Learn to travel the world for next to nothing
Whenever I talk about free flights, international trips, or frequent flyer miles I’ve accumulated over my accounts without flying, most people look befuddled. “How did you do that?” they ask. “Simple, through travel rewards cards,” I respond. Still, I get confused looks like I am either lying or getting scammed somehow. The funny thing is, rewards cards are everywhere. I’m not talking about some anomalous infomercial special on late night T.V. Rewards card offers are in plain site, on commercials, bill boards, in your grocery store and plastered over the internet. You probably already have a rewards card for cash back, groceries or gas. According to Creditcards.com 60% of consumers have rewards cards. So why don’t more people take advantage of, “Travel Rewards: The not so secret, secret?”
I think there are a few reasons why people tend to ignore travel rewards offers. The first is they think it’s too good to be true. Yes, there is always a catch with credit card rewards programs and travel rewards are no different. In order to get your bonus miles or points you’ll have to meet certain criteria. Some have minimum monthly spending requirements usually within a specific time frame. For example, $3000 in the first three months is standard. Some people, especially now days, may experience difficulty meeting the spending requirements. However, there are a large amount of cards that require very minimal spending. A common requirement for many travel cards is 25,000 frequent flyer miles after first purchase. This couldn’t be easier for people to do once they’re approved. It doesn’t matter whether your first purchase is a Rolex or a stick of gum, you’ll get your miles! (I’d suggest the stick of gum.)
Second, people don’t think they have good enough credit. This may be a very legitimate concern depending on the travel rewards card. The best rewards cards require excellent credit, 750-779. In spite of that, a number of cards require only good or fair credit, 679-713 and 660-678 respectively. Don’t worry if these numbers are making you queasy, there are ways to bump up your credit score. If you’re not sure what your credit score is it may be a good idea to check annualcreditreport.com for a current credit report and score.
Third, they think opening up a bunch of credit cards is going to ruin their credit. This statement has some grain of truth. A glut of new inquiries showing on your credit all at once will have a negative effect on your credit but if you strategically space your credit card inquiries you should be able to get the reward cards you want with out doing significant harm and many times actually improving your credit. The actual amount of credit cards you have open has little negative bearing on your score. In fact, it can positively impact it if your available credit increases substantially.
Travel rewards cards can be a very useful option for the responsible card user who wants to travel on the cheap. They can be used for discounted flights, hotels, rental cars, trains, excursions, and even cruises. The rewards programs vary from card to card but many people can find one that suits them. Whether you’ve used rewards cards in the past or you’re new to rewards cards but have a travel itch researching more about travel rewards cards should be a top priority.Read More
Below is a Point/Mileage Check…
American Airlines:64,000 miles
Amex Membership Rewards: 50,0000 points
Chase Ultimate Rewards: 50,000 points
Hilton: 280,000 points
Southwest: 65,000 points
Starwood: 30,000 points
United: 220,000 miles
US Airways: 160,000 miles
Grand Total: 919,000 points and miles!
Since my schedule won’t allow for me to do any trips this year, I should easily hit the Million Mark by year end!Read More
I finished The Starwood Amex bonus for 30,000 points. After that successful bonus, I applied for both the Bank of Hawaii Visa signature and the Bank of America Hawaiian airlines cards. Both cards gave a bonus of 35,000 miles after $1000 spend in 3/months the annual fee isn’t waived first year for either card. I have little intention of going to Hawaii. My main reason for getting those cards was to transfer over to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio creating 140,000 Hilton Honors points. After those two apps my credit was suffering, it was down to 740, so I decided to give the apps a rest for a few months. It recovered handsomely, now back up to a 780 and I re-applied for the Barclay’s visa signature (churnable) up to 60,000 bonus miles and the Chase ink. I’m also beginning to plan a trip somewhere, I haven’t fully decided where but I’m starting to get antsy not traveling.Read More
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. Once I arrived back from my Peru, Argentina, and Uruguay honeymoon, the excrement hit the proverbial fan. One new roof, two tires and a front end alignment for my truck, Over $1000 sunk into my wife’s car, and one speeding ticket later, here I am, finally typing away.
My latest spend requirement is on the American Express Starwood preferred card. Originally I was very hesitant about getting it because the spend requirement is $5,000 in 6 months. Even though the spend requirement is well within my normal budget, 5 or 6 months is a long time to wait for 25,000 bonus points. I knew that if I did accelerate my spending it would fall out of my budget, which is a big red flag. However, due to my (un)fortunate circumstances mentioned above, the spend requirement actually went quicker than I had anticipated.
Now I just have to figure out what to do with the 25,000 bonus points? Should I transfer them into air miles and get a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 I transfer? Or should I just keep them as emergency hotel points?
