With the holiday season approaching, many of us know that our monthly expenditures will rise in the next few months. And that increase in spending is met with a low level of dread for some. But it doesn’t have to! Learn how that spending can lead to travel savings!
Now first things first –don’t spend money you don’t have. Don’t go into debt to fund travel or Christmas gifts or other discretionary expenses!
But if you have good credit (a score of 700+) – you can use that extra spending in November and December to earn at least $500 in travel savings for your next vacation. Also, for all who are worried about your credit score, no, this won’t ruin it.
Welcome to the world of miles & points or “travel hacking”
Here’s the short of it: banks give you bonuses for opening new credit cards and completing a minimum amount of spending on that card. You’ve probably seen these offers advertised widely because they are quite common. You can then use those bonuses for free or almost free travel.
November is the perfect time to dip your toe in the water of travel hacking because it is a time when many people spend more, and can more easily meet their minimum spending requirements.
Just getting started? Check out my intro posts for an overview of how the travel savings will start to add up.
Picking A Card
There is a whole lot of information out there about strategies and picking your best card.
But you’re busy, right? And maybe you don’t exactly know where you want to go or how you will use your points? Here’s a list of 4 great options for cards with points that are easy to earn and easy to redeem.
As always, email me if you have questions about what card is best for you.
Spend $1000 for $600 of free flights on Southwest
- We love flying Southwest — particularly because flights booked with points are refundable up until 10 minutes before departure AND you can exchange tickets for a lower price if the price drops. See more in our Intro guide to flying Southwest.
- Southwest Card Application Link* (referral)
- 40,000 points after spending $1000 in 3 months
- $69 annual fee
- Worth: $600 of free flights
- Easiest way to use them: Book directly on Southwest’s website!
- Best Value: See our guide to earning a Companion Pass where 1 person flies free for up to 23 months
- $149 annual fee
- $75 annual statement credit for Southwest purchases
- 4 upgraded boardings per year
- 7500 points per year on your card member anniversary
- 3x earning on Southwest flights; 2x on local transit, internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming
- 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points for every $10,000 spent
- Check your Companion Pass strategy before applying
Spend $2000 for a 4 night hotel stay
- The IHG? Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card
- 60,000 points after spending $2000 in 3 months
- No annual fee
- Worth: Depends on where you stay…
- Best Value: With this card, your 4th night of any hotel stay booked with points is free! So the best value is finding a hotel for 20,000 points per night or less and using your 60,000 points for 3 nights + 1 free! Check out PointsBreaks for great deals every few months. Or check out this map and filter to look at Categories 1-3 to see where you could stay. Loads of options in Europe!
- Check out our Guide to Booking Free Hotel Rooms for more hotel card options
- $99 annual fee
- Reward Night after each account anniversary year at eligible IHG hotels worldwide (worth 40,000 points)
- 4th night free when you redeem points for any stay of 4 or more nights
- Earn 25 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
- Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a Premier card member
- Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Fee Credit of up to $100 every 4 years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card
Spend $3000 for $500 travel savings on any expense
- Worth: $500 back on travel expenses.
- Easiest way to use them: Use the portal to “erase” travel expenses of $25+ on your credit card statement. You don?t have to have enough points to cover your whole expense — you could book a $600 hotel stay and reimburse yourself $500 if that?s how many points you have.
- $95 annual fee
- Miles can be redeemed to erase any travel purchase. 50,000 miles = $500
- Can be transferred to a variety of partners like Jet Blue, Wyndham, Avianca, Turkish Airways and more
- Also worth considering the Venture X which has more benefits and the same offer.
Spend $4000 for $750 of travel savings…or more!
- 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4000 in 3 months
- Annual fee is $95
- Worth: Minimum $750 (more depending on the redemption)
- Easiest way to use them: The Chase Ultimate Rewards portal is powered by Expedia, so pretty much any hotel or airfare you see on Expedia will be bookable with Chase Ultimate Rewards. Your points value is tied to the cost of the hotel/flight. So 60,000 points = $750. On a trip to Gili Air, Indonesia (a tiny island with no motorized vehicles), we used 4,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards a night to book a villa at Villa Bulan Madu ? a small hotel with only 5 rooms. We’ve also used it to book flights!
- Other ways to use them: Transfer to hotel or airline partners for some higher value redemptions. 60,000 points could get you 2 round trip tickets to Dublin on AerLingus (+taxes), 3 nights at an all-inclusive luxury Hyatt, or flights/hotel stays with a number of partners.
- This is our favorite points currency and this is a great card to start with!
Chase Sapphire Preferred (<see current offers here)
- $95 annual fee
- Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to a variety of partners like Southwest, Hyatt, United, and more!
- You can also redeem points through the Chase Travel Portal. 50,000 points = $625 of travel