To travel hack, or not to travel hack, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the wallet to suffer
The slings and arrow of outrageous redemption policies
Or to take arms against a sea of complications
And by finding the right card gain free airfare to Chiang Mai
Mrs. Groovy and I have always been intrigued by travel hacking. Get a couple of credit cards geared for travel, use the cards to buy what we would ordinarily buy anyway, and bam!—we’re suddenly flying first-class to Sydney for free.
Yes, in theory, travel hacking sounds marvelous. But whenever Mrs. Groovy and I caught a travel guru on some podcast explaining “churning” and other travel-hacking techniques, we would invariably look at each other at some point in the show and say, “no freakin’ way.” The whole travel-hacking enterprise just struck us as way too complicated and way too time-consuming.
But now we’re having a change of heart.
This is partly due to our fellow bloggers. Over the past two months, we’ve come across a spate of travel-hacking posts that have done a great job of demystifying the how-tos of travel hacking (see here, here, and here). In other words, because bloggers rule and podcasters suck,* the whole travel-hacking enterprise now seems a lot more doable.
Our change of heart, however, is mainly due to this: We’re building a house. And in the next six months or so, we’re going to spend roughly a quarter of a million dollars. If spent strategically, that quarter of a million dollars could turn into a bounty of travel-reward points. [Mrs. Groovy here. Keep in mind that a small custom home builder may not accept payment by credit card. We’ll have to find out.] What kind of financial bloggers would we be if we walked away from such an easy win? Would we be shunned by our blogging peers? Would sweet, lovable Tonya revoke our FIRE card?
So will we finally give travel hacking a try? Maybe. Here are our main concerns.
1. We have no debt and our credit score is excellent. But our household income is only $30K. Does that qualify us for a Capital One Venture card or a Chase Sapphire card? [Mrs. Groovy here. Does retirement on a fixed income qualify us for any card? Never mind a travel rewards card.]
2. Even though the annual fee for the most popular travel-reward cards is usually waved the first year, the thought of paying $95 annually in year two and beyond for each travel-reward card we get makes us shudder. [Mrs. Groovy here. I think the idea behind churning is to cancel the card before you’re hit with fees. Then you open up another one. But wouldn’t that mean you need to use the points before you cancel?]
3. And speaking about travel-reward cards, our current financial footprint is extremely uncomplicated. Do we want more passwords, credit lines, and payments to manage?
4. Accumulating points—especially the bonus points—sure looks easy. But what about redeeming points? Credit card companies aren’t on a mission to lower our travel expenses. They’re on a mission to make us one of their many profit centers. So how many hoops will Mrs. Groovy and I have to jump through to make our dream vacation a reality? The cynic in me says that redeeming points will be a royal pain in the arse. [Mrs. Groovy here. I agree, especially when I think the pain is mostly gonna be in my arse.]
No fights this past week. The Fight-O-Meter remains the same. Mrs. Groovy holds a 3 to 1 lead.
Okay, groovy freedomist, that’s all I got. What say you? Should we break out of our comfort zone and dive head first into the maelstrom of travel hacking? And if we wimped out and took a pass, would you cry havoc and demand that we surrender our FIRE cards? Let me know what you think when you get a chance. Peace.
* Only kidding about podcasters sucking. Podcasters don’t really suck. In fact, without podcasters, our daily constitutional would suck bigly. No, my saying that podcasters “suck” was just my ham-fisted way of saying that Mrs. Groovy and I can better make sense of the intricacies of travel hacking via the written word than via the spoken word. That’s all.