Travel Hacker’s Toolkit


two men wearing construction gearWhen friends and family ask me how we can afford to travel the way we do, I often simplify and say that we’re really good at using credit card rewards and frequently flyer miles. However, the longer answer would be found in the strength of our toolkit. On this week’s Frequent Miler on the Air, Greg and I talk about our go-to tools for earning outsized rewards and leveraging them for outsized value.

Elsewhere on the blog this week, I shop around for car rentals with results that surprised me, Greg asserts that it doesn’t make sense to value an award at the price you’d be willing to pay, and we learn how to pick up the pieces when you forget to cancel an Amex card on the right timeline. All that and more can be found below the show.

00:45 Giant Mailbag: Tips from the comments on a fixing a failed attempt at a Platinum triple dip
05:50 What crazy thing….double header!
05:58 What crazy thing . . . did Capital One do this week?
12:03 What crazy thin . . . did Virgin Voyages do this week?
17:23 Mattress running the numbers: New Hilton credit cards
25:48 Main Event: Travel Hacker’s Toolkit
26:10 Managing Points: Award Wallet
29:39 Earning miles and points
29:45 Best Offers Page
32:56 Travel Freely
35:23 Tools for meeting minimum spending requirements
35:41 Kiva
36:51 Paying taxes
40:34 Referral bonuses
42:10 spending points
42:22 Flight tools (First up: Flight Connections)
44:49 Google Flights and airline websites
50:28 and Award Logic
58:00 Seats.Aero
1:01:17 Expert Flyer
1:03:30 Award Nights
1:04:38 Award Mapper
1:06:16 Stay with points
1:08:56 Car Rentals
1:15 Google Maps, Google Flights, Google Hotels, Blog Reviews
1:20:54 Question of the Week: On a partner award, do you always check in with the operating carrier?

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This week on the Frequent Miler blog…

The Tools We Use (for playing the points and miles game)

a group of tools on a white surface
Set of tools, Many tools isolated on white background.

If you want to win the game, it helps to start with the right tools. From tools for earning more points to searching for great flight and hotel awards to the tools we use to finding great deals on cars rentals and flights and paid hotel nights, this post has it all. On the show, we discussed he ones we use the most, but this post expands the list a bit further yet.

Stop telling me that “value” is what I would have been willing to pay

a man sitting on a couch with a laptop
Luminary Hotel & Co., Autograph Collection

Greg certainly riled up some discussion this week when he thew cold water on  a commonly-espoused belief thar you should value award travel at what you would have been willing to pay for it. A number of us (myself included!) took issue with Greg’s use of retail price as a barometer and that led to some great discussion in the comments. Greg makes some very good points and a strong argument, though as you’ll see if you weed through a comment section that is the length of a post of its own, I disagreed with some of his ideas.

Shopping for car rentals with surprising results

a child in a toy car

A great targeted offer led me to search for and book car rentals for a wide range of trips I’m taking this year. To verify that I was getting a deal, I searched all of my rentals through Austoslash,, and the Capital One and Chase travel portals. I was kind of surprised by the results.

Fixing a failed Platinum triple dip

a hand holding a waffle cone with ice cream and two american express cards

Like Greg, I recently failed to cancel a Platinum card before the “deadline”, but I wasn’t overly concerned because I knew that I could downgrade as he did and (mostly) “save” my mistake. However, I learned some interesting additional tips from reader comments by way of the giant mailbag segment on this week’s Frequent Miler on the Air.

Positioning 101: Techniques for getting to your gateway for a great award flight

a close up of a map

Sooner or later in this game, you’re going to have to position to a different airport to catch a great flight deal you’ve found (whether for a paid or award ticket). Many readers have asked us what there is to know about this practice and how we set up our own positioning flights. This post provides the initial overview of techniques and concerns.

Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts now (sort of) allows booking in someone else’s name

a screenshot of a travel application

In hindsight, I think that perhaps I should have worded the title a bit differently: Amex allows entering someone else’s name as the primary guest on an FHR booking. The terms still indicate that bookings must be made in the name of an eligible cardholder, this change makes it possible to enter any name in the guest name field, and many will find that to be a positive change.

Best hotels in Hawaii on points? – Ask Us Anything Ep 52

a balcony with a view of the ocean and palm trees

This month’s “Ask Us Anything” live on Youtube generated a number of interesting questions and all hands were on deck to answer them with Greg, Tim, Stephen, Carrie and me fielding reader questions on a wide range of topics. Mark your calendar for the first Wednesday of every month to make sure you don’t miss the next live event.

Bakkt Up Against The Wall: App Closing, Cash Out

a red axe stuck in a tree stump

I’m including this post in week in review for anyone who may have signed up for Bakkt and actually used it much and maybe forgotten about it in the meantime: it is closing next month, so you’ll want to cash out your rewards as soon as possible.

