Have you ever wondered how some people can afford to travel so often, or so luxuriously?
While you’re stuck at work, some people you know are frolicking through cities like Paris and London, dancing the night away at the hottest night clubs, or relaxing on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches – and all on an average salary. But, how?
Unless they hit the lottery or received an inheritance, most of your friends are probably paying for their trips the old-fashioned way – with credit card rewards. If you want to do the same, you first need to understand how it all works.
How Smart People Are Paying for Their Summer Vacations
While many families spend years saving up for an awesome summer getaway, the smartest people you know are earning exclusive rewards, free hotel stays, and cheap airfare for pennies on the dollar with travel rewards.
The basic strategy is this: They a) sign up for the best rewards cards offers out there, b) fulfill the minimum spending requirement to earn a huge sign-up bonus, and c) redeem the rewards for any type of travel they desire.
The key to making this work isn’t running up a huge tab for things they don’t need, however. Instead of hitting the mall for a shopping spree, smart travelers meet minimum spending requirements by using their rewards cards to pay regular bills and expenses.
In addition to regular purchases like groceries and gas, some uncommon bills people pay with credit to meet their minimum spending requirements include:
- Utility bills
- Cable and Internet bills
- Phone bills
- Rent payments
- Mortgage payments
- College tuition
- Life insurance
- Car insurance
- Tax payments
The other important piece of the puzzle is a dedication to remaining debt-free. Because credit card interest can be a killer, often adding up to hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars over the course of a year.
If you’re trying to earn free stuff, the last thing you need to do is pay interest for the privilege. Smart people already know that, and they avoid credit card interest like the plague.
Best Travel Rewards Offers Right Now
In order to score the free hotel stays and airfare everyone else is getting their hands on, it’s important to sign up for rewards cards that offer the maximum value — including generous ongoing rewards and lucrative sign-up bonuses. Here are a few offers you should consider right now:
Best Travel Card: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
There are plenty of reasons why the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is consistently ranked as the top travel rewards card here at The Simple Dollar and elsewhere. Not only does this card offer a huge sign-up bonus, but it makes point accrual easy too; with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card you earn 2 points per dollar spent on all travel and dining purchases, plus 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.
But the real value is in how you can redeem those points. When you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards you will receive 25% more value. Further, you can transfer your points to a number of hotel and airline loyalty programs for even more value – including programs like Hyatt Passport, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott, and British Airways. Before you sign up, here are the details you should know:
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
For Peak Perks, Pair it With the Chase Freedom® Card
The best complementary card to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card by far is the Chase Freedom®. Because when you own both cards, you can pool rewards for maximum redemption value through Chase Ultimate Rewards – including discounted travel booked directly through the portal or point transfers to all of your favorite hotel and airline loyalty programs.
As a card with no annual fee, the Chase Freedom® is also one you can keep for the long haul. And the rewards sweeten the pot; beyond the sign-up bonus, the Chase Freedom® allows you to earn 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases and 5 points per dollar on categories that rotate every quarter. Here are some details you should know before you sign up:
- Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
- Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
- Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
- Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
- 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49-25.24%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
- Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
- Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
- No annual fee
Best Card for Business: Ink Plus® Business Credit Card
If you have a business, are working a side hustle, or enjoy any money-making hobby, you can also score big in the world of travel rewards. With the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card, you not only earn the biggest sign-up bonus of them all, but you also get the chance to earn 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases, 2 points per dollar at hotels and gas stations (up to $50,000), and 5 points per dollar spent (up to $50,000) at office supply stores or on phone, Internet, and cable TV services each year.
Just like with the others, you can use your points in myriad ways. Redeem them for travel with any airline or hotel chain directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a 20% discount, transfer them at a one-to-one ratio to your favorite loyalty program, or redeem them for cash or gift cards. The choice is yours.
Smart people aren’t paying for their vacations; they’re using credit card rewards to make their travel dreams come true. With the right combination of cards, you could start planning your own dream trip in no time. What are you waiting for?
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