This year two things happened in my life that is certain to make travel more expensive - I gave birth to a baby girl and my baby boy turned two (meaning we now have to buy him a plane ticket). I decided that while I was waiting for my baby girl to arrive, I would make a concerted effort to accumulate some frequent flier miles and keep travel inexpensive. We had trips planned from Washington DC airports to Vermont, Mexico, and California, and so I used travel rewards on these trips. Here’s a summary of the three credit cards I signed up for and how I earned and spent the travel rewards:
Chase Sapphire Preferred
This card has a sign up bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $3000 in the first three months. It is pretty easy for me to meet that minimum spending requirement as our daycare expenses alone are $800 per month (soon to be double that!) and can be paid on a credit card.
I ended up earning 61,619 Chase Ultimate Rewards. I transferred 60,000 points to Southwest Rapid Rewards to redeem for three round trip tickets from Baltimore to Cancun and one ticket from DC to Ontario, CA. I still had to pay $260.76 in taxes and fees on these flights (most of that for the international tickets). Since these tickets would have cost me $1302.72 if I had paid out of pocket, I ended up saving $1041.96 on these travel expenses.
Chase United Explorer
This card offered 55,000 bonus United miles after spending $3000 in three months and adding my husband as an authorized user. My United mileage total came to 64,495 after spending money on the cards and making some purchases through the United Mileage Plus Shopping Portal. In addition to my normal spending, I made several purchases for work on this card for which I later got reimbursed. One of those noteworthy purchases was at Vistaprint when they were offering 10x miles at the United shopping portal. I got about 4,400 miles on that one purchase alone.
I cashed in 60,000 miles for three round trip airline tickets from DC to Burlington, Vermont. I paid $33.60 in taxes and fees for these tickets. Since they would have cost me $960 out of pocket, this is a savings of $926.40. We will also get free checked bags on these flights which saves us an additional $100.
Capital One Venture Card
I got an offer in the mail for 100,000 miles after spending $5000 in the first three months. This offer came around tax time and so I put my tax bill on this card in addition to my regular spending. I ended up with 111000 points which can be redeemed as a statement credit for $1110 in travel expenses.
Since the best lodging situations and deals for our family are vacation rentals, that is how I spent all of these points. I ended up getting all of the following for free: 5 nights lodging in a two-bedroom luxury condo in Tulum, Mexico; 4 nights lodging in a two-bedroom house in Valladolid, Mexico; 5 nights lodging in a two-bedroom house in Vermont. This card also allowed me to sign up for TSA PreCheck and Globally Entry for free - an additional $100 value.
All in all, these three credit card sign-ups saved me $3268.36, and covered all of our flights and almost all of our lodging for our family trips to Vermont and Mexico.