Free Travel by Leveraging Credit Card Points


As nature and wildlife photography often requires travel to new places, I decided to start a new section on my blog to help my fellow photographers with their travels. I will be posting new tips every so often, so if you are interested make sure to come back. The frequency of these posts depends on the general interest. Comments, questions and support are greatly appreciated!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links on which I will earn small commission that helps me with keeping this website running and creating more free content that helps you all!



Today, I’m releasing, long in the making

Guide to Free Travel

by earning and redeeming credit card points.


To make things clear, I’m not asking you to spend any more money that you would normally spend. I’m simply asking you to think about your expenses and learn/plan to take advantage of them. One cannot run away from reoccurring expenses like auto insurance, monthly utility bills, groceries etc. but you can leverage the credit cards to give yourself a nice treat. Free Travel!

If you have a large upcoming purchase, like buying a new camera, lens, computer etc. you can earn a free round trip ticket, as well as free hotel stays, to the location you always dreamed of traveling to. 


I wanted to get this guide out as soon as possible, so you can start earning points early. It is not complete yet but the most important information is here! Also, please excuse any errors at this stage.

version 0.7 (6/30/2019) - as you can see, it is quite a long guide. I didn’t realize how much information I will have to cover to help you all, especially those beginning their journey in earning and using points. It takes a lot of time to research and type it, therefore, I’m writing it in stages. Come back often to see the newest updates and best offers currently offered!

I have lots of updates planned. Stay tuned. 


Topics covered in this guide so far:

  • Introduction to free travel with your day to day spending

  • How to choose the best airline credit card

  • How to choose the best hotel credit card

  • “Universal” credit cards

  • Strategy on picking the right cards first

  • Tips on meeting the requirements for minimum spending

  • Advanced tips on getting more points (40% completed)

  • Accelerated point earning strategy (30% completed)

  • The best offers currently offered (updated regularly) with information if it is a worthy bonus or if you should wait for a better one


Topics to be released soon:

  • Approval process

  • Cash back credit cards

  • How to efficiently use / redeem points?

  • Tips on finding best hotel and airfare deals

  • Intro to earning status at the hotel and airline brands



Introduction



To get free hotel stays and plane tickets, you have to take advantage of what banks are offering in the form of credit card points. Before you say no, take few minutes to read about my recent experience below and I hope you will change your mind.

Just to give you an idea what I was able to get, the Christmas 2018 I spent with my wife in the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks! Leveraging points accumulated on our credit cards, we were able to get 2 weeks of hotel stays and first class plane tickets for free! Go ahead, check for yourself, how much economy tickets cost on a non-stop flight from EWR to BZN airport. (quick note, we weren’t planning on flying First Class at all but as we found out during booking, when redeeming points for travel on United Airlines, upon availability, we got a free upgrade to the First Class!) How about hotel stays during the most expensive time of the year, in one of the most popular ski areas in US, the Jackson Hole?!? I’m not bragging here at all. I just want you to see on my own example how I was able to get all of that for free! If you checked the prices, you saw that there is only one non-stop flight to Bozeman each day. With the Economy seats costing over $1000 per person. (Price fluctuates but barely ever drops below $1000). I’m working on a detailed post about this trip, so I will stop here and don’t bore you with details. To summarize, I was able to book round trip tickets for two, on a non-stop flight, during the busiest season of the year, wait for it, for 115,000 points! I would have to easily pay over $2000 for the same tickets! This trip was probably our best credit card point redemption to date! And I’m just a newbie in this. If you search internet, there are many others that take advantage of it on much higher level, for free trips all over the world and free stays in exclusive resorts. 

The biggest reason that people don’t want to be bothered with credit card points, it simply takes a lot of time to research it properly. At the very beginning it can be overwhelming and confusing. After days of research many people simply give up. It was me few years ago and now I regret that I didn’t look into it sooner. My loss but I don’t want it to be you. I will try my best to explain as simply as possible how it works, how to use it in the best possible way. By following this single post, you will be able to earn free travel within 3-6 months.

