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Save Over $500 on Travel

It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the points and miles travel hacking game. There are so many travel credit cards out there. Knowing which one to apply for has a lot to do with the type of traveler you are. If you don’t fly or stay in hotels often, I have a great credit card for you. Even if you do frequent hotels and fly often, here’s an easy way to save over $500 on travel.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

This credit card offers a sign up bonus of 50,000 miles after a minimum spend of $3,000 within the first 3 months of having the card. The card earns 2 x the miles for each dollar you spend. This card has no annual fee the first year and charges a $95 annual fee starting in your second year.

If you only meet the minimum spending requirement, after receiving the sign up bonus, you’ll have $560 to use toward any type of travel. Any purchase made with the card that codes as travel is eligible to be “covered” with the 56,000 miles you’ve earned.

There is a Business Version of this card as well: The Spark Miles for Business Credit Card. It works much the same ways as the Venture Credit Card.

Each mile is worth One Cent toward travel. Redeeming miles is easy. Simply use your Capital One Venture Card to make a travel related purchase. After you have made a travel purchase, you have 90 days to redeem miles to cover the purchase.

To redeem your miles, go to your Capital One account online or in the handy app. Navigate to “Redeem Rewards” and then select “Cover Your Purchases”. You’ll see a dollar amount available for “erasing or covering” your travel purchase(s).

Now, a list of eligible travel expenses to choose from populates. Select the travel expense you’d like to cover. Indicate the dollar amount to cover. Note that you can choose to cover all or a portion of any travel purchase up to the amount showing as available. That charge will be credited and will no longer appear on your credit card statement. Couldn’t be much easier could it?

My Savings with Capital One Miles

My cute Airbnb in Oslo Norway. I used Capital One Venture Miles to cover my stay there.
My Cute Airbnb in Oslo

I’ve used Capital One miles to cover Airbnb and non-chain hotel stays. I took a fabulous round-trip scenic train ride from Oslo to Bergen, Norway courtesy of Capital One Miles. That was a savings of $236.

Recently, I used these miles to cover the hotel restaurant meal I charged to my room while in Phoenix. Not only did I remove the cost of my dinner, but my companion’s meal as well. I saved over $69 on that meal. Note, you must charge the meal to your hotel room in order to have it code as a travel expense.

What codes as travel?

Airfare and Hotels

Airbnb, Home Away, VRBO and OneFineStay.

Trains, buses, taxis, car rentals, limousines, Uber and Lyft.

Incidental charges at hotels when billed to your room such as meals and in-room entertainment.

Campgrounds, cruise lines, travel agencies

Checked baggage and other incidental airline fees.

Additional Card Perks

Earn 10 x miles when you book a hotel at hotels.com/venture through January 2020.

Pay no foreign transaction fees while traveling and using your card abroad

Receive up to $100 credit towards Global Entry or TSA Pre Check. Just use you Capital One card to apply for either TSA Pre Check or Global Entry. If you already have one of these designations, use the perk for a family member or friend.

Transfer your miles to one of 15 Airline Transfer partners. Note that not all airline partners offer a 1:1 transfer rate. This is likely not the best way to redeem your miles.

Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver

Travel Accident Insurance and more…

Life sure is fun when you can cover travel expenses with points and miles. If you want simplicity and a way to save over $500 on Travel, the Capital One Venture Credit Card is a great travel card.

Do you currently have this card? If so, how have you used the miles you’ve earned to cover your travel expenses. Scroll down and leave a comment.

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Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

Why You May Want to Start with this Great Travel Hacking Credit Card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card. Why this card may be a great first travel hacking credit card for you.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

It is no secret that I love Chase Bank credit cards for Travel Hacking. As I’ve written before, the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card is a great first credit card. That’s because currently, the sign up bonus is 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points. And, the annual fee is only $95. However, there’s another great Chase Sapphire credit card. This one is the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. Read on to find out why you may want to start your travel hacking hobby with the Sapphire Reserve rather than the Sapphire Preferred credit card from Chase.

The Elephant in the Room

Let’s talk about annual fees. People are often scared off by the amount of some credit card annual fees. The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card comes with a $450 annual fee. But let’s look at the value you receive for paying such a high annual fee.

Travel Credit

You receive a $300 credit toward any travel purchases each account anniversary year. This effectively takes your annual fee down to $150. If you plan to travel a lot, as many Travel Hackers do, that $300 credit is a no brainer.

Another Valuable Credit

Use your Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card to pay the fee for either Global Entry ($100) or TSA Precheck ($85) and you will receive a credit for the full amount. If you already have one of these designations, you can use the credit for a family member or friend. Depending on which designation you choose, your annual fee is reduced to either $65 or $50 dollars. That’s less than the annual fee of the Sapphire Preferred!

