Travel hacking, as described by Matthew Kepnes, is the practice of accruing loyalty points to fly and obtain lodging at reduced (and even free) costs. In his book, The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking, Kepnes describes how travellers can arrange expenses they already have work for them by turning them into loyalty points.
Consumer loyalty programs (credit cards, airlines, hotels, etc.) work by luring consumers in to work hard to gain points with a certain company so the consumer will not want to switch companies and lose the points they have gained. The author skillfully explains how hotel and the difficult-to-understand airlines rewards programs work. In fact, he takes it a step farther, beyond simply describing how the system works, to help you pick credit cards based upon what you want to do with the points you earn.
Unfortunately the art of travel hacking via credit card usage, which comprises a pretty good chunk of the book, can only be done in the US, because of the way credit cards work there versus the rest of the world. But, this does not mean that travel hacking is limited to Americans. Kepnes discusses how travellers can hack without using credit cards. For example, by shopping in certain places, such as airline online portals, you can accrue loyalty points toward the airlines you want to fly with or the hotels you want to stay with. Kepnes does a particularly good job of explaining the different types of award-based air travel, showing that some are based upon distance, some are based upon zones of travel, and some are fixed-value. Many of these travel programs can be manipulated to accrue more points.
Travel hacking can be difficult to understand and may be tricky, as you basically have to move money around to accrue points. But if done right, it can pay off. And Kepnes does a great job of making travel hacking easy to understand. He provides great resources for travellers to find new ways to travel hack, such as airline and hotel programs to join. The appendices offer detailed flight rewards charts, comparing frequent flier programs and how points accrue for each program.
[box]The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking costs US$37.[/box]