Flying for free on your next vacation can be as easy as paying for your groceries every week with the right credit card. The right travel rewards cards — and the right tips for using them — let you rack up rewards fast, which means you could book one or more free flights within a few months. Here are five tips for putting travel rewards cards to work in covering your next vacation.
Travel for less (or free) using rewards
By using your credit cards strategically, you could very well fund your next vacation — if you know what to do. Here are five steps you can take to earn a free vacation using credit cards:
Choose a Card Affiliated With the Right Airline
Choose a travel rewards card that’s aligned with an airline you can actually use. If you live in or near Atlanta, for example, you’ll probably fly out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where Delta is one of the major carriers. Choosing a card that helps you earn Delta miles is probably a better idea in that case than choosing a card that earns United miles.
If you’re not sure what airline you’ll fly with, opt for a travel rewards card that lets you redeem miles or points through a bank or network travel redemption portal such as American Express or Chase cards.
Find Out How to Maximize Earned Miles
Take some time to research all the ways you can redeem miles or points so you understand how to make the most out of your rewards. If you can vacation in off-peak times, you may be able to increase the value of your miles by double or triple. If you’re already a member of an airline’s mileage program, you may be able to leverage credit card miles to obtain a more elite member status, which can lead to increased redemption values.
Always Go for the Sign-Up Bonus
The sign-up bonus for many airline miles cards can be 25,000 to 75,000 miles — often enough to cover one or two flights just with the bonus. Find out how much you have to spend during the first few months to get the bonus, and make an effort to put all your everyday expenses on the card (paying it off each month, of course) until you reach the sign-up bonus requirement.
Set a Goal for How Many Miles You Need
Find out how many miles you’ll need to cover the flights for your next vacation. If you’re planning a vacation next year and know you need 75,000 miles to cover the flights, you can make a plan to earn those miles in the time you have. For example, you might have a new card with 50,000 bonus miles; you know you’ll be able to get the bonus, so all you need is 25,000 miles, or about 2,083 each month for a year. Breaking the numbers down makes it easier to manage.
Set a Spending Goal Based on Your Budget and Mile Needs
In the above scenario, if you get one mile point per dollar spent on your card, you’d need to spend $2,083 a month for the year. That’s easy enough to do if you use your card to pay for all your groceries, entertainment, clothing, fuel and outings. Plus, we’ll assume $2,083 a month gets you the sign-up bonus too (it would with most travel rewards cards). By breaking down your spending goals, you can earn free flights for your next vacation without adding to your expenses at all!