Back in the 60s, you could just leave your life behind, hitchhike, work odd jobs, and somehow reach your destination. Since then, the backpacking breed has changed by leaps and bounds. Most backpackers these days have full-time jobs with limited vacation days.
Now, urban backpackers seek comfort when they’re traveling and this gets tricky with a limited budget. Staying in a hotel or getting decent seats on the plane means shelling out quite a bit of money. Not only does this cause a dent in your budget, but also restricts you from exploring more places and enjoying more experiences.
This is when reward points and air miles come in handy, especially if you have a good understanding of credit cards and the various reward programmes.
However, to accumulate a bunch of reward points you can make the most of later, you need to have a rewarding credit card first.
Choose the Right Card
With tons of options available in the market, your search is going to be overwhelming. Start by researching the market, look up different travel credit cards and how many points you can earn, the fees you have to pay, and if you’re eligible for it.
Pro Tip: Look for credit cards that offer points as a sign-up bonus. You should know that to access sign-up bonus (if any), you need to spend a minimum amount that is assigned by your provider.
A credit card that lets you earn points on dining, shopping, online, or utility payments is also ideal. The amount of points may vary for each category depending on your provider. Some credit cards also let you change your categories without levying any additional charge.
Sign Up for Loyalty Programmes
You can either declare your loyalty to one frequent flyer programme or join several programmes to collect points. And there’s quite a debate over this as well. But wouldn’t it be better to have 30,000 points in one account instead of 10,000 points in three different accounts? The argument here being points aren’t really transferable between airlines.
However, it also works if you have multiple accounts as long as you earn enough points to redeem them and get the cheapest air fares. For backpackers, multiple accounts are ideal as different airlines provide different routes and the prices may vary because of this as well.
Spend the Minimum for the Shiny Sign-up Bonus
As mentioned earlier, some credit cards offer a sign-up bonus in the form of reward points. And the only way to unlock this treasure to spend the minimum. This amount varies from bank to bank. But this amount can be exorbitant and if you’re a single person, spending that amount in a short period of time can be difficult.
Pro tip: Spend for others with your card! It’s as simple as that. If you’re going out with your friends, pay the bill with your card and ask them to send the money to you. A family member wants to buy something expensive? Offer them your card and ask them to transfer the money to you. Eventually, the points will be yours and you will not have paid a majority of the minimum. A win-win situation!
Switch Cash for Your Card
If your card is offering you points on dining or shopping, it’s time to put your relationship with cash on hold.
Pro tip: Start paying for your transactions with your card instead of using cash. Each spend on your card counts and soon, you’ll be the proud owner of hundreds of reward points. In fact, if you’re shopping with someone, you can offer your card and ask them to pay you later. Use cash only when it’s absolutely necessary.
Get a Points and Miles Manager
Say you have multiple loyalty accounts with thousands of points in each of them. Keeping a track of all these points and programmes is going to be hard.
Pro tip: Opt for an online miles manager. There are many free sites available online that can track all your balances in a single place. This way, you have a bird’s eye view of what’s happening in your points universe. Some sites also let you transfer miles from one account to another, if it’s allowed by the airline.
Now that you know how to earn points and miles, let’s find out how we can make the best out of these perks.
Yes, this is possible. A lot of people tend to use their miles to upgrade their seats from business class to first class. Some even use their points to enjoy access to those posh airport lounges. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy free food and beverages in a relaxing setting? But since you’re a budget backpacker, you can use your miles to get either free or extremely discounted flights to your destination.
It’s also good to keep an eye out for deals and discounts on flights. Coupled with your miles, you’ll be paying virtually nothing to travel around the world.
Backpacking to the Inca Trail or across Europe sometimes means giving up the comfort of staying in a hotel. Because of restricted budgets, most backpackers have to settle for hostels with little to no privacy. Some even end up pitching their tent in a park.
It can be quite welcoming to stay in a hotel, especially if you’re on a long backpacking trip. With your points, you can grab a free hotel stay or even a discounted one. Some credit cards offer discounts on various hotels and some even let you use your reward points to pay for the stay.
Flights and accommodation are one of the most expensive aspects of your backpacking trip and getting them at almost no cost is definitely a win.
This is why you should start by looking at the points table by various airlines, understand the points to miles conversion rate, and ensure you squeeze the value of these points. Sign up for dining programmes, shop on your provider’s online shopping portal, and limit your cash spends to earn a lot of points. Different cards have different promotions and offers. Hence, it’s crucial to pick the right credit card that gives you the best value for all your expenses. Who wouldn’t want to earn while burning?
You can begin by comparing the multiple credit cards on BBazaar.my. Look at their features, understand the benefits, and shortlist the one most suitable for you. And you can also apply for the card online if you’re eligible for it.