Travel Tips

Thu, 28 Mar, 2019Andre Smith

6 tips for low-risk travel hacking

6 tips for low-risk travel hacking

“Travel hacking”  is the practice of seeking to reduce or eliminate travel expenses by systematically making and acting on a plan to accumulate frequent flyer miles and points – usually with specific travel goals in mind. Often, travel hackers accomplish their goals by accumulating airline credit cards that subject them to high spending limits.

For the undisciplined, this can be a high-risk type of behaviour. There are multiple pitfalls to overcome. For starters, it’s tempting to spend beyond your means in pursuit of miles and points. Failure to pay your balance in full can result in interest payments that exceed the value of the benefits the card offers.

Not only that, there is usually a brief time limit imposed for collecting the sign-up bonus offered by the credit card company. Additionally, these cards usually have annual fees; experienced travel hackers typically cancel the cards before the fees come due. But if you aren’t that organised, you might forget to cancel the cards and have to pay the fees.

These aren’t the only pitfalls associated with the usual approach to travel hacking, but they’re a few of the things that can compel people to ask, “Is travel hacking really worth it?”

If that were the only way to engage in travel hacking, the answer for many people might well be “no”. Fortunately, this risky approach is not your only choice. It is totally possible to get started with travel hacking using methods that are far less risky. Let’s discuss 6 tips for low-risk travel hacking:

1. Use E-commerce portals for retail shopping

Some airlines offer frequent flier miles or other rewards through their branded e-commerce portals. One example is the Aadvantage Program offered by American Airlines. If you want to send flowers to a friend, buy tickets to a theatrical production, or make a purchase from any of 850+ participating retailers, you can earn frequent flier miles redeemable for flights, upgrades, rental cars, hotel rooms and other travel perks. Some of the associated offers are from retailers you probably shop with anyway.

2. Dine out

Offers change frequently, but you can often find opportunities to earn frequent flyer miles or advantage points when you eat at participating restaurants. For example, if you eat at Rockpool Dining Groups’ restaurants, including Spice Temple, Rockport Bar & Grill or Fratelli Fresh, you can accumulate Qantas points to redeem on a future trip. Depending on the restaurant you choose, you could receive 1-2 frequent flier miles for each dollar you spend on dinner at the restaurant.

3. Take advantage of fuel card loyalty discounts

Fuel cards offer you a convenient way to pay for your fuel purchases while you’re on the road. Whether you’re taking off on a road trip or you’re renting a car at your travel destination, you can take advantage of fuel card loyalty discounts.

Each fuel card is different. After you sign up for a fuel card, typically you could expect to receive a few reward points for each dollar you spend at the fuel pump using your card. Depending on the fuel card, the reward points you receive might be redeemable for special deals or discounts. Be sure to read all the fine print to determine what benefits you’d receive from signing up for each fuel card you’re considering.

As compared against airline credit cards with initial high spending requirements, most fuel cards don’t seem all that risky. Unlike credit cards, some fuel cards don’t even require any interest payments. However, fuel cards are not entirely risk free.  Be aware that some fuel cards do charge monthly fees, annual fees, transaction fees and / or late payment fees – so be aware of the terms of service before applying. Pay particular attention to what fees you’ll be required to pay. Once you’ve begun using a fuel card, be sure to keep up with paying the bills as they come due to avoid late payment penalties.

4. Ride with Uber

Uber and Qantas have teamed up to offer you frequent flier miles when you take certain actions associated with their services. For example, signing up with Uber for the first time through Qantas’ portal can earn you 2,000 frequent flier miles. You can also earn points if you use the Qantas app for booking Uber rides to or from eligible Australian airports. The number of points you earn depends on your level of membership in the Qantas Frequent Flyer Program.

5. Buy a new mobile phone and try a new mobile plan

Thinking of buying a new mobile phone or switching mobile providers? Vodafone and Qantas are offering up to 20,000 Qantas Points for new Vodafone accounts. To earn the points, you must participate in at least one of the eligible offers these companies are making available. You could buy a new phone plus sign up for a SIM Only Plan or a Red Plan -- or you could sign up for a new Vodafone Plus Plan. New business accounts are eligible to earn greater numbers of points. You can also receive a free membership in the Qantas Frequent Flier Membership Program if you sign up through Vodafone’s link, scoring you a savings of $89.90.

6. Pay your energy bills on time

Red Energy and Qantas  have partnered to offer you Qantas points for paying your electricity and gas bills on time. If you have a Red Energy account, or you want to open a new one, you’ll have to link the account to your Qantas Frequent Flyer account to be eligible to earn points under this programme.

If you’re interested in travel hacking, it can be appealing to start with these sorts of low-risk offers. The points and benefits from these types of offers might not accumulate quite as quickly as they would if you were to use airline credit cards. However, you can see there are substantial amounts of frequent flier miles and other travel perks on offer through various low-risk programmes such as these. If you want to enjoy substantial savings on a trip you plan to take, it’s definitely worth considering all of these tips and offers.