Traveling has a reputation for being really expensive. It’s one reason so many people shy away from it: they feel like they don’t have the funds they need to be able to take a great trip. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, going on a trip can get really pricey really quickly when you’re not looking for deals, buying tickets and hotel rooms without comparing them, choosing an expensive time of year to travel, and not exploring your options. But when you take advantage of all of the programs and deals that are out there, you’ll find that taking a vacation can suddenly become a lot cheaper and more accessible. One way to do that is to sign up for a travel credit card, and then utilize all the hacks for using the credit card points to travel affordably.

A lot of people make the mistake of assuming that using a travel credit card to save money is as simple as signing up for one, then using it to book vacations. Nope! If you’re only using the card to book things for a trip, you’re doing it wrong. There are so many ways to take advantage of those points so that you can use them to score free flights, free hotel room stays, and more. You just have to know what you’re doing, and, of course, stay responsible. This is a credit card, after all, and it can affect your credit score if you aren’t careful. Check out some of the ways you can hack your card to get the most out of it:

1Pick The Card That’s Right For You

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Before you can do anything, you have to actually have a credit card that offers rewards. If you don’t already have one, it’s time to pick the one that works best for you. Some popular ones include Chase Sapphire Preferred, Capital One Venture, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, and Bank of America Cash Rewards. Although they all offer similar rewards, you’ll want to do research to see which is best for you: check out the annual fees, the kinds of rewards they offer, how they distribute points, and the interest rates.

2Sign Up To Join Rewards And Loyalty Programs

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There are so many free reward and loyalty programs out there that people just don’t sign up for. But doing so can help you gain points towards free things, which is worth it, even if it takes a while. Start by looking into airline programs that align with the airlines you use most often — Delta and JetBlue have great loyalty programs for customers. You can also sign up for hotel reward programs and travel site programs. They’re free and they’re easy to sign up, and you can only win by doing so.

3Use Your Credit Card To Pay For Large Purchases, And Pay It Off Quickly

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The way to get points on your credit card is to use it. If you aren’t using it, your points aren’t building up, and then what’s the purpose in having one? The best thing you can do is use the card for everything — and pay it back quickly, immediately if possible. Alternatively, use the card for big ticket items that you were planning on charging anyway. At least you’ll get something out of the purchase! Try to pay things back quickly so you don’t have to pay too much interest back.

4Choose Cards That Are Easy To Use Internationally

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If you travel internationally, you’ll want a credit card that isn’t going to charge you international fees — the last thing you want to do is spend more money than you have to. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card does not charge foreign transaction fees at all. Be sure to look into that.

5Take Advantage Of Sign-Up Bonuses

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Signup bonuses are a way the credit card companies suck you in, but there’s no denying that they’re also a great deal for you because they allow you to rack up so many points. Usually it will go something like, “Spend X amount of money in X months, receive X points.” If you don’t do that, you lose out. But if you do, you get your money’s worth!

6Add An Authorized User

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If you’re doing this with a partner or someone you trust, consider adding them as an authorized user. This helps you guys rack up spending to get more points quickly. Of course, make sure it’s someone you trust to also use your card.

7Ask For A Reduced Annual Fee

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Unfortunately, most travel credit cards will charge an annual fee — although many waive them for the first year you’re signed up. It stinks to have to pay an annual fee, so you can do what you can to try to avoid it. You can close the account after the first year if you really want to, although you should realize that this will hurt your credit score. You can try asking them to waive the fee by saying you’re going to cancel — it’s not guaranteed to work, but it’s worth a shot. You can also try downgrading your card or asking them to at least reduce it.

8Use Your Card’s Shopping Portal Online

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One way to maximize points and earn more of them is to take advantage of the online shopping portals that the travel credit cards use. You might get more points for each item you buy or travel item you purchase via the portal than you would buying it elsewhere. These an add up quickly. For example, the Chase shopping portal allows you to earn more points shopping at places like Bloomingdales.

9Sign Up For Dining Rewards Programs

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Take a look at the fine print of your credit card. You’ll probably find that certain purchases will earn you more points than others. For example, with Chase, you can get 2x the points on any travel and dining purchases. That means that if you’re going out to dinner, you should put the meal on your credit card to get more out of it. Credit cards offer all different bonuses like these: some will allow you to get more points through grocery shopping or even buying gas. And keep an eye out for specials and deals for limited times.

10Refer Your Friends

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Check to see if your credit card participates in referral programs. If you refer a friend and they get approved, you could receive a lot of points. You did basically nothing, and just got a bunch of points!

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