The only thing better than travel is traveling for free! Whilst it may seem daunting at first, I show you how you can easily use credit card points and point hacking to your advantage.
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Hi everyone. Welcome back to the Wanderlover podcast. This is a new one for me. I am actually recording this episode in a little private workroom in the IGA Lounge at Istanbul Airport. This is my first podcast, I think I’ve recorded out in public, but we have a 15 hour layover here. We’re at this amazing lounge. It has so many amenities and I was like, you know what? Done is better than perfect. Might as well speak from the heart. Talk about a topic. I love being surrounded by so many other travelers. Does anyone else love people watching at airports? I swear that’s like one of my favorite things to do and it just makes time pass by so quickly. But yeah, we just finished a 12 hour flight from Singapore to Istanbul and now we have a long ass layover, and then we have another 15 hour flight from Istanbul to Mexico City.
I’ve been to Turkey once before this time we’re not leaving the airport because we need to apply for a Visa online even to exit for a day, you have to go to the embassy. It’s not Visa on arrival anymore. So we’re posted up at an incredible lounge. There is a pool table, open bar, huge buffet, lounge area, meeting rooms, private working rooms, so it’s pretty comfortable. And assemble Airport was actually named Conde Nast’s Best airport in the world of 2022. It’s really big, really luxurious, and I’m just sending all of you all the travel vibes as I move from Indonesia to Mexico.
How To Travel For Free
And today, I think is the perfect day to talk about something I get a lot of questions on, which is how do you travel so much? How do you travel for free? And I really want to give you guys behind the scenes of how I travel for free using credit card points. Personally, I have not paid for an international flight in the past four, maybe five years. So every single international flight, including this one, including some of rags, I’m able to use points to cover and it saves me a chunk of cash. And of course it gives me the option to reinvest that chunk of cash that I would’ve used on flights back into my business.
I really wanna show you guys how it’s done. Maybe there are some things you didn’t know and you can look into and apply it to your own personal situation. But I do want to preface this mainly only works because I am an American citizen, I have a social security number and I’m really able to tap into the American banking and credit system. It’s not this generous In other countries that I’m aware of. Ragz is British and we tried looking into different credit cards in the uk, it’s not even comparable, but like the only kind of similar one is the Amex Gold, which you can apply for in the uk, but that too, it has foreign transaction fees and the signup points and the conversions aren’t that lucrative. So as far as I know, this works because I am American. So if you are listening to this and you’re American, you can definitely do the same. But if you’re not, maybe look into the banking system in your own country, but do your due diligence and do your own research.
Purchase Everything On Credit Card
So how this all works, let me just give an overview. Is every single purchase I make in my life is done on a credit card. Either one of my personal credit cards or one of my business credit cards. I hardly ever, ever use a debit card. I don’t think I ever do actually. I never use a debit card. Sometimes I’ll use transfer wise or cash, but 95% of the time I’ll always have my spending on a credit card. And with the credit cards that I have applied for and signed up for with every purchase, I automatically get either points or miles that I can then redeem for anything travel related like flights or hotels or car rentals. And they can be business class flights or first class flights too. There’s no limitation as to what I can redeem them for. But basically every time I spend on something I would’ve purchased anyway, I’m automatically getting credit card points on the backend and those accumulate over time. What’s even better is I’ve optimized my strategies so that for certain credit cards, I use them for certain categories of spending to give me even more points.
So for example, I’m gonna go into every single one of my credit cards that I have later. But for example, my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, I get three times the number of points on dining and restaurants. So every time I go out to eat, let’s say my bill comes out to $50, I will get 150 points that I can then use towards travel at a later date. I know a lot of people, I think it’s the way maybe we grew up or who you hear financial advice from. A lot of people think credit cards are a bad thing. Like banks try to take your money and they’re charging you interest. There is a really intelligent, manageable way to use the system to your advantage.
Of course, we’re not gonna have outstanding debt, of course, we’re not going to be buying anything we can’t afford and paying interest, right? So I want you to think about your credit cards like a debit card, you’re using it to buy stuff you would anyway with cash, but we’re just putting it on a credit card. We’re paying the balance off in full at the end of every single month and we’re building our credit score. And that’s the most important thing. You need to have a really solid credit score to make this all work. So make sure you have your finances in check. Make sure there are no late payments. Set up automatic payments if you can to make sure your credit is as high as possible. So I would say maybe at least a seven 60 for it to all work.
Two Categories Of Credit Card
So now that you know you can automatically get points or miles based on your spending, you’re probably wondering which one should I open up first? That’s gonna be completely dependent on your situation, but I want you to think about different credit cards as in two categories.
Airline Specific Cards
The first is airline specific credit cards. So for example, United has their own credit card, Delta, American Airlines, Alaska, Hawaiian, Southwest, right? All of these credit cards have their own point system with that specific airline and you get more points and more benefits when you book through that airline. This is beneficial if you are based in one city. So let’s say you fly out of Miami a lot or you fly out of LAX a lot, it would be a lot easier for you to get a lot of points with one specific airline if you’re constantly using them, right? So the first category is airline specific.
