Travel Hacking In Canada
If you want to travel better, or simply just travel more for less, you’re going to need to learn how to travel hack and get the most out of your credit card points and miles.
This post is for Canadian travelers looking to use their reward points for travel, but aren’t quite sure how. We’ll talk about some frequently asked questions among those new to travel hacking and hopefully give you a better understanding about how this exciting hobby works.
1. What is Travel Hacking?
Travel hacking is the practice of collecting frequent flier miles and credit card points to travel for (almost) free.
There are lots of creative ways you can earn more points quickly and redeem them for maximum value, while still being within the terms and conditions of each loyalty program. We’ll call these “loopholes”.
2. What’s Possible With Travel Hacking?
If you said “Yes, I want to do that!” to any of the below, then you’re in the right place:
- Fly first class with a lay flat seat and free champagne.
- Experience a round the world trip using your Aeroplan points.
- Get exclusive airport lounge access before your flight and access private showers, private beds, cigar rooms, and unlimited food and alcohol.
- Get breakfast in bed, late checkout, and room upgrades.
- Experience concerts and live sporting events in private box suites.
- Be the coolest person at the party (obviously) when you tell everyone how you traveled the world first class and got access to invite only elite experiences.
3. Is Travel Hacking Legal?
Despite the term “hacking” often being related to illegal activities, travel hacking is completely legal. So no, you won’t be doing anything illegal, and no, you won’t be hacking any computer software.
There’s lots to learn if you want to play the ever changing game of travel hacking, but by the end of this article you’ll learn a simple trick for how to get your first two round trip plane tickets to Hawaii (or anywhere in North America).
4. Can I Really Fly For Free?
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and the same applies to travel hacking. What you can expect however, is to travel for a fraction of the price of retail.
Of course the goal of travel hacking is to get your plane ticket as close to free as possible, but there can potentially be some unavoidable charges you’ll need to be aware of:
- Fuel surcharges on airline reward tickets
- Airport taxes/fees on airline reward tickets
- Resort fees on hotel stays
- Credit card annual fees
- Telephone booking fees
- Extra baggage fees
5. Why Don’t More Canadians Travel Hack If It’s so Worth It?
For the most part, many people don’t know travel hacking is even an option. Many people we talk to have the same concerns:
- It sounds too good to be true.
- It’s too complicated.
- There’s no availability for award flights.
- The taxes and fees aren’t worth it.
- It takes too long to earn enough points for anything worthy.
All of these are valid points, but once you understand how travel hacking works, you’ll learn the loopholes you can take advantage of to avoid these scenarios.
The world of travel hacking changes quickly. There are a variety of different programs a successful travel hacker will rely on, and these programs are constantly changing. What might work today may be unavailable tomorrow, and new opportunities are constantly being created as other loopholes close. Be flexible, adaptable, and enjoy the ride!
Travel hacking, although a time consuming hobby, is extremely rewarding if you have the time and desire to learn how, just like any other skill. Our goal is to make that journey as easy as possible for you.
The reality is, many reward programs have some incredible sweet spots for redemptions, which aren’t readily advertised by the loyalty programs. It should be obvious that the banks and credit card companies don’t really want you to succeed with the points game, but the opportunity is there for the savvy traveler.
6. How Does Travel Hacking in Canada Compare to the USA?
The travel hacking process is generally the same, in that everyone needs to:
- Identify their travel goals.
- Earn travel reward credit card points/frequent flier miles.
- Search for flight availability (award space).
- Redeem their points to complete the booking.
The main difference between American and Canadian travel hacking is access to various financial/credit card reward programs.
Generally speaking, American credit cards are only available to Americans, and Canadian credit cards are only available to Canadians. And as we’re used to in Canada, we don’t have nearly the same options as our neighbours down south when it comes to travel reward credit cards and incentives.
Hotel and airline programs, thankfully, are available to both Canada and the USA and the redemption options are much the same.
7. I Don’t Fly or Stay in Hotels Very Often. Can I Still Travel Hack?
Absolutely! Our co-founder Tyler started as a leisure traveler who was sick of using his reward points for gift cards and counter-top appliances (please don’t do this). He started by redeeming his points for a business class plane ticket to New York and has been hooked ever since.
