I’m always asked how I’ve been able to travel so much on a budget and using credit card rewards has been one of my main tricks. The miles I’ve earned using credit cards have taken me on multiple trips to Europe and other destinations all over the world (and no this does not mean I have a ton of credit card debt –see below).
This is no longer a new thing, as many people have started to realize that there are so many perks available if you take advantage of the different offers out there. Sometimes the hard part is figuring out which card is right for you and how to maximize the reward benefits, so hopefully, this helps.
The biggest cost in traveling is typically the flight, especially when flying to far off destinations. Therefore, if you are able to get the flight for free, it makes the rest of it a lot easier to afford. Often I find that when traveling to other countries I end up spending even less money than I do on a day to day basis at home, as many amazing places can be super inexpensive! The hard part is just getting there! So here are some ways to make it happen…
Step 1. Research
First, you need to find out which airlines fly to the cities you travel to the most and what the offers available are. For me, I live in Florida but travel often to Cleveland where my family is, and to Los Angeles where my sister lives. So, it made sense for me to get the cards through the airlines I flew with the most.
After the initial bonus you get when signing up for the offer, the frequent flier programs are an important way to rack up more miles. Make sure you that you are maximizing your rewards earned through travel. Most airline credit cards offer double miles when spending money on flights through their carriers.
Once you have picked an airline that you will use, check and see what kinds of deals are available. The offers are constantly changing and sometimes there are multiple offers available so be sure to pick one that works best for you. You’ll need to take into consideration the guidelines for earning the miles and timelines and restrictions. Make sure you follow the restrictions and don’t miss the deadline to earn the miles. Just applying for the card usually isn’t all you need to do. Sometimes there is a minimum amount you need to spend within a certain time frame so be sure not to miss that deadline.
It’s also best to apply for the card when they have special bonus offers available. Sometimes these offers can be as much as an extra 20,000 miles (which can be almost enough for a round-trip domestic ticket) if you apply for the card during their special offer periods.
Below are some of my favorite cards…
Step 2. Put all of your expenses on that card and start racking up the miles!
On top of flights and travel costs try to put everything you purchase on your credit card. Each month you have basic set bills that you are going to be spending money on, and if you put all of those expenses on your card the miles will add up quickly. Groceries, gas, electric, cable and internet, cell phone, etc….put it all on the card and watch the money (in miles) pile up!
Step 3. Pay it off in full!!!
This is probably the most important part of using credit cards to earn miles or rewards or just in general. You have to make sure that you actually have the money to pay the card in full so you do not accrue an insane amount of interest on your cards. If you do that, then all of those miles you’ve made are basically worthless depending on how much you are paying in interest. Just pretend your credit card is your debit account and then take the money to pay it off in full when the bill comes.
Step 4. Plan your trip
Check the site to figure out what dates are available using the reward points you’ve earned. The more flexible your travel schedule is, the more likely you will be able to use the miles at the best rate. Planning in advance is also important because there are usually more flight options available and you will be avoiding any fees for booking the travel too closely to your takeoff date.
Step 5. Keep up with annual fees
Some cards have an annual fee that is typically waived your first year. Be sure to keep track of the date you first applied for the card so you can avoid paying it your second year. At this point you have a few options. You can either cancel the card completely or call and change it to another version that does not have a fee. The card might have less benefits, but by this time you should have already maximized the rewards so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem to change it to a card with less rewards. This would also be a good time to start the process over with a new card so the next trip you plan can be free too! 😉
Last but not least…enjoy your trip! 🙂
**If you have any questions or need any help picking the right card for you feel free to message me and I’d be glad to help! Happy travels!