PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A Phoenix couple has mastered how to have world-class adventures from overseas to around the country on a shoe-string budget.
Michael and Kelsa Dickey love taking amazing trips together, especially when they don’t have to pay for their travels.
"It’s simply made it more fun. Instead of figuring out how you’re going to budget for it, it feels like it’s become a game and you simply play the game," said Kelsa.
The couple’s strategy, "Travel Hacking," is a method of using credit card rewards to get free flights and hotel rooms. While the concept isn’t necessarily new, the extreme the Dickeys do it is unheard of.
"We had one to start. We had a Chase card that we’ve probably had for 15 years and now I think we have ten now," Kelsa said.
The couple opens each card strategically at different times and use them for different expenses to harvest different rewards, which has taken the couple far for free.
"We just got back from Denver, we did a trip to Denver on Southwest Airlines, we’ve done trips to Michigan on Southwest, we are planning next year a trip to Scotland, so flight, hotel, everything is paid for to Scotland. We have Cabo (San Lucas) coming up, so that’s the tropical vacation I’m really excited about just relaxing on the beach and staying in a really nice resort and having the hotels paid for is going to be so exciting," said Michael.
Author Nancy Tengler, a finance expert and author, likes the idea of travel hacking but warns it can be a dangerous game.
"Travel hackers usually have dozens of cards, they have some for miles for airlines, some for hotel loyalty programs, some for cash back and so forth. The difficulty is making sure that you pay those down and pay them on time because you usually lose the rewards if you don’t pay your payment on time and your credit score can be threatened if you don’t pay them down enough," said Tengler.
The most important rules of hacking? Don’t spend money you weren't going to spend anyway, and then pay those credit card bills off every single month.
If you can successfully handle the hack, update that passport and pack your bags!
For those interested in travel hacking, the couple offers these tips:
- The best time to travel hack is if you have a big expense coming up such as a remodel, airline travel for a big trip, home warranty renewal.
- Never open a new credit card if you’re about to make a major purchase like a house or a car.
- Maintain a strict budget and pay off your bill each month.
If you'd like more information on travel hacking, the Dickeys have a website: http://fiscalfitnessphx.com/