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Imagine. You’ve spent the last two years carefully planning, envisioning, and executing on the perfect 3-week winter vacation in Italy over Christmas, and you can hardly believe that it’s going to cost you practically nothing.
You’ll stay in world-class hotels with antique furniture in the rooms (that you’re not allowed to sit on), priceless artwork and balcony views of Venetian waterways. The regular price to stay in a place like that runs up over $50,000—more than many Americans make in a given year.
But for you?
Zip. Zero. Zilch.
Sound like your kind of vacation?
It’s 100% Real.
This was the reality for Nina Manni, a comedian from Los Angeles who dove deep into the points and miles hobby and was able to finance a dream vacation with flexible credit card points, hotel points, and airline miles.
I first learned about Nina during a webinar she did with Carey Bentley. The idea of traveling for free has always seemed impossible, yet thousands of people do it every year. Regular people sit in first class paid for with airline miles earned from credit card sign-up bonuses and strategically purchasing everyday goods with different cards.
On the webinar (like most webinars) Nina pitched her points and miles course, which I bought almost without hesitation. In it she laid out how she does it, the alliances between different airlines, hotels, and banks, and clears up a lot of misinformation out there about “award travel.”
There’s a really, really big caveat, though.
The points and miles game is NOT for you if you
- have credit card debt, or
- are not comfortable opening new credit cards to take advantage of sign-up bonuses.
In this post, I’d like to share the points and miles resources I’ve found after starting up this hobby, as well as some tips for managing it all since organization is the name of the game.
What Even Is Travel Hacking?
It sounds so pretentious, doesn’t it? How could you possibly sit in first class without having paid for it with your firstborn child and your right hand?
Have you ever seen those ads for credit cards offering a certain number of “points” if you spend X amount of dollars in the first 90 days (3 months)?
That’s it, basically.
It’s a hobby for people who are organized and can keep track of how much they’ve spent and if they’ve spent enough to get the sign-up bonus.
I created an Airtable base to track my points and miles credit card. I made a template base for others to purchase, too:Buy the Template!
Very, very simply: sign up for a card offering a bonus; meet all the requirements to earn the bonus.
Nina explains it way better in her course, but that’s the basic gist.
It’s important to do your own research, though, if you want to go it alone. The major banks and credit card issuers (Chase and American Express, in particular) have specific rules about cards and sign-up bonuses, which means you need to have a strategy and a plan before applying to your first “award” card.
From the purchase of the course to my first award card took me about 45 days.
Get to the Point Workshop
This is the online course Nina pitched and sold me on. It’s $197 but the price is more than worth it to save thousands of dollars on future vacations.
The course covers things like:
- credit scores,
- which cards to start with
- how different hotel, airline, and credit card point alliances line up
- how to evaluate if an annual fee is worth it
- so much more!
She includes evergreen resources to reference—my favorites are the flexible point airline and hotel transfer charts.
Get to the Point Podcast
Nina also hosts a podcast with her friend Traci Stumpf, all about saving money and traveling for free (or close to free). I’ve been a loyal listener of this podcast since I learned of its existence, and Nina is chock-full of really great tips ranging from mistake fares all the way to protecting yourself from fraud and identity theft.
Nina and Traci sometimes get on really entertaining tangents, but the bulk of each episode has to do with saving money and living a great life full of free or nearly free travel.
I’ve even saved a few episodes on my podcast app because they’re so jam-packed with great travel hacking tips, from stacking credit card rewards to how to snag mistake-fare flights for what can feel like pennies.
Award Travel 101
This is a Facebook group run by Richard Kerr, with over 56,000 members. The mission of the group is “to help you learn how to maximize your travel rewards, no matter your destination or budget.”
If you’ve got newbie points and miles questions, chances are it’s already been answered in this group. Just hit up the FAQ or use the Facebook group search bar.
It’s also a pretty entertaining group. The members all celebrate each others’ award travel wins and offer advice if someone isn’t sure if a credit card is worth it or if they’re getting the best redemption rate.
The Points Guy
If you ever have a question about the details regarding points and miles, cards to sign up for, card perks, or general updates to the points and miles world, there’s a good chance The Points Guy written about it before. This is a great resource that I’ve used multiple times when I want clarification on a card or how to redeem award travel.
He gives run-downs of different rewards cards, listing pros and cons and whether it would be worth it based on what you’ve already got or what your ultimate goal is.
The Points Guy also runs points giveaways occasionally—points from his personal stash as a contest reward for donating to charity.
Reddit Award Travel Sub
Most of Reddit is a rabbit hole, and the Award Travel subreddit is no different. This is a great forum and community to ask questions, get answers, celebrate award bookings, and get feedback on your card strategy.
There are dedicated daily threads to answer questions, share wins, and figure out which card to chase next.
Track your loyalty accounts (frequent flyer, hotel, car rental, and credit card) using AwardWallet. Award Wallet also has a search engine that tells you which credit card to use to maximize points on purchases.
Ask for help! If you’re not sure about something in the credit card world, don’t risk your financial health.
Do you want to get into travel hacking, but worried about keeping track of it all? Things like which cards you have, which you want next, sign-up bonuses, and best perks? Good news! I’ve built an Airtable base template to do just that!
Never heard of Airtable before? It’s a highly versatile record and data management platform you can use for pretty much anything.
My Points & Miles Credit Card Tracker is built around the idea that to keep on top of this game, you need to stay organized.