Generic Spending Cards
The second category is a blanket points-based credit card. These are generic spending credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Amex Platinum or the Capital One. These aren’t airline specific and instead they are linked to a specific bank. The three main ones, chase, Amex and Capital One. And what happens is every time you spend on those, you accumulate points instead of miles. So you accumulate points and based on their specific transfer partners, you’re able to then transfer over to their partner airlines, their travel partners, and then use those points with airlines like Alaska with United, with American, et cetera. The second way you can redeem those points when it’s a bank specific credit card is you can book through their own travel portal and use the points like cash.
So Chase for example, every point with their transfer partners are usually transferred on a one-on-one basis. If you redeem them as cash towards travel, they then use a 1.5 multipliers. So instead of one point equaling 1 cent, every point is then 1.50 cents. So if you had 10,000 points, you can use that towards $150 of travel. And if you have a hundred thousand points, you can use that towards $1,500 worth of travel. And so you can see how over time, as you are accumulating more and more points, you can then use those points towards free travel.
And now you’re probably thinking, but Danielle, a hundred thousand points is insane. I would have to spend so much money in order to get to that level and I don’t know if my expenses are that high yet, right? Quote unquote yet, because your business expenses will probably increase as your business grows. But the good news is with any of these credit cards, either airline specific or bank specific, they have sign on bonuses. So what I used to do was I would sign up with United and get their credit card. They would have a sign on bonus ranging from between 50,000 to 80,000 points if I spent 3000 in the first six months.
And usually every single one will be like spend between 3000 to 5,000 in the first three to six months and you’ll get between 50,000 and a hundred thousand points. So keep an eye out on these award miles because they fluctuate a lot if you wanna apply when it’s higher, right? Because once you spend that and you get that, then all of those points show up in your United account. And with all of the airline specific ones, they have the first year of credit card fees waived, usually they’re like $95. So what I used to do was I would open up a United Credit card, get the sign on bonus within the first year, and then cancel the credit card.
And all of those points would be still sitting in my United account, but my credit card would be canceled. Does that make sense? And then I would do the same with Delta and then the same with American and just have all of these airline specific points in my accounts and like 60,000 points with American, you can book round trip flights from like New York to Europe. They are so worth it if you know how to play the credit card game, right? Of course, you don’t want to just be mindless about signing up for so many and then forgetting to cancel or not be on top of your payments, right? You really wanna make sure you have an understanding and a grasp of this so you can manage this well and use the points and miles to your advantage.
My Experience With Airline vs Generic Credit Cards
So signing up for these airline specific ones, again, are good if you are based in one place and you don’t have such high spending. But what I’ve migrated over to over time as my business expenses increased as I really wanted to learn how to best approach miles and points is I stopped signing up for airline specific credit cards and instead I only work with Chase Amex and now I’m venturing over to Capital One as well because you can transfer all of those points over to any airline. So it’s not like I have to only fly United or only fly American. I’m basically optimizing the point system so that any airline I wanna fly in the world, I’m able to book for free.
Which Credit Cards I Use
Chase Sapphire Reseve
The main credit card I use for personal expenses is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It has a $550 annual fee, but it comes with so many perks that I personally believe it’s worth it. Mainly being you get a $300 travel credit off the bat, which I hit really easily. So anything like Ubers or flights or Airbnbs or hotels that you book throughout the year, if you hit $300, they’re going to reimburse you.So that already brings it down to 250.
You then get global entry, which is another a hundred dollars application fee that lets you enter the country so much easier when you’re coming from another country and going through immigration. You also get priority pass, which is so helpful if you travel a lot and you get access to its entire lounge network across the world. 90% of the time when I go to an airport like this one, for example, this amazing one in Istanbul, it’s part of Priority Pass. So I just show them my priority pass that I get for free with Chase, I’m able to enter, I’m able to eat, you get to drink, you get to use their amenities.
I took a shower here to freshen up, so it’s really nice and just so worth it for me. Like I said before, there are certain categories that have three times awards. So every time I travel or eat out, I get three times the number of points. And so with my personal credit card, that’s the main one I use.
Amex Gold Personal
I also recently signed up for the Amex Gold Personal. This is my first Amex card because like I said, I do want to diversify my point transfers because Chase only has selected travel transfer partners and I want to start tapping into the Amex travel partners as well.
I signed up for the Amex Gold personal. There is a $250 annual fee, but you get 90,000 points if you spend $4,000 in six months, which I think is so reasonable. And you get four times points when you buy food with it. So this is going to be my main food card. Like do you see how just by applying and spending what I would normally spend, I’m getting 90,000 points that’s redeemable for $900 worth of travel or I can transfer over to travel partners. And sometimes you have first class business class flights for like 50,000 points, right? So it makes so much sense once you understand how this whole ecosystem works.
