Travel Hacking: Credit Card game [3 tricks]

With details of choosing FFPs out of the way, it’s time to talk about how to make travel hacking possible. Let’s talk about credit card spend for starters.

I am writing this fresh off the trip spending S$796.09 on a business class cabin to Tokyo, Japan.

Now that I know how traveling in premium cabin is like, I want more of it.

But I also want to spend almost nothing to experience preferential treatment for flying in premium cabin.

And as I learn about the finer details of travel hacking, I hope the experience will allow you to pick up a thing or 2. So that you can earn for yourself the experience as well!

Earning miles through flying frequently on the airline of your choice is NOT travel hacking.

That is the hard way.

An easier way to travel hacking is via credit card spend.

Every time you spend on your credit cards, the banks rewards you points for the transaction. And these points can be exchanged for airline miles.

The key is that different transactions give you different returns depending on which credit card you have.

And credit cards are not equal in rewarding you for the spend.

In Singapore for example, DBS Woman’s World mastercard (men can have the card too) will reward online transactions at 10X DBS points. But the same card only gives you 1X points for other types of non-foreign transactions.

So I keep my online transactions exclusively to this card to get my 10X points. And use other cards for other types of transactions.

Choosing a bank and their credit card offerings

This gets confusing so you need to sift out each back’s peculiarities and see what works for you.

Some banks do not have a rewards program that includes air miles (CIMB). OR, have cards that are not included in reward programs (frequently debit cards).

So will not help you in your attempt in travel hacking.

Other banks may not have airline partners for you to transfer your points to. OCBC for example can only transfer points to SIA’s FFP.

There are banks that also will not pool your points if you have multiple credit cards from them. Citibank is one such example. And they will charge you for conversion for each card’s reward points to air miles.

For me I have a repertoire of cards from UOB and DBS that suits me best. I have 2-3 credit cards from each bank that covers most of my spending patterns. Where I can get bonus miles for each category of expenditure as well as pooling of points. Plus they also are able to transfer to my Cathay Pacific FFP.

Most people make the transfer when bank points are about to expire. Or when they run promotions for bank transfers of points giving bonus miles in addition to those transferred.

Once you have chosen the bank and the card, it’s time to strategize the spend.

I will specifically document one type of credit card spend that I routinely take advantage of. Online purchases.

What kind of online transactions for credit card spend?

Before I discuss this further, I need to state that I’m an advocator for prudent credit card spending.

If you are spending beyond your means to get these airline miles, it defeats the purpose of getting them. Especially if you are charged interest for not being able to pay back the expenditure in full.

If you are able to make full payments timely for your credit cards, then read on!

The trick is to convert as much of your NORMAL expenditure as possible to online purchases.

For example, I now buy grocery items that are less perishable from iHerb instead of the local grocery stores. For items such as cooking oils, vitamins, personal care products etc.

There are several advantages to this.

First, these items keep for longer periods of time and you do not need to pick them in a display unlike say apples.

Second, these online service providers usually have free deliveries. So no more lugging heavy bags home.

Third, you can always anticipate your requirements ahead of time and do price comparisons for cheaper options.

Since, these items are what I originally want, I am not spending more money on top of my normal expenditure.

I am instead converting some of my normal expenditure into online purchase so that I can reap the rewards!

Stacking promotions/points in online credit card spend

Another trick I use is to stack as many promotions/points in online spend as I can.

This requires you to sniff out 3rd party platforms that are trying to reward new users.

These platforms usually drive traffic to the online sellers who in return get a cut of purchase as referral fees. The professionals call this affiliate marketing.

They then pass a portion of their earnings back to you.

Most importantly, there is no mark-up for this kind of traffic redirection.

So it is a win-win-win situation for everyone.

But even more so for the travel hackers.

As this allows me to get rewards/points multiple times for a single purchase.

For example, recently I made an online purchase to replace a worn-out electric shaver at Lazada.

Instead of clicking through to the website directly, I choose instead to go from shopback instead.

Shopback pays me part of their commissions in the form of cashback.

So I get reward points from the bank after my online purchase. In addition, I also get a percentage of my purchase back in cash!

The travel hacking circles call this double-dipping.

There are situations where tripple-dipping is possible. And it is super awesome knowing how much you are gaining for the normal expenditure. Think about the time when you just blindly pay for these expenditures without getting anything in return!!

Inevitable spend e.g. TAXES

Unfortunately in life, taxes are as unavoidable as death.

Taxes in the form of income or property are one of the payments individuals make to governments. And they usually involve large sums of monies.

It is frustrating that one doesn’t get anything back from debiting these frequently large sums of monies.

That is until the advent of payment services such as ipaymy and the likes.

What they do is to charge your payment to the government to your credit card. Then they make the transfer to the government agencies designated by you.

In return, you get bank reward points. They charge a nominal service fee for each transaction to make it worthwhile for you and them.

I use them for my payments on a monthly basis. Allowing me to finally gain reward points for such expenditures!

Bottomline: Credit card spend

So its not difficult travel hacking my way to premium cabin I find out.

A bit of due diligence, planning, and reading the terms and conditions, you can be on your way to premium cabin travel too.

Let me include a document religiously maintained by dedicated folks who document what credit card transactions does or does not get bonus points from each bank, FYI.

After strategically placing my expenditures in the past year, I successfully confirmed 2 business class seats. One for my sister and the other for my mum, return tickets to Hong Kong.

This is the first time, either of them are going to experience premium cabin travel. And I check off one of the most important items on my travel hacking wish-list as well. I can’t wait for that trip to commence!

There is so much to credit card spend as yet. I will be detailing how to for other types of spending onto the credit card. Finally, tell me if this has been useful.


  • On August 17, 2017