Bottom Line Review: Hyatt Regency Oryx Doha, Qatar

Bottom Line Review Hyatt Regency Oryx Doha

Despite having transited Qatar twice, I have yet to actually enter the country. With a lot of hotels that look to be pretty luxurious at reasonable award redemption levels, it might be hard to pick a property — but Stephen’s review of the Hyatt Regency (a category 1 property) shows that you don’t have to splurge for the fanciest hotel to get a great deal on a very nice hotel in Qatar.

Bottom Line Review: InterContinental Johannesburg O.R.Tambo Airport, South Africa

InterContinental Johannesburg O.R.Tambo Airport - Fitness room
Fitness room

I love this use of an IHG free night certificate! This is the perfect example of how a free night certificate from a credit card can yield outsized convenience: I doubt that Stephen or his in-laws would have paid the cash price to stay steps from the airport, but the convenience of sleeping steps from the airport at a comfortable hotel with free breakfast for IHG Diamond members is worth well over the annual fee in my book.

Hyatt Place Boston Seaport: Bottom Line Review

a table and chairs on a balcony overlooking a body of water

The layout of a Hyatt place works very well for family travel, so I was glad to read Tim’s positive report of the Hyatt Place Boston Seaport. As he notes at the outset of the post, Hyatt Place can be great — but some of the US Hyatt Place properties are showing their age and are worse for the wear. I’m glad to hear that this one is not in that category but rather is a place to consider the next time we get out to Boston to visit friends.

That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Keep an eye on this week’s last chance deals to make sure that you don’t miss those ending this week.

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Senior Points Jim

Thanks for letting us know about the Virgin Voyages special offer. I jumped on it and we are doing the seven cruise out of Barcelona. We’re not into cruising but that is a deal too good to turn down!


My international travel experience is limited, but one potential advantage to checking in online if you have no checked baggage is that you can skip the main check-in counter line and instead do your passport check with the gate agent. On an annual work trip with WestJet I take advantage of this and get to skip the much longer main ticket counter line and go straight to the gate.

With more and more kiosks for check-in this isn’t always going to save time but it can make getting through the airport a little easier.


Good collection of tools — I’ve found most of them to be helpful. I used to use Seat Guru to choose seats (I typically fly economy, and appreciated notes like “this seat doesn’t recline” or “the power outlet source may impede leg room in this row”, etc. Seat Guru seems to have fallen by the wayside — is there a site or app people are using to select the best seat now?


Good morning all.

After learning and benefiting from credit card offers for a number of years now, as well as following blogs such as this, I reach the conclusion that there is a pretty hard (and relatively low) limit on the number of credit cards and offers you can get. If I am lucky, perhaps I can get 4 ou 5 big offers in a year, even if I try business credit cards.

Now, 5 big offers is quite nice, but is far from what is needed to get the lavish travel style implied in the blogs (first-class travel around the world, plenty of luxury hotels, etc).

I get the impression that the points bloggers are achieving that because of all the referrals they get by people like us following their offer links, so it is not something available to us readers even though that seems to be the suggested implication. Am I missing something here?


I generate quite a bit of points, but it’s with SUBs, biz spend, a P2, 5x Staples, some referrals… I don’t even MS.

The outsized value on blogs is through transfer bonuses, extreme flexibility, and lots of TIME and WORK.

Greg The Frequent Miler

There doesn’t seem to be much of a limit with Amex business cards. Amex targets people over and over with huge business Platinum and business Gold offers. With these “extend your membership” offers, you can get the same card multiple times for the same business (even if you still have the previous cards open).


This has not been my experience. I have recently been denied a Delta SkyMiles Business Amex, even though I never had it (I currently have the personal version).


Thanks for another awesome podcast. Near the end Nick said he didn’t know of an advantage to checking in online for international flights and stopped doing so.

There’s an advantage to checking in as early as possible. I checked in a few hours before an AA flight to Europe in business. Unfortunately the overseas portion had an equipment change, and the new aircraft had a smaller business cabin. Although I had status, the agent said one factor they used to prioritize passengers was check-in time. I was moved to the last row, so instead they rebooked me to a later flight with an extra connection. Screwed up my trip so I use online check-in now. This is a rare problem, and I don’t know if other carriers do it, but I don’t take chances now.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nun

Yeah, I can think of a couple reasons to try checking in online.

  1. Identify issues with your reservation. If I am not able to check in, it could be a red flag that there is some issue with the ticket. A couple times with Delta I’ve had issues with upgrade certificates. The last one I was on hold for 2 hours before they were able to sort it out. One time I had a ticket where there was a schedule change with a code share flight that was holding up the ability to check in, and when I called they said had I gone to the airport, they would have had to call them anyways to reissue the ticket. If I can’t check in online, I plan to get to the airport way earlier.
  2. Seat selection. There are some carriers (JAL comes to mind) that hold back certain seats for their own elites, etc. At online check in, these seats are released, and may be better than what I have.

That’s a good point. 2 months ago a family member had an issue with JAL and online checkin helped resolve it early, eliminating some airport stress.


“When friends and family ask me how we can afford to travel the way we do, I often simplify and say, “My travel blog makes almost $1 million per month!”