How To Travel Hack Without Credit
I believe that travel is for everyone, regardless of your credit history. This statement might ruffle some feathers because there is a lot of judgment surrounding how people spend their money. You can enjoy at least a little bit of travel, even if you don’t have credit or you are in the process of rebuilding it. How? By finding ways to travel hack without credit cards, credit history or even with bad credit.
Now wait a minute, don’t mistake me for someone promoting financial recklessness, but there’s a well-known financial guru who insists you can’t enjoy life while chipping away at your debts, and frankly, I call bullshit on that. Why? Because as cliché as we all know it sounds, life really is too short.
We’re not promised a limitless number of tomorrows, so finding a balance that allows us to enjoy life’s pleasures while being responsible with our finances is essential. You can still explore the world and create enduring memories by using available tools and offers while on the path to financial recovery.
Inevitably, though, traveling involves expenses. Those expenses can often be reduced with points and miles earned through travel credit cards. But what do you do if you don’t yet qualify for one of the wonderful travel credit cards so often being promoted? The good news is there are plenty of ways to travel hack and reduce costs so you can fulfill your dreams of solo travel, even with little or no credit.
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Earn Miles and Points Through Everyday Spending
Did you know you can earn miles and points without a credit card? I know it sounds unbelievable, but it is possible to travel hack without credit cards.
The truth is that through various reward programs, you can earn miles and points by performing your regular daily spending activities, and they do not require a credit card.
Here are 3 tips to help you get started with travel hacking with no credit or bad credit:
- Sign up for travel loyalty programs. I have one word for you: FREE. Through these loyalty programs, you can book free travel, get upgrades, and even enjoy perks at the airport. Review and sign up for all the programs that align with your travel goals. You can sign up for multiple airline and hotel loyalty programs even if you are unsure which you will use the most. Some may give you bonuses for signing up and completing a specific task. A few are transfer partners with others, so I suggest you sign up for any airline you could ever travel on.
- Download airline and hotel apps and shopping browser extensions. Often, these apps provide exclusive deals, discounts, and flash sales only available to members. Enable notifications on your devices so you never miss a deal that could align with your travel plans.
- Sign up for airline and hotel email newsletters. The newsletters may include special promotions and flash sales when they happen. Having an existing account is vital to receiving exclusive offers.
Leverage Airline and Hotel Loyalty Programs
Airline and hotel loyalty programs provide a great way to earn points and miles for award travel without needing a credit card. Most major airlines and hotels offer free loyalty programs you can join. Once you become a member, you can start accumulating points by flying with the airline, staying at the hotel, using cobranded credit cards, and engaging with program partners. Partners provide additional ways to earn points for dining out, shopping online, renting cars, and more. This allows you to accumulate points to redeem points for flights and hotel stays later. Below are some of the best partner programs to leverage for earning loyalty points and miles without a credit card:
Dining rewards programs
These programs allow you to earn airline miles or hotel points by registering a credit or debit card and dining at participating restaurants. You can quickly rack up miles over time if you dine out often. Even if you don’t dine out often, the occasional miles or points are handy when redeeming for a flight or hotel stay. How do you pick which program to participate in? When choosing, keep in mind what your target will be. Do you prefer to accumulate miles for free or reduced flights, or do you want to stay at hotels for free? Here are some examples of a few of these programs:
Non-Airline Shopping Portals
Airline Shopping Portals
Similarly to the shopping portals mentioned above, major airlines also have their own shopping portals. Suppose you have travel or reward credit cards. In that case, using them in conjunction with these airline shopping portals enhances your points in addition to air travel and credit card rewards, providing multiple benefits. This is also known as double or triple dipping. Choosing one airline portal for shopping will depend on which carrier you anticipate using the most.
Here are some of the airline shopping portals:
Holiday shopping seasons, such as Valentine’s Day or Christmas, present a perfect opportunity to supercharge your miles and points earnings through online shopping portals. Watch for significant sales events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Green Monday. Sign up for email alerts so you never miss a sitewide promo code that could lead to substantial bonus miles. Then, shop strategically, combining special discounts with shopping portal bonuses and credit card rewards for maximum earnings. In these cases, you could double or triple dip your point earnings.
Gas station rewards programs
Shell Fuel Rewards lets you earn points on gas purchases that transfer to American Airlines. Keep on the lookout for other partnerships in the future.
Leverage Travel Discounts
Taking advantage of available travel discounts and deals can save you a ton as a cash traveler.
Here are a few ways that you can take advantage of existing travel discounts:
- Be Flexible with your travel dates. This usually yields finding flights for less to destinations that you may have yet to consider visiting.
- Sign up for websites that deliver fare deals and alerts to your email or texts. I use Going and Thrifty Traveler. If you speak Spanish and want to add a third deal aggregator, I would recommend Mochileando.
- Explore potential savings by checking if you’re eligible for discounts through membership in organizations such as Costco, AARP, AAA, the military, student associations, or senior citizen groups.
- Check Groupon or TravelZoo for travel deals. Word of Caution: when you purchase from these websites, read the terms and conditions thoroughly. Also, fully read the reviews for the property that is being promoted. That will help you make an informed decision.
- Use apps like Hotel Tonight to find last-minute unsold hotel inventory at hotels.
- Compare rates directly on airline and hotel sites, then cross-check versus websites like Expedia, Kiwi, and Booking.com to find the lowest prices. Discounts aren’t always consistent across sites. Make sure to activate your Rakuten cash back if there is an offer.
