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Three Travel Hacking Strategies That Won’t Ruin Your Credit

Savvy travelers can create their own luck with these strategies to earn miles, maximize credit card rewards and save money while traveling the world.

Ali Hardy Mar 17, 2019

Maybe you’ve read the stories and thought they were too good to be true — the intrepid travelers who circle the globe for hundreds of dollars, leveraging special offers, credit card points, frequent flyer miles and other perks to the max.

It’s called travel hacking, and it refers to the clever use of promotions and discounts to accrue frequent flyer miles and redeem them to book travel at significantly cheaper rates.

Not to be confused with computer hacking, travel hacking is perfectly legal and just refers to earning frequent flyer miles strategically. Whether the travel currency is miles or points, the goal is the same: To pay for your travel expenses.

But not every travel hack will help your finances in the long run. Some of these tactics can hurt your credit or prevent you from being approved for a credit card or mortgage down the road. The good news is, you can travel hack responsibly and without ruining your credit.

With the help of a few credit card tips from savvy travelers, who knows? You might just luck out. Following are a few gold nuggets of wisdom for hacking your next trip.

Savvy Credit Card Strategy #1: Sign up for loyalty programs

In order to earn miles with an airline company you must begin by becoming a member of their frequent flyer program. Signing up is free and relatively simple. All it takes is visiting the airline’s website and entering your information. Once you’re signed up, you’ll be given a frequent flyer number and you can begin earning miles.

Savvy Credit Card Strategy #2: Evaluate the value of a mile

One of the trickier elements of earning miles is determining which credit cards offer the most valuable frequent flyer rewards. A frequent flyer mile does not always equate to the physical distance of a mile. In fact, the redemption value of travel currency can vary greatly by program.

It’s important to do your research and calculate which card will get you the most bang for your buck. For example, the Zions Bank Reserve Visa credit card includes a $250 annual travel credit, complimentary lounge access, and has no blackout dates or restrictions on redemption. Other travel rewards cards might offer bonus points for a certain level of spending, or credits to department stores. 

“The most important thing to look for in any travel credit card is how rewards can be redeemed,” says Robyn Puzey, Bankcard Marketing Manager for Zions Bancorporation. “Read the fine print about how redemption works, how long the redemption process takes and be sure the rewards are ones you’ll use and enjoy.”

Savvy Credit Card Strategy #3: Explore top ways to earn miles

One of the main objectives of travel hacking is to earn the most miles or points while spending the least money. The simplest, most consistent way to accumulate miles or points for your next vacation is to find a card with high everyday earn rates for the types of purchases you already make. Look for cards with a high base earn rate plus enhanced earning potential in categories like travel or dining and entertainment. As a general rule, if the majority of your credit card spend is not in purchase categories that earn higher rewards, look for the best base earn rate within your annual fee budget.

Follow these four strategies to boost your earnings even further:

1. Shopping portals: Shopping portals allow consumers to earn bonus miles on purchases made with participating retailers.

2. Dining programs: Similar to shopping portals, these programs offer bonus miles when you register and dine at participating restaurants.

3. Flying: You can earn plenty of frequent flyer miles simply by, well, flying. Make sure to link your frequent flyer number (the one that you signed up for before) with your itinerary prior to your trip to avoid missing out on valuable points.

4. Other Promotions: Airlines, hotels and credit card companies regularly offer promotions that provide easy opportunities to earn frequent flyer miles. Typically, these offers arrive by email and are either free promotions that involve taking a survey or engaging on social media, or are a spending promotion for your current credit card.

If you decide you want to make your own luck and begin earning credit card rewards, be sure to do so wisely. Credit card sign-ups are the fastest way to earn frequent flyer miles, but proceed with caution: Use credit responsibly and remember that multiple sign-ups may impact your credit score. You should never overspend to earn more miles, and you should avoid purchasing extra miles.

Start your travel hacking journey with Zions Bank’s Reserve Visa credit card which offers trip cancellation insurance, automatic upgrades at more than 900 luxury hotels worldwide, and complimentary 24-hour Visa Signature Concierge service.

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