Earlier this fall I wrote an introductory article about travel hacking, touching on the highlights of what it meant, how it works, and a few additional thoughts and pointers. As I look towards 2015, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for the best domestic and international deals that fit my personal travel outlook.

With that in mind, two travel hacking techniques (signup bonuses and shopping portal usage) presented themselves in renewed fashion recently. Whether you’re new to travel hacking or an established digital nomad, these are worthwhile tips!

It’s worth nothing that these may be time sensitive, and any information presented here should be digested as such. I don’t control the windows of opportunity, but I certainly wanted to highlight a few interesting (and rewarding) avenues.

Southwest Airlines 50k Signup Bonus

It’s been a few days now, but the Chase Rapid Rewards card from Southwest is promoting its 50,000 mile signup bonuses once again. I spoke specifically about this opportunity in my intro to travel hacking post, and it’s something I’ve decided to take part in once again.

This card comes as both a personal and business card, each having a “plus” and a “premier” version. Meaning, if you’ve had one of the versions open within the last 24 months, you’ll need to find and apply for the other to remain eligible for the bonus to your Southwest account.

Should you combine both a personal and business card and meet the minimum spends, your account will earn 100k points, well on your way to the 110k required to attain Companion Pass status. In other words, allowing for a free companion ticket for the remainder of the year it is earned, as well as the entire calendar year following.

If timed well, you could conceivably have companion status for the lion’s share of 2015 and all of 2016.

This strategy is great for domestic travelers who use credit cards as a spending strategy in their arsenal already. For those of us that don’t mind a budget airline, and who live near a strong Southwest hub, this is a strong offer to ignore.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Shop Portal

Within the last few days, Chase has unveiled a new user experience in its Ultimate Rewards web portal. This portal allows logged in users to make purchases or transfers based on the points they’ve attained. While it appears transferring points to friends or family has become more restricted, my focus here is the fairly updated shopping portal.

As the holidays draw near, I decided to peruse the available online brand partners. I’ve admittedly not looked heavily into this list before today, but I was pleasantly surprised at the potential point-to-dollar earning power.

As a way to distill a short laundry list of brands to digest quickly—and for my own record—here are a few brands I would generally purchase from online and their earning potential (highest first) as currently stated in the rewards portal.

Each point value equates to points on the dollar. In other words, 5 points earned for each dollar spent, as an example. The potential earning power to your account may be surprising:

7 pts – Backcountry.com (outdoor gear)
7 pts – Ghirardelli Chocolate (holiday gifts)
7 pts – Levis (the 511’s are my fit)
7 pts – The North Face (technical apparel)
6 pts – Macy’s (suit and ties, my guys)
6 pts – Petco and PetSmart (food, toys)
6 pts – Reebok (workout gear)
6 pts – Wine.com (gifts and personal stash)
4 pts – Groupon and LivingSocial (as opportunities arise)
4 pts – Tire Rack (wish I was aware of this a few weeks ago!)
3 pts – Apple (gear for the day to day)

Sometimes it’s hard to rationalize taking the extra step with a portal when making a significant purchase. And by significant, I mean as “little” as a big bag of dog food that costs $50. If you think about it, that purchase you were already going to make suddenly earned you 300 points.

And the pair of jeans you get each winter? Let’s call it another 1,000 points earned. Maybe you’ll need new tires next year. That’s at least 2,000 points added. New shoes? Say, 500 points.

They add up, and add up quick!

In summation, keep your own eyes peeled for travel hacking opportunities and seize them when and if the opportunity feels right. And as you make your way into the new year, don’t forget about big bonuses through every day spending if you’re willing to go through a portal.

Let your money work harder and smarter for you this season, and any season of the year. I’m doing my best too, right along side.

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This article has 1 comment

  1. Matt Crest
    Nov 15, 2014 Reply

    Ooh, thanks for the heads up on the Southwest card. Just applied for both a personal and biz one. Gotta get them rewards!

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