- Chase Sapphire Preferred card
- Chase Ink Bold Charge Card
- American Airlines Citibank cards
- Using American Express gift cards to meet credit card minimum spending requirements
A Few Credit Card Signups Can Fund Your Next Vacation:
Planning ahead and paying attention to miles is great, accumulating large balances strategically and having a big stash when it comes time to redeem, in multiple programs even, that means you have a choice of airlines to redeem tickets with and you increase your chances of getting the award you want when you want it exponentially.
But not everyone plays the game this way. Not everyone spends time in frequent flyer communities (I spend much time on Milepoint these days).
Now, most people don’t take advantage of the deals that loyalty programs offer. They just assume those programs can’t provide much value, or they’re too hard, or it takes too long to accumulate the points needed for travel. And when they do accumulate enough points, they immediately cash them in, the 25,000 mile domestic award still remains the most popular. I often see my job as convincing people to (1) pay attention and (2) delay gratification because I believe the rewards at higher mileage levels are much more lucrative.
But not everyone is patient, and not everyone has time to wait either, I do get a good number of people approaching me with, “I’m getting married in six months, I don’t have any miles, but I’d love to plan a dream trip. Is there anything I Can do?”
The answer, if someone is willing to pay just a little bit of attention and take action, is usually yes.
Because the banks want you to take international premium cabin vacations. On their dime.
Major airlines aren’t entirely in the travel business these days, their most profitable arms have very much been their mileage programs over the years and the biggest customers of those programs are the banks. United can reasonably be said to have continued operations through bankruptcy in order to support the underlying credit card business. A portion of each flight can be considered a bank charter reward flight. The miles being given out are truly huge.
So if you have good credit, you can get a few credit cards, and in short order have enough miles to travel in a style than most of us couldn’t otherwise afford on their own. It was really heartwarming back in April to meet an engaged couple in New York who were regular readers of Frugal Travel Guy and leveraged credit card signups for a dream honeymoon that two public school teachers couldn’t have ever dreamed about otherwise.
If you’re in that position, and based on current offers, here’s what I would do in short order. It’s just an illustration, because the specific trip you want will vary the advice somewhat, but the principles are the same.
Each person signs up for a Chase Sapphire Preferred card and a Chase Ink Bold Charge Card. Those two cards each have 50,000 point signup bonuses in the Ultimate Rewards program, those points transfer to United/Continental, British Airways, Hyatt, and several others. Both cards have fees waived the first year. The former awards the points after $3000 in spend, the latter after $5000. Boom, in short order each person has 108,000 points. That’s enough for business class from the US to Europe via United/Continental. It’s almost enough for a business class ticket to Asia on United/Continental, within striking distance where it could make sense to just buy the miles you need.
Here’s my longer discussion of why Chase Sapphire is my current overall favorite credit card, though for this discussion we’re really just interested in their signup bonus.
You could also just get two American Airlines credit cards from Citibank, each offering 50,000 miles. American charges 100,000 miles roundtrip for business class to Europe, 110,000 miles roundtrip for business class to much of Asia.
Then sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold Charge Card also. Use those points for your hotel. Because those 216,000 points could be transferred to Hyatt, that’s nine nights at the most expensive Hyatt properties in the world with some points leftover. Or it’s even seven nights at the most expensive Hyatt properties in the world including daily breakfast and five dinners.
Now you’ve got your business class airfare and your luxury resort stay covered. All on points, two credit card signups apiece from Chase and two credit card signups apiece from Citibank.
You have to hit the minimum spending requirements on each of the cards, which is why you do want a little bit of lead time, though there are things you can do to help meet the spend requirements. I’ve written in the past about several and will do a followup post on that soon as well. In the meantime, here’s my discussion of using the purchase of American Express gift cards to meet minimum spend requirements.
But given enough time to meet the minimum spend on your cards, you can have a honeymoon, anniversary trip, or special vacation basically free (paying only for incidentals). Not bad…
(Note that the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold Charge Card do earn me a referral credit if you use my links for them, while the Citibank American Airlines cards do not.)
Update: the offer for Chase Sapphire Preferred is 40,000 points.