This is the Holy Grail, travel for free!

In a several week period in April, I received about $8,000 in free airline tickets and hotels. I stayed in a hotel I would never typically stay in: Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa. My 1000 square foot overlooking the Indian Ocean was over $700 a night. My cost for 6 nights was $0. I turned in over 400,000 HHonors Points and saved over $4,200. Travel for free? I could get used to that.

Would you like to travel for free?
To accomplish this I opened two Hilton credit cards: a CitiBank card (40,000 sign on points) and an Amex card (another 40,000 sign on points). In addition, I converted a chunk of UAL points to my Hilton account. With the Amex card, I received Gold Status, getting me other free goodies. Also, booking 4 nights I received one night free. Sound good? Want a free trip?

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There is an entire industry devoting itself to maximize free travel. While I am a very avid user of some of these strategies, I am not an expert in the field. I would suggest checking out some of these websites, to see how you can take advantage of some free travel.  Hopefully, this story will inspire you to “travel hack” and help you travel for free or at least less money.

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In general, the strategy is to open several credit cards which are offering large signup bonuses, of 25,000, 50,000, or even greater miles/points. You need good credit, some basic recordkeeping skills, and the ability to meet the minimum spend to earn the bonus. The websites will share with you the “hot” cards and the strategies you might want to employ.

The Points Guy

Nerd Wallet

Frugal Travel Guy

 

Warning!

Sirens are sounding! Red lights are flashing! All points are not created equal.  When searching on the internet or looking over direct mail for credit card offers, it is necessary to perform some due diligence, for all points are not created equal.

So for instance, you can open an American Airlines credit card (as of May 2015) and earn 50,000 miles.  Now let’s do the basic math.

  • 25,000 miles = one free coach ticket = approximate value $300
  • 50,000 miles = two free coach tickets = approximate value $600

So, you can use this as a rudimentary benchmarking when reviewing credit card offers.  If the offers are equivalent to the above, then you should consider the offer.

I have no one to blame but myself, but recently I was deceived by PNC bank and their credit card offers.  And I consider myself to be a veteran of these credit card offers.  I opened an account with an offer of 50,000 points, not miles.  Now these points’ value is arbitrarily determined by … PNC.  And all miles (points) are not created equal.  These 50,000 points equate to only $100.  When attempting to convert these points recently I was disappointed to learn how worthless these points are.

Again, I have no one to blame myself for failing to do the due diligence, but there are so many more valuable offers being offered by credit cards.  Do your homework.

Second Warning!

While PNC has an effective yet deceitful-like marketing team, their customer service team is ineffective and incompetent.  Recently, I attempted to register my account online.  Instead of taking the several minutes I anticipated, this took me 50 minutes.  When registering my account, it required a 4 digit security code which I did not have.  The website guided me to an 800 number.

Forty-five minutes later, I finally was provided the answer.  The security code was the 4 digit number on the back of my credit card.  I was flabbergasted, befuddled, confused and angered.  How could the staff at PNC be so incompetent that it would take 3 representatives 45 minutes to provide me this simple piece of information.

So beware of PNC Bank’s deceitful-like marketing.  But worse is the disrespectful manner in which they treat their customers.

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