Travel Hacking Smart Or Unethical? Christopher Elliott No Doubt Says Unethical!

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Photo by Louise McLaren.
Photo by Louise McLaren.

A Crusade Against Travel Hacking

Christopher Elliott is back in his crusade against all that is travel hacking. In what is almost a word for word copy of his USA Today article on August 18 about the subject, Elliott has a new post with a poll asking whether travel hacking is smart or unethical. (Notice the scary looking photo of a “hacker” used in his post.)

My Take

I voted “Smart” in his poll, however this isn’t a black and white issue. Some “strategies” venture into areas that I am not comfortable with and I am sure that I do things that others would say crosses a line. The truth is that we each have our own boundaries and things that we feel comfortable in doing.

It can be difficult to say it is blatantly wrong to rip off travel companies, since they often have consumer unfriendly policies. (Although sometimes it is wrong.) Elliott nitpicks at “hackers” for things like throwaway ticketing and using Dr. in their name when making a hotel reservation. I have never used Dr. before my name, but I just don’t see how that is so bad for the travel companies. (Perhaps it is disrespectful to actual doctors.) Also, the premise that throwaway ticketing is wrong is beyond me as well.

Vote If You Want & Let Me Know What You Think

Since this poll just went live, I thought perhaps those in the BoardingArea community would like to chime in. If you care to, you can vote in Elliott’s poll here. I am interested to see the results. Also, let me know what you think below. Is travel hacking smart or unethical? Have a great night!


  1. I don’t think it is unethical to sign up just for the points. These credit card companies are in it for money. They charge an ridiculous amount of interest for the majority of consumers that get caught up in the debt. They want YOU in debt! If we are smart enough to use the credit wisely, pay if off, and reap the benefits- how is that wrong? They are still making their millions off people using the cards the “right” way! (and I am sure that most of us agree that we use these credit cards for everything, not just MS and for every single point we can get- so there is daily spending involved and revenue for the card company).

    • Heather, you are absolutely right – I was referring to people who get a credit card with bonus points, then cancel it immediately.

  2. I just read Chris’ post and commented. Ethics is not a black/white issue. Buying an airline tix for $1 is unethical because it takes advantage of a mistake. If a little old lady left her garage door open by mistake, would you go in and help yourself to her stuff? Signing up for a credit card just to get the points is unethical; the bank should be able to generate some revenue from your card. Otherwise you’re just stealing the points from the bank. Just because it’s legal, it’s not always OK.

    • Banks can see everything on a credit report–and don’t have to grant a consumer a card–or bonus for that matter. They enter this venture realizing that there is an expense for acquiring new customers. They gamble that their product is compelling enough that the person will want to keep it. I’ll try a compelling offer–especially if the bonus fits me. I’ve kept a number of cards because they continue to offer me value–as well as $1000s of profit to that bank. Looks like a win-win. I don’t see either party crying.

  3. Chris Elliott is a joke!
    “Another well-known hack involves signing up for a credit card that allows you to collect frequent-flier miles and then buying items such as gift cards only for the bonus points, known as “manufactured spending.” Then you convert the the item back into cash and pocket the points.

    Again, it’s totally legal — and totally wrong. The cards are meant to reward real spending. Exploiting these payment systems only forces the companies offering them to tighten their rules, which can affect all cardholders.”

  4. Well, I have used the “Dr.” because I have an earned doctorate. Not that I am a MD. But I use it because it is the truth and I never considered it a “hack”.

    Don’t get me started on the whole MS rip-off. That is totally bogus and devalues the program for those of us who actually get on planes.


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