Decisions, decisions…Read More
Below is an answer to some questions and concerns left in a comment from my post “What is a Rewards Credit Card?” My answer which I originally intended to be succinct eventually grew, and grew so I just decided to make it a post. Alex of Milk The Pigeon (an excellent blog about finding your passion and fulfilling your dreams) a fellow blogger and an experienced world traveler commented,
“I honestly had no idea about ‘credit card churning’ or the benefit of reward cards. Even after traveling 30+ countries by myself I never ran into someone who knew about them either , or maybe I never asked…
I ended up doing some research (and like you recommended) I checked out rewards cards.
I narrowed it down to a few – chase sapphire, amex premier rewards gold card, + delta sky miles gold card.
I ended up passing on Chase because lots of my expenses are day to day (gas/food) and thus I get 2 or 3x points with the amex premier gold card. I also was already enrolled in the delta card program so I don’t think I could get the “spend 1k in 3 months for XX miles benefit.”
Which cards do you use? I’m weary of the whole credit card churning though — I haven’t done enough research to see whether or not it will affect my credit score long-term.”
I like to call Rewards Travel the “not so secret, secret.” Most people have some type of Rewards Cards but just don’t use them to their fullest potential. However, travel costs aren’t such major concern traveling solo. A lone wolf, or lone Pigeon as in your case, can usually regulate costs pretty tightly. As you’ve experienced and shared on your blog post, “Why Traveling the World is not as unrealistic as it seems.” It’s really when you start traveling with other people that it becomes a problem since your expenses get compounded, often more than double what it would’ve been. My wife got sick of staying in hostels long ago. It stopped becoming an adventure for her after the AC went out while we were staying in one. Of course this happened for a week in the middle of a record breaking heatwave in Madrid!
Keep in mind you should choose your card based on your current needs as well as your future needs. Have a plan for the potential points or miles and make sure that you can use them the way you think you can. Not all Rewards programs are created equal. Reportedly, 75% of all frequent flyer miles expire before they’re used and about 40% of people either rarely or never use their rewards. With that said, I think you’ve picked some good cards and are definitely on the right track. If you go with Chase, think about going with the Sapphire Preferred as opposed to the Sapphire. The Sapphire in general is a favorite of mine because of all of their various transfer partners associated with their rewards program, Ultimate Rewards. For example you can transfer points to most airlines as miles 1:1 and many hotel chains as well, which can help you boost your point redemption rates considerably. Specific to the preferred you also get 2x points on dining as well as travel and a 7% dividend each year on your points. The annual Fee is also waived first year and is relatively low at $95. There is a sweet 50,000 point bonus too. But the nice thing about the normal sapphire, which I’m sure you noticed, is No annual fee.
I think the American Express(R) Premier Rewards Gold Card would be exceptional for you in the short run. It’s a great card and like the sapphire has various airline and hotel transfer partners through the Amex Membership Rewards program. As you noted you can potentially rack up a ton of points using it because you can earn up to 3x points. My concern with that one is the hefty Annual Fee. It’s waived after the first year but $175 thereafter! That $175 fee over time could really eat up any incentive you may get from it. Let’s just take your potential bonus for example. The 25,000 points would normally be good for one round trip domestic flight. Let’s price that at $500. If you keep that card for just three more years after the first year, you’ve spent $525 in annual fees! So Amex has just made back their money and then some. Bottom line is if you go with this card make sure you cancel on the 11th month to avoid the annual fee. You can actually call amex if you get the card to find out the exact date the annual fee will be charged.
As far as the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express the biggest pluses with this card are the priority boarding, and the free first checked bag for up to nine people in your reservation. Depending on how long ago you got your original Delta Amex you could actually be eligible for the bonus. If it has been over a year it’s a pretty safe bet you could get the bonus. It could be worth getting if you’re a Delta flyer.
“Credit Card Churning” isn’t for everyone. I outline some of the more important attributes of someone who should be doing this in one of my posts, “Who should use travel rewards cards.” Judging from your blog posts it seems you already have many of the positive attributes of a successful Rewards Traveler. But I also get the sense from your blog that you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to other things right now. And credit card churning can take a little bit of time and research pertaining to of course the credit cards, but also, particular rewards program or frequent flyer programs, redemption rates, possible transfer partners, awards charts, credit monitoring etc. . . However, it’s definitely doable and doesn’t take an awful amount of time or effort to at least get your feet wet.
As far as credit it’s not too big of a concern if you do this correctly. I’m sure you know, the act of applying for a credit card creates an inquiry on your credit report resulting in a “hard pull” on your credit which will lower your score slightly. But it’s really just about monitoring your credit and the effects of your applications on it. Remember your credit is made of multiple components each bearing a percent weight in the overall score. So despite what you might think it can actually be quite difficult to screw up your credit if you card churn responsibly. Even after applying for and getting 4 cards in the past few months my score is currently a 760 which is still considered excellent. As long as you’re prudent about monitoring your credit it won’t wreck your credit long term. I’ve been doing card churning in one capacity or another since college (I did it then to pay for my college and get 0% interest loans) and my score has always been in the excellent category. Honestly because of how they weight the criteria computing your credit score, many times card churning can actually improve your score. The caveat being of course, IF you do this correctly.
