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Travel Hacking? It’s Not For Everyone!

 I called today to cancel my Scotiabank Amex card! I only applied for it 10 months ago!  So why cancel it so soon? It was my first real try at “power travel hacking” and I failed miserably!

After reading so many great stories about travel hacking on various blogs, last summer,  I got all pumped up and signed up for two extra credit cards, with great offers (for Canada). I was going to “Power Travel Hack” too!  I already had the title (and the feature image!) for my next post: “How I traveled to The Seychelles on $15!”

Les Seychelles

Travel Hacking: The Offers

Credit card offers are scarce in Canada and they are definitely not as good as the ones you get in the US. But I found two that sounded pretty decent and signed up. Of course no fee for the first year! Plus $500 in sign up bonuses.

I consider myself to be responsible when it comes to money, I pay my bills on time (maybe sometimes I get a little sidetracked but who doesn’t? Don’t answer!), I save a good chunk of my income, I invest my savings and I am frugal with my hard earned money. So what could go wrong?

What Could Go Wrong With Travel Hacking?

Time and planning!!! When I signed up I wrote down what the offers were. All I had to do was follow a few steps, like spend $750 in the first three months on one. How complicated can it be? So easy.

Well no! Not so easy after all, I quickly lost track of it. Life got in the way: Kids’ back to school stuff , news (and related stress) of our office shutting down, dealing with my tenants. Next thing you know, three months passed! And I never charged anything to the American Express card. The offer was gone! Are you #&$@% kidding me? How can I miss it? Well I did.

I even took the time to compare what expenses would be best for which card (travel , entertainment , groceries), not all cards are created equal including the travel insurance. It was an extra tab in my FINANCE spreadsheet (one too many!). But do you think I remember every time I make a purchase which one does what? Nop! Maybe it’s just early Alzheimer, how can I forget so quickly. Travel hackingI  always have lots going on, so I prioritize and I guess this was not a priority! All I had to do was carry a piece of paper in my wallet to remind myself about it, but never did. I feel like such a complete idiot!


Other Reasons Travel Hacking May Not Be For YOU

  • If you don’t pay your credit card balance(s) in full every month, don’t try travel hacking. The rewards will not offset the interest charged on your credit card balance!
  • Don’t sign up for extra credit card(s) if the potential rewards don’t offset the annual cost of carrying the card.
  • If you don’t have a good system in place to keep track of various rewards, don’t bother! I sign up for most hotel reward cards whenever I stay in one, but I never remember which one I have or not! (Can’t be bothered carrying all those cards in my wallet, too heavy!) I also don’t stay in hotels often enough.

Keep It Simple Is My Motto!

What I like about my main credit card: it’s simple. It’s with the same bank I do ALL my banking. One screen and I see it all, banking, investing, borrowing. I can transfer money as I please and see the updated balances right away. My fees are comparable to most banks and it includes everything I need, including the annual credit card fee.

Accessing the other credit cards statements is extra steps (wasted time!). Now I have to log onto another bank site to check my balance and detailed transactions, then go back to my main bank and proceed with the payment.

I like to keep things simple where I can, and having to manage several credit cards is not worth it right now! I do get rewards on my main VISA card.

Why Cancel Now?

But still, why did I cancel it already? The American Express card is not accepted everywhere and since I only used it once in the last 10 months, why keep it? If I get sidetracked again, before I know, it will be year two and I will have to pay the annual fee. Why take the chance? I know most of my weaknesses.

Final Thoughts on Travel Hacking

“Power travel hacking” with credit cards (or any other ways) is not for me yet! I will give it another chance when I have more time on my hands. For now, I cancelled the American Express card . On the other hand, I am struggling with cancelling the other one. Having a second credit card, like the Mastercard, has been beneficial, like today where my son needs one to pay for his physiotherapy session but I still have the second one to pay for my lunch with my girlfriend, their travel insurance coverage is good and they give you four Priority Pass every year! (free food and drink, what’s not to love),but unless they can waive the $150 annual fee for year 2, I am not sure I will keep it.

For now, I will keep to my boring travel hacking:  Aeroplan and Avion VISA reward card and keep it simple. We will see later when I have more time and patience.

How about you, do you travel hack? Has it worked out for you? Do you ever get overwhelmed with all the statements you need to keep track of? What are some of the best deals you got?

26 thoughts on “Travel Hacking? It’s Not For Everyone!

  1. We hack credit cards but we make sure to do one at a time. I’m bad at keeping track but my husband is good with the spredsheet and since we update it bimonthly we can pay attention to it during those check ins. It’s super addictive but yeah you have to keep track after too like what you have left in credit, how it transfers, etc.

