Travel hacking can be one of the best ways to save money when you’re planning a new adventure. I’m not talking about hacks on how to efficiently pack your luggage or how to use a sarong in ten different ways (I’ve done it, it’s possible). I’m talking about a system that has been in place since the early 1970s where you’re able to get discounted or even free flights through different programs and points.

The term “travel hacking” almost sound dangerous. The word hacking alone makes me think of some crazy computer coding system that gets all your private information with a quick click of a button (friendly reminder to always clear your cache because that can be super embarrassing). But don’t fear, travel hacking is nothing illegal, or suspicious. You’re simply using different programs to their full advantage, therefore resulting in some sweet travel deals.

So, what exactly can you get from travel hacking and how can you do it in Australia and New Zealand? Well, travel hacking isn’t just about cheap flights. It’s about working with a loyalty program that allows you to benefit through a range of things. I’m talking groceries, fuel, hotels and more. Doing simple everyday duties can get you great perks, depending on what loyalty program you go with. But how exactly do you pick the right program that’ll get you the most rewards?

Start by doing your research. Look into different memberships and think about which one you’d use the most frequently. Majority of them are free, so it’s really no harm in signing up to a bunch of them. For example, if you stay at a particular chain of hotels, sign up to their loyalty card, or if you tend to fly Qantas, sign up to be a frequent flyer member. Then, use the heck out of the card wherever you can to gain your points and perks. Sticking to one main airline will help you accumulate more points that’ll go a longer way, rather than having a few points on each different card.

If you’re about that credit card life, look into getting an airline branded credit card, or one that is partnered with a bank. Let’s use Qantas as an example again. They’ve got credit card partnerships with a range of banks that provide different perks. Not only do you accumulate points, but you get things like complimentary travel insurance, discounted fares up to 20% off, and a concierge service. The points will just keep rolling in as you spend money, and if you use the minimum spend within 3 months, you’ll be able to redeem your points easy. For every $1 spent, you can get between 0.5-1.5 points. You can use these points for flights, upgrades, hotels, phone plans, food & wine, and more.

This brings me to my next point about travel hacking in Australia or New Zealand. Have you ever been in Coles, Target or Kmart, and the lovely check out lady says ‘do you have Flybuys?’ You say no and have your debit card ready to tap the paypass option, complete the purchase so you can get the hell out of there? Yeah, same.

Flybuys is actually a great system for travel hacking because it’s a card that you can use at a number of different retailers. This means that you can really incorporate it into your routine and you’ll be obtaining points without even noticing! When you’re ready to use your points, just jump on to flybuystravel.com and you can book everything from flights, packages, hotels and cars! Flybuys literally lets you turn food into flights. Do your groceries, get some points. It’s that simple.

Another thing that some travel hackers do is taking part in something called credit card churning. Though some people see this as high risk because it’s possible to lose money, if you do it correctly then it’s happy days and plenty of points.

Credit card churning basically means to sign up to a number of credit cards that offer a certain reward you’re after (such as frequent flyer points), and use those first signup bonuses to your full advantage. By being a new cardholder and spending a certain amount in a certain time frame, you’re able to get some pretty hefty bonuses. The only thing is, you have to cancel the card before a given time so you aren’t charged any additional fees. When you’ve done this process of signing up, spending, cancelling, you do it all over again. That’s where the term ‘churning’ comes from.

There are a couple of thing to look out for if you do decide to use credit card churning as a travel hack. Make sure to not go overboard with the amount of credit cards you sign up for, and always pay it back on time! It can also be tricky keeping up with all these different cards and programs, so it’s important to do some travel hacking organisation.

If you’re serious about getting into travel hacking, it’s a good idea to get accustomed with websites that will keep you organised and on top of it all. For example, Awardwallet is a great tool that allows you to keep track of all your loyalty programs in one place.

Not only does it allow you to monitor your reward programs, but Awardwallet even notifies you when your balance changes and if your points are going to expire. This free website can save you a lot of time and can make your travel hacking ways a lot easier. It’s like a one stop shop for all your travel hacking data, and even holds all your passwords and membership info in one account!

You can think of travel hacking a bit like couponing. It can become a strangely addictive habit where you start strategical planning your purchases to benefit your rewards. Ain’t nothing wrong with that though! Because once you’re on that free first class flight across the world from Australia or New Zealand, all the travel hacking is definitely worth it.

Happy hacking!