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Here at Millennial Revolution, we do NOT talk about eating cans of beans and living like a hobo. We hate self-deprivation and we think you should too. Why? Because frugality for the sake of frugality is stupid. We love travelling, and that’s one area we’ll never cut. Other stuff can go to Hell, but there will ALWAYS be room in our budget for adventure.
The trick is to spend money on things that make us happy. Not the things that bleed our wallets dry without adding to our happiness. Those things need to be ruthlessly cut and obliterated from our lives.
And one of those stupid things? Overpriced plane tickets.
Whenever the oil price climbs even a smidgen, Airlines immediately jack up their prices with a “fuel surcharge”. And when oil prices plummet (like they did last year)? They don’t pass the savings on to customers and instead sneakily pocket the difference.
WHAT. THE. HELL?!
Well, you know what? We don’t have to put up with that kind of bullshit. Giving the airlines more money is NOT going to make me happy. That money is better spent on other things I care about (like booze and space cakes)
So how do we get to exotic places without shelling out for overpriced plane tickets?
By Travel Hacking.
By Travel Hacking, we look for credit cards with the highest sign-on bonuses, and rack up enough points to fly for free.
And you can do all this without leaving the comfort of your house (or in our case, AirBnB). All you need to do is type into a computer box and free shit comes out. How awesome is that?
Okay, let’s get this travel hacking mania started!
- 25,000 points/person
- Card Fees: 0 (for first year)
- Taxes: $193.11/person
To go anywhere within North America (round trip), you’ll need around 25,000 Aeroplan points per person. So to get a free trip for you and your spouse, simply apply for the American Express Gold Rewards and the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite cards above. Since there are no fees, you’re only paying for the taxes (around $386.22/couple if you’re going from Toronto to LA, for example. And flying out from Vancouver or Calgary is around the same.).
I know that sounds high, and it’s because the taxes Canadian airports and Air Canada charges is INSANE. If you were to fly out from Buffalo, NY, the taxes magically drop to $28.80/couple.
The other option is to use more points to cover the taxes, so you pay nothing. But since you need around 45,000 extra points to cover $386.22 of taxes, that’s pretty steep. And since Aeroplan miles are worth 3 cents per mile, 45,000 points is $1350. Not worth it.
If you REALLY don’t want to pay the taxes, you could get your spouse to apply for those 2 cards as well, to get 100,000 points in total, and use up 95,500 points to get 2 tickets completely for FREE. But in my opinion, it’s better to save those points for another trip and pay the taxes.
Even if you decide to pay the taxes, that’s $386.22/couple, which is way less than the regular price of around $1000/couple. So you’re still saving $613.78. Not bad for 30 mins of work, applying for 2 cards.
And if you’re near Buffalo, you can cross the border and fly for only $28.80/couple, saving you $971.2.
- 60,000 points/person
- Card Fees: $89/person/year
- Taxes: $340.16/person
For Europe, you’ll need 60,000 Aeroplan points for a round trip per person. So looking at the cards, if you get the American Express (25,000) + TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite (25,000) + TD Aeroplan Visa Platinum (10,000), that’s enough for a round trip to Europe for just $89 + taxes (around $340.16) per person.
So if you get your spouse to apply for the same cards, you get 2 round trip tickets to Europe for $680.32 from Toronto to London.
If you buy regularly priced plane tickets, they cost $2215/couple. So you’re still saving $1534.68 with points.
However, if you fly out from Buffalo, the taxes are only $488/couple, saving you $1727.
- Taxes vary depending on a) where you are flying out from and b) the airline carrier (United tends to charge fewer taxes than Air Canada). So play around to see which one gives you the best deal.
- Once you get the points, cancel, wait a few months, and reapply (American Express has a clause against this, but the TD and CIBC cards don’t)
- Don’t forget to cancel all the cards before the year is up, to avoid getting charged the yearly fee.
- 75,000 points/person
- Card Fees: $209/person/year
- Taxes: $105.36/person
And to get to Asia, you’ll need 75,000 points/person for a round trip. So if you and your SO apply for all 4 cards above, you pay the $418/couple in fees +210.72/couple in taxes. So $628.72 for 2 round trip tickets to Japan.
