Teachers – learn how to “travel hack” and see the world. For FREE.

AndyIt’s time for another guest post – this time I’m featuring Andy Shuman, a freelance writer who focuses on finances and travel. He has chosen to combine the two of these together and exploit the credit card rewards industry. In this post, he shows teachers how they can travel the world for free, by using credit card rewards to their advantage. He can be found at TheLazyTraveler where he expands on the tips he outlines here, and you can follow him on Twitter.

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Teachers get fabulous benefits! Everyone knows that.

(Watch out, sarcasm ahead!)

First, you’re allowed to take your work home. I mean, regular people come home from work, grab some beer, sit on the couch and watch TV. Not you! You come home, grab some beer, sit on a couch and grade papers. How great is that! Hey, overtime pay is for suckers!

Then, you’re trusted with buying school supplies for your students. Of course, you pay for it out of pocket, but you can buy whatever you choose, and no one is telling you what you should do with your own money. Sweet!

And finally, you have another incredible benefit that makes every other professional to cringe with jealousy: eight vacation weeks every year. Of course, only few people know that it’s an unpaid leave even if they spread the pay throughout the year to make you feel better. But who wants all those gruesome details, right?

Actually, your vacation time is where I come in. If you’re not working on your re-certification or graduate credits, you might as well get out and see the world. An eight-week vacation to see the world sounds about right. And I can help you with that.

 

My name is Andy Shuman. I’m a travel writer, consultant, and blogger, but most of all, I’m a travel junkie. I can’t stay at the same place (meaning home) for long. I try to take five to six trips during the year. And since I don’t have the budget to travel the way I want to, I had to come up with the solution.

This solution is to travel for free.

OK, look, we all know how sparse free lunches are and how things that sound too good usually aren’t. There is a lot of truth in common wisdom.

So I confess: it is not entirely free. You have to get to/from the airports, buy tours and excursions, eat out, and load up on some stupid souvenirs before flying home. But the good part is, you don’t have to pay where it really matters: for flights, and hotels. And let’s face it; these are the two biggest expenses that keep you grounded.

You can fly and stay at hotels for free by using credit card bonuses and travel industry loyalty programs. But in order to do that, you need to change the way you approach your travel planning. While normal people think of getting from point A to point B in terms of the cost of a ticket, you should start thinking about it in terms of the number of credit cards you can use for that purpose. For example, if you want to go to Paris, Tokyo, or Hawaii, your train of thoughts should go like this:

  • How many credit cards would it cost me to get from New York to Paris?
  • How many would I need to get from Los Angeles to Tokyo?
  • How many from Dallas to Honolulu?

These are all trick questions. Each of those only requires one credit card. It can be that easy. It won’t always be easy, but it can be. And relax, I don’t suggest you borrow the vacation money from a credit card. Never ever even think about it!

Airlines and hotels derive a huge chunk of their profit by selling their miles and points to banks. Banks, in turn, use them as an incentive to sign up a new customer. Neither credit cards nor frequent mile programs alone will help you achieve your dream. But their combination will, and you won’t have to fly butt-in-seat in order to get enough miles for your free ticket wherever you’re going.

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? I’ll give you four pictures. That’s an equivalent of 4,000 words for all of you, math teachers.

A flight between New York and Paris during the spring break will cost you 40,000 miles plus about $96 in taxes. Why does it show more? Because I’m “dummy-booking” too close to the departure date, which triggers a $75 airline fee (see the lower right corner). You will not pay this fee if you book more than 21 days in advance.

 

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A flight between Los Angeles and Tokyo (also during the spring break) will cost you 50,000 miles and $45 in taxes; if you book more than 21 days in advance you will avoid the $75 fee, as well.

 

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But what about summer? You might presume there was no way to get a free flight to some popular destinations in summer, but you would be wrong. It’s true that you have to be more flexible, and that the lowest redemptions are harder to find. Harder—yes, but certainly not impossible.

A flight between Dallas and Honolulu, Hawaii, will cost you 35,000 miles and $5 in taxes. Nothing is out of reach, even during the high season, and even to popular tourist destinations, although my caution about having to be flexible still applies.

 

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So far, we have established that you will need 50,000 miles or less to fly to any of this destination, but it still sounds like a lot of miles. How do you get them?

You get them by applying for one secret credit card that gives you the 50,000-mile bonus after meeting the $3,000 spend requirement in the first three months. You will not be able to get this offer at an official Citibank website, but because you know me (yey!), it’s all within your reach.

 

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I would be doing a huge disservice to good people—and I know enough teachers to know that they are overwhelmingly good people—if I didn’t follow all the above with a word of caution.

This is not for you if you don’t have a high credit score or if you carry a balance from month to month. In general, you need a FICO score of at least 720 to qualify for the best credit card offers. But even if you do, carrying a balance from month to month is a direct indication not to use this method. Actually, it doesn’t matter whether you love traveling or not; you shouldn’t borrow money from a credit card under any circumstances, but that’s a whole different topic…

The examples you see above are just a tiny example of what your good credit (and good credit habits) can get you in terms of free travel. Here are a few more.

  • Chase United Airlines Explorer card’s 55,000-mile bonus would get you a free roundtrip to Europe or Latin America.
  • US Bank Club Carlson Card’s 85,000-point bonus will get you between four and twenty (!) hotel nights at hotels like Park Inn or Radisson.
  • Barclaycard Arrival’s 40,000-point bonus will cover up to $400 in travel expenses, and you’re not limited to a specific hotel or airline.

So, yes, you can get a one-week vacation or even more if you just sign up for a couple of credit cards and meet the required spend. But before you rush to take advantage of these offers, well, don’t just yet!

You will need to learn a little more, and not just to get the best credit card offers. There are other rules to this game, too. And please don’t go crazy. I’ve been doing it for at least 12 years, but it’s not like I woke up one day and applied for five or six credit cards at the same time. Dip your toes first and see how it goes. Don’t worry, it will go fine.


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Check out Andy’s books, his blog, or start here to see what you can get for your “trouble”.

If you have any questions for Andy, you can leave them below.