Travel Hacking

What Would it Take For You To Quit Travel Hacking?

Yesterday, I came across a tweet by Brian Sullivan about lottery winnings that got me thinking about travel hacking. After all, we do all of this insane stuff so we don’t have to pay $20,000 for a first class seat. Brian calculated the take-home of a $1.5b lottery win and the potential investment income it could generate. I’ve had the, “What would you do if you won the lottery?” conversation lots of times and it usually revolves around work. This time, I thought “Would I quit travel hacking if I won the lottery?” The answer was easy: No.

I’m a pretty frugal person and don’t really care about extravagance. Just comfort. If I won $1.5 billion Powerball, I definitely would not give up on manufactured spending. Sure, I like traveling in premium cabins and staying at nice hotels. But would I pay for all of that if I had the means? No. It’s insanely overpriced and there are starving kids in the world. I couldn’t, in good conscience, shell out a huge amount of cash on a short-lived experience. That’s why I’d keep subsidizing my travel with points and miles earned via gift card churning.

I’ve always been a hustler, looking for ways to get a deal on everything. As a kid, I actually haggled with the ice cream man. I refuse to pay for anything full price – there has to be a discount of some sort for me to feel good about new purchases.  Paying to fly business class at full price? I don’t think I could ever do that, no matter how many lottery tickets I cash in.

While I like hacking travel as much as anyone else, the main reason I’d jump back in line at Walmart is for the fun of it. Yes, I’ve complained about the things I hate about manufactured spending, but overall I love doing this. I get a rush from buying thousands of dollars worth of gift cards and liquidating them. Paying off big credit card balances accrued from those purchases? Thrilling. Keeping track of my manufactured spending activities? The perfect way to stay occupied when you’re an organizational freak.

I shared my thoughts on Twitter and fully expected to get negative feedback. To my surprise, several followers had the same answer; They would continue travel hacking if they had the financial means to pay for premium travel.

All of this points and miles stuff can get frustrating and feel like work sometimes. But when it comes down to it, it’s a hobby. It’s fun, challenging, and keeps us all on our toes. That’s why I think I’ll always have my hand in the game to some degree. Even after all the devaluations and shut-downs, I stick around. There are times when it’s frustrating and feels like a waste of time. But I still love it. And I can’t imagine many scenarios that would make me quit.

I’d like your thoughts on this: Would you give up travel hacking if you came across a financial windfall? What would it take for you to give up on this hobby?

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25 Comments

  1. I would give it up for sure and concentrate on making good investments with my newfound wealth. That would generate a much better return than wasting my time MS’ing and reading blogs like this. Sorry Ariana

  2. TAKHLIQ KHAN

    Absolutely yes but with the caveat. Jackpot has to be minimum of 10 million so that my take home lump sum is about 5 million. With that amount, i feel that i can generate enough investment income that can support my travel needs. One also has to keep in mind the return you get on paid premium travel. It can add up handsomely. Credit card churning for sign up bonuses would be the only thing i would do.

  3. Ariana, I would probably give up points and miles hacking. But of course winning the lottery is a dream that most likely will not be fulfilled, so I will continue the points/miles game. I have been doing almost all the point/miles activities on your newbie guide EXCEPT manufactured spending. Of all the activities, taking surveys is for me the most tedious. Even though I got 26K airline miles and more than $300 in merchandise in ’18, I’d like to find an alternative that’s easier. Is there any way to do ms in a way that’s pretty simple and would generate only about 30-40K points per year? Looking forward to your reply, and meantime I’ll search the newbie guide for info on ms.

    Thanks for all the great info!
    Regards,
    Saral

    • I like Visa/Mastercard gift card churning. It’s pretty easy for me because I have a reliable WM store where I can liquidate them. Merchant gift card churning can be an easy way to MS around the holidays. There’s high demand for cheap gift cards and you might be able to do it without out of pocket costs. Retail arbitrage is another option.

      But if you’re not doing MS, just make sure you’re maximizing your daily spend with credit card category bonuses. Also, make sure you use Dining Rewards and Shopping Portals whenever possible. I rack up a substantial number of miles on my normal spending every year by utilizing these tools.

  4. MileHighBug

    Like you Ariana I would not give up manufactured spend. It is too much fun! I don’t really have a need to do it now, but I still love it and I still do it.

  5. I would focus my travel hacking on legitimate business spend to accumulate the miles and points I would use to make myself feel better about not paying full price. I think that would be a much bigger time ROI for me personally.

    • I hear ya. If you’ve got a business, there’s no better way to generate points and miles. But for me, I just enjoy the planning and tracking involved in gift card liquidation. It’s a weird addiction I don’t think I can ever kick. Unless WM stops selling money orders.

  6. Thanks Ariana. Right now I’m earning 5 AA miles per dollar in several categories with my Citi gold card. I’m also doing Dining for Miles and online shopping. Perhaps I’ll try manufactured spending at some point also. Thanks for the advice!

  7. I would not stop earning and redeeming miles if I won the lottery. Those first class fares are outrageous. I stopped doing the gift card/Walmart route about a year ago, and I don’t miss it. I didn’t like the stress and some of the banks are keeping a closer watch on your spending habits. But I’ve still been earning a ton of miles even without MS. I earned about a million last year. Since I got into this game in late 2013 my wife and I have taken 75 free round trip flights. If I won the lottery we would probably travel full time for a few years.

    • That’s awesome Scott! As annoyed as I get with WM, I can’t quit. I like my cashiers and I always get a thrill out of liquidating all those cards. Though I gotta say, seeing points post from credit card bonuses comes pretty close to it.

  8. I would need to stop travel hacking unfortunately, because I’d be flying private from then on.

    Also, you might be the only billionaire to set foot in a Walmart

    But in all honesty, I love this game and it really is a hobby. It’s been sad seeing it decay over the last few years and every time I lazily use UR points through my Reserve I shed a tear for the good old times.

  9. To each their own. No way I would continue doing this. In that scenario, it’s 16M a year, every year with no loss in principal. There are also bond funds that are free from state tax, or you could legally reside in a state with no income tax to increase it. You could donate 75% of that and still travel comfortably for 6 months out of the year. Paying for it all also pads your account balances in each mode, elite status, etc., so after a few trips, you can start redeeming.

  10. I’m with you all the way. I have actually become more financially secure than I ever thought I’d be and sometimes feel a twinge of embarrassment that I’m still into this in a major way. But I get a rush out of it.
    P.S. not to say that I am a billionaire or close to it but I don’t think they fly commercial anyway

    • Lol! Very true. I don’t think I can ever stop – it started out about trying to save money and now it’s the thrill of the game. Btw this is how the wealthy hold on to their wealth – don’t spend it. 🙂

  11. Parts Unknown

    With $1.5b you buy a private plane.

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