If this information helps you in any way, I hope that you will consider using my affiliate links at no additional cost to you. By regularly using my Amazon affiliate link http://amzn.to/2alLCx2 , simply add it to your favorites, you are paying the same price and your personal data stays secure as it is handled the same way as you would access those websites through a google search. I’m simply receiving a small commission that helps me with running this website to provide you a free content that took me years to learn. I hope you appreciate it!

If you decide to apply for any of the cards listed below, please use my affiliate links as well. I will be rewarded with a bonus after your approval. Once again, all data is secure and kept with the provider. Here is a screenshot of the affiliate rules at Chase:

source: Chase.com

source: Chase.com


If you believe that I deserve a coffee for my efforts, ☕️

you can get me one here:

Thank you for your support! 😊


 

There are two main rules that you need to follow before you continue to read this post and to make the most out of the credit card offers:

  • Be responsible with your money so you do not get into debt - Please spend only what you can afford

  • Always pay your credit card statement in full and on time - no excuses! The moment you don’t pay your bill in full, you will be charged a 29% APR fee. It doesn’t make sense at all to earn points if you carry a balance on your credit card from month to month and pay this astronomical fee.


As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it is not about spending more money. It is about earning points on your regular expenses and turning them into free travel.

If you cannot follow these two simple rules, this guide is not for you. Stop reading and enjoy some of my photography: https://www.greggard.com/birds 😊


It takes time and patience to accumulate points but if you are a wildlife photographer, you already have these attributes 👌

There is a strategy to all of that too!

And I will do my best to guide you through all of that here in this guide. 

Enjoy and safe travels!



Earning Points

If you are paying your bills with checks, it is like you are paying with cash. Are you getting anything in return for these payments? No. Absolutely nothing! If you switch to paying the same bills with your credit card, you can earn free hotel nights or even a free flight. That’s right, you will be rewarded with free travel by simply paying your bills!

Here is a simple example:

If your cable bill is $100 per month (I bet it is more than that), with a good credit card, you can earn 5x points per $1 spent which equals to 500 points every month. In a year, you will earn 6,000 points on this one bill. In my preferred hotel chains, more on that later, you need at least 7,500-10,000 points to get a free stay or 12,500 points for a one way ticket on United Airlines. How about your cell phone bill? Another $100 a month? It can get you additional 6,000 points on the same card. Just for these 2 bills that most of us have, and some of you currently pay with checks/cash, you are getting one free night at the hotel or a free one way ticket! Pretty cool, isn’t it? How many other expenses you could convert to free points? Possibilities are endless! This requires only one change. Stop using you cash and pay with your credit card anywhere you can!

It can take quite some time to accumulate enough points for a week long vacation. Fortunately, there are other ways to accelerate credit card point earnings. One of the best shortcuts is to apply for a new credit card, that offers a large sign up bonus. For example, Marriott currently offers a sign up bonus of 75,000 points. Keep in mind that this offer is valid only for limited time.

Marriott-Bonvoy-75,000.png

If used correctly, this can get you 6 nights for free (at the lowest redemption). To be completely honest here, please keep in mind that the lowest redemption is for less known locations. In locations like big cities, one night can cost over 50,000 points. Luckily, our wildlife excursions don’t take us there :) If you were to earn points by just using a card, you will have to spend $75,000 to get 75,000 points. As you can see, applying for new card get you those points quicker. Much quicker!

How to use credit card points in the most efficient way? More on that later in this guide.



