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Travel Hacking Cartel: Get Travel Rewards Even Without A Credit Card

in Do What You Love, People & Products, Travel

Ever dream of travel hacking your way across the world?

You’d pay for the round-the-world flights with airline miles, stay at hotels for pennies on the dollar, and even flash your Platinum card to get upgraded to a suite at check-in?

No?

What about just being able to book a flight to visit family a couple times a year? Or saving 80% off a fancy hotel as a getaway with your spouse?

We all know these things are possible – but for decades they’ve been reserved for the travel elite. The people who flew multiple times per week or charged tens of thousands to their rewards credit cards each month.

But that’s not the case anymore. Times have changed.

Thanks to the power of the internet (and groups like the brand new Travel Hacking Cartel)… Free travel is coming to the masses.

And the best part? You don’t even need a credit card anymore!

Join the Travel Hacking Cartel

Sure, using credit cards can still earn you a heavy dose of rewards and miles. There are dozens of tactics and techniques that can be applied in this arena.

But Courtney and I have chosen to take a stand against the industry and the use of credit cards in our daily life. We’ve discussed that plenty in the past.

Let me just say that anytime you take a stance on something, there will be events and circumstances that challenge your beliefs. For example, you may get under 10 m.p.g. when driving your RV and rethink getting a 5% rewards credit card on gasoline. You may travel nearly full-time and question whether or not you should be apply for new credit card deals to get bonus airline miles.

At the end of the day though, Courtney and I remember the pride we had in defeating our credit cards. We remember the amazing feeling of a life that was based around no longer needing them – no longer *wanting* them in our lives.

If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

Lucky for us – as I mentioned above – credit cards aren’t the only way to earn rewards and travel for free anymore.

What’s the Travel Hacking Cartel?

The Travel Hacking Cartel is a membership-based group of people interested in discounted and free travel. It’s launched and run by Chris Guillebeau – a close friend and mentor of mine in the online world.

Many of you know Chris from his blog and new book, The Art of Non-Conformity. In addition to leading a small army of non-conformist, travelers, and entrepreneurs, Chris has recently visited every state and Canadian province on his book tour. He’s also on a personal quest to visit every country in the world.

His newly launched Travel Hacking Cartel features:

Ongoing deal alerts via email and/or text message. Airlines, hotels, and travel companies commonly run huge specials and discounts – but only for brief periods of time. Cartel members will receive immediate notices of any special opportunities to earn miles, points, or deeply discounted fares (the minute they happen).

Some of the recent deals included are:

  • A special link to get Free “Silver Status” with all Hilton Hotels. After 4 visits you’ll be upgraded to “Gold Status”, unlocking even more discounts and special upgrades/privileges.
  • 10,000 bonus points for staying Sunday-Thursday at a Country Inn & Suites (at the very least paying for the stay in points earned from this promotion).
  • 500 bonus points for filling out an airline survey (The Cartel gives you the 5 answers to select). Not all rewards have to be huge, this is a small amount – but literally takes seconds.
  • 25,000 airline miles for getting Lasik eye surgery.  Weird? Yeah, but if your already going to get it done – why not earn a free flight!  :-)
  • A simple way for recent college graduates to get earn 10,000 miles for graduating. Didn’t know that existed? Me neither.
  • At the end of the year, Delta even ran a promotion that gave out airline miles for making a tax-deductible donation to charity!

Notice these are just a few of the current deals that don’t involve credit cards.  The Cartel also lists a handful of new and existing credit cards deals when they come and go – Courtney and I just choose not to take advantage of them.  :-)

Access to a library of travel hacking tutorials and videos.

These tutorials include things like:

  • The four ways to rack up thousands of airlines miles – even while sitting at home.
  • How to redeem miles the correct way (and how to respond when airlines say “no”).
  • How to get 4 times the value out of your miles when you go to book.
  • How to earn miles with one airline and exchange them in with another (a very important strategy).
  • How to access “Friends and Family” discounts that are for employees of hotel chains.
  • How to ask for an upgrade to first class (or business class) when booking or at check-in.
  • How to hack Priceline.com to find the “real” deals – $9 car rentals and insane hotel prices.

Access to a “Knowledge Base” with answers to Cartel-member specific questions. This is a questions and answers database that is already large – and still growing.  I’ve researched tips on booking “Round The World” tickets, capitalizing on “Glitch” fares, and how to book last-minute and using rewards miles (there is a very specific way to be successful).

The Refer-A-Hacker program. Have family members, co-workers, or friends who also love free travel?  As a unique bonus, you can send out a special link in your profile and earn 500 miles for each person who joins in on the fun. Whoo-hoo!

Membership Costs and Benefits…

The Travel Hacking Cartel has membership available on three different levels.