  2. i have never had more than one card. it seems like more work than i’m willing to do. i had a southwest airlines card for many years with a 69usd annual fee. that was good for about one free round trip per year. then i got tired of laying out that 70 bucks and went for a chase card last year. it had a signup bonus of 150 i think i’ve gotten around 200 cash back this year with no fee. it’s 1.5% back and hassle free and always paid in full like a good boy.

  3. Don’t feel bad Caroline. I don’t travel Hack and as you say some folks swear by it. The administration just isn’t for me especially when it comes to opening up credit cards. Just do not like to do it. Tom

    1. HI Tom,
      Funny, I figured you wouldn’t be much of a “serial credit cards” kind of guy! And I totally agree with you on the administration side:)

  4. Hi Caroline,

    It’s pretty hard to travel hack in Canada compared to the US. I have 1 credit card for rewards that has a once a year companion fare and just try to find cheap flights and accommodations.

    1. Hi Steve,
      The offers in the US seem incredible but I don’t think it would change my opinion on the matter right now. I am not organized enough:)
      I did see one of the cards with the companion fare once a year, do you get to use it every year? Is there lots of restrictions? I think the one I am thinking about was Westjet.

  5. Good for you for knowing what will/won’t work for you. We mostly travel on regularly earned points, but I’m starting to branch out for more of the sign up bonuses. That said, I just now signed up for my first card in over six months because I was too busy with other things to deal with it before now.

    1. I try! It has taken me 51 years to get to know some of my weaknesses!:) You still have a long way to go (lucky you).
      It’s the problem with travel hacking, we get too busy with our lives and miss out. Good luck with the new card Angela:)

  6. I don’t travel hack for the simple fact that I haven’t traveled a lot lately, lol!! But it’s great to have as an option to cut down on airfare. It sounds like you have to keep track your credit card points and see if its transferable,

    1. Hi Kris,
      It’s not complicated but you do need to be organized and have some extra time (I think). You will have plenty of time to do this later when you can actually travel:)

  7. Haha funny we are just about to apply for a new card!! Our next one will probably be the Aeroplan Visa Infinite since it’s free if you have a all inclusive chequing package with TD. My last one was the Scotiabank Amex (applied in December of last year). I make sure there are big purchases coming up and ask if they accept Amex. Amex is annoying that it’s not accepted everywhere, but usually most restaurants take it.

    1. Hi GYM, I don’t go out to restaurant often enough to make it worth it…plus I would probably forget!
      Do you only carry one card at a time? Have a great day:)

  8. I find it challenging enough to maintain 1.5 credit cards (one for personal expenses and one for joint expenses with my husband).

    I am a firm believer of “there is no free lunch in the world”. Alternately, the fact that I have been working in financial services for the last 4.5 years could also be a reason for my being cynical.

    In short, I like the regular points that I earn on my no-annual-fee credit card which can be redeemed for a lot of things from the catalogue. I am not going to be spending more just to be able to travel hack.

    1. Totally agree with you, you shouldn’t spend more just to be able to travel hack! One card is plenty of work for me:)
      Thanks for stopping by.

  9. I’m Mercer hacking more then one card at a time. All other cards go in a sock drawer except perhaps a backup for when Amex isn’t accepted. Then I don’t worry about which card is better for what. Keep it simple.

  10. Hi Caroline. As you may already know, travel hacking is definitely for me. I’m sort of a pro at it and have been doing it extensively for five years now. It’s for me because I love to travel, I love to score great deals, and my organizational skills are good enough to never miss a payment and I always keep track of how much I need to spend on each card and the deadline to do it.

    For me, the welcome bonuses on credit cards offered in the United States are so lucrative and attractive I find it so hard to pass up. If you’re curious about how extensive my travel hacking is, check out my latest post ;).

    1. I love to travel but the offers in Canada are so limited, maybe if I was in the US it would be different. You are doing great with travel hacking for sure.

  11. I just wrote a post about almost the exact same thing. I tried travel hacking once but it just wasn’t for me. Like you, I value simplicity! What I do now is try to be as loyal as possible to one airline and one hotel chain when we travel, and that way the points add up more quickly. I also use a credit card associated with hotel and the airline when I pay for things with them, because I get bonus points that way. I would save much more by travel hacking, but I just don’t have the patience for it.

  12. Caroline, I like simple life, too. Travel hacking is not working for me either. Probably twice I got the merchant credit card, in order to get some discount for that purchase. The fact is, I don’t like the hassle, and have to keep track of those cards.

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