By: James Asquith, CEO, and founder of Holiday Swap.
James Asquith is officially the youngest person to visit every country in the world – this is how he manages to fly often and for less.
“How do you get to travel so much? I would love to travel more but I can’t afford it.” These are a few things people always ask me, so I found a solution to open up travel to more people. I founded the travel app Holiday Swap, which eliminates the cost of accommodation in 185 countries. Since accommodation makes up 28% of our total travel cost, I thought why not use the bed that we sleep in at night as a pass to travel the world for less? Holiday Swap has helped make travel more accessible by extinguishing accommodation costs, but what about air travel?
I take around 200 flights every year now, mostly for work.
I’m lucky enough that I am able to work remotely, which ends up with me spending much of my life in airports. The thing is, I don’t spend that much money on flights. My biggest trick has been using credit cards to collect miles and loyalty schemes from airlines, which allow me to fly frequently at affordable costs. Not only do I get cheap flights with miles, but I also can get upgraded to those nice private suites in first class. However, I’ll almost always fly economy for a flight of less than 5 hours – I would rather save my points for long haul trips.
For someone that has traveled to every country in the world, and has taken well over 1,000 flights in my lifetime, you would think I have the air miles and credit card rewards “thing” perfected. Well, you are wrong.
Up until last year, I was the worst at using points and rewards from my spending and travel.
But now, it has made an enormous difference in my travel experiences. Honestly speaking, up until a few years ago, I was always at the back of the plane by the toilet. We’ve all been there, and even now I’m regularly dumped there because I barely ever pay cash for a fare. I usually book on miles (and to get airline loyalty, you mostly have to pay for flights, or get your work too!). That means that on “new” airlines I fly with, I have little to no status. So, you will still see me at the back of the plane.
The best credit cards for travel rewards
However, what I lack in airline status I make up for on the times I’m lucky enough to turn left (and rarely ever by paying for it). The reason why: credit cards. Seriously. I’m sure you are imagining huge interest fees and spiraling debt, however, if you’re smart about the points game, you can reap the benefits. In my experience, it is best when I use credit cards like a charge card. Basically, pay off your full bill at the end of each pay period and don’t spend more than you can account for. Credit cards also have great introductory offers, points multipliers, and promotions, so I always look out for these and take advantage of the best programs. The end reward: free flights and upgrades.
Now it was only last year that I got my first Amex (I’m almost ashamed to say). I’m not paid or sponsored by any air miles program or credit cards. This is simply my experience and tricks on how I make travel as affordable as possible for myself. My spending habits didn’t change too much when I began using credit cards,. When I regularly use my credit cards I collect points and miles so that I can use the rewards systems.
So let’s stop for a minute and think about how much money we spend on simple everyday items.
Groceries, gas, clothes, restaurants, and even bills. Almost everything I possibly spend money on goes onto my Amex. Then I pay it off straight away. In the end, I’m left with the rewards points and the freedom to travel more. If you don’t abuse your credit card, there is nothing to be scared of versus a debit card. You can even link the two accounts to pay off your credit card directly and immediately. I am careful about my spending habits and always make sure I don’t spend what I don’t have.
On my particular card I get 1.5 points for every £1 I spend, but there are even better multipliers and deals out there, particularly in the USA. When you add in multipliers (such as using an Amex to book flights directly on American Airlines for example) you get 3 points for every £1 you spend.
On the British Airways Avios e-store, there are also always promotions you can benefit from.
Recently a luxury brand had a 30 points to £1 promotion! If you were looking to go really big and splash out £2,000 on a handbag for a present, then you would get 60,000 Avios points. So, what do these points translate to? Well, off-peak you can fly from New York City to Lima, Peru for just 12,500 Avios points (plus about £5 in tax). You could potentially take 5 inter-continental flights for spending just £2,000 – not bad!
Now, comes the choice of which card you’re going to get. Some cards have an annual fee, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not for everyone. Largely, it comes down to two things. How much you think you’re going to spend and how much you’re going to travel (as many perks are travel-based). Most cards will give you advice on which card is best for your spending habits and will include cards with and without annual fees.
As a general (but not universal) rule, the higher the annual fee, the larger the multiplier effect for rewards as you spend.
They also include other perks such as lounge access when you fly, and sometimes even credits for TSA PreCheck/Global Entry. So to make your life easier, I’ve picked out 6 of the best cards on the market right now. It’s time to get rewarded for your spending! Pick the card that is right for you. Check them out here and let’s travel!
Follow more of my travels and adventures on @jamesasquithtravel on Instagram.