You're probably wondering how we travel as much as we do and how we can afford it! The secret is in the credit cards and rewards. We use sign up bonuses for free miles and use credit cards to maximize on reward point categories - here is a lineup of our favorites from the past and what we're using now.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa (#1)
From our experience, this has to be one of the greatest value for points.
Normally Southwest runs 25,000 Rapid Reward sign up bonus BUT occasionally they have a special offer for 50,000 Rapid Reward points, this is the one you have to wait for! You are awarded the sign up bonus after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months. The card has a yearly fee of $99, and for your first card this is a fair investment for amount of free travel you can get, think of it as $99 for 3 round trip flights - fair right?
Myth: Canceling your credit card will cause you to lose your points - FALSE. Your sing up points are tied to your rewards account and do not expire with Southwest (each airline is different but most do not)!
We both were able to get around 3 round trip flights using this initial sign up bonus. The Southwest website is very user friendly and gives transparency on how many points each one way flight costs. That's about $750 in free flights! Compare that to the Delta 50,000 sign up bonus, that got me one round trip flight in the continental US.. now you see.
We believe this card is not worth keeping for more than one year, why?
- The second year will cost another $99, with only a 6,000 point annual bonus.
- Purchases are 1 point per $1, and 2 points for SW purchases. Not much reward for using the credit card.
Why Southwest is great to fly:
- No baggage fees, carry on and check in bags are included! I used the points for a ski trip to Colorado and Utah while bringing my gear: I didn't have pay anything extra for checking my enormous luggage to my destination. Win!
- No change fees.
- In flight free TV. So you don't miss Dateline on Friday night.. ok that's just me
What kind of flyer should get this card:
- An occasional flyer but wants to travel in the US for Cheap (or free).
- An experienced flyer looking to rake in some free flights.
Convinced? Sure hope so, we both have used this card and cancelled, to be honest we still have some points left over! Email us at email@example.com so we can remind you when the deal comes along.
Citi Prestige Master Card (#2)
This one is a fun one for those frequent travelers! Not Free but the PERKS are sweeeeet! Corey is currently in the first year of using this card and has only raved about it.
The Citi Prestige runs a 50,000 points sign up bonus for the first $3,000 spent in 3 months. Points have their highest value with American Airlines ($800) and about $665 with other airlines. The yearly cost to this credit card is $450 - but don't scroll past right away, let us tell you why you get more than that in perks and monetary rewards.
So, upfront cost of $450, here's how we got it back:
First $250 in air travel expenses are credited back to your account
That's cool! This includes anything from ticket cost, upgrades, baggage fees. That was easy for us as we spent that traveling CHI to MSP.
Now we need to recover $200 in cost.
***Admiral and Priority Pass Lounge access PLUS guest for free***
850 worldwide lounge accesses for you and your guest. Now that's unheard off! Yearly lounge access is between $200-$400 with an additional cost of $27/guest per visit. We visited close to 10 lounges this year. Lounge access includes drinks, alcohol, food and snack, wifi, comfortable seating, and sometimes showers. On our way back from a 4 hour car ride through Ghana, dust, sweat, and tears later, we needed a clean slate... we were so lucky to get Admiral access at the Accra airport where we were able to shower, snack, and grab a drink before we hit up our next layover adventure in Amsterdam, now that's priceless! I would have killed for this during my surprise Tsunami stopover in Hong Kong.
Just with guest access alone $270 was saved, I would say we recovered our cost.
Purchase an item with your Citi Prestige, enter the SKU into the portal and sit back. Citi will do robot research stuff for you, if they find the same product cheaper in the next 3 months, they will automatically refund the difference to your account. Corey purchased a rock climbing harness at REI, entered the SKU into the portal and 2 months later received $15 refund on his credit card.
On top of the recovered cost of the credit card, we're up $15!
All in all, Corey has saved $85 and retained $600-800 in flight credit using this credit card (assuming you purchase access to various lounges), and he didn't even use all the additional perks like Global Entry, free rounds of golf, etc. This one is a keeper even with the annual cost, by using this as your everyday card you can continue to rack up valuable reward points that transfer to airline partners or gift cards.
What kind of flyer should get this card:
- If you have a co-traveler, the lounge access boosts it's value with the free guest perk!
- Frequent traveler that can't rely on the same airline's lounge access.
- Traveler that wants to reap the rewards to extra points earned on travel purchases and dining.
- If you feel that spending $10 at an airport for a beer is overrated and need more choices at no cost!
I am a Chase banker and therefore really enjoy having all of my credit cards in one place. Chase Freedom is a great starter credit card for the everyday person. Before I was a travel points "hacker" this was my daily card, and I still use it heavily.
Why get this card?
5% cash back on quarterly categories. These could include Amazon, Kohls, Gas stations, and usually rotate quarterly with 2-3 categories each quarter. Say you spend $1,000 at Amazon during Oct-Dec quarter, you get $50 in cash back or point rewards.
This card has NO ANNUAL FEE. This is definitely unheard of..
So alone for the 5% category and no annual fee, this is the card to keep long term!
Chase Sapphire Preferred
I just got the 50,000 sign up bonus for the Sapphire Preferred. Actually.. I signed up during the 40,000 bonus THEN the 50K deal came around.. I thought I was out 10K points (sad face), but I talked to a Chase banker and after a few phone calls, they gave me the additional 10K! Woo, go service!
So what do you get?
- 50,000 points that transfer to participating programs 1:1 (1 Chase point = 1 participating program point). Guess what? They transfer 1:1 to Southwest so you can use for around 3 round trip flights! EEK! I already used 13K points to fly roundtrip to Tampa!
- Two times (2X) points on all travel and dining purchases. Who doesn't want extra rewards on dinners and flights!?
- $0 Annual for first year, then $95 yearly after.
Why I'm keeping it..
This card may not have fancy lounge access (Citi) but I highly recommend it for the signup bonus and using it for travel/dining related purchases. That includes UBER!
Barclay's Arrival+ Master Card
- 40,000 point sign up bonus ($400) in travel credit.
- Two times (2X) points on ALL purchases - that's a new one!
- Complimentary Fico score access (so you're always in the know).
- $89 annual fee waived for first year.
Corey has been using this card for general purchases due to 2X reward on purchases. I suggest this card for purchases on those categories that you don't get bonus points on with other cards; grocery stores, department stores, bills, etc. But honestly they have changed their minimum redemptions and rewards are not as good as previous years so he will likely be closing this card.
Tip: Credit card rewards program don't always stay the same so stay on top of your reward rules and redemption details. Cancel your credit card if the annual fee is not worth the rewards you're reaping.
We can go on and on so we'll save more credit cards for the next post! Be sure to read all rules and restrictions when signing up for a new credit card as we have not gone into detail. These are some of the easiest to use or best benefit reaping credit cards that we LIVE by!! Ask us for a referral code or ask if this is the right time to sign up!