Compared to $3406/couple in regular tickets, you save $2777.28! Wow, for some reason the taxes for PEARSON to Japan is WAY lower than to Europe. Weird.
If that doesn’t sell you on points, another advantage of having these cards is that they include all sorts of perks, like insurance (auto rental, trip cancellation, trip interruption, baggage, etc) and free passes to the Air Canada lounge. We love this perk, but if you get it Do NOT get so enamoured with all the free food, magazines, and free wifi that you forget you’re SUPPOSED to be on a flight, and sprint to your gate 10 mins before it closes. *Facepalm*
In Canada, I like Aeroplan miles over the other points programs, because they offer the highest sign-on bonuses. We don’t have as many travel hacking options as our American neighbours, so it’s more challenging but it can still be done.
Here’s a table summarizing the best point cards being offered right now, their rewards, their insurance coverage, and the links to apply for them.
Full disclosure: The links below are NOT affiliate links, meaning I’m NOT getting paid for any of these recommendations. My first priority is to make sure you, the reader, don’t get screwed by unscrupulous companies, so I will only ever recommend products we personally use, regardless of whether we get paid or not. That’s another reason why I love being FI. I have the freedom to recommend only the products I love. If a company ever offers to pay me big bucks to recommend their shitty products, they will be treated to a giant screenshot of my middle finger.
Warning: If you currently have or have had debt issues in the past, do not, for the love of God, apply for these cards! Travel hack responsibly PLEASE.
|(current as of June 17 2016)||American Express Gold Rewards||TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite||TD Aeroplan Visa Platinum||CIBC Aerogold Infinite
|Annual Fee||Free first year, $150 after||Free first year, $150 after||$89||$120|
|Signing Bonus Points||25,000
(Note: Transfer Amex Gold points to Aeroplan 1:1 for free)
(exclusive offer until Sept 2, 2016)
|Minimum Spend|| $1,500 in 3 Months
|Basic Rewards||1 pt : $1||1 pt : $1||.66 pt : $1
|1 pt : $1|
|Accelerated Rewards||2 pt : $1(gas, grocery, drugstore &travel)
|1.5 pt : $1(gas, grocery, drugstore & Air Canada)
|1 pt : $1 (gas, grocery, drugstore)
|1.5 pt : $1 (gas, grocery, drugstore)
|Insurance||Auto Rental,Travel Accident,Flight Delay,Baggage,Trip Interruption,Out of Province Travel Medical,Hotel/Motel Burglary
Out of Province Travel Medical
|Auto Rental,Travel Accident,Flight Delay,Baggage,Trip Interruption,Out of Province Travel Medical
And there you have it. All the info you need to know to travel hack your way to victory (within Canada). If you’re American, you are in Travel Hacking paradise, because you have WAY more options than us. Here’s a list of American cards my friends use when travelling:
So, how much has Travel Hacking saved us on our world trip?
No Travel Hacking
|Destinations||Cost per couple (CAD)|
|Toronto – San Francisco||$692.8|
|San Francisco – Los Angeles||$162.96|
|Los Angeles – Boston||$453.56|
|Boston – London||$1817.64|
|Zurich – Singapore – Zurich||$1,638
|Zurich – Toronto||$2001.5|
|Destinations||Cost per couple (CAD)|
|Toronto – San Francisco||$121.09|
|San Francisco – Los Angeles||$162.96 (for short flights, it’s better to pay with cash)|
|Los Angeles – Boston||$35.6|
|Boston – London||$70.6|
|Zurich – Singapore – Zurich||$220.20|
|Zurich – Toronto||$153.8|
So with a bit of travel hacking, we managed to save “$6002.21” on just the flights! (enough for a whole year of vacation back when we were working!) And that’s not including the free hotel stays we got with another card. I’ll talk about how to hack your way to free hotel stays in another post.
BOOM! And that’s how we can travel the world on $40,000 CAD per year! And we didn’t have to sacrifice at all. All we did was apply for a bunch of credit cards instead of giving our hard earned money to airlines.
So, ready to travel hack your way to glory?