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First things first- Chase has always been my personal preference for credit card points, and that is mainly because of their value. What did we say before? Not all points are created equal! (There are plenty of excellent travel cards out there and this is just my opinion). Chase points have a pretty standard value of 1.25 cents per point (CPP) when used through their own travel portal powered by Expedia (This is found when you login to your account). If you take a standard sign up bonus of say 60,000 points you’re looking at $750 of travel. Seems easy enough right? So if you start and stop there that isn’t a bad gig, and you’ll get a lot of value; but if you really wanna make it count, you need to learn how to utilize travel partners and watch for the “deals”.
Here are two of my go to chase cards for all things travel
If you google travel credit cards you are going to get a lot of hits. One of the most popularly marketed cards when you do this is the Capital One Venture card. It’s a good card, but many people are misled by the high number of points obtained on the sign up bonus. These points equal about 1 cpp unless transferred to their respective travel partner and are good for “erasing” travel related expenses. What I mean when I refer to “erasing” expenses is that X amount of points = X amounts of dollars off your bill if you choose to credit them that way. You can also do this with chase points and other cards out there. Say you spend $30 on Uber and want to use points to erase that cost, you would use the feature in your account to redeem the points against that cost. It’s a pretty neat feature but it’s the basics of traveling for cheap.
Hotel branded cards can also be very useful not only for points, but for benefits. Like I mentioned before Hilton points aren’t worth very much typically when redeeming them compared to other competitors points values, but their co-branded cards with American Express have some nice perks. Currently there are several variations of the card, but for those of us who want some benefit without the high annual fee look to the Hilton Surpass Card. It’s one I carry and would recommend if you can find use in the automatic Hilton Gold status. That gives you free breakfast at various hotels for two guests, upgrades and increased points earning on bookings with the card, etc. )These are the main ones people look to when deciding if it’s worth it). When you look at the average price of a breakfast buffet at one of the participating brands of Hilton hotels like Waldorf Astoria or Hilton branded resorts you could easily pay $18-30 per person. If you take the $95 annual fee into consideration and take advantage of the breakfast option alone 3-4 times a year you’ve already made your money back :). A fun thing to do once you get more involved with travel cards and this realm of what some call “travel hacking” is to status match. Earlier this year Wyndham and Caesars Total Rewards programs were matching hotel loyalty statuses for their various tiers. I took advantage of this personally and used my Hilton Gold to match to Wyndham Diamond to Caesars Diamond. Some perks of this are a free $100 celebration dinner, free show tickets, skip the line at buffets and select restaurants (which comes in handy at many Casino resorts on the weekend like Las Vegas), increased comps and dedicated concierge/check-in lounges, etc. We had a great trip doing this and it was all tied back to one card again versus spending nearly 15K to obtain the same status with Caesars. Just some food for thought :).
Another simple piece of advice is to utilize booking sites. By linking to partners that can do packages or discounts for cheap flights and negotiate directly on your behalf you’ll be able to save overall. Their are other sites and apps out there like Drop, Dosh, e-bates acorns, etc that promise cash back for using them as a link to booking on platforms like this so utilize them all in a single booking and over time you’ll see a benefit for very little work.
So how do you do this? Well it’s complicated- you first need to decide where you want to go and what your goals are as far as economy vs. first/business, hotel type, etc. These things dictate how much you’re going to spend and who may be servicing your respective area/class. If this sounds like something you may be interested in, shoot me a message and we can further discuss as there is so much to say when it comes to specifics of bookings, types of points and what the best way is to do it (it changes quite often as with anything “free”). If you’re just curious and I have your attention, then stay tuned for upcoming posts detailing some of the trips I’ve taken and how I do it.
I know that seems like a TON of information but I just wanted to do an introduction for you to give you a little insight into my hobby.
Here is a great way to get started using a search engine for your next trip http://jetradar.com/?marker=245130