Chase Business Inc. Preferred
Now for my business expenses, I mainly use the Chase Business Inc. Preferred. This gives me three times the award points when I spend on things like supplies and marketing like Facebook ads. And what’s great about this is I can combine the points I get with my business with the points that I get from my personal Chase Sapphire Reserve because they’re part of the same system. So I’m able to combine everything together. I also recently just opened the Chase Business Inc. Unlimited, and that gives me 1.5% cash back on everything. And so that’s probably gonna be like my blanket card for when I don’t get those increased multipliers for spend categories.
And with the unlimited, I can also pull together all of my points with my other Chase credit cards as well. There’s no annual fee for the business, Inc. Unlimited, I get another 90,000 points if I spend 6,000 in 90 days, which is again, very doable and there’s no annual fee at all. And so you can see how my points just keep accumulating and as I travel, I can easily use them to redeem points for my, myself, my family, and my friends. If you sign up for one today, within three to six months, you can get another 60 to 90,000 points in your account easily as well.
Research To Know What Is Best For You
So this is definitely something you should think about. I personally have plans to open up even more credit cards. I know some of you might be thinking, oh my gosh, these annual expenses are insane. Like it’s hundreds and hundreds of dollars. And of course like this is going to vary per individual, but because I’m always traveling and because I don’t have a base, this system works really well for me. And the amount of value I get from paying a few hundred dollars using this credit card is just so, so worth it. Like the lounge I’m currently in, I believe it’s 80 euros just to get in and I was able to get me and rags in for free and we get unlimited food and amenities and drinks and we have such a long layover.
So for times like this, you know, I’m like, thank God for my annual fee and for my credit card. There is also no one size fits all strategy because your business, your life, your expenses are gonna be different. I know a lot of people start off with the Amex Platinum instead of the Chase Sapphire Reserve. I believe the Amex has like a a $695 annual fee, but they also have Centurion lounges and they have different perks like from shopping partners. So maybe if you shop a lot, that could be a better one for you personally. I’ve just banked with Chase for like all of my life and I started with the Sapphire Reserve and I’m just so integrated with it now that I’m probably not gonna open up both because they do offer similar benefits in my eyes.
But again, do your own research. I feel like with this episode you now have an understanding of how you could use it to your advantage. So look at your travel schedule, look at your expenses, your finances, see if this makes sense for you. If anything, just plant the seed and set the intention that you’re going to figure this all out and create this system for you and it will happen, right? You are able to travel for free. I’ve been doing this for years and years and I’m still learning new ways to optimize my strategy, which is really exciting.
Other Credit Card Options
The next few credit cards I’m looking at opening, maybe you guys wanna do some research on these as well.
I’m gonna open the Capital One Venture X for my personal expenses, the Amex Blue business plus for another business credit card and Amex Business Gold, and then maybe a hotel card. My first ever hotel rewards card, the Marriott. Brilliant. So that’s just on my list. If you have any questions about them, feel free to ask. Just send me a DM or shoot me an email. One last thing also is that some of these credit cards have 0% APRs for the first year, which is really, really handy. You can get all of your bonus points, you can have basically one year of spend with no interest.
So let’s say, you know, one of my friends, she is furnishing a new investment property and so she’s gonna use the credit card to finance all of the furnishings. And then by the time interest, you know, in a year’s time, by the time she needs to start paying it, she’s already gonna have tenants basically paying it off. So it gives you that extra year of time and it can be really handy when I buy my first investment property and I want to renovate it, I’m probably gonna think about doing some of the renovations on a credit card as well. Same concept, you get to defer the payment until you have cash flow, and that could be really handy maybe in your situation as well.
Handy Website For Points Hacking
Oh, and okay, last last thing, sorry I didn’t make notes for this. So I’m just kind of spitting out information as I go along. A really handy website where you can search for award points and award flights is point.me. It basically tells you how you can transfer your points or miles over to other airlines so that you’re able to redeem them for as little as possible. So it’s gonna look through every single airline reward system. So for example, like we’re flying, we flew Singapore, and then we flew Turkish Airlines. So they’re gonna look at Turkish Airlines on their website, how much does it cost to book this leg?
Compare it to the same flight on Singapore Airlines, but maybe Singapore Airlines. You know, you wanna buy this leg for 80,000 points, but then on Turkish Airlines for the same one, you are using 60,000 points. This happened when I was booking an American Airlines flight and I flew business class and it was so cheap compared to if I had to go through the award portal and use, use it as cash, right? I hope that makes sense, but basically check out the website. Point.me , I’m not an affiliate. It’s just really, really helpful. I believe it’s like $5 if you just wanna search for a day or it’s like $7 a month. But if you travel a lot, it’s so worth it so that you can find the best deals for yourself.
Okay, I think that is it. I hope this episode was enlightening and it helps you find your next award mileage flight and maybe get started on free travel. Who can complain about that, right? How much better can it honestly get? I will see you guys in the next episode when I am in Mexico. Finally have an amazing week and I’m sending you all so much love.
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