I’m currently using the Chase Sapphire preferred most often because of the the reasons I have mentioned above and it will be an integral part of a honeymoon trip to Peru, Argentina, and Uruguay my wife and I will be taking in May. Before that I was using the Amex Hilton Honors Surpass, and Amex Hilton Honors (you’re not supposed to be able to get both. oops! ;p). In order to get two nearly free nights at the Double Tree Hilton Resort. Basically, I try not to pick favorites but base many of my card using decisions on future travel goals. As a good rule of thumb your go to card should usually be a card that is conducive to an airline you usually fly or that is a hub of your local airport.
Sorry for the long winded response!
My wife and I got the Chase Hyatt card a few months ago. We thought it was a sweet deal then. Two free nights worldwide, your first night deposited after first purchase and your next night after $1000 spent in 3 months. Could it get any sweeter? It could and it did.
Now with the Chase Hyatt you get your two free nights after first purchase. There is no minimum spend requirement! Now just go to the store by yourself a pack of gum and you’ve got two free nights. So why are the Hyatt two free nights so special? There are other cards that offer more free night bonuses right? That’s true. One of my favorites is the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express that offers six free nights at a category 1 or 2 hotel. What makes the Chase Hyatt stand out isn’t the quanity it’s the quality. You’re able to spend two nights at ANY Hyatt worldwide.
This means you could spend two nights at the ultra modern Palacio Duhau in Buenos Aires (which is where I’ll be staying in May) which runs around $450/night. Or you could relax at the elegant Park Hyatt Paris regurlarly priced around 660 euros/night. Or if you really wanted an exceptional stay go to the posh Grand Hyatt Dubai which would normally go for around $960/night. All great five star options that coule be a pssibility.
In full disclousure and if you want to get technical, this offer really isn’t for two free nights. Due to the fact that a $75 annual fee is assessed immediatly after card activation. But getting two nights at a five star hotel for $75 is still pretty darn good in my opinion.
Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.
After four years dating, two years of engagement and months of planning the perfect wedding, my beautiful bride Claudia and I are finally married. Because of Claudia’s school aspirations our honey moon to Peru, Argentina, and Uruguay will be delayed until May. Despite that, I still felt that we needed a couple days to ourselves; a mini-moon if you will. After assessing our stash of hotel points, much research and review reading, I chose the Double Tree Resort in Scottsdale.
Our arrival was rocky. As we pulled up to the valet counter in my father in law’s beautifully restored 1960 AMC Rambler Classic we were eager to be greeted by our complimentary valet service. To our annoyance no one was there. After about 5 minutes of waiting in full view of the front desk, I marched into the lobby and informed the front desk we needed valet service. They promptly radioed the valet and after another 5 minutes he appeared. After that, check in was smooth. We were greeted warmly at the front desk and were given two warm chocolate chip cookies and some coupons which I’ll talk more about later. We were offered to have an attendant take our bag, which I declined since we packed light and were only staying two nights. The grounds are large and well manicured but not very well lit at night. With that said the trek to the room wasn’t bad but since it was night it was a bit disorientating. When we did make it to the room we were happily surprised when we got there.
We loved our room it was nice and spacious! We really liked the charming rustic feeling that the wood planked ceiling gave the room.
Here are the coupons we received, they gave us four Hilton Gold/Diamond member breakfast coupons and two free drink coupons for the Loggia Lounge in house bar.
The breakfast buffet was pretty good. They had crepes, waffles, bacon, sausage, potatoes, eggs, yogurts, oatmeal, an assortment of fruits and baked goods. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of it because I was too busy eating.
On day two they had a complimentary bottle of wine delivered to our door! Sadly, neither of us drink wine so we’ll be saving this bottle indefinitely. It was still a pretty cool thought so I made sure to call the front desk to thank them.
Be forewarned, their valet is severely understaffed. We took the complimentary hotel shuttle heading into oldtown Scottsdale and it turns out the guy they have shuttling people is the same guy they have working the valet and he was the only one working that day. No wonder it took a few minutes for the valet to arrive the first night, he was probably the only one working. With that said, all in all we had an excellent stay and I think we’d come back.
The Rewards Traveler Cost:
60,000 Hilton Points gained through AMEX Hilton Surpass offer: $75 (annual fee)
Room/2 nights King Bed with patio and courtyard view: $250/night x 2 = $500
Four Breakfast coupons at the El Fuego in house restaurant: $17.50 x 4 =$70
Two free drinks: $7.50 x 2 =$15
Total savings: $585-$75=$510
If you’d like to learn how you can get incredible savings like this check out my Beginner’s guide to rewards travel.
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