Are you someone who tries to earn enough points and miles to travel with your entire family? Do you have friends constantly picking your brain to figure out how you travel around the world for free? It may be time to stop going it alone and get your friends and family involved in your travel hacking hobby.
Earning enough points to book travel for yourself can be a challenge for many, especially if you are someone who travels often. If you also have to earn enough to book travel for family members, you may find it impossible to earn enough points. Fortunately, there are many ways to get other people involved so that you can double (or triple!) up on rewards. One of the easiest things to do is point them to our technology, which let’s them set a travel goal. Then we help them pick a strategy and stay on track. Here are some of the tricks that our free service can help you navigate:
Credit Card Welcome Bonuses
All of the largest travel rewards credit card issuers (Chase, Amex, Citi) have restrictions in place which limit how often you can receive an intro bonus on a credit card. The easiest way around this for families is to have your significant other sign up for cards that you want as well. This way you can get twice as many points. Since you will be duplicating the cards’ other benefits, if the card has an annual fee you may want to only keep one of the two long-term (unless there are annual benefits that are worth more than the fee). Chase and Citi both allow you to transfer points to your family members’ accounts, so you can easily combine them if you need to do so before booking an award. Amex does not allow you to transfer points, however there is an easy workaround. You can add them as an authorized user, which will give them the ability to transfer points to their own frequent flyer account.
Add Authorized Users
Adding authorized users to your credit cards allows you to rack up higher amounts of spending and therefore earn more points. As long as the people you add can be trusted to be financially responsible, you should make sure that all of your household’s spending is going on a credit card with valuable rewards (not some crappy debit card!). In addition to the standard point accumulation, having multiple people spend on the same card may be a way for you to hit annual spending bonus thresholds. For example, both the Delta Platinum and Delta Reserve cards from Amex award Medallion Qualifying Miles and redeemable miles for hitting certain thresholds. The Citi Hilton Reserve Card and Hilton Surpass card from Amex both award Diamond status for hitting $40K of spending a year.
Another advantage of adding authorized users is allowing additional people to take advantage of perks such as airport lounge access. One card that provides a ton of extra benefits by adding authorized users is the Amex Platinum card. You can add up to 3 authorized users for $175 (that’s $175 total, not per user). Authorized users get the same lounge access rights as primary users, which means they can get into Priority Pass lounges, Amex Centurion lounges, and Delta Sky Clubs. They also get their own credit for a Global Entry or TSA Pre Check application. Authorized users are also eligible to receive complimentary Gold status with both Hilton and SPG. With the recent acquisition of SPG by Marriott and the announcement of reciprocal status, this means they would also get Marriot Gold status.
Get Multiple Southwest Companion Passes
The Southwest Companion pass has been a favorite of travel enthusiast for many years. The pass allows you to designate a companion who flies essentially for free (plus a nominal tax) on any flight on which you are flying. This applies to both paid tickets and award flights. Once you earn the Companion pass, you have it until the end of the following calendar year. So if you time your earning right, you can qualify within the first couple months of a year and enjoy the benefits for nearly 2 full years. There are two ways to qualify for this benefit:
1) Fly 100 one way flights within a calendar year
2) Earn 110K points in a calendar year
The great part about qualifying based on points is that points earned from credit card welcome bonuses count toward qualification. There are several different Southwest credit cards including both personal and business versions. These often have 50K point intro bonuses after spending $2K in the first 3 months. So, if you can get 2 of these cards when the 50K sign up bonuses are being offered, after meeting the minimum spend on each you are only another $6K of spend away from qualifying for the Companion pass. If you really want to double dip on this benefit, then have your significant other also sign up for 2 of the credit cards when the increased bonuses are available. Qualifying for a 2nd Companion pass would allow 4 members of your family to travel for the price of 2.
Also note, that the companion you designate does not have to be a family member, so you can team up with a travel buddy for this strategy as well. In fact, if you and 1 other friend want to repeat this strategy, you can alternate the person who is signing up for the credit cards every 2 years to make sure one of you is earning the pass while simultaneously circumventing Chase’s 5/24 rule.
Focus on Fixed Value Rewards
If you are attempting to book award travel for a large number of people, you may often find that this is an impossible task. Airlines release a limited number of award seats per flight, so if you have a large family and all want to travel together, it may not be possible to find enough award availability. A better strategy may be to focus on fixed value programs that allow you to earn reward points, but book your flights as if you were paying out of pocket so you don’t have to worry about awards. For more information on this see our piece on fixed value programs.