Yes, most of the credit cards that offer best sign up bonuses have an annual fee of, on average, $95. But wait! On some of them, annual fee is waved in the first year. Basically you will have 12 months to cancel those credit cards. If you happen to earn and use points within the first 12 months, you can cancel that credit card before paying the annual fee. Believe me, there are no consequences. I’ve done it many times. But wait, there is more! If you happen to like this card and its benefits, and decide to keep it, there is another bonus you will be getting every year. In the case of Marriott Bonvoy credit card, you will be getting a Free Night certificate. Correct, every year upon the anniversary of your membership you will be charged an annual fee of $95 but you will be getting a certificate for a free night. This certificate is good in most of the hotel brands under the Marriott’s name (30 brands), and is good for one night in a standard room (king size or double queen bed rooms) up to 35,000 points. It is like you will be getting a 35,000 bonus points every year! One of the best redemptions I made for this Free Night certificate was a room worth $300. As you can imagine, I was very happy to use that certificate and save almost a triple amount of money. Just one “gotcha”. Depending on the brand and location you choose, you might have to pay for local taxes or fees. These fees would still be applied even if you paid cash. So in my example, I had an option, either pay $300 + tax and fees, or use a Free Night Certificate (that cost me $99 annual fee) + tax and fees. I think that the choice was very simple here ;)

If you are against using credit cards, read on and I hope you will change your mind. Ever since I started earning/using points for my travel, I barely use cash these days. In my day to day spending there are only few instances that I use cash. Paying for gas is one of them. As here in NJ, gasoline is 5-10 cents more expensive (per gallon) when paying with credit card. If I happen to be at the gas station where the price is the same, I use credit card that earns me at least 3x points for every dollar spent at gas stations.


Simply put, I use credit card whenever/wherever I can. Even if it is a small purchase like a $2 coffee at the coffee shop. I use a card that earns me 3x points at restaurants. Coffee shops (Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks are included). So on a $2 coffee purchase, I’m earning additional 6 points. If I paid with cash, I will get only a coffee. I know, it is silly to keep repeating this but I want you to understand how easy it is to earn points. You have a choice of either getting just a coffee (paying with cash) or getting a coffee and 6 points (paying with a credit card). Now think about how often you use cash/checks and how many points you lost.

In near future, I will share other ways of earning points.


How about online purchases? If you are a person that pays online with a debit card, stop right now! In case of any fraud, credit card issuer will refund stolen money. If you use debit card, it is your money and bank really doesn’t care if you lost it. Yes, eventually they will return you money, to certain amount or for a fee, but it may take some time. Internet is full of information on why you shouldn’t use debit cards on online purchases. Here is one of them: https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/10-places-not-to-use-debit-card-1271.php

APR is too high!

If you pay your current balance in full, it doesn’t matter how high the APR is, it will not be applied to your bill! APR is only applied if you carry over the balance, or part of it, to the next month. Honestly, APR can be even 100% and I wouldn’t care. As I always pay my balances in full and never have to pay the APR! Remember one of the rules I listed above: Always pay your balance in full! Spend what you can afford, so you don’t have problems with paying off you statement each month.



Getting Started

There are two type of credit cards that you should start with to get free travel. Your preferred airline and hotel chain credit card. By applying for these credit cards, you are automatically being signed up to their loyalty program. This is how you will be able to earn/redeem points. On most of the credit cards that I recommend, points don’t expire as long as your account stays open, is in a good standing and you spend at least one dollar / earn at least 1 point per year on your credit card.




How to choose an airline credit card?


When it comes to choosing the airline credit card, pick the airline that has the best connections from the airport that is most convenient for you to travel from/to. Best is to pick the airline that has a hub at this airport, as it will offer the largest amounts of non-stop flights as well as cheaper connections. In my case, Newark airport is home (hub) to United Airlines. It was a non-brainer for me to apply for a United Airlines MileagePlus credit card from Chase:  

united-airlines.png





What benefits am I getting by using a United MileagePlus credit card?

  • No fees for luggage. This means no fees for carry on bags and one 50lb checked bag - even with a basic status, I’m getting a free checked bag, each way, for myself and 1 companion. If I fly with my wife, and I purchase her ticket at the same time with my United Explorer credit card, she will also be able to check in a 50lbs bag for free. For a roundtrip it is a savings of $120! Why do I have to check in a bag? Because my photography gear goes with me on a plane as a free carry on. Just my large telephoto lens takes up a half of my backpack 🙈 More on that in a separate post soon.

