How to Save on Travel using Credit Card Points

credit cards Feb 03, 2022

How do you like the sound of FREE travel?

 

If you’re anything like me or most people who enjoy getting away but don’t always LOVE the price of doing so, this sounds fabulous.

 

Let’s dive into the primary (and potentially only) reason I LOVE credit cards. 

 

First Things First!

 

Before I go deep into how you can score free travel through the use of credit cards, it is important to simmer on your current relationship with credit cards.

 

Credit cards and the points that come with them can reward you big time - but on the flip side - credit cards are infamous for being a stimulator of poor money habits and financial anxiety. 

 

Ask yourself these questions (and answer honestly!) before proceeding...

 

  1. Do you currently use credit cards to spend money you don’t have? Ya know, it’s a few days before you get paid and you're checking account can’t quite cover whatever it is you’re buying... So credit card it is.     
  2. Do you feel anxiety or shock of any sort when it comes time to pay your credit card bill? The “ahhh how is this month’s bill $XX - there goes a huge chunk of my paycheck” - this one used to be me at age 24 or 25. I never missed a payment and didn’t technically spend money I didn’t have - but the “buy now pay later” aspect of my credit cards wasn’t something I managed well. I felt like I was constantly chasing my credit card balance and that didn’t feel great.    
  3. Do you currently have credit card debt? I.e. you are accruing the ~20% interest on a balance. 

 

If you answered YES to any of the above questions, first and foremost, don’t be hard on yourself. It’s safe to say most people have answered yes to one of the questions at some point in their life if they aren’t answering yes today!

 

BUT before you dive into credit card utilization for the benefit of rewards, it’s in your best interest to improve your relationship with credit cards first.

 

We’re on a mission here to beat the Credit Card companies at their own game - and if you’re accumulating points while paying aggressively high interest or feeling anxious when it comes time to pay your bill… you aren’t winning :(

 

If you’re sitting here like, okay I’m ready to improve my relationship with credit cards but WHERE DO I START? Of course, I have some tips for ya! Here they are…

 

  1. If you aren’t already budgeting or tracking your spending, start doing so. Budgets are simply a tool to help manage your money - because as humans, we aren’t great at managing our money willy nilly off the top of our heads. Tracking your spending and setting some parameters in place will help protect you from the surprise credit card balances that fuel anxiety. And if you’re in credit card debt, budget is the first place to start to help outline how you can begin attacking that debt. I highly recommend downloading my free money tracker HERE. This is the exact template that helped me get my habits/money mindset in check and now I’m able to slay the game with credit cards. You can do it, too! I have tips in this tracker, instructions for how to set it up, and even insights on my favorite budgeting app to help automate your budgeting if you wish.   
  2. Put the credit cards in time out! Sometimes this is necessary to stop the bleed so to say. If you’re working to pay off the credit card debt, you don’t want to kick yourself by adding to it. Even if you don’t have credit card debt, it can be really helpful to hide them for a bit while you get into the flow of budgeting. I did this in the beginning and it helped me tremendously. The time-out spot for my credit cards was in my nightstand - I put them there for a couple of months while I got into the habit of tracking my money and feeling in alignment with my spending. I’m not going Dave Ramsey here and telling you to cut them up, LOL, you’re going to come back and use them & score big! So time out is the route I recommend eliminating the option of frivolously swiping them if that's an issue. 

 

I’M READY TO TRAVEL FOR FREE!!

 

Okay! Let’s go, gals (& guys). I have 2 favorite credit cards when it comes to Travel rewards and I’m going to outline how my husband and I are traveling to Hawaii in May (airfare + stay for 9 days) for the slim price of $680. 

 

Let’s start with the credit cards I have found to be very lucrative for travel. 

 

  1. Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card 
  2. Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

 

Before I dive into WHY I have found these cards to be some of the most lucrative for free travel, I do want to share that I do get a small kickback in rewards points if you sign up through those links. I love providing educational content for free here and if you love it too, let me know by signing up through those links if interested. Love ya, mean it. 

