Stack of credit cards

6 Travel Hacking Myths (to Get Over Fast!)

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

Have you heard or read about earning and using miles and points to get free flights and hotel stays?

Does it sound too good to be true?

You’re not alone!

From blog comments to questions in my Facebook Group, Travel Hacking Study Hall, to everyday questions from family questions, it’s clear there are several common misunderstandings about travel hacking.

In this guide, we’ll try our best to debunk them!

6 Travel Hacking Myths (to Get Over Fast!)

Stack of credit cards

Myth 1: Opening up credit cards lowers your credit score.

When you initially sign-up for a credit card, your credit score can temporarily dip 2-5 points.

If you’re responsible with your spending and about paying your monthly balance, this will be short-lived.

In addition, you’ll increase the amount of credit that is extended to you, which helps your debt-to-credit ratio, an important factor when calculating your credit score. It could even be enough to offset the dip you’ll see for the new application.

Remember, banks are running a business and they want to attract the best consumers to their products.

Credit cards are one of the products banks offer. If you show you’re responsible with your credit cards, that bank and other banks will want to offer you more of their products. 

Credit Score

Myth 2: Signing up for credit cards just to get the bonus is bad for your credit.

If you sign up for credit cards, earn and burn the bonus, and then close the card only having had it for a few months, yes, it could negatively impact your credit score.

It will also make it difficult to get approved for other cards from that bank and other banks in the future.

However, if you target a welcome bonus to reach a travel goal, and show yourself to be a responsible and creditworthy customer by using the card (even for small purchases), paying all your bills in full & on time, and keeping the card open for at least a year, it’s not bad for your credit at all.

In fact, the more lines of credit you have available to you, while only utilizing a small piece of that credit for monthly expenses, will give you a low credit utilization percentage, which is excellent for your overall credit score.

Myth 3: It must be “breaking the rules.”

Banks view their credit cards as products. These products come along with terms and conditions, of course, but they also come with bonuses and perks. It’s not “breaking the rules” to take advantage of them.

Consider these examples.

Grocery store promotions around the holidays offer a free turkey or ham if you spend a certain amount of money within a given period of time.

Coffee Shops, Sandwich Shops, and Nail Salons sometimes have member cards, where after purchasing 10 cups of coffee, 10 sandwiches, or 10 manicures, you get the 11th for free.

What about a local gym that offers a membership for $1 the first month and a discounted promotional rate for the remainder of the year?

It’s not “breaking the rules” to take advantage of these perks and promotions. It’s certainly not “breaking the rules” to apply for a travel rewards credit card to earn and burn miles and points for award travel.

Dollar bills in red pail. on white window.light background. place for text. top view. a lot of money

Myth 4: It takes a lot of spending to earn a lot of points.

You never, ever want to spend more than you can afford to pay off at the end of a month. 

Over time, the interest you’ll pay for carrying balances outweighs the value of the miles and points.

Use your credit card to pay monthly bills like cable, cell phone, internet, Netflix, and insurance. You can earn points for the money you already spend on these expenses.

Many travel rewards credit cards, as well as co-branded airline cards and hotel credit cards, come with bonus categories that offer 2-5x the miles and points for purchases like gas, groceries, travel, and dining out.

Knowing when to use which card is the key to maximizing your miles and points earnings.

You can also sign up for airline and hotel dining programs to earn miles and points in addition to what you’d earn from a credit card that offered a dining-out bonus category.

Utilize airline and hotel shopping portals to get even more value from the things you already buy.

It’s not about spending more, but about spending wisely.

Credit Cards
Seriously! It’s easier than you think!

Myth 5: It’s too complicated to keep track of all the points and loyalty program benefits.

Being organized is important, no doubt about it.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, though.

Beginners can start out with a simple spreadsheet listing important information, like account/membership numbers, point balances, bonus categories, and if/when any miles or points could expire.

Seville Spain-10
Spain on an award flight! Sweet!

Myth 6: It’s not worth it!

This one gets me all the time! 

This is like telling someone who regularly goes to the gym and has lost 20 lbs. that it’s not worth it. I guess it’s hard to understand others’ skepticism when you have had such amazing results.