Get Creative with Affordable Lodging Options
Traditional hotels can represent a significant chunk of your travel expenses.
One of the best ways to cut this cost is to get creative with your lodging options. You can save money and enjoy unique experiences by being open to alternative lodging choices.
Here are a few creative options:
- Research the homes or rooms available for rent on Airbnb, VRBO, Agoda, Women Welcome Women Worldwide, and Homestay. Review if these options make sense for your travel goals and budget. Some may require a membership or a profile to book.
- Pod-style hostels with a bunk bed in a shared dorm room are cheap, often under $25-35 a night. Get your own bed with privacy curtains, or book a private room. Private rooms can cost the same as a room at a hotel, so ensure to check both rates. I use Hostelworld to find and book hostels for my stays.
- Look into house-sitting gigs where you watch someone’s house and pets in exchange for free lodging. TrustedHousesitters connects homeowners and house sitters.
Choose Less Expensive Destinations to Stretch Your Budget
Opting for more affordable destinations is key to stretching your budget further as a cash traveler. It will take time to do research. This blog post will help you choose your destination.
There are many options perfect for budget-conscious viajeras when the time comes to pick your destination. Here are some general things to keep in mind when choosing a destination:
- Exchange Rates: want to enjoy more for less? Opt for destinations where your home currency holds a favorable exchange rate. This means your money will have more value in that country’s local currency. Typically, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Southeast Asia countries have exchange rates where the US Dollar is stronger.
- Good Public Transportation Systems: The less you rely on taxis and ridesharing, the more you save. Cities with good public transportation allow you to see more while spending less on getting there. Apps like Google Maps or Moovit can help you use public transit like a pro.
- Free and Low-Cost Attractions: Choose destinations that offer many free or low-cost attractions, such as museums, parks, and cultural experiences. This will help you to enjoy your time at your destination without spending too much. I always visit local tourist information centers. They can provide maps, brochures, and guidance on free or affordable attractions.
Get A Cashback Debit Card Or A Secure Credit Card
Most techniques discussed in this article focus on accumulating miles and points but remember that you will still have some out-of-pocket expenses. When booking flights, hotels, and other travel transactions, you will still need a card with a credit card processor’s logo (think Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover), even if you don’t have credit or have bad credit. There are debit and secured card options that you can use as payment methods if you have no credit or are working to improve your scores.
Prepaid debit cards allow you to load your own funds onto a card in advance to then use anywhere major credit cards are accepted. Popular options like the GreenDot Prepaid Visa Card or Visa Serve have monthly fees of around $5-9 to maintain the card. The benefit is prepaid debit cards can book flights, hotels, and anything else for your trip, just like a regular credit or debit card. You aren’t borrowing money, just accessing funds you already loaded. Be aware of any fees for adding money, ATM withdrawals, foreign transactions, etc. Prepaid debit cards provide a payment method for travel without requiring a credit check.
Secured credit cards require an upfront refundable security deposit that becomes your credit limit. These credit cards help those without credit history or past credit issues because they can help establish positive payment activity. The Capital One Quicksilver Secured Rewards and Discover It Secured cards allow you to earn rewards, too.
Remember to make payments on time and keep your utilization low. After about 6-12 months of responsible use, you can graduate to an unsecured card and get your deposit back. While starting with a lower limit, secured cards let you access a card to book travel and build your credit. The deposit gives the issuer collateral if you were to default.
Use Payment Plans to Book Travel
This option does not help you earn miles or points nor is it a redemption. This is just another way that someone with no credit or bad credit can enjoy a bit of travel. Many travel providers now offer installment payment plans that break up expenses into more manageable monthly payments. These payment plans allow you to book flights and hotels and pay over time directly from your bank account.
Travel companies have partnered with Klarna, Uplift, Affirm, and Paypal Credit to offer payment plans.
Uplift has over 100 travel partners. It is the leading “lay-away” or payment-over-time service in the travel industry. To use it, you shop at one of their partners. At checkout, you choose Uplift as the payment form and answer the questions prompted. Uplift will show you multiple payment plans. Choose the one that best fits your finances. You can choose auto-pay so that you won’t miss a payment. Just be aware of APRs ranging from 10-36% if not fully paid off by the promo period ends.
Affirm works similarly to Uplift. However, the payment plans are split into 4 payments with no interest or fees and no impact on your credit, or monthly payments with no hidden fees.
Klarna works with retailers like Macy’s and Lenovo to finance purchases, including travel-related gear. You can do 3-4 interest-free payments every 2 weeks or pay in full after 30 days. Klarna uses soft credit checks that don’t impact your score. Late fees can apply if you miss payment deadlines.
PayPal Credit, formerly known as Bill Me Later, lets you finance any travel purchase. It’s a PayPal credit account to use for installment payments. There are minimum purchase amount requirements, and deferred interest promotions vary. Late payment fees can be hefty.
As you can see from all of the information above, not having credit or having bad credit does not have to stop you from rewarding yourself with travel.
With flexibility, resourcefulness, and low costs, it is possible to travel hack without credit cards so that your dream solo trip can happen. Hopefully, this guide has shown that travel is possible even if you have no credit or are rebuilding credit. You can begin putting these strategies into action.
Sign up for loyalty programs, download apps, hunt for deals, and explore alternative lodging. Start small with a budget-friendly weekend trip, then go from there. Most importantly, connect with other Latina travelers who can provide insight and join you on adventures. Travel is for everyone – credit score or not. ¡Buen viaje!