 

OKAY - LFG!

 

Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card - WHY I LOVE IT. 

 

  •  Bang for your buck is high. Southwest is a “value” airline as you probably already know and their points go a long way. Typically ~25,000 points cover 1 round trip flight. But I’ve gotten round trip flights for as little as 12,000 points to places like Nashville & Chicago that are close to my home base of Kansas City. As of this writing, the points bonus for signing up is 40,000 for the personal cards and 80,000 points for the business card. I have never seen the points offer top 80,000 for the business card and the highest I have seen the points bonus for signing up for the personal card is 50,000. So, now might not be a bad time to sign up.   
  • Benefits are high, while the annual fees are low. There are definitely perks to flying SW. Yes, there are some downsides like the infamous line up to board model and no first-class for those of you who like to be bougie (ok, I do too sometimes, but I am def not a first-class flyer!).  But really- Who wants to pay for bags? If you’re like me, you don’t pack light. LOL. I will def be bringing 2 bags to Hawaii (you’re totally allowed to judge me) but hey- both of those bags are gonna fly free! Also- have you heard of the companion pass?! There isn’t a perk like it on another airline. If you hit a certain point threshold in any one calendar year, the entire next year you can choose a companion who gets to fly with you completely free. And you can change this companion up to 3 times per year. This point threshold is pretty hard to meet, BUT I share how you can make it happen below as your sign-up points do count towards the companion pass!

 

My husband and I have 3 Southwest Credit Cards across the 2 of us, and honestly, I can’t tell you the last time we paid for a flight. Truly. We both have the personal Southwest Premier Credit Card and then for this business, I have the Southwest Rapid Rewards Business card. 

 

Last year, I signed up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards business card in July while they had an 80,000 point offer for signing up and I qualified for the companion pass for all of 2022! As I mentioned, your signup points count towards companion pass qualification, so if you sign up early in the calendar year - you have more time to hit that! Now, like most credit card sign-up bonuses, you do have to spend a certain amount on the credit card within the first 3 months. So just plan for this! You can get creative to hit the number without buying things you don’t need! I know people who have found ways to put their rent payment on credit cards, you can offer to pay for dinners when you’re out with girlfriends and have them Venmo you, book the AirBnB for your family trip and have others re-pay, etc. Depending on your monthly expenses you might not even need to get creative. 



Chase Sapphire Preferred - WHY I LOVE IT. 

 

  • Like the Southwest Card - the bang for your buck is high. Chase Sapphire Preferred points can be used to pay for hotel stays, airline tickets, and more. 
    • You can even do a 1:1 point transfer of your Chase Sapphire points to programs such as Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, United MileagePlus®, IHG® Rewards Club, Marriott BonvoyTM, and World of Hyatt® just to name a few. I’ll get into the details of our Hawaii trip here in just a bit  - almost there! - but with a point transfer to World of Hyatt, we are staying at a super-luxe hotel in Maui completely free.   
  • A multitude of ways to earn points - Dining, Online Grocery Purchases, Travel purchases earn you 2-3X points per dollar spent. We use this card every time we eat out, and as of this writing, that earns us 3 points per dollar spent.  
  • Partner Benefits alone can easily justify the $95 annual fee. As of this writing, just for having this card, you get DashPass with DoorDash free of charge. I love DoorDash, but I hate the $1M in fees that come with every order. With DashPass, the fees are dramatically reduced making it a heck of a lot more worth it to order meals with DoorDash! 

 

 

ALRIGHT ALRIGHT ALRIGHT - I KNOW THIS IS PROBABLY WHAT YOU ACTUALLY CAME HERE FOR….

 

THE 9 DAY MAUI TRIP BREAKDOWN - HOW WE ARE FLYING TO & STAYING IN MAUI FOR 9 DAYS FOR ONLY $680

 

I'll start with the flights:

Roundtrip for 2 people flying from MCI (Kansas City) to OGG (Maui) = $1,142



Price we paid? $0.

