- A friend recently asked me how she could go to Italy with her husband and daughter with free flights using credit card points. I helped her put together a strategy to earn enough points in a relatively short period of time.
- The cards in this scenario are the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Freedom.
- 180,000 Chase points is enough for a