How To Get Free Travel Using The Right Credit Cards!

As our regular readers already know, Shelley and I get many of our flights for free via airline points, and we accrue most of these points by appropriately taking advantage of the best credit card offers available. Airline tickets have always been a major cost of any trip, and that’s even truer now that prices have gone up so much due to rising fuel costs and fewer routes being flown by airlines. So now it’s even MORE important for budget-minded travelers to try to get their airline tickets via points if at all possible

Our trip to Nicaragua was just one of many that we took using airline points for our plane tickets.

However, you must use these credit card offers and programs properly and wisely in order toget the most out of them while also protecting your credit score – one of the most important things in your financial life. Below are some general guidelines to keep in mind and things to do as you apply for and use new credit cards that will help you travel for free just like we do.

1) It’s very important to always know what your credit score is. If you don’t already have access to this information then I highly recommend that you sign up with CreditSesame.com. It’s free, and you get an updated Experian credit score emailed to you about once per month. You can also get a free annual credit report once per year from all three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion) via AnnualCreditReport.com. Credit reports don’t give you an actual credit score, but they contain a ton of useful information that can help you protect and improve your credit score.

2) If your credit score isn’t above at least 700 or higher then you probably should spend some time improving your credit score before applying to any new credit card offers. If your score is too low then your application probably isn’t going to get accepted anyway, and your credit score will take a small, unnecessary hit (see #3 below). If you want or need to improve your credit score, here is some information on how to repair your credit.

3) Keep in mind that each credit card application will drop your credit score like 2-5 points.Those aren’t huge amounts and they go away after two years, but still you should choose your opportunities wisely. Generally speaking I’ve probably applied to like 6-8 credit cards per year in the last 2-3 years, and my credit score is still around 790.

We also used airline points for our plane tickets to Laos this year. That saved us over $3000!!

That’s because I am admittedly anal about keeping my credit score strong. For some tips on keeping a good credit score check out this article on The Top 10 Credit Mistakes.

4) When you see a credit card offer make sure it is worth applying for. Personally, I will not apply to a card unless I know I can get AT LEAST 25k points from fulfilling the requirements, and of course the more points the better. I also consider whether or not the annual fee for the card is waived the first year. I have no problem paying an $89 (or whatever ballpark figure) annual fee for a card that is going to net me 50k or more points, but I’d be a lot more hesitant if I were only going to get 30k. Also, what are the spend requirements for getting the bonus points? Some cards require really high spend amounts like $25,000 in one year while others may require only a single purchase to get the bonus points. Likewise, keep in mind which airline alliance (Star Alliance, SkyTeam, Oneworld) you would like to fly on, because most of these credit cards are aimed at gaining points with specific airlines which of course belong to specific alliances.

5) Only use these cards for things you would have needed to purchase anyway. It makes NO financial sense at all to spend money on unneeded items just to hit your spend requirements for obtaining airline points bonuses. It would make way more sense just to buy the ticket from the airline than to do this. Remember, the idea is to save money, not waste it.

Hmmm, maybe we’ll use those British Airways Avios points to go somewhere down here? It’s nice to have so many travel options!

6) Keep in mind that oftentimes credit card companies offer similar bonus mile opportunities for companion credit cards for small businesses. And the definition of a business usually includes something as simple as a small, part-time business you run out of your home. This can be a great way to rack up some serious points really fast.

These are some of the basics for how to go about signing up for credit card offers that will maximize the amount of airline points that you can accumulate quite easily. This may be the easiest way to get free travel that I know of, and again Shelley and I take advantage of these great offers several times a year. If YOU want to travel for free, then you should too.

The  Chase Sapphire Preferred card  and the The British Airways card are a couple of current credit card offers that we have that used in the past and highly recommend. The points from the Sapphire card helped get us to Southeast Asia for free, and the points we’ll get from the British Airways card will likely be taking us to Latin America for free in the future. Woohoo! After you have read through the general guidelines above and feel ready to get your own free airline points, then just click on the images of the cards to get to the offers. Good luck!

Chase Bank USA, NA
Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. You can use these points within the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, or you can transfer them to other participating frequent travel programs like we did. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year, and there are no foreign transaction fees when you use this card abroad which is a nice bonus.
[This particular Chase credit card offer has ended.]

[This particular British Airways credit card offer has ended.]

Get 50,000 bonus Avios (points) after your very first purchase! Like the Chase Sapphire card above, there are no foreign transaction fees when you use this card abroad. The $95 annual fee is not waived for the first year, but this is more than worth if for 50,000 Avios points (could easily buy $1000+ worth of airfare) with only a sigle purchase required, i.e. you’re NOT required to spend thousands of dollars on the card before you get your points. FYI, it’t probably best to not actually use these miles with British Airways, but rather with one of their many oneworld alliance partners like American or Cathay Pacific. You can read more about this here.

Travel well!

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About Keith Hajovsky

Exploring and photographing different parts of the world is my passion, and I enjoy helping others do the same. Whether backpacking, staying in 5-star resorts or anything in between, I believe experiencing and interacting with other cultures enriches our lives and helps us to better understand the complex world we live in.
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5 Responses to How To Get Free Travel Using The Right Credit Cards!

  1. I just booked a ticket to India LAST NIGHT, for my mother, using all airline miles she had gotten from a credit card program. And of course, Keith and I have booked many trips this way; just this year we’ve gone to Nicaragua and Africa using airline miles tickets!

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  2. its true about the credita cards but you have to be on top of this all teh time like a job and working the magic where you are at to get the best deals where to eat and stay. It can be stressfull at times but money should not restrict your life as it does a little for me so I break out of the box and matrix to travel.

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    • We agree that it takes more time and effort to use these methods to travel for free, or close to it. The first thing we say in the book is that you have a choice: you can spend your money or your time. For people who choose to spend money, that’s fine. If you want to travel as close to free as possible, your trade-off is that you’re going to spend your time instead. It does take work and research.

      However, it has had HUGE payoffs for us, as we have been able to travel the world extensively, on a near constant basis (at least every month or two), for anywhere from 3-12 weeks at a time. All for the cost that most people spend on their annual vacation. So in our experience, it’s well worth it!

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    • Keith Hajovsky says:

      Yep, like Shelley said, you can spend your money or your time, and everyone has their own tradeoff point. Heck, if someone is really wealthy then even signing up for a simple, yet very generous with points, credit card offer like the British Airways card mentioned in this blog post may not even be worth their time. $1000 worth of airfare may not be a big deal to them at all.

      At the other extreme, anyone who really really has to watch where every penny of their money goes will want to work very very hard at researching and finding deals that make it possible for them to travel at all. And then there are all those people in between.

      In other words, there is no absolute answer that fits everybody out there. For Shelley and me, the amount of time and effort we put into travel planning is MORE than worth it. And if anyone wants to be able to travel more with the resources they have available, then they can incorporate some of the tips and tricks on travel that we talk about and travel more as well.

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  3. Pingback: Playing the Frequent Flyer Game | How To Travel For Free (or pretty damn near it!)

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