Here are just some of the places my husband and I have flown on award flight tickets to and/or from:

I’ve flown family members on award tickets to London and the Canadian Rockies. I’ve also flown to and/or from South Africa, Chile, Argentina, and Thailand…(yep you guessed it!) all on award tickets! 

And, this list doesn’t even include everything, nor does it list domestic award flights or award hotel stays I’ve gotten with points!

So, when I’m asked if travel hacking is worth it, I smile widely and confidently say, “Absolutely.” (How else could I afford all of this on a teacher’s salary?)

Which travel hacking myth is getting in your way?

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26 thoughts on “6 Travel Hacking Myths (to Get Over Fast!)”

  1. Great article & tips. I’ve never travelled with a Credit Card but now I am getting older I’m definitely looking into it 🙂
    Simone x |

  2. Omg, yes! It is definitely worth it!! I did first thought that it will take forever to earn points, but as long i use it for other expenses, like you said, it all add up! I’m so excited because I’m adding up a lot of points and can use it for my next flight! 🙂 I love how some credit cards would give you 2x on most days and then on a specific day, (for example, every first Friday of the month), it would be 3x points! 🙂

    so yes, it’s worth it! 😉

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      So worth it, right Stacey! It’s all about knowing which cards to use to maximize bonus points and using your card for everyday expenses. Congrats on all your points earning! 🙂

  3. I have a creditcard that comes with my bank package (e.g. account, internet banking, bankcard) but other than that, I never really looked into other options. Paying with a creditcard in Europe (esp.) Holland is still not common at all unfortunately, I wish it were different though!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      We are lucky, Antonette, that in the U.S. we have strong travel rewards programs through our credit card system. No doubt it’s more challenging elsewhere.

  4. Getting miles is something I still have to learn. I am terrified of banks and banking system, and I rarely use bank cards (I prefer cash), but I do understand the benefits. I’m going to subscribe to your blog and hope to learn something from you. Thanks!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Great! Thank you! It can definitely seem daunting, but even small steps can yield a good return.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks, Amelie. Yes, it’s important to not charge more than you can afford to pay off in a month. Carry balances over time will negate the value of the points you are earning. Check and see if any of your credit cards offer a balance transfer with a 0% interest promotional period. Although, transferring balances a lot doesn’t look great on a credit report, using this option once or twice should be fine.

  5. We always use our credit card to pay monthly bills and everything else. Even if we just go to the corner store, we use our credit card. We just pay it off before the end of the month. Points add up quickly 🙂

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      That’s exactly it, Lesley! Earning miles and points is much easier on the ground by doing as you say. Use your credit card for monthly bills and even visits to the corner store. The points will be rolling in!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks, Carolann! Organization is important because you don’t want to lose track of what you’re earning or when (some) points might expire. I started with a simple spreadsheet, but now use AwardWallet to help me keep track of everything for my husband and I.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Great, Carol! It’s so important to start slowly and do what you’re comfortable with. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I love using my credit card to earn points for travel. I maximize my bonus points and usually use the points to pay for hotels or train tickets. It’s really doesn’t take that long to reach the minimum amount for a bonus either. Putting accommodation, transportation, and food on the card adds up quickly.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      That’s great, Dana! I think so many people get nervous when they see the minimum spend to reach the bonus, but as you said, it’s easy when you put your everyday expenses on the card. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Nice compilation of travel myths Jackie! I know some people who believe in #4 (you need to spend more to gain new points) – will definitely share this with them. I agree that one shouldn’t spend more than they can pay at the end of each month.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks so much, Joann! It’s so important to not overspend and to pay off your bills at the end of the month.

  8. Great post. I must admit i’m a bit too lazy for travel hacking but when I get home i’m going to sign up for the credit cards which allows me to save up extra on my British Airways airmiles.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for your comments, Sophie. I have to say that even “lazy travel hackers”can earn a good amount of travel rewards. 😉

  9. This was a great article and very informative!! Thank you!!’
    I read in the ‘About the Author’ that you’ve been to *nearly* every state in the U.S.; a suggestion here: Visit Vermont in the Fall. I’m a bit biased?, but you will love it. Bring your camera. Vermont is also pretty in the winter, but very cold.
    Thank you again.

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