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At InsideFlyer UK, we tend to write a quick post every time a contributor notices a special offer from Quidco or Topcashback. Recently, this has tended to take the form of a £2.50 credit after spending a certain amount through a participating retailer. But what does that really have to do with travel, or travel hacking more particularly? The link might appear at first to be rather weak. Yes, Topcashback allows you to payout your accumulated cashback as Avios – although this isn’t particularly good value – and, yes, many travel companies pay out the affiliate commissions that are the source of the money that eventually finds its way to you. But cashback doesn’t necessarily seem all that relevant to a website concentrating on miles and points. And quite frankly it shows… in the tiny number of page views that these posts receive.
But ask yourself… what is a travel hacker? I spent the summer answering that question as I spent some time in South America promoting a Spanish language book that my publisher chose to call “Travel Hacker”. As you might expect, many interviewers kicked off with that question, to help readers/listeners understand what this odd English phrase meant. I usually replied along these lines:
Most people tend to spend money to save time. Completely normal for most people leading busy lives…
However, some people like to spend time to save money, and when they do that in order to travel, we call it “travel hacking”.
I happened to be in South America during the 9,000 Avios promo from Iberia and we ran a little experiment amongst friends and families of the “travel hacking community” in Buenos Aires. It went something like this:
Would you like a Business Class return flight from Buenos Aires to Madrid for $500-600?
OF COURSE… was the close-to-unanimous reply!
OK. It’s easy… you just have to open an Iberia Plus account, book ten random cheap flights separately on Iberia.com and you will probably soon receive 90,000 Avios. Then you will search for award availability on the Iberia website and book an Avios & Money reward in Business Class. You might have to fly from Montevideo (Uruguay), Sao Paolo (Brazil) or Santiago (Chile) though…
Oh… that sounds like too much effort, I won’t bother…
I think that little anecdote explains the mentality of a “travel hacker” and why we are attracted to the opportunities offered by Topcashback and Quidco. £2.50 by itself doesn’t mean much, nor does the 20 miles earned for spending £20 on a miles-earning credit card instead of paying cash. But repeat it 10 times and it becomes £25 – that might get you a Ryanair flight. Book your IHG hotel stays at a 15% cashback rate and all of a sudden every seventh hotel night is free, and that’s before the additional free nights you’ll receive when you spend the hotel points you’ll also earn. Yet for many people, it all seems like too much effort or a certain kind of corporate scam.
Of course, “free money” does usually come with some strings attached, such as a minimum spend. But so does collecting miles and points – directly or via a credit card – no travel company is just going to give you that First Class reward or 5-star hotel night.
So if you’ve been wondering why we write about cashback offers that seem to have little to do with travel… It’s because the mentality is similar. For whatever purchase that I am already planning to make, how can I earn something extra, be it cashback, miles, hotel points, Clubcard points, etc. Once the habit becomes engrained, you might soon find yourself in First Class, whilst your “can’t be bothered” friends are back in Economy…
P.S. Quidco has another £2.50 offer today. Valid until 5pm.