  • Priority boarding - even with the basic status, I’m getting a Priority boarding for me and my wife. Group 2 to be exact. After the recent changes, this is the boarding order on United flights: disabled, military, families with young children, Global Services (the highest status), Group 1 (Business and First class seats); Group 2 (me and my wife); Group 3, 4, 5 board last. If the flight is full, which happens almost all the time these days, there are always folks that either have to put their carry on bag somewhere else or even check it in. By being able to board as a Group 2 allows me to purchase the cheapest tickets, that would put me in the seats of Group 4 or even 5 and pay for a carry on bag, but still be able to board sooner and have enough space in overhead bins to fit my camera bag and have it near me. Big plus if you ask me :)

  • United Airline credit card saves me 25% on food purchases on the plane and at the United terminals.

  • I’m getting 2 one time passes to United Club for free. What is a United Club? It is simply a designated area at the airport for United MileagePlus members only. It is often more quieter place, with more comfortable seats, no lines to the restrooms, with sometime having a shower. Best part is that often, these clubs offer free snacks/meals, drinks and even free alcoholics beverages! For a free alcohol your are getting basic/cheapest offerings like: Bud Light or Coors Light beer, cheap wine and cheap spirits. Better quality cocktails are offered for a fee (by using United credit card I’m receiving 25% discount on those). Most of the major airports have United Clubs. Each location’s offerings may slightly differ. I find the best way to use these United Club passes on the +2 hour layovers or when my flight is delayed.

  • If I happen to pay for my tickets, for some destinations it is better to pay than use points, I’m receiving 2x points on every $1 

  • Primary auto rental insurance - no need to pay extra for the auto rental insurance.

  • It covers a $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre Check application fee that is good for 4 years.

  • occasional offers, like annual fee of $450 waived for the first year on the upgrade to United MileagePlus Club Card that offers 2 free checked bags and unlimited access to United Clubs

United Explorer Mileage Plan credit card benefits

United Explorer Mileage Plan credit card benefits

As you can see, for a $95 annual fee, in the first year this fee is waved, I’m getting a lot of freebies. The more I fly in a year, the more savings I’m getting. Just on the checked bags and auto rental insurance alone. Since this card waives an annual fee in the first year, what stops you from trying it out?

Other airlines may offer different perks. For example, recently I opened an account with Alaska Airlines. When purchasing tickets under one reservation (purchased at the same time) I will be able to check bags for free for up to 6 people! After first year, I will be getting “companion pass”/ discounted ticket for my wife. Simply put, I will be able to buy a second ticket by simply paying a $99 + tax/fees. So if one ticket costs $600, instead of paying another $600 for my wife, totaling in $1200, we will be able to fly for $699. This only at the annual fee of $75. Not a bad deal don’t you think? You bet I will be keeping this card for longer. Similar offer is offered by Southwest Airlines. I cannot comment on this specific card, as Southwest doesn’t have convenient connections from my airport and I don’t have any experience with them but I’ve read many positive comments about them though. From what I’ve heard, Delta’s membership has the most restrictions and it is the hardest to use.





How to choose a hotel credit card?

As for the hotel chains, I hope you have some experience already and can tell which hotel brands you prefer. If you do, check the major banks if they offer a credit card for these hotels. Chase bank has probably the biggest selection at the moment. If you cannot find it, post a comment and I will help finding it for you.

If you have a specific location for your vacation already in mind, for example you always dreamed of flying to Kauai, Hawaii, check what hotel brands are mostly represented there.

Over the years I accumulated few credit cards from major hotel chains: Marriott, IHG, Hilton. These hotel chains have other brands under their names and your points are valid for booking rooms in all of them!

