Have you ever wondered if those people claiming to get free travel using credit cards are really telling you the full story? I'll show you exactly how my wife and I travel for free using credit card rewards.
To make a long story short, we take advantage of the bonuses credit card companies use to entice new customers to sign up for their products.
For instance, a credit card may offer $400 in free travel statement credits for signing up for their credit card and spending $3,000 in the first three months of card membership.
We sign up for the card, spend the $3,000, collect the bonus and move on to our next credit card bonus. When you add up a few of these credit card bonuses, you can easily earn $1,000 or more in free travel or cash back per year.
If you're still skeptical, I totally get it. I was too before I started earning credit card rewards.
Here's an example of how I might get a free cruise for two that would otherwise cost a total of $2,000:
First, I’d get a credit card that allowed me to redeem rewards for cash to pay for incidentals such as gas to drive to the cruise port, supplies for my trip, and anything else a credit card would not consider a travel purchase.
Currently, you can earn 50,000 points – worth $500 in cash back – by signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card and spending $4,000 in the first three months. After I earned the bonus, I'd have my wife apply for the same card and get a second bonus which leaves $1,000 of expenses left to go.
Next, I would sign up for credit cards that will give me statement credits for travel purchases, such as payments toward my cruise. I would sign up for the Capital One Venture credit card, which offers 40,000 points (worth $400 in travel) after spending $3,000 in three months. I'd use this to pay for our cruise fare, then have my wife do the same thing. That means only $200 in expenses left to go.
Finally, I'd apply for the Bank Americard Travel Rewards credit card, which currently offers $200 in travel credit after spending just $1,000 in the first three months of card membership. This would pay for the rest of our cruise fare.
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If you have to fly to the cruise port, you can use airline credit cards for free flights and hotel credit cards that allow you to earn free hotel stays.
We would have to spend $15,000 to earn the credit card rewards necessary for this $2,000 cruise for two. To spread the spending out, you can sign up for one card at a time and over one year earn enough rewards to take a cruise.
As great as it sounds, I do have to issue a few warnings, just to make sure you're fully prepared if you decide to try this yourself:
- You must be able to stay on top of your finances to make this work.
- You must always pay your credit cards off in full and never pay a penny in interest.
- You’ll need to set up a system so you never make late payments.
- You should never spend more on a credit card than you would with your normal payment method.
- You’ll need to have a strict budget so that you know how much money you spend on a regular basis that you can put on a credit card to meet minimum spending requirements.
- If you're going to take out a large loan soon – such as a mortgage – you may want to wait until after you secure a great interest rate.
- Many cards have annual fees that are waived for the first year. If the card provides no value to you beyond the first year, cancel the card before you're charged the annual fee.
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That's just a quick look at how my wife and I travel for free. Can we keep doing this? We have been doing this for a few years.
I am still finding ways to get free travel, flights, hotels, and more.
If you’re regular with the balance payment, you don’t have to worry too much about your credit score, either. I still have an excellent credit score. Normally, my score dips a few points because of the inquiry after I apply for a card, but after a few months, it goes higher again due to the increased credit limit available to me.
As far as credit card companies go, if they don't like it, they don't have to approve you for a card. So here’s wishing you bon voyage on bonus cards!
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Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any partner bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other partner. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
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