Chances are you’ve heard of someone who travels for free (or very little) on credit card points.
Those people irritate me.
I tried it before and it's damn hard work.
Gaining the largest possible travel rewards out of a credit card is for seriously nerdy hard-core travellers who want to spend their weekends and evenings researching the best credit cards, tracking their bonuses and jumping through hoops to squeeze every point out of the system.
That’s fine for people who have a lot of free time on their hands or are pro travellers or have no friends.
But I’ve got a life. And I’m sure you do to.
So, should we even bother?
Challenges with finding the best travel rewards credit card
The first pain point is researching and choosing the best credit card for international travel. Sounds easy, but trust me, it’s not. Here’s why:
- Banks and financial institutions inundate you with hyped-up offers. They all sound fine and dandy but may have dangerous fine print. With all the jargon and sensationalism, it’s easy to get lost in the noise.
- Credit card offers change frequently. There are heaps of articles on the Internet about “the best” credit card for travel. But offers come and go, and these articles get out of date quickly.
- Your income and spending patterns may be different. How can you take advice from someone else who has a completely different spending pattern than you? I’m sure you’re not willing to buy 12,000 pudding cups for airline miles like David Phillips.
- Not all points are the same. Just because a credit card or airline uses the word “points” doesn’t mean you can compare apples with apples. As a long-bearded wise travel guru once said, “not all points are made equal”.
And it just gets tougher from there…
Even if you’re lucky enough to choose the best travel rewards credit card, the game isn’t finished. There’s still a lot of steps until you’re sipping that cocktail on a beach in the Maldives.
Keeping track of the spend and bonus deadlines, protecting your credit score, and most importantly, redeeming travel reward points can be confusing for beginners.
The holy grail for travel credit cards
Just when I thought all hope was lost, I came across Zac Hood and his website Travel Freely.
He promises to help each member earn at least $1,500 in free travel every year.
Not once off, every year.
At first, I was sceptical. Over the last decade I’ve heard a lot of hype and promises around earning points with a travel rewards credit card.
But after spending about half an hour surfing around his website, it slowly dawned on me that this guy has cracked the code. He’s made it super easy for newbies to choose the best travel rewards credit card AND then holds their hand through each step until they’re sipping that dreamy cocktail.
Oh, and Travel Freely is also completely free to use. Yep. Free.
Zac… where have you been all my life?
How does this work?
Signing up on the Travel Freely website is super easy. A blind goat could do it.
Just fill in a first name, last name and email address. Then an activation link is emailed to you (to ensure you’re not using a fake email address). Once you click that, you’re in the club! Or for even fewer steps register with your existing Google account. Done.
The Travel Freely dashboard starts out with an intuitive wizard, asking a few sensible questions like if you have existing credit cards or run a business.
The step-by-step Beginners Guide goes through 7 sections including setting your travel goals, tracking your credit score and estimating your monthly spend. Most steps have a bite-sized video clip to talk you through the process, and include a link to Zac’s email address so you can ask him questions any time.
Did I mention this is all free?
The Card Dashboard tool keeps track of your credit cards, providing all the important info you need at a glance like bonus spending requirements and annual fee due dates. I like the handy video tutorial in this section – it’s just like looking over Zac’s shoulder as he uses this tool.
CardGenie is Zac’s secret-sauce technology which intelligently recommends what card is best for you. Unlike other websites, it doesn’t show you cards you’re not eligible for so you don’t waste your time. And the best value cards are provided first, so it’s easy to work out which one to apply for today.
Once you get a one or two new credit cards in your wallet, keeping track of bonus deadlines and annual fees is the next priority. The good news is you can see all of this in the Calendar tool. Even better is that Travel Freely will automatically send email reminders when these important dates come up so you can’t miss them.
Now that you’re in the game and got the basics covered, if you want to read up more about free travel and tips for earning extra points, there’s a whole bunch of articles and FAQs under Resources. The good thing about these articles is that they’re all from one source, (Zac) so you’re not going to find confusing, conflicting advice. Zac’s really made a one-stop shop.
Now you have the best travel rewards credit card, what’s next?
By the time you’ve followed all the steps in the Beginners Guide, you’ll feel much more confident managing your credit cards and racking up travel points for your next big trip. Staying on top of the points should only take about 30 minutes per month.
Just remember to make card repayments on time – you don’t waste those juicy points by paying credit card interest. In fact, if you follow Zac’s process your credit score should improve.
Travel Freely keeps you in the loop with occasional email newsletters (you can opt out anytime), and new articles are added to the site from time to time.
When you’re finally ready to spend your credit card points on travel, Step 7 of the Beginners Guide gives you everything you need – links to sites where you can redeem or transfer your points, and articles with step-by-step tutorials.
I have to admit, I’m really grateful to Travel Freely for helping me find the best travel rewards credit card. And it didn’t require a whole weekend of frustrating mind-numbing clicking around the web. In fact, the whole process has been completely enjoyable.
Who knows… I might just end up being one of those irritating people travelling the world for free on points.
Wouldn’t you rather do that too?