Covered this with points, which I guess you could say did “cost us” 44K in points - but at the end of the day, we paid nothing to get those points. Earned them by simply using our Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards which we have never paid a dime of interest on. 

 

^^ Important note - the 44K points was R/T from KC to Maui for 1 person. Remember, I have the companion pass in 2022 so my husband gets the luxury of flying with me for free. Typically a R/T flight for one person doesn’t “cost” this much in points, BUT flying to Maui is quite the haul. 

 

 

Now, the Accommodations - I mentioned earlier that I’m not bougie enough to fly first class, but I do enjoy being bougie and staying at bougie hotels (especially if I don’t have to pay the price!). 

 

I converted points from our Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to World of Hyatt (more on how to do this below).

 

World of Hyatt points go farther than most hotel points, I have learned, and Hyatt has an expansive collection of resorts including some great all-inclusives if that is your jam. 

 

So, naturally, I was like “I’m going to Maui and I have no idea when we’ll go back so I want to live LARGE”. I found this classy AF 5 star resort that Hyatt owns in Wailea. It’s called the Andaz Maui At Wailea Resort - a concept by Hyatt. 

 

Price? When I booked the trip in late December, the standard room was going for $1,200 per night. LOL.

 

Yeah, the “standard” room that has a view of a garden and bushes instead of the “ocean view” or “partial ocean view” rooms. 

 

BUT instead of paying $1,200 per night, you could get the room for 30,000 points per night. See what I mean by “Hyatt Hotel points GO FAR”. 

 

We had a little over 100,000 points stacked on our Chase Sapphire Preferred card, so we decided to spend 90,000 to stay 3 nights at this resort for the last part of our trip - which falls on our wedding anniversary. 

 

3 nights x $1,200 per night = $3,600. AND WE PAID NOTHING! 

 

Picture me here in May. I will bring you along through IG and try not to be obnoxious. 


Image Via: https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/hawaii/andaz-maui-at-wailea-resort/oggaw

 

So, we’re now at a total of $4,742 ($3,600 resort stay + $1,142 in flights) that has been covered entirely with points. 

 

For the other 6 days of our trip, we are staying in northern Maui at an AirBnB.

It was $680 for the full stay.

   

 

 

 

It’s a condo with fabulous ocean views, a pool, and is in an amazing location. We thought it was an incredible deal! While we stay here we will do most of our adventuring…. Because when I’m staying in the 5-star resort, I’m spending my time ON THE PROPERTY getting waited on and misted with water when I get hot. 

 

So, there you have it. $4,742 for flights and accommodations in Maui for just $680. 

 

We do plan to get a rental car for some of the time as well, and I will use my SW points for that! You can use your Southwest points to book rental cars through the site, yes! I’ve looked into it, but haven’t officially pulled the trigger yet. Renting on Turo is cheaper in the sense of the dollar value, but I don’t have points to use on Turo. We’ll see… but assuming we rent a car with SW points… we’ll be looking at close to $6K in free travel!!!

 

Now, obviously, we will be spending money on food and activities while we are in Maui. So it’s not like we are traveling entirely free here… but as you can see, the credit card points have paid out BIG TIME. We’ve really been stacking them as we haven’t traveled much in the past 2 years due to #COVID. 

 

LAST BUT NOT LEAST, AS PROMISED, HOW TO CONVERT YOUR CHASE POINTS TO HYATT (or another partner).

 

Step 1: Log into your Chase Sapphire Preferred Account and navigate to "Transfer your points to Frequent Travel Programs"

 

Step 2: Choose where you want to transfer your points - We transferred to World of Hyatt.

 

Step 3: Enter your credentials. You do have to be a member of World of Hyatt. It's free to become one, so if you're not a member when you want to transfer your points you can easily do that step before this. 

 

Step 4: Transfer your points. You input the amount you want to transfer. 

 

Step 6:  Confirm your transfer. You will then receive an email in a few days when your points are officially transferred! My points were officially transferred to my World of Hyatt account in ~2 business days. 

 

 

Cheers to winning the Credit Card game and hopefully some more normalcy in travel this year!

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