Amping up Travel Hacking & Credit Card Churning

In the past, I’ve dabbled casually in credit card rewards, usually focusing on cards with up-front cash bonuses. In the past few months, I’ve really cranked up my efforts after finding a lot of great information on the MMM forum, and flyertalk. I enjoy researching and deploying strategies for cheap travel & cash back, and it’s insane how much cheap travel and bonus dollars can be had with just a little bit of effort.

Specifically, I’ve spent the last few months meeting the minimum spend on 2 Southwest credit cards to obtain 110,000 rapid rewards bonus points, and a companion pass at Southwest Airlines. I was inspired by a thread at the MMM forum, and I now have my points & pass (valid through 2016) in hand. I’ve already booked 2 flights (over $1,000 value), and I still have 70,000+ points remaining. My girlfriend and I are flying to visit family next month, and I will be attending Camp Mustache in May. I will probably plan to book a flight to Costa Rica for 2016, after Southwest adds San Jose as a destination next month. I love that travel hacking and credit card rewards can help fund travel that I wouldn’t otherwise consider, or can help lower my overall spend on travel expenses.

A few of the awesome things I’ve learned over the last few months:

  • Even credit card bonuses with high spend requirements are achievable when using the right tools to “manufacture” spend
  • It is very simple to manufacture spend using the Amex Serve card, up to $1500/month when opened through the Softcard app on your phone
  • The Serve card can be used as a conduit to pay the mortgage (or other credit card un-friendly bills) with (many) credit cards for free, while earning points
  • The Target Redcard allows for even more manufactured spend each month (I don’t have this card yet, but hope to pick one up the next time I’m in Denver)
  • It’s possible to “churn” reward bonuses on a number of cards, repeatedly earning the bonuses by opening new cards
  • It is possible, with the right planning, to almost always have a Southwest Companion Pass earned via credit card bonus points, basically all of my domestic travel moving forward will be generously subsidized by credit card companies!

I hope to continue exploring the world of airline miles and other non-cash bonuses over the next year. I’ve signed up for a free online class through the MMM forums, called “Miles for Mustachians”; this class will hopefully teach me a lot that I don’t already know. I do know there’s at least one entire aspect of this world I’ve not yet explored: the American Airlines miles program and related credit card bonuses (cheap International travel?).

Of course, I also plan to continue to sign up for cash bonus cards, and to churn cards I’ve had in the past – I should be able to re-apply for the Chase Sapphire cards with $400 bonus in just a few months! What are your best wins and secrets when hacking credit card rewards?

[featured image: Trish Hartmann]

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