  • Economy Class ($15/month): The most basic membership gets you access to 15 travel hacking tutorials and the special email/text deal alerts. You still benefit from the “World’s Greatest Guarantee” (info below).
  • Business Class ($25/month): This is the most popular choice. It gets you an additional 10 travel hacking tutorials (25 total) and you also receive special hotel deal alerts (not included in Economy).  You’ll also receive help when redeeming your miles for maximum value (and free trips).
  • First Class ($39/month): This is the elite club, which gets everything from the other classes – but focuses specifically on upgrades, climbing status levels, and premium travel. Most people won’t need this level, but those that do – will reap serious rewards.

The World’s Greatest Guarantee…

Chris Guillebeau is the master of guarantees – and this time he’s outdone even himself.

The guarantee for all Travel Hacking Cartel members is that if they are willing to invest only 30 minutes per month following the tutorials and deal alerts, they will earn enough miles for 4 Free Domestics Flight per year.

Do you have 30 minutes?  Would you like 4 free flights per year?  Yeah, I know right?

If anyone but Chris was offering this kind of thing, I’d think it was too good to be true.  The thing is, Courtney and I have used many of these techniques ourselves – and plan to take it up several notches with the new membership.

Of course, if you’d like to really apply yourself (and invest extra time) – the sky is literally the limit for how much you can earn.

14-Day Trial for Only $1…

When I talked to Chris a few weeks ago about the new group – Chris explained that his goal wasn’t just to have a few hundred super-travel hackers in a club. He wants to spread the community into the masses and allow people to see that it really can be done.

That’s why the Travel Hacking Cartel comes with a 14-day trial for only $1. You don’t like it? Not for you? Cancel within the first 14 days of the trial and there are no questions asked.

Chris is smart – and he knows that cartel members will instantly see how they can generate hundreds of dollars in free air travel and hotel stays.

[Click here to take advantage of the 14-day trial for only $1]

See you on the road (or in the air)!…

Before I suggest a product, book, guide, or service, I have to passionately believe in its value – and use it daily myself.

I believe membership in the Travel Hacking Cartel is the single best investment in travel you can make online. Courtney and I pay (out-of-pocket) for our membership and have already earned much more than the cost. That’s the type of stuff I share with you.

If you choose to become a member and use one of the links on this page, I’ll get a small percentage of what you pay. It won’t quite be enough for me to buy my dream island off the coast of New Zealand – but hey, every little bit counts. I do not take your support for this community for granted. I truly appreciate it.

As Courtney and I travel through the U.S. this year, we hope to be able to meet you in person.

Who knows… maybe you can use your free flights to come out to one of our meetups!  (Is that too selfish of me?) ;-)

Either way, I hope to see you on the road – or in the air!

Xoxoxo,

-Baker

*Written from a cold RV outside of Baltimore, Maryland.*

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Justin Hamlin January 25, 2011 at 12:45 PM

As one of my things I was going to research with my now unemployment status, this could not have come at a better time.

Already signed up!

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Baker January 25, 2011 at 12:55 PM

Awesome, we are excited about learning even more – admittedly after seeing all this stuff, Courtney and I could do so much more on this front!

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Jacob Cassidy January 25, 2011 at 12:51 PM

This looks big, I’m seeing it pop up on blogs all over the web. Wish I was ready to use such a resource, but won’t be traveling anytime soon with going to school full time (summer included) for the next two years. Hope this resource is still around and open then :)

Cheers,

Jacob

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Baker January 25, 2011 at 12:56 PM

Yeah, Jacob – so many people are behind it because Chris is the real deal. He really provides great value on these big projects!

But no matter how many people support it (and our members), that’s never a reason to buy something you aren’t ready for. I’m *positive* this will be around after school! :-)

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Monique Johnson January 25, 2011 at 1:27 PM

One of my goals this year is to learn all that I can about travel hacking! It is definitely something I wish I knew about sooner but I am really stoked that Chris has released this new product! I really do believe that money can no longer be an excuse to not take that dream vacation. It’s just a matter of taking advantage of guides/products such as these to achieve your goal of traveling to a specific location.

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Baker January 26, 2011 at 9:27 AM

Awesome, Monique. I’m really amazed at what some people can do when they dedicate themselves to learning some of these techniques. I’ve had friend fly and travel on pretty amazing trips – Courtney and I do some of it, but are still very new compared to them. :-)

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Joshua Lance January 25, 2011 at 4:35 PM

Looks like a great membership deal, I’ll check it out further, maybe this could start a movement of “nomadic globetrotters”.

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Baker January 25, 2011 at 6:26 PM

Haha, we can only hope!

