airbnb , Airline mileage clubs, and credit card rewards. These are the tools to help you become successful in the Travel Hacking game.
The Quest to find Cheap Travel:
Last Fall, I wanted to take a global trip. Not just an ordinary trip, but one to explore and adventure the different parts of the world.
I was talking to my friend’s dad about it and he told me, “ Steve, it costs a ton of money to travel. If it were cheap, we would all be doing it.” That statement alone resonated with me.
How would I pay for global adventures? He was right. Round trip flights are expensive, accommodations are expensive, food could be expensive as well. I was determined to prove him wrong. There had to be a way.
So I went to greatest source of knowledge, Google. There I wrote in the search engine, Budget Traveling. A world of knowledge, all of sudden, flowed with page after page of information. Maybe my friend’s dad was wrong, or just misinformed.
The first site that came up was a site called Nomadic Matt. Nomadic Matt is a travel blog created by Matthew Kepnes. He embarked on his own travels, and decided to write about how to travel the world on a budget.
I was very intrigued with all of his information. Could there be a way to travel the world on $50 a day? There could be, he wrote a book called “How to travel the World on $50 a day.” There he breaks down travel hacking.
I bought the book and studied. I even looked up guys like Brian Kelly, the Points Guy. Brian Kelly’s job is to maximize rewards points, travel luxuriously, and write about the ways, us average Joes, can do the same.
The name of the game is Travel Hacking.
Go and sign up for mileage clubs. The big three are American, United, and Delta. I was already signed up for Delta and Southwest, so no need to do that much more work. So I signed up for American and United. Right there, I have memberships in the Star Alliance, One World Alliance, and the Sky Alliance. I am set for traveling and collecting miles from flying.
sign up for hotel awards. Going to be honest, I have signed up for four, Marriot, Hyatt, IHG, and SPG. (I like Airbnb and hostels.)
Sign-up for credit cards with great awards.
Before we go down the rabbit hole, I know what you all are thinking. Credit cards??? Yes, it is truly amazing what banks will give you. My dad always says “make money work for you.”
There are a million different types of credit cards that you can sign-up with. There are the ones for Amazon, REI, and Target, but lets focus on the big ones
The big companies are American Express, Chase, Citi, and Discover. Each of these companies have so many credit cards to choose from.
There is the American Express Gold card, the Citi Premier card or Double Cash Card, The Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and there is the Discover IT card.
There are so many cards to choose from, and so many offers to collect. One day, I will break down the pros and cons of every card.
Side Note: Do not blindly open credit cards if you are not responsible for paying off your balance at the end of the month. Be fiscally responsible when spending money. Too many people go crazy with credit cards, and it can get really ugly. Good thing, I have a father that has instilled fiscally responsibility within my use of the credit card, plus he has taught me “make money work for you.”
How I achieved a $5.60 plane ticket
I signed up for two credit cards. The first credit card I signed up for was the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. This is one of the ultimate travel credit cards to have in your wallet.
It gives you 2x points on, dining, hotels, and anything travel oriented(except gas). It has 0% transaction fees for overseas spending . It offered 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in three months. The 50,000 points is worth about $625. ( Update: It is now at 60,000 points) That is 1.25 cents a point. Plus you can transfer the points to certain airlines and hotel chains. Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t?
The hard part is the minimum spend. If you do not hit it, you do not get 50,000 points. Bummer. If you are frugal, like myself, you will have to figure out how to manufacture spending without really spending like you wouldn’t. Confusing, I know.
The one kicker is that there is a $95 fee on the card. It is waved for the first year(update: It is no longer waived). Just keep that in mind.
My Manufactured Spending
The manufactured spending was the hard part. How do I spend more money while being frugal?
I came up with a couple of different plans. First, I paid everything on the card. The utilites bills, groceries, gas, and eating out. The utilities was shared between my roommate and I, so I was reimbursed for the spending.
I worked for a man on his farm, who told me to buy all the farm supplies on my card. He would then reimburse me.
I flew out for a funeral, and my dad paid me back for buying the ticket.
In the end, I spend $4000 USD in three months to get that 50,000 points. It was hard, but worth it.
The $5.60 Ticket
So I had enough points to buy a one-way ticket to Taiwan. It would cost 35,000 United miles and $5.60 for fuel and surcharges. I was set and ready to go, and then in January, United sent me an offer because I was one of their members. 50,000 miles with their Explorer card by Chase for a minimum spend of $2000.
I started the process all over again. So I had over 100,000 points and miles together. The adventures I could take could be endless, or until the points and miles run out.
That is my story about my ticket. It cost me $5.60 using 35,000 United miles. I was still frugal, increased my credit score, got a good plane ticket, and had two free checked bags. Traveling can be cheap, you just need to know how to use the system to meet your goals.