Priority Pass Select Membership

Priority PassMembership free breakfast. Image Courtesy Amy Phillips
Breakfast Courtesy of Priority Pass Membership

If we stopped with just the two points above, you’d be hard pressed to say no to this card. However, Chase has sweetened the offer with a Priority Pass Select Membership. This membership gives you access to over 1300 Airport Lounges around the world. Priority Pass lounges offer a comfortable place to relax before your flight. Most offer free food and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. You can bring up to two guests in with you. The value of this membership is minimally $249 per year.

The Sign Up Bonus

The Sapphire Reserve credit cards comes with a 50,000 point sign up bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months. See number 5 to find out how much those points could be worth to you.

Points are Worth More

The points earned with the Chase Sapphire Reserve are worth 1.5 cents each when you use them to pay for travel in the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal. With the Sapphire Preferred, the points are only worth 1.25 cents. This means the 50,000 bonus points are worth $750 at a minimum.

Transfer Partners

Chase has many transfer partners which can make your points go much further. From my own experience, when I’ve transferred my Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to book a business class flight to Europe, I got a value of 10 cents per point. I wrote about the value of Transfer Partners here: Redeeming Credit Card Travel Points

Points Earnings

You’ll earn 3 x points for all travel and dining purchases. This is an additional point per dollar spent as compared with the Sapphire Preferred credit card. All other purchases earn 1 x point.

There are no foreign transaction fees on purchases made with you Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card.

What if I already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred?

If you started out with the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, Chase will not allow you to have both the Preferred and the Reserve. You can however, “product change” and upgrade to the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. I would wait at least 6 months from when you opened the Sapphire Preferred to do the upgrade to the Sapphire Reserve.

All it takes is a private message or phone call to Chase to get the ball rolling. I will be doing this myself and can’t wait to get the additional benefits of the Reserve.

Whether you choose the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve credit card, you’re going to have a great travel hacking credit card in your wallet. If you plan to travel often and can pay the $450 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve may just be the better card to start your Travel Hacking journey.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. Scroll down and leave a comment.

Travel Hacking Small Wins

I’ve been thinking a lot about how when Travel Hacking, small wins can add up to great savings over time. When I got started in this hobby, all I wanted was a free round trip flight to San Diego. To that end, I applied for one credit card; the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard. That credit card name sure is a mouthful!! With that one card, I got a $100 credit on the flight I happened to be booking at the time. Then I met the minimum spending requirement of $3,000 in 90 days.

That earned me 40,000 AAdvantage Miles. Offers vary all the time and as of this writing, you can earn 50,000 miles with this card. The minimum spend is only $2,500 in 90 days. Also, this card continues to carry no annual fee in the first year. If you’re interested, you can find out more information here: Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard.

My First Small Wins

With that one credit card, I earned myself a free flight to San Diego the following year. I didn’t have to use the full 40,000 points I’d earned from meeting my minimum spending requirement. I continued to use that one card to make most of my purchases. That first free flight felt life changing. That redemption of miles meant a savings of over $400. This savings was in addition to that first $100 credit I received when I first applied for the card. That may not seem like a lot of money to you. However, to this self proclaimed frugal gal, it was a huge win. Let’s call them Small Wins Number One and Two.

The Wins Get Bigger

Business Class Seat in the 20 Seat British Airways Upstairs Cabin. This was a big win by using Credit Card miles as a Travel Hacker.
Business Class Seat in the 20 Seat British Airways Upstairs Cabin

A little over 18 months into this hobby, I had earned enough American Airlines miles to fly one way to Oslo Norway in business class. My seat was located upstairs in a special business class secion on British Airways. There were only 20 seat in the whole section. half of them were unoccupied. It cost me 55,000 AAdvantage miles and the cost of the taxes and fees. This really was a huge win for me. Flying business class was not something I had ever imagined doing.

Learning about travel hacking showed me that what was possible without breaking the bank. That trip to Norway had me flying business class on both the outbound and inbound flights. I used two different types of points/miles and flew on two different airlines.

The other type of points I used were Chase Ultimate Rewards Points. I earned those points with both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Business Ink Preferred. There is nothing like sleeping in a lie flat bed/seat complete with pillow and fluffy duvet blanket. I arrived refreshed when I got to Oslo after my overnight flight on Lufthansa.

Another Win

Business Class Lounge Shower Heathrow Airport London. I loved this one of my Travel Hacking Small Wins.
Business Class Lounge Shower Heathrow Airport London.

A great perk of flying business class is the opportunity to access business class lounges in the airport. Those lounges offer comfortable seating, nap rooms with beds and lots of delicious free food and drink (including alcohol). However, for me, the best part of my experience in the British Airways business class lounge was taking a shower; at the airport!!! That is a true luxury. Imagine how fabulous I felt before boarding my 7 hour flight back to the States. It’s hard to put a price on a shower but I can tell you how much money I saved on that trip.

My Oslo Trip Costs

My lovely Airbnb in Oslo in a great location.  Another of many Travel Hacking Small Wins.
My lovely Airbnb in Oslo

I’ve written about this trip before because it’s really the one that got me completely hooked on Travel Hacking with points and miles. The full cost of my one week long trip would have been over $12,000. That trip included business class flights, a week in an Airbnb, one night in a luxury hotel and a 14 hour round trip scenic train ride to Bergen, second largest city in Norway. I paid a total of $217. Technically, this is a rather large win. I couldn’t have been happier with that savings. In fact, Money Magazine interviewed me about my amazing experience. You can read the article here: This 54-Year-Old Mom Used Credit Card Points to Take a $12,000 Dream Vacation to Norway for Only $217.

Other Wins

I think one of the best aspects of using credit card points and miles is the flexibility they afford me. When I learn of a family occasion that requires travel, it’s so great to be able to book flights and hotels with miles and points rather than dollars. It allows me to say “yes” a lot more often to traveling. It’s taken me to places that I hadn’t expected to go. It’s great to be able to visit friends and family while doing it with a frugal eye. Life is great when you have a stash of miles and points.

Travel hacking small wins add up to big wins over time. As I’ve written before, in a little over two years, I’ve saved over $18,000 on my travel. Can you imagine how you can achieve those first small travel hacking wins? Scroll down and leave a comment. I’d love to help you.

Earn Travel Dollars with the Drop App

What if I told you there’s a great way to earn gift cards towards future flights that doesn’t involve opening a single credit card? What’s more, you can use your holiday shopping to help you earn them. Earn travel dollars with the Drop App; Amy Phillips walks you through how to do it.

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by guest blogger, Amy Phillips. Amy caught the travel bug a few years ago and now uses credit card points and miles to travel the world for pennies on the dollar. It’s been said that the apple does not fall far from the tree. I’m proud to have my daughter, Amy, share her insights with you to get the most out of your Travel Hacking credit cards.

The Drop app lets you earn points through purchases made at a variety of brick and mortar and online stores. You redeem the points for gift cards. One of the current gift card redemption options is a $100 American Airlines gift card. 

Here’s How it Works

  1. Download the Drop app from the Apple App Store here: Apple App Store. Or, download from Google Play here: Google Play. Use code jtbtk for $5 worth of free points when you link your first credit card.
  2. Link any credit or debit card. Then, the Drop app will walk you through with simple steps. Editor’s note: I’ve linked all of my credit cards to the Drop app to make sure I earn every possible point towards my travel hacking goals.
  3. Choose your super offers (these are offers that will always be activated. Mine include Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, and Target. Every time I shop at these stores in person or online, I receive 10-15 points for every dollar I spend. Editor’s note: I’ve linked, Uber, Amazon and Whole Foods to my Drop app.
  4. Now, you can choose additional offers from a number of categories including Apparel, Pets, and Travel & Vacations. You earn many of these offers by shopping online, through your mobile device or computer. Generally, these offers have higher point values. I’ve seen these offers anywhere from 15 points per dollar up to 300 points per dollar. The additional offers include many stores. You can rack up a lot of points if you use these offers strategically for your holiday shopping or larger purchases. Additionally, some offers give a one-time points bonus for subscribing to a service such Blue Apron, which awards 35,000 points when you sign up for a meal delivery subscription for the first time.
  5. Redeem your points for gift cards. Drop offers a wide range of gift cards at price points from $5-$100. Currently, there’s an American Airlines $100 gift card that can be redeemed for 100,000 points. It may sound like a lot of points. However, if you capitalize on earning points through holiday shopping and purchases of big-ticket items, you’ll be able to earn the points fairly quickly.

A Few Tips

After you make five purchases through any of your offers, you have the opportunity to play the supercharge game and win bonus points. This is a way to earn extra points without having to spend anything in addition. Go to the “my offers” tab to track your progress towards the supercharge game or to play the game.

The point amounts for additional offers may vary. I recently used a Sephora offer that was 60 points per dollar . When I checked again a few days later, the offer was down to 40 points per dollar spent. This is the nature of any offer. It is always subject to change.

Don’t forget to use code jtbtk to earn an additional $5 when you link your first card. So there you have it. A quick guide on how to earn travel dollars with the Drop app.