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Jenna January 25, 2011 at 5:25 PM

Oh man! Chris is up to it again. Definitely need to look into this more. Thanks for the heads up.

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Baker January 25, 2011 at 6:27 PM

Yeah, the quality that guy holds himself to is amazing. :-)

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Cameron January 25, 2011 at 5:27 PM

I signed up for the free trial. However, after poking around the site, it seems to me that most of the rewards are geared towards credit card users. Realistically, can I honestly expect to earn 25,000 miles per quarter without applying for and opening new credit cards?

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Baker January 26, 2011 at 9:30 AM

Cameron, I really do think so. I’ve explored the site (both before it was live and now) and believe there will be enough benefit. Courtney and I plan to test it ourselves, as well.

I’m truly going to aim for 15,000 a quarter at first – with the added benefit of all the tutorials (recognizing glitch fares, using priceline.com the right way, redeeming miles for the best value, etc…). I’m hoping these will help Courtney and I get more bang for our buck (and more value as well).

If you try it for a quarter, you can always ask for a refund if it isn’t working. I will make sure you get it – you can email me if it doesn’t work out.

After I learn more I hope to do a Debit Card Travel Hacking post myself, explaining the different ways to avoid credit cards. I do some – but need a product like this to get more experience. :-)

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amanda January 25, 2011 at 6:24 PM

When a website targeting people who need to get out of debt suggests such a site as this travel one I’m really disappointed. $39 a month is equivalent to over 10% of my annual travel fund. For those visiting family they could likely just buy a ticket for that much. This is ridiculous. I happily and wisely use my credit cards, simply transfering the money to a separate account so it’s there when it’s time to pay the bills.

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Baker January 25, 2011 at 6:31 PM

Amanda, I can tell you are new around here! This site does not “target people who need out of debt”. It attracts people who wants to remove obstacles (debt & clutter), so that they can more easily pursue their passions.

In fact, a big part of my audience is already debt-free! Another large portion travel for pleasure and business frequently. For these people, this particular new membership is an amazing opportunity.

If your budget is $300 per year, it probably isn’t for you. Lots of community members allocate more of their income towards travel, though. Best of luck! :-)

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Amanda January 26, 2011 at 1:55 AM

$300 monthly budget.

The first commented is unemployed. It just seems like someone in his position could spend their money for necessities rather than travel research.

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Baker January 26, 2011 at 9:34 AM

A $300/month budget? I’d think that the $15 or $25 levels would be fantastic for you then – which is why I recommend it.

You assume Justin (comment above) cannot feed or shelter himself. Unless he says that, I tend not to assume that someone “unemployed” can’t afford “necessities”. I also don’t prioritize people’s money spending for them based on a single sentence.

When Courtney and I left for Australia we were “unemployed”. We also had paid off all our consumer debt and saved up $17,000 for the trip. I wish this would have been available back then – I would have been the first customer!

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Mark Kelly January 25, 2011 at 7:03 PM

I see you are in Maryland not sure which way your headed but I live next door in Delaware let me know if your heading this way and if so the beverage(s) of your choice are on me.

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Baker January 26, 2011 at 9:35 AM

Awesome, Mark – we drove through Delaware on our way to New York recently. :-)

I’m not sure if we’ll be stopping by this time around, but I’ll definitely let you know if we do!

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Jason January 25, 2011 at 10:32 PM

“Courtney and I pay (out-of-pocket) for our membership and have already earned much more than the cost.”

Baker, curious how you and Courtney have accomplished this when the Cartel just launched today… ?

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Baker January 26, 2011 at 9:37 AM

Jason, I had early access to the site. This is common, because it lets me review the site and use it myself before I recommend it to anyway. I never recommend anything I haven’t had a chance to test myself. :-)

Because I enjoyed it – and because we immediately got our value (in first hour), Courtney and I paid for a membership ourselves. We didn’t have to (I could have got it for free), but I always try to ensure I pay myself for the products and services I recommend.

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Life Exceptional January 26, 2011 at 4:11 AM

Is this only for Americans or will it work no matter where you are in the world? Because I imagine a lot of the benefits might only be valid in the USA, and offers in Europe will of course be different to those in the USA.

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Baker January 26, 2011 at 9:40 AM

On the site, it says about half the deals are global and half are exclusive to U.S.

With that information, I can’t for sure say I’ve personally sorted which ones are global and or local to us here. Chris has a HUGE global following and I’m sure he’s working on making it valuable for you guys, too.

I’m not sure what to advise from here. You may want to try the trial or try 1-month and see what you think. Sorry, I can’t be of more help – you stumped me! :-)

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Patrick January 26, 2011 at 5:22 AM

Hi Baker, this looks awesome! One question though, is it for US residents only?