Marriott Brands

Marriott Brands

Hilton Brands

Hilton Brands

IHG Brands

IHG Brands






For example, Marriott has 30 of them. My favorite is Residence Inn. Why? Each room comes with fully equipped kitchen! This kitchen has a full size fridge, microwave, stove/oven, normal kitchen sink, dishwasher and wait for it, basic kitchen setup for family of four: glasses, plates, utensils, etc. By staying in this kind of room, I’m saving money and time on preparing my own meals. It comes in very handy as a wildlife photographer, I need to get up early for the sunrise shoot. In the Summer this means waking about before 5AM when most of the places are still closed. Being able to prepare my own breakfast and even lunch comes in very handy. My Yellowstone trip blog post will have more information on that.

Craving a luxury stay? Not a problem. Just get ready to spend over 50,000 points per night 🙈



“Universal Cards”


What I call a “Universal” card is the card that will allow you to redeem points for a hotel stay, airline ticket or even a online purchase. These cards earn points at higher multiplier in other categories than hotel and airline cards. For example: grocery stores, restaurants, streaming services, improvement stores etc. In my opinion, Chase offers the best selections of these cards. These cards earn you Chase Unlimited Rewards points.

If the location I travel to doesn’t have any hotels from my preferred hotel chains, Marriott etc., I love booking hotels through Chase’s website as this allows me to discover less known hotels. In some instances, these hotels have better locations too. I will post some examples soon.

Best starter card for Chase Unlimited Rewards program is Chase Freedom card.

chase-freedom.png


With no annual fee, low spending requirement, moderate sign up bonus of $150, it earns me 5 points on categories that change every 3 months. Even though it says “5% cash back”, it is actually a 5 points per $1 spent. Here are the categories for 2019:

freedom categories.png

In the last 9 months, twice there was additional 10% bonus on purchases made at ShopRite:


IMG_8967.jpeg

Another great Universal card is a Chase Sapphire Card:


chase-sapphire.png

Currently, it offers excellent sign up bonus of 60,000 points. Also, it offers many travel benefits like primary auto rental collision damage waiver, purchase and extended warranty protection. If you own Chase Freedom card you can transfer points to this card and use these points at 25% higher value.

In my opinion, Chase UR (Ultimate Rewards) program is best and most flexible as it has a lot of partners. I either book hotels through UR program or transfer points to my preferred airline. Why do I transfer points to my airline? Because if I redeemed UR poinst for plane tickets, I would have to pay for checked bags and board in the last group. By transferring points to my airline at 1:1 ratio, I can book my flights with the benefits my airline credit card offers. As you can see, this requires some point juggling but is very rewarding at the end :)

Applying just for United Explorer Card and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards you would accumulate 100,000 points. Good enough for a round trip for two to Hawaii!

My Christmas trip to Yellowstone was actually purchased with United Airlines MileagePlus points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points combined.


OK, we have the basics covered.


Time for some more advanced tips 

With recent restrictions, you cannot receive sign up bonuses for the same credit card within 24 months, or even 48 months. Simply put, if you applied and received sign up bonus on the credit card and you closed it, you have to wait at least 24 months until you are eligible for another sign up bonus. Very important to understand is that 24 month limit starts from the date when you received your sign up bonus. Not your card. For example, if you applied for your card in January 2018, met the minimum spending requirement in February, and received the sign up bonus on your March statement, you can apply for the same card/sign up bonus in March 2020, which equals to 24 months after you received your bonus.


To get “around” this limitation, you can apply for a Business credit card offered by the same hotel chain/airline, like United Explorer Business Card. You don’t need to own a business, nor have EIN, to apply for a business credit card. You can fill out the form, and get approved, as a sole proprietor. You can find more information on how to apply, here: https://upgradedpoints.com/how-to-apply-and-qualify-for-a-small-business-credit-card/ and here https://millionmilesecrets.com/guides/how-to-qualify-for-a-small-business-credit-card/ 


The best and the very first business credit card you should apply for is Chase Ink Business Preferred card. Right now there is a hefty 80,000 points bonus.

