Your First Travel Credit Card

You’re finally ready to take the plunge into travel hacking and apply for your very first travel credit card. The card you choose will depend on which cards you currently have open and the goals you have for traveling with points and miles. In general, the first card I recommend for the majority of people who don’t already have this card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

The Sapphire Preferred Current Offer Details

The current sign up bonus is 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after you meet the minimum spend of $4,000 in the first 3 months from the date of approval . These 60,000 points are worth at a minimum, $750 if used to purchase travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal. That equates to a value of 1.25 cents per point.

Using Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

If you use some or all of these points and transfer them to an airline or hotel partner, the value can be much higher. Transferring points to Southwest Airlines can get you values of 1.7 cents per point as I did when booking my upcoming round trip airfare to Phoenix.

I was able to get a value of 10.48 cents per point when I transferred my Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to United Airlines to fly Business Class on partner airline Lufthansa on my trip to Oslo last summer. This is an example of how far your points can go in terms of value when you do a more complex transfer of points.

Of course, it’s perfectly fine to derive the basic value of 1.25 cents per point when you consider that Chase is literally handing over these points once you’ve completed your minimum spending requirement. This is what I love so much about this hobby. Points and miles are such a gift!

You can also earn an additional 10,000 Chase Ultimate Reward Points per approved signup (up to 5 per year) for referring others to the card. The points really can add up.

Note that this card used to be offered with no annual fee in the first year but now requires payment of the $95 annual fee on your first billing cycle. This fee does not count toward your $4,000 minimum spending requirement. I still believe that given the 60,000 point sign up bonus is worth $750, the $95 annual fee is well worth paying.

The Perks of the Chase Sapphire Preferred

Earn 2 points per dollar spent on all travel and dining

Earn 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.

No foreign transaction fees which saves you money when using the card while traveling abroad.

Chase offers comprehensive travel insurance with this card.

You’ll also have access to extended warranty protection

One fun thing about the card is that it’s made of metal

Current List of Chase Transfer Partners

Airline Transfer Partners:

Aer Lingus,
Air France-KLM
British Airways
Iberia, Jet Blue
Singapore Airlines
Southwest Airlines
United Airlines
Virgin Atlantic

Hotel Transfer Partners:

Hyatt
Intercontinental Group (IHG)
Marriott
Ritz Carlton

Points transfer on a 1:1 basis for all of the above listed Airlines and Hotels. The transfer of points is so easy to do either in the Chase Online Portal or the Chase App for mobile. The transfers usually take less than a minute too!

When you look at all of the above, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a great card to apply for first. It’s also a great card to keep in your wallet long term as Chase Ultimate Rewards Points are so versatile. I’ll be writing more about this great card in a future post.

Please contact me if you currently have this card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve as there are plenty of other options for you which I’ll be happy to discuss.

Please comment below if you’re planning to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card. I want to hear from you. Please contact me with your questions.

Note that I am not affiliated with Chase Bank.

Destination in Mind

So you’ve decided that you want to start traveling for pennies on the dollar. What a great decision! You’re probably wondering where to start. The best place to start is by figuring out your travel goals. That means having a destination (or two) in mind. It will also involve determining the type of travel that works best for you in your situation.

Spending Goals

Some folks are looking to spend as little money as possible out of pocket to travel. You might not care that much about fancy hotel accommodations or luxury airline flights. Others are definitely looking to save money on their travels but want a more comfortable and upgraded flying experience (like I had when I traveled to Norway).

Perhaps you really appreciate the extra touches found at 5 star Hotels and Resorts. Maybe you want to travel to exotic locations. Your travel plans may have you visiting your children, grandchildren and close friends who live afar. Still, you may be the person who wants to take all the savings you would realize from using points and miles and put that money toward a special project or charity. I’m sure there are as many possibilities as there are people interested in this hobby.

I started out in Travel Hacking by signing up for an American Airlines credit card while online booking a flight to San Diego to an annual gathering of dear friends over two years ago. A little message popped up on my computer screen offering me a $100 credit toward the flight I was booking at the time and a chance to earn 40,000 American Airlines miles that I could use toward a future trip if I met a minimum spending requirement. In this case the minimum spending requirement was $3,000 spent in the first 90 days after being approved for the credit card.

The Savings Potential

Immediately, I realized there was a great opportunity to save $100 right away. It also became clear that 40,000 American Airline miles would likely be enough for a round trip flight to San Diego the following year. I was hooked from that very moment. The following year, I did book that trip to San Diego by redeeming the American Airline miles I had earned on that Credit card.

Maturing in the Hobby

Since then, I’ve learned quite a bit about how this hobby works and I’m looking forward to sharing what I know with you so you can experience the joy that I do every time I use my points and miles to take an almost free trip ( I just pay the taxes and fees which are usually less than $15 round trip for domestic flights).

The point is this; it is really great to know that you can collect lots of points and miles by jumping into the Travel Hacking hobby, but if you don’t have a destination in mind, those points and miles won’t do you much good. Where do you want to go? Dream big, the sky is the limit!

Please comment below and tell me where you want to go as well as when you’d like to travel. I want to help you make it a reality.

Travel Hacking in a Nutshell

Travel Hacking is a way of using points and miles accumulated by strategically opening credit card accounts in order to save large amounts of money on travel expenses such as (but not limited to) airfare and hotels. It is completely legal and will not hurt your credit score. In fact, in most cases, credit scores go up in the long run. So here is my take on Travel Hacking in a Nutshell.

The Basics

Here are some prerequisites for getting into Travel Hacking:

Be a United States Resident or have the ability to open up US credit card accounts.

Carry no credit card debt and no plans for future credit card debt

Possess a high credit score (above 700) .

Have a willingness to strategically open new credit card accounts for the purpose of meeting a minimum spending amount to collect bonus points/miles which will be used for travel.

Have at least $1,600 in monthly expenses that can be paid with a credit card in order to meet the minimum spending requirements of the credit card issuer in order to earn bonus miles/points. If less than $1,600 monthly, there are still options to save on travel.

Be willing to spend a small amount of time to track your credit cards with a simple spreadsheet, which I will happily provide for you.

Have a travel goal in mind to help determine which credit card(s) to open with regard to the best use of airline miles and points.

Own a business to gain extra opportunities to accumulate points/miles though not necessary.

What Travel Hacking Has Done for Me

Here are a few examples of how much money I save by travel hacking:

A week long trip to Oslo, Norway from Philadelphia, PA in August in high season. Business Class round trip flights from Philadelphia. Cost of Airbnb for 6 nights in a great location in Oslo. Round trip scenic train ride to Bergen, Norway. One night in an upscale hotel. Total coast of trip if paid out of pocket: $12,492. I paid a grand total of $217. This amazing trip was featured in Money Magazine. You can read the article here: She Used Credit Card Points to Take a $12,000 Dream Trip to Norway for only $217.

Round trip airfare booked three weeks before a last minute trip to Minneapolis, MN. If paid out of pocket $382. I paid $11.20.

Round trip airline tickets to Maui, HI for $11.20. If paid out of pocket $823. Rental car for one week totally free. If paid out of pocket $223. One hotel night totally free. If paid out of pocket $260.

While there are some prerequisites to getting into this wonderful hobby, the rewards are really worth it. There you have it; Travel Hacking in a Nutshell!

When do you want to start saving money on travel? Scroll down and tell me your thoughts.