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Baker January 26, 2011 at 9:42 AM

Patrick, it’s not designed *only* for U.S. Residents – but about half the deals are exclusive to here. Read my comment directly above for more information.

Since I haven’t tested which are global and not (nor tried them myself from global locations), I can’t for sure say yes. However, I trust the Chris’ audience is going to essentially demand it’s still good value – as a big chunk of them are overseas. :-)

Sorry I don’t have more information on this one! If I were you, I’d likely test it for a month or two to see if I could extract the value. :-)

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Patrick January 27, 2011 at 4:58 AM

Thanks Baker!

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Wandering Mike January 26, 2011 at 12:48 PM

Hi Baker, Nice post in support of your friend’s product. I suspect you wouldn’t suggest this extra expense for someone who is still deep in the trenches of their own war against debt, but if one has the time and can make the effort and is going to travel anyway, buying a newsletter with tips about free miles might be worth the cost.

One question though, I went to the website and found I wasn’t able to buy the product, even the trial, without a credit card. I suspect you as a friend of the owner can make such a “card free” purchase, but do you know if or how an “average Joe” might go about buying the product without a credit card?

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Baker January 26, 2011 at 1:00 PM

Mike, you nailed it on the head. This is a membership club, much like a grocery store club that should only be used if they are going to spend the time and effort to make much more than they spend. :-)

People deep in debt have a different plan than those debt-free or close, who already allocate a major amount to travel. :-)

Oh, and I used our debit card. I signed up the same way an “average Joe” would. Courtney and I have one debit card used mostly for non-Paypal online shopping, gas (so we don’t have to go in), and other conveniences!

Thanks for the comment!

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Wandering Mike January 26, 2011 at 11:12 PM

Gee, I hadn’t thought that one could use a debit card on websites and such. I guess I still like credit cards for the better ability to resolve problem purchases. Obviously if someone isn’t able to pay the card(s) in full each month and is paying interest, the debit route is the way to go.
If you are using debit purchases, have you looked into “rewards” checking accounts that pay a much higher interest rate on savings? It is sort of a “payback” to the card user for using the debit card as the bank charges the merchant for debit transactions too. Some of the same philosophical questions arise with the idea of not using credit cards for the added cost included in the transactions.
I am looking forward to more travel stories. Myself I am knee deep into a rebuild of the cabover section on my class c.

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Kelsey January 27, 2011 at 11:11 AM

I signed up for the cartel and earned 1,500 miles in a few minutes. We don’t use credit cards anymore either, although as part of the “cartel” it’s tempting. Airlines do have some partnerships with banks and offer debit card rewards programs, but their initial mile bonus tends to be a lot less (4,000-7,000 miles for signing up). I look forward to your debit card travel hack post.

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jinx January 27, 2011 at 10:23 PM

If you’re still in Baltimore this weekend let me know, as I’ll be up there too. Love to buy you guys a beer or two and talk about your travels!

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Kevin January 28, 2011 at 9:41 AM

Baker’s Note: Kevin, check your email – I responded to your first comment there. It’s clear we aren’t a great fit. Best of luck in whatever you pursue in the future!

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Adam January 28, 2011 at 12:56 PM

Hey Baker! I know you mentioned something about airline debit cards and I’m wondering if you knew of any “local banks” that offer the product. I am only finding major banks that have the debit cards and I’m not to fond of the banks themselves.

By the way, I hope to see you in DC in the next coming weeks. Looking forward to it. Hopefully J doesn’t take up all you time though!

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Adam Shindle February 1, 2011 at 3:22 PM

This looks like an awesome program, especially for me! I love to travel, one of my goals is to visit every continent in the next couple of years. My business partners and I also love to travel outside the country to have our business meetings – we feel that it opens up a whole new world of creativity!

This is a great quote by the way: If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.
So True!!

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Maggie Norman February 6, 2011 at 12:57 PM

I hate to admit that I am new to the blog world since for a 50something I’m very computer savvvy, but I am. I found your blog while researching how to create a blog and am so glad that I did. While my husband and I have too much debt we are working on it and I love the information about the Travel Hacking Cartel. I’ve been wanting to visit an elderly relative but money constraints have just made it impossible. Now I am hopeful. I look forward to following your blog and maybe one day I will have one you will follow!

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Aoife February 10, 2011 at 6:41 PM

When I’m finished this semester I planning on doing as much travel as possible so this comes at an excellent time:)

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Oro July 2, 2013 at 6:46 AM

Hi

I find all the info about racking up miles really interesting without the use of credit cards.

And then i go to sign up for it, and there it comes up!
It asks me for my Credit Card details.

What an irony!
I was really hoping to get all the free miles without having to use any credit card.

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