Welcome! I’m excited that you’ve selected this plan because it’s going to get you, drumroll please… the trip of a lifetime. This by far the most popular plan and is the single reason why my friends and family have all gotten hooked on travel hacking.
This plan is for you if you want to experience a nice business class flight. By following this plan, you will:
- Get your credit report in order
- Earn enough points for a round-trip business class flight across an Ocean
Unlike the short haul plan, this plan does require annual fees. You’ll see though that even with some of the annual fees, the benefits are well worth it.
Step 1: Is your credit in order?
Estimated time: 15 minutes
First, your credit score should be solid. You should have a good understanding of what goes into your credit score. If you need a refresher, take a look at this helpful guide I’ve put together on how to understand your credit score.
If you don’t feel like reading, just sign-up for these two services to get your score and report:
These two services will cover both your TransUnion and Equifax reports. It’s important to look at both because one company may capture information that the other might not.
You’ll want your scores to be at least 660. Review your reports to make sure that you recognize every account. If you see something you don’t recognize, be sure to investigate it further. You definitely want your credit report to be in order before proceeding.
Step 2: Sign up for the major loyalty programs
Estimated time: 25 minutes
There are a plethora of loyalty programs each with their nuances! Here’s all you need to know – there are just a handful that really make sense in Canada, at least when you’re first starting out. The beautiful thing about these accounts is that the points live separately from your credit card accounts so that means that cancelling a credit card, won’t cancel your points.
If you don’t already have these accounts, let’s get you signed up.
I strongly recommend one of the following programs to keep your logins and passwords safe:
Step 3: Credit card plans
What you do will depend on where you want to go. I’ve created these plans with the assumptions that you are eager to get the points fast and are willing to pay some fees in order to do so. I’ve created these plans with the goal of minimizing credit card signups.
There is a TON of flexibility in these programs so please refer to the substitutions section in the analysis.
Business class trip to Europe
The most flexible and cost-effective way to Europe using points is through Aeroplan. It’s yours for an outlay of $499.
The secret lies in grabbing yourself a business platinum card from American Express. This card comes with a steep $499 annual fee, but here’s the thing, it also comes with a referral program that gives you 25,000 points for each referral. You also receive 75,000 points when you spend $5,000 in three months.
A business card you say? But I don’t have a business.
Sell things on Ebay? Tutor? Consult on the side? You have a business. Even if it’s only a fledgling business with very little revenue.
The public offer on the American Express website only offers 40,000 points, so you’ll need to use this link in order to get the 75,000 signup bonus.
Maximizing the referral program
Once you receive your business platinum card, make your minimum spend of $5,000 in three months and then self refer yourself to the small business gold card.
You’ll earn 25,000 points for the referral and an additional 40,000 points for your signup bonus after spending $5,000 in three months.
In total, you’ll earn 140,000 points which is enough to get you anywhere in Europe in Business class.
Business class trip to Asia
As with the Europe plan, you’ll be earning Aeroplan points for the first stage. The foundation is also the business platinum card from American Express.
This card features:
- A massive 75,000 point signup bonus
- An industry leading 25,000 points referral bonus
- $499 annual fee (which unfortunately isn’t waived)
Maximize the referral program
Once you receive your business platinum card, make your minimum spend of $5,000 in three months and then take advantage of the self-referral program to sign-up for the personal platinum card.
This card has a steep $700 fee, but don’t let that dissuade you. It also comes with a $200 travel credit that you can use per calendar year. This means that you can use it twice before cancelling your card (should you decide to). This effectively drops the annual fee to $300.
Taking advantage of the referral program also provides you with an increased signup bonus of 60,000 points.
In total, just for signing up for two cards, you will receive 75,000 points from your business platinum card, 60,000 points from your personal platinum card and 25,000 points from the referral.
That’s a total of 160,000 points! You spent only $799 to get a round-trip business class flight to Asia.
The above plans were put together to earn the highest number of points in what I believe is a respectable cost/efficiency ratio. Decreasing costs require additional signups, likely spread over a larger period of time.
The plans also assume that you are starting from zero balances. If you just need a top up, it’s likely that choosing a card from the options below will be enough to increase your balances.
No annual fee cards
If you’d like to put together a plan with cards that require no annual fees, these will be the four to choose from that will provide you with Aeroplan points.
The business gold will give you 40,000 points for signing up through this link with a $5,000 minimum spend in three months.
The personal gold will give you 25,000 points for signing up through this link with a $500 minimum spend in three months. Use AMEXPERK14 as the RSVP code.
CIBC’s Aeroplan card offers a 15,000 signup bonus and doesn’t waive their fees on their website. In order to receive a fee waiver, apply in branch or through the telephone.
TD’s Aeroplan card currently offers a 15,000 point signup bonus. Twice a year, that increases to 25,000 points with the first year free. I will update this post when that offer is available.
Edit: The next bonus is expected to happen in March
No business cards
The Amex Business cards are some of the best offers available, but they’re not for everyone. High minimum spends and the need to have a business are barriers to entry.
Instead, I recommend swapping out the business platinum card for the personal platinum card. You effectively spend $300 for 60,000 points.
Make up the rest of the points you need by using a combination of the American Express personal gold card in combination with the CIBC and Aeroplan cards.
Other cards considered
The other program that’s extremely attractive is the SPG program combined with the Alaska program. Unfortunately there’s currently no way to earn enough points for a business class trip without needing several credit cards. This is a popular redemption for many so I’ll be revisiting it in a separate article.
Getting more points through other means
While signup bonuses are a fantastic way to earn points fast, don’t forget that there are many ways to earn points. Here are some other ways that you can increase your points balances:
- Manufactured spending with AC Conversion
- Shopping through the Aeroplan eStore
- Swiping your card at Esso
- Shopping at Costco.ca
- The Carrot app
When deciding how you earn points, you have three things to consider:
- How quickly you want to earn the points
- How much you’re willing to spend
- How many credit cards you’re willing to sign up for (and by extension, over what period of time).
The above plans provide you something that is fast, relatively inexpensive (compared to what you get… but still expensive) and require only two cards.
The world is your oyster when it comes to travel hacking. It doesn’t matter how you get the points – only that you do!