Whether you want to travel multiple times a year or just want a weekend away for a special occasion, travel hacking can help you get there for less and you’ll learn the skills you can use over and over again for trips to come.
8. What Rewards Program/Credit Card Do I Choose In Canada?
Everyone has different travel goals. Some Canadians have grand plans for international travel, while others just want to visit their family in the neighbouring province.
Choosing the best reward programs to travel hack effectively will largely depend on what your travel goals are and where you want to go.
So your homework for now is to think about your travel goals. The two biggest questions you’ll need to answer are:
- Where do you want to go?
- How do you want to travel?
Luxury: First class flights and 5 star hotels. This way of travel uses the most points but you’ll receive world class treatment.
Mid-range: Business class flights and 4 star hotels. You’ll travel in comfort, but use a moderate amount of points.
Economy: Economy flights and 2 to 3 star hotels. You’ll get there for the least amount of points, but you’ll be traveling on a budget with little to no frills.
It’s important to note that there’s no right or wrong answer to those questions! Every traveler is different and has unique needs and interests. What might be a good value of points to me, might not be for you, and that’s ok.
The common goal among us is to have a unique travel experience using our credit card points for the best possible deal and be able to experience things we normally wouldn’t pay out of pocket for.
9. Do I Have to Have a Good Credit Score to Travel Hack?
Travel hacking requires good financial discipline, and in many cases, good credit. A score of 700+ is a good goal to aim for to get approved for the best travel reward credit card offers.
A lot of travel hacking depends on leveraging credit card welcome bonuses to earn points quickly, however, there are still some techniques to travel hack with less than perfect credit, it just may take a little longer to reach your specific travel goals.
10. Do I Have to Carry a Balance on My Credit Card?
One of the main principles of travel hacking includes using your credit cards for everyday spend. You would be surprised how quickly your reward balances grow when you put all of your day to day purchases on your credit card (gas, groceries, restaurants, bills…everything you can).
However, it’s crucial that your balances be paid in full, each month. Credit card companies offer these rewards in part because they know a lot of people will carry a balance and pay interest, so please don’t be that person. Let’s be smart about this!
Although it’s possible to get a lot of value out of your reward points, that value will be quickly eroded or erased by paying interest on your balances.
What You’ll Learn In The Coming Posts
Travel hacking involves a lot of information. To scratch the surface you’re going to be learning topics like:
- How to earn travel reward points.
- What the best travel rewards credit cards in Canada are.
- How to transfer points to different loyalty programs.
- How to book award space plane tickets using points.
- How to pay for hotels using points.
- How to earn points faster.
Our goal in the coming posts is to help you navigate the best options for the best travel rewards cards, and loyalty programs, so we hope you’ll follow along!
Begin Your Travel Hacking Journey
If you’re looking for a recommendation of what travel rewards card to get, well that depends on what type of traveler you are, but if your credit score is strong enough, 700+, then you’ll absolutely want to consider the American Express Platinum card. An essential card in any serious travel hacker’s wallet.
The annual fee is $699 which sounds steep, but hear me out. If you spend $5,000 on the card in the first 3 months, you’ll receive 60,000 welcome points.
You can redeem your 60,000 points for two roundtrip economy plane tickets for anywhere in North America including Hawaii and the Caribbean. Or splurge on a stay at a 5-star luxury hotel.
Those points can be used with a variety of popular airline frequent flier programs and hotels.
You’ll also receive these benefits with your American Express Platinum card:
- Airport lounge access for you and a guest at American Express Centurion lounges and PriorityPass lounges around the world.
- Access to American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts bookings.
- Status matching with major hotel loyalty programs.
- An annual $200 travel credit.
- Travel insurance coverage.
- Front of the Line Access for advance access to concert, sports and theater tickets.
- Invite only opportunities to exclusive American Express lifestyle events.
Are you new to travel hacking? Let us know your travel goals and if you have any questions in the comments below!