Playing by the Rules

Travel hacking is not breaking the rules. It actually is about learning, understanding, and playing by the rules setup for us by credit card companies, loyalty programs, etc. I think this is why I like travel hacking so much. It is like a board game (and let me tell you I love a good board game). I will use Settlers of Catan as an example since it is one of my all time favorite board games.

When I first started playing Settlers of Catan, I pretty much just placed my settlements, rolled my dice, and built additional roads/settlements. It wasn’t until I started to learn and understand the rules of the game that I was able to develop a strategy. For instance, there is a rule that you can only build a settlement if it is at least two adjacent lanes away from another settlement. If it is one lane away then it can’t be built there. Those are the rules of the game. Once I found this out I realized the beauty of placing a settlement in a location that monopolized a certain area of the map. I was simply playing by the rules.

I realize how confusing that last paragraph might have been if you’ve never played Settlers of Catan. However, I think you get the basic point… learning the rules allows you to develop a strategy. Over the course of the past year, I have learned tons of rules about credit card applications (i.e. how many one bank will approve, when I can get the signup bonus again, etc). By understanding these rules, I can develop a strategy when applying for new credit cards. Having a strategy helps me avoid application denials or ruining my credit score.

I have a few spreadsheets full of ideas and strategies. This helps me document my plans. For instance, when I was looking to book airline tickets to Europe, I wrote down the 5 different routing options that were available to us. This allowed me to compare the differences in cost and time based on if we flew into Frankfurt or Heathrow.

Some tips for beginners:

  • Read travel blogs and learn the lingo. Here is a great summary of the many acronyms people use: MilesPerDay: Common Acronyms
  • YMMV (Your Miles May Vary). Just because one person is able to do something one way doesn’t mean it is necessarily going to work for you.
  • Read the fine print! You’d be amazed how much information is hidden in the fine print. In travel hacking, it pays to read the little text at the bottom of the page.
  • Do your research and learn, but don’t procrastinate too much. Good deals disappear quickly.
  • Exploiting the rules. Once you understand the rules you may find a loophole. Use it! However, be aware that these may cause shutdowns or closures of accounts, but that’s all part of the game.

Learn the rules, develop a strategy, and win! That’s all there is to it.