Many readers have PM me, after reading my travelogues, asking how I managed to go on so many travels while holding on to a salaried job? This is especially so after I posted my Business Class experience on Cathay Pacific here on this blog and on my other blog.
Here on this post, I will explain how I planned my travels, expenses and most important of all, pay for those travels. Other than controlling spending and looking out for offers, the main trick I have is to make use of credit card programs to multiply the effect of savings/expenses, which was crucial in helping me get that coveted long haul Business Class trip on Cathay Pacific covered.
Back to Basics
It is a fact that I was a salary man who, at best, can be considered as a middle income earner. It might be strange to others when I tell them I’m a prudent spender.
Prudent? But spend on travels? You might think.
First, I don’t spend much on things other than travel, except perhaps on food. I sold my car back in 2015, so that I could save on the $1,000 expense a month I paid to maintain the car. I’ve been using my current phone, a Google Pixel XL (which I used to take the stunningly beautiful photos for my Instagram account), for 2 years and its predecessor, Samsung Note 3 was retired only after 4 years of use.
The point is, I did not go on holidays because I earned more than the others, but because I saved for the travels. I think this is a crucial first step for anyone who dreams of a globetrotter life.
Look Out for Offers
The trick was to actively source out for promotions – and by sourcing for promotions, I do not mean to get on 3rd party booking websites. Those websites do offer you cheap deals, but those are often without frills and are cheap because of bulk discounts and being in a lower fare bucket. You will never find a deal to fly on Business Class.
Therefore, always go to the airline’s websites to snoop out cool deals on their premium class!
When I’m overseas, I don’t splurge on 5-star hotels, because I won’t be spending much time in my hotel room. However, neither do I make myself miserable by staying in hostels. Instead, I go for mid-range options that have a loyalty programs.
We can chalk up loyalty by consistently staying in that franchise’s hotels, or through affiliate programs like spending on a credit card. These hotels provide decent service, which means a comfortable place to recharge after a tiring day out overseas. Most importantly, as we chalk up loyalty points, not only can we redeem free nights, there are other perks that will be offered for loyal customers.
Milking Credit Card Programs
I think one of the greatest multiplier I leveraged on was credit cards. For as little as an annual income of S$30,000, one can get a credit card with all the perks they come.
Particularly for me, I narrowed my credit card options to those tailored for travel, or in geek terms, cards with flyer miles. These cards come with similar perks of other cards, like sign on bonus, referral bonus and supplementary bonus. Every now and then, they will sweeten the rewards with extra rewards for the same amount spent.
Over the years, I have narrowed down my credit card choices to 2: Citi PremierMiles Visa card and American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer card.
American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
I chose this card partly because I’m also a Singapore Airlines fan; every mile that I earned when I spend on this card will be credited to my KrisFlyer account at the end of the month, with no service charge.
In terms of earning miles for spending, one earns 1.2 KrisFlyer mile for S$1 spend in Singapore, 2 KrisFlyer miles for equivalent of S$1 overseas, 3 KrisFlyer miles for S$1 spend on Grab.
This is on top of the sign on bonus of 18,500 KrisFlyer miles with minimum spend of S$5,000 within the first 3 months of card approval!
By spending about $1,000 on local spend and $300 on overseas spend (who doesn’t shop on Taobao or AliExpress nowadays?) a month, 6 months after earning the first 40,000 KrisFlyer miles, one would have enough KrisFlyer miles to redeem a trip to Hong Kong or Taiwan on Singapore Airlines!
Moreover, if you use the American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer card while buying a ticket on Singapore Airlines, you will earn miles both on your ticket and on your charge to the credit card – no penalty for double earning!
Click on the link on the left now, and receive an 7,500 KrisFlyer miles with minimum spend of $2,000 within the first 3 months of card approval!
Citi PremierMiles Visa
The thing I like about Citi PremierMiles Visa is that miles earned on this card never expires. This means there is no constant worry that the miles earned will be wasted, or to be pressured to make a hasty miles transfer in order to use the miles. The miles earned on this card can also be used to redeem miles on a range of airlines’ flyer programs, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific included.
They also have the usual earning program, at 1.2 miles for S$1 spend in Singapore, 2 miles for equivalent of S$1 overseas spend, with special programs like 7 miles for every dollar spent on Agoda (which maximises your travel expenses!).
The sign on bonus currently can go up to 37,000 miles for minimum spend in 3 months. Of course, for those with lower spending capabilities, you can also earn 10,000 miles for minimum spend of 3,000 in 3 months.
Click on the link on the right to get your Citi PremierMiles Visa card now!
Maximising Credit Card Programs
Like the part I mentioned about being on the lookout for special offers, looking out for credit card offers is also good. For example, if you have not had a Citi PremierMiles Visa card or American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer card, you can enjoy exclusive sign on deals when you sign up using my referral links below.
Similarly, always be on the look out for deals for sign on bonus by other credit cards – HSBC, DBS and UOB are known to have good offers every now and then, although, I must say, I had very bad customer experience with UOB, to the extent that I cancelled the card before it was delivered. I’m mentioning this just to be clear that I don’t recommend credit cards indiscriminately.
Another point to take note about credit cards is the objective of using a credit card. Some people use it as a form of “loan” – to use money they never had, which is a dangerous trap. For me, I use credit cards to maximise my expenditures, like earning miles to redeem for future travels, so I always spend within my limits. For example, I rarely clock more than 30% of my salary on credit cards, and if I do, it was because I was paying on another person’s behalf to meet the minimum spend for sign on bonus – i.e. I was not spending my own money.
These are the 3 principles I follow to lead a meaningful life of a globetrotter. As I turn full time student, my expenses have decreased, so it is only reasonable that my travels will also drop. That’s one of the prices of prioritising one spending item over the other!
Till then, stay wanderlust!