How to use Credit Cards to Travel for FREE

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Well hey there!

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, how about for you? I’m sitting in the kitchen where we get the most sunlight during the day and it’s glorious. Even more glorious is the fact that both girls are currently napping and thus I’m cranking out this blog post as FAST AS I CAN. Hahaha. It’s amazing how productive you can be when you know you have so very little time :)

Before baby #2 graced us with her presence, I started a travel hacking (aka using credit cards to pay for travel) My hubby and I had used our Delta Skymiles credit card to pay for Delta flights in the past, but I was ready to take our travel rewards game to the next level.

Travel has always been a huge priority to me, and pre-children the hubby and I tried to take one longer international trip per year. Since having a baby we’ve definitely not been able to jet set overseas like we used to, but we did make it to quite a few places last year. We went to California for spring break with family, Las Vegas for March Madness with friends, Charleston to meet up with another family for Memorial Day weekend, and I went to Nashville twice to visit a dear friend and her family.

The fact that I couldn’t travel towards the end of pregnancy due to thinking baby #2 would come early (joke is on us, she came over a week late and I had to have an unplanned c-section!) and not having any trips on the books for 2019 yet (except one for a friend’s wedding in Crested Butte that I am so excited for!) has me pining for a getaway. And what makes me even more excited about the thought of travel is knowing that we will be able to do it FOR FREE. I’ve actually already used some miles to pay for a one-way $380 airfare ticket to Crested Butte for my hubby who has to fly direct the morning of the wedding. Boom. :)

Now before I jump into how I’m using this program there is a big disclaimer. YOU SHOULD NOT ATTEMPT A CREDIT CARD HACKING PROGRAM IF YOU CANNOT PAY OFF A CREDIT CARD EACH MONTH. It’s not worth the amount you’ll pay in interest and it’s just downright risky/irresponsible if you can’t pay your bills each month. I also don’t super recommend if you’re going to be needing your credit score for a big purchase (such as a car or a home) as although your credit score should go up a few points as a result of a program like this, it may go down a few points initially or look bad to creditors if you are taking out more lines of credit before or during a different credit application process (again, such as for a car or a home)

Alright so onto the nitty gritty. Now while I’m no expert (yet!) this is how I’m racking up free miles that can be used for airfare/hotel this year. Chase has excellent rewards credit cards and you can bank all of them and either redeem directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards platform (either for cash or book a flight through their site) or transfer to one of their airfare or hotel partners (which includes Southwest, British Airways, United, AIR FRANCE, Aer Lingus, Hyatt, Marriot, and IHG to name a few!). You supposedly get more bang for your buck (or your point in this case!) if you transfer to one of the partners, but I used their platform to purchase my husband’s ticket to Crested Butte through Delta.

How to use Credit Cards to Travel for Free

1) Apply for your first card. I started with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year and you get 60,000 bonus miles if you spend $4k within 3 months of opening. You can check out the card HERE (p.s. I do get a small kickback if you apply for any of the cards through my own link which does not cost you anything)

2) Start using your card for EVERYTHING possible to ensure you get that bonus. I changed all of our Amazon, Instacart and other online shopping cards to this card during those 3 months and we used the card for all restaurant/shopping/grocery purchases. I don’t recommend changing other bills over as it will be a hassle to change every 3 months if you continue on the program, however, if you won’t meet the minimum spending without other bills and are OK with the hassle this could be an option.

3) Have a way to track how much you’ve spent on the card and by when. Below you can download the spreadsheet I use to keep track of ours.

4) Once you are getting close to or have hit the spending bonus amount, apply for your next Chase card. This is the order I’ve applied for/used up to this point:

1st - Chase Sapphire Preferred - $95 annual fee waived first year and as of this post, 60,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 within first 3 months. You can check it out HERE.

2nd - Chase Ink Business Preferred - $95 fee at end of first year and as of this post, 80,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 within first 3 months. You can check it out HERE.

3rd - Chase Southwest Airlines Business - $99 in first billing cycle and as of this post, 60,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 within first 3 months.

If you’re worried about the annual fee here’s what I have to say about it: If you hit the spending bonus you will wayyy more than make up for the fee. That being said, if you decide you want to cancel the card before the fee hits you can easily call Chase and do so (or heck maybe even try to negotiate for no fee) However, if you cancel your card and haven’t used the miles you gained from it, you will lose them so make sure to use them up before you do so!

The next two cards I am going to check out are the Chase Southwest Plus and the United card.

That being said, as you can see two of the first three cards I opened were business cards. Now while I do technically have a business, I opened these and use them for any spending (not just business) If you don’t have a business, I would start with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and then take a look at the other non-business cards. Even if you have a small side-hustle (such as an Etsy shop or something similar) I would recommend applying for the business cards.

Note: Chase has a 5/24 rule in which you cannot get approved for a Chase credit card if you’ve opened more than 5 credit cards (from any bank) within 24 months. If you are married you and your spouse could each open a seperate card and each person would have their own 5/24 rule. I’ve heard that adding your spouse as an authorized user on your card counts as two cards vs. one, so I would caution not to go that route if you are trying to get access to as many sign-up bonuses as you can.

Alright that’s it for the How to use Credit Cards to Travel for Free. Next post will have tips and tricks on how to redeem! :)

What questions do you have about credit card hacking? Leave them in a comment below!