The Social Engineering Dance

EDITORS NOTE: In 2024, I’ve introduced Guest Post SaturdaysToday’s guest post is from the omnipresent dawnzerly from


When I first got involved in travel hacking I thought it was a hobby primarily of information. You have to find the best opportunities (research information), and keep track of what you’re doing (track information). Over the years I’ve learned there’s a lot more to it. One skill I’ve come to realize is important for success in this hobby is social networking and social engineering.  (Subtitle for this post might be: “Don’t be an asshole.”)

Social Networking for Information

We’re all out there trying to find the next great exploit. The thing that’s going to generate big spend for a $0 fee. The fintech that’s paying 50% cashback on debit (there is one, but it’s a scam). The trick to generate big NLL SUBs. Trying to find these things is time consuming. But you don’t have to fly solo on all this research. Build up a trusted network of people with whom you can share knowledge and information.

How do you find this network? You cultivate relationships. A lot of this info sharing happens in smaller private groups. And to get into these groups you need to meet people.

There are a lot of ways to find travel hackers. Online you can join public discussion groups (WhatsApp, Slack, Discord, various forums, etc.). In person I’m a fan of local groups. It’s easier to trust people you meet in person. Lots of networking and information sharing happens at local and national meetups.

Once you join some groups you need to build yourself a good reputation. For starters, when you have questions in any written forum, try searching through the history before asking. No one wants to spoon feed you answers that you could have easily found for yourself. And find ways to contribute. Maybe you don’t have any big tricks to share (yet), but when you notice people mention the need for a spreadsheet to keep track of something you could volunteer to create and maintain that spreadsheet. Rule of thumb: Don’t be an asshole, be helpful.

Social Engineering for Smoother Transactions

Some people can walk into a Safeway and be best friends with the manager in 5 minutes. Resellers make friends with store staff so they get texted a heads up about useful closeout sales. Gift card liquidators bring coffee to their local post office employees.

Social engineering might be the wrong term, because most of the time we’re not being manipulative. (Though knowing when to deploy your young child to throw a strategically distracting tantrum could be considered manipulation.) Cultivating these good relationships makes the in-store MSing so much easier. And I’d argue it’s also much more pleasant to operate this way.

I’ll admit this one is hard for me. I feel awkward. But I know from experience that chatting up the staff while MSing, and even explaining what I’m doing, can make the transactions go smoothly. At the very least, don’t be an asshole, be nice.

A pretend doctor social engineers his way into a stack of money orders at Walmart.

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