source and copyright: Chase.com

source and copyright: Chase.com


Additionally, this card gives you the best redemption on Chase Ultimate Rewards that you earn with other Chase cards. While redeeming Chase points through their website, you are getting a 25% more value for your points. To say it differently, it costs you less points (25% less) to get the same room or plane ticket compared to Chase Sapphire card. Also, it is one of the few Chase credit cards that will allow you to transfer Ultimate Reward points to partner airlines at 1:1 ratio. Don’t feel discouraged if you aren’t approved on your first try. It took me over a year, 3 different applications, to get finally approved 🙈 Benefits are well worth to keep this card for long. Additional tip here is to earn Chase UR points, in other categories, on other Chase cards but transfer them to Chase INK card for the best redemption value.

As you probably have noticed, all these credit cards have an annual fee. Some as low as $49 per year, with most $99 to be billed once a year on the month of your account opening anniversary. If you are new to this, you are probably saying to yourself, that I must be stupid to pay $99 for a credit card. I often hear this but I hope you will read the following. Every card that I own, offers not only some savings that are very helpful and reward me the more I travel. Also, every card gives me a bonus every year. My airline credit cards, every year, are giving me free checked luggage, a club access and/or companion pass. With just one roundtrip and one checked bag per person, my annual fee is already paid for. With every trip after, the card and its annual fee is actually saving me money. What about the hotel credit card? Every year, I’m getting 1 free night bonus at Marriott, Hilton, IHG hotels. There are some restrictions (Marriott free night offer is valid for rooms up to category 5 - if needed, I can explain it in more details. Just let me know by leaving a comment if you want me to add this information). At some locations, Category 5 room can be worth even $300! As you can see by paying $99 fee I’m able to get a free $300 room.



Don’t wait!

I regret by not getting into all this credit card points game sooner. As, there are more restrictions being implemented every year or so. It is still worth getting into it though. Just don’t wait. 

The worst restriction these days are:

  • 5/24 rule at Chase, with more banks getting on board too. What does it mean? Simply, your credit card application on any card from Chase bank will be denied if you received at least 5 credit cards in last 24 months. No matter how good you credit card score is. 

  • Points on purchased tickets are calculated based on price paid not the mileage traveled. Before, you would be getting extra 1 point for every mile you traveled. So it was beneficial for me to travel to West Coast as I was getting over 2000 points each way. These days, I’m getting extra points based on the price I paid for the ticket. The more expensive the ticket, the more points one will be getting. Airlines are simply rewarding those buying first class tickets and not those that travel far.

  • More cards are putting restrictions on how many times you can receive a sign up bonus on the same product. The most common rule these days is one signup bonus every 24 months on the same card. With some banks being as strict as one sign up bonus for life (American Express). What does it mean? Before, a person was able to open a credit card, receive a sign up bonus, close the card, apply again for the same card and so on. It was possible for many years until recently. These were the days! 

  • More points needed for travel in peak season.


One cannot predict the future, therefore do not delay your decision! Start earning points right away!



Meeting the requirements for sign up bonuses

To get the sign up bonuses, you have to meet the requirements of the offer. Often, it is to make purchases up to a specified amount. For example, you will get 40,000 points on United Airlines credit card if you spend at least $2,000 in 3 months. I understand that everyones financial situation is different. If you don’t have large amount of spending in a month, and remembering what I wrote at the very beginning of this post, you have to plan for that. I don’t want you spend this money on unnecessary expenses. If you know that your car insurance is to be renewed within next 3 months, apply for a credit card instead of writing a check. My car insurance offers me a 10% discount if I pay it off in one lump sum. So not only, I’m able to get sign up bonus on a new credit card but also I’m getting a 10% discount. So every year, just for paying car insurance, I’m getting either a free trip or free hotel stays. Win win! https://www.finder.com/car-insurance-paid-in-full-discounts

Another great way of meeting the spending requirements is to ask your parents, siblings, friends if you could pay their bills and have them to give you a cash back. . Isn’t it great?

How about your job? Does your employer refund you for any expenses/purchases?

If you are still short on some money to spend, you can try buying gift cards. Just be mindful and purchase gift cards for smaller amounts on multiple occasions, as bank will block you if you kept buying $500 gift cards every day. In the past, it was very popular just to buy gift cards to meet the minimum spending requirement. At this time, banks and some stores don’t allow large purchases of gift cards.



Strategy

If you didn’t apply for any credit card recently, I would suggest starting with applying for credit cards from Chase first. This is because of their 5/24 rule. You won’t be approved if you received 5 or more credit cards from any bank in the past 24 months.


If I was starting fresh, these would be my first cards I would apply for:

  • Airline card: in my case, it is United Explorer Card - I’m getting a Priority Boarding (it is important for me to have space in the overhead bin), free check in bag and other goodies.

  • Hotel Cards: Marriott Bonvoy great sign up bonus at the moment (3 free night certificates worth up to 105,000 points) and 1 free night each year on your account anniversary

  • Universal card: Chase Sapphire Preferred for its great current 60,000 sign up bonus, Chase Freedom (5% categories) and no annual fee, Chase Ink Preferred Business (excellent sign up bonus of 80,000 points) 3x points on cable, phone bill and shipping, allows for point transfer to airline partners at 1:1 ratio.

After receiving 5 cards from Chase, or when denied any of the cards mentioned above, I would apply for:

  • Hilton American Express card that currently offers great 125,000 points sign up bonus

  • IHG Premier from Chase - this card is exempted from 5/24 rule and currently offers 80,000 sign up bonus and free one night certificate upon your account anniversary

After getting primary cards for your preferred airline and hotel chain, I would open another card with Chase, which I call the “Universal card”. This card allows me to earn poinst that I can either transfer to United in 1:1 ratio (for every Chase point I’m getting 1 Mile). This helps if I’m short on points for free plane ticket. If I happen to travel to the area where there are no branded hotel chains (Marriott, Hilton etc) I like to use Chase hotel booking website that often has good selection of hotels. I’ve stayed in some pretty cool hotels using Chase points on rooms that I would never stayed in. 

As you can see, there are many ways you can take advantage of points earned on credit cards. I would recommend on not deciding for too long. As banks are introducing more restrictions. One of the worse changes that were introduced few years ago was, and still is, a 5/24 rule on most of the cards issued by Chase. What it means is that you won’t be able to get a new sign up bonus from Chase, no matter how good your credit score is, if you received more than 5 credit cards in the last 24 months. This is one of the reasons why I recommend applying for Chase credit cards first. 


At the very end, if you don’t use your points for travel and decide to close your credit card, you can always redeem points for gift cards. This will be the “worst” redemption but you will recover your sign up bonus in a form of a gift card to your favorite restaurant or store.


What do you have to loose? By opening a credit card with a sign up bonus, you have a chance of earning a large amount of points, use them and close the card before paying the annual fee. If you happen to travel at least once a year, it should be worth for you to keep some these cards for longer.





Referral Links

How long would it take you to research this information on your own?

How many costly mistakes would you make along the way?

If you appreciate the information provided in this guide for free, please consider applying for these cards using my affiliate links, at no cost to you. No personal information is shared with me. I’m simply being rewarded with points, by referring you to these cards. As you can imagine, it took a lot of time not only to write this free guide but also to do the actual research and refer you to the best cards.

Hotel cards:

Airline Cards:

  • United Explorer Card - Earn 40,000 bonus miles - https://www.referyourchasecard.com/217/WE71CNKVC6 - This is a standard offer. If you are not in a hurry with your travel, wait for at least 60,000 points offer. Consider a Universal card instead.

  • Alaska Airlines - earn 40,000 points - please contact me as a referral code for this card can be sent only via email



“Universal Card” - cards that allow you to earn points on more categories and redeem points for travel or transfer points to other programs/airlines:

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