Alright. I’m about to reveal a big secret that will answer the question that is burning most people’s lips: How can I afford travelling so much!?!
I believe one of the main reasons is simply that I’m not a big spender. Whether it’s the latest gadget or new clothes, I do not have a tendency to acquire material things. In every day life, bringing my lunch to work has allowed me to save – a lot, little findings at Forever 21 satisfy my shopping cravings, and you’ll probably never see me spend 100 bills at the bar. I’m devoted to keep it all for adventures.
But that’s not the big secret.
The real deal is…… TRAVEL REWARDS!
Hum, what does that mean Erika?
It basically means that in the last years, I flew to Dominican Republic, to Bali (3x), and from Australia to California for FREE.
I’m about to tell you everything.
First and foremost, I wanna make it clear that there is a billion different options when it comes to credit cards. Taking the time to choose a card that really suits you can really make a huge difference.
For example, every month, if for some reason you don’t always pay the full amount of your card – which is a terribly costly habit by the way – at least, make sure you choose a card that offers low interest rates. And if you really don’t care about getting free airplane tickets, get a card that allows you to earn cash back!
However, what really interests us here are ways to travel cheap, right? So I’m gonna tell you about my personal favourite, i.e., my secret weapon: Visa Infinite TD Aeroplan.
So here’s how it works:
You earn points – called miles with the Aeroplan card – and exchange them for rewards such as airplane tickets. Nothing you haven’t already understood by reading between the lines.
Expect an annual fee of 120$ for the Visa Infinite TD Aeroplan card. Though, the first year, the fees are waved aside and you’ll straightforwardly obtain 15,000 miles when you sign up.
What are 15,000 miles worth? A round trip ticket to USA my friends!
Convinced yet? I understand there is so much to take into account when choosing a banking institution and, more precisely, its credit services. You could carefully read the little pamphlets covered in fine print, but let’s summarize the most important stuff in a familiar way.
How to accumulate miles
1-When you buy things with your card
2-When you use your Aeroplan card
3-When you are flying
1- When buying with your credit card
Spending. Lol, that’s the easy part. Basically, you will earn 1.5 miles per dollar spent in gas stations, grocery stores, drugstores and for purchases on aircanada.com. For every dollar you spend elsewhere, you’ll receive 1 mile. No need to specify that to maximize your reward you MUST always pay with your credit card. Everything every time. Leave your debit card at home & your cash in your bank account and simply, but most importantly, MAKE SURE you pay your balance every month. You don’t mess around with an interest of 19,99% ‘cuz that is exactly what won’t get you very far.
2- When using your Aeroplan card
This credit card is issued by TD bank in collaboration with Visa, but the reward program is Aeroplan, thus you don’t need a TD bank account. Moreover, Aeroplan is a subsidiary that has its own partners so in addition to the credit card itself; you must order your Aeroplan card. It will be useful to exchange your miles for free flights indeed, but it will also allow you to earn miles twice when choosing between its 150 partners when spending: Esso, Uniprix, Star Alliance (Air Canada), Home Hardware and so on. So if you choose to fuel your car at Shell for example, you will earn 1.5 miles per dollar. Though, if you wisely choose to go to Esso, you will earn 1.5 miles/dollar + 1 mile/3 dollars (bonus) thanks to the Aeroplan card. Really, you don’t need to pay much attention to these semi-complicated formulas. All you need to know is that Esso and Uniprix offer more miles than Ultramar and Pharmaprix. So, preferably, shop there when you have the option and use both of your cards.
3- When you are flying
As I’ve just mentioned, Star Alliance is an official partner of this reward program. Star Alliance is a grouping of airlines that includes Air Canada, United Airlines, Lufthansa, Thai Airlines, Copa Airlines and Swiss Air, just to name a few. Meaning, when flying with one of Star Alliance’s companies, you will earn 1.5 miles/dollar by purchasing a ticket on aircanada.com, but you will also receive the equivalent of miles covered in the air in Aeroplan miles! For a frequent flyer, this is totally awesome! For example, a round-trip to El Salvador would give you approximately 5,400 air miles + the points you’ve already accumulated by purchasing the ticket; which would be 1,050 miles if the ticket costs you 700$. For a grand total of: 6,450 miles accumulated thanks to the purchase of one trip! That basically means 1 free ticket every 3 tickets bought.
How to use your miles
Now that learning about the multiple ways of accumulating heaps of miles is out of the way, it is time to exchange them and fly away!
Here is what you need to know about this:
First, you can only use your miles to fly with Star Alliance’s partners and they have a limited number of seats per flight. I reckon this sucks, mostly because it might obligate you to be more flexible when booking.
If that is really a mind-boggler for you, I recommend you learn more about the RBC Visa Avion card, which has no seat, period or airline restrictions. The program they offer resembles the one I’ve described in many ways, but it isn’t half as good considering its long-haul flights, one-way tickets and business class travel options.
So, back to the Visa Infinite TD Aeroplan card. Just to give you a general idea of the miles value of Aeroplan, here is the quantity of miles needed for a round-trip departing from Canada – one-way tickets are worth exactly half of this amount, so if you don’t have enough for the round-trip, take the opportunity to earn more miles by paying your return ticket with your credit card!
To Canada or USA short-haul: 15K
To Canada or USA long-haul: 25K
To Caribbean & Central America: 40K
To South America: 50-60K
To Europe: 60-75K
To Australia & New Zealand: 80K
To Asia: 75-90K
To Africa & India: 80k-100k
*One-way tickets only require 50% of the miles listed above.
Once you’ve exchanged your miles, the only time you’ll have to take your card out is to pay the taxes and airport fees. So ya, not TOTALLY free, but still, it’s a hell of a deal.
In addition, the card also offers free health insurance for trips of 15 days and less. Also, it’s got your back for delayed/lost luggage and flight/trip delays. These little extras make such a big difference when shit hits the fan while you are on the other side of the globe.
If you are still struggling with the card’s annual fee or you’re discouraged by the fact that you really wanted to fly to India this year and you’ll clearly never going to accumulate 100,000 miles in the next 6 months, let’s think rationally for one second and do some super quick maths:
Let’s say you spend 2,000$ a month – because you’ve been clever and put ALL your expenses on your card – multiple this amount times 12 (number of months per year), for a total of 24,000$ in spending on your credit card.
Considering half of these expenses were gas, groceries or drugstore related (1.5 miles): (12,000 x 1.5 miles) + (12,000 x 1 mile) = 30,000 miles.
Plus, add the signing bonus of 15,000 miles = 45,000 miles earned the first year!
BOOM! THAT’S A FREE TICKET TO CENTRAL AMERICA! How does that sound?
Last but not least, because I feel like you are about to apply for it now that you’re completely blown away by its numerous pros, you’ll see that the card requires an annual gross personal income of minimum 60K… Don’t give up!
I think it is safe to say that I personally don’t make anything close to 60K a year and I still have the card.
If you have a good credit history, you might get lucky! If ever they don’t accept you, they will offer you the Visa Platinum TD Aeroplan, which offers similar advantages and requires only 15K in annual revenue. After being an A1 customer for a while, you will surely be upgraded to the Infinite card if you ask for it.
I hope that will help a few of you in your travels!