- Get a credit card with rewards
- Create a travel budget so you know how much you need to save by when
- Use apps and discount sites
Yes, it’s actually that simple.
First, the credit card that you are looking for is a card that offers rewards when you sign up, and then points for everyday purchases. What card you can get varies greatly and is dependent on that all important credit score. The better the score, the better the cards you can have access to.
Building travel points is a bit of a strategy game. Most cards offer a nice sign-up bonus, sometimes up to 40,000 points if you spend a certain amount in 3 months. That’s the standard, but make sure you always check the terms. The sign-up points aren’t a given, you actually need to spend money to get those. That’s easy though. Since you are using these cards like your debit card and paying them off each month, you can just put your regular monthly expenses on this card because we want all the points we can get, baby.
A couple of great options are the Chase Sapphire Preferred card where you can earn 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and restaurants, no nasty foreign transaction fees and 1 for 1 transfer to participating airlines. It’s like having your cake and devouring it. Chase offers a great members reward area where you can use points on airlines and hotels, and lots of other cool stuff. To give you an example, say you have 65,000 points…that’s equivalent to around $800 dollars.
Capital One’s Venture card is another solid option. Capital One’s motto is that they offer hassle free rewards. You earn 2 points for every purchase no matter what- even for things like gas, books and groceries. Spend on average $1500-$2000 a month on misc expenses and those points can really start adding up. Capital One even lets you use points with sites like Kayak that shop for the best rate for any flight. Double bonus is your miles never expire, which means that you can save up points for years and years without worrying about losing them.
I’m actually super excited about what Citi is up to. They have revamped their cards, and the Citi ThankYou Premier card now offers 3 points for every $1 spent on modern travel. This card is on point for all your commuters out there. You get 3 points for every $1 spent on things like Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, bike share, parking, tolls, taxis and subway. So if you spend an average of $100 a week on modern travel, you will earn 300 points a week…or over 15,000 points a year just on everyday travel. I’m just giving Citi a big high-five for this card’s benefits.
If you like to stay at the same hotel brand, check out the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card. Not only can you use the points to stay at any Starwood- Westin, Le Meridien, St. Regis, Sheraton, W etc. around the world, but they offer great bonuses like stay 4 nights and get the 5th free- I’ve taken advantage of this a lot. You can also turn your points into airline miles, entertainment like Broadway shows, shopping and more. I’ve been a loyal Starwood card holder and stayed free at hotels around the world like Paris for instance many times. Starwood’s card is also how we’ve been able to travel to Europe, fly free, and stay almost free. That’s like putting an extra $3000+ in your pocket.
Bottom line- you need good credit, so make sure you get your annual credit report and aim for 720+ for a score. Don’t cancel any old cards that you have – why, because that lowers the amount of available credit you have access to, which can lower your credit score, just store them away, but make sure you get yourself a card with some points. Do your research too. Make sure you come up with a points strategy. I have a couple of cards that I use for points with various companies. Each one offers something a bit different.
Now what can you do with those points?
Of course you can use them for things like airfare and hotels, but some cards go further. Through American Express Membership rewards you can use points on things like Uber car and one of my very favorite ways to stay when traveling, Airbnb. I can’t even begin to tell you how cool it is to rent an apartment and live like a local. You can even use points to shop at Amazon to nurse that addition to magazines and books that you love to read, and more.
With Chase, you can use points to buy movie gift certificates or book Amtrak Travel. They even have a points transfer for Southwest airlines which is a great money saver because they don’t charge those silly fees for bags on their flights. Southwest doesn’t work with many credit card point systems, so this is a big plus.
Capital One is in a lane all their own. One of the coolest features is they have no blackout dates and you can fly any airline and stay at any hotel anytime anywhere. If you are looking for flexibility, this card needs to be in your wallet.
Citi’s rewards program works very similar to Chase. You can use your points for merchandise, gift cards, all sorts of travel and can even purchase travel certificates if you wanted to give them as gifts or give to charity. The even have a points concierge to help you turn any dream into a reality.
If you need further proof that points are the best thing to happen to your travel budget, let me just tell you that for my honeymoon we went to Paris, flew with points, stayed at an Airbnb property for a significant discount, and used points for activities, books and magazines for the trip and car rides. All in all, 10 days in Paris for around $1800 total, and yes that even includes eating some amazing meals. All thanks to the magic of points.
With all of this in mind, get cracking. There is a whole big beautiful world out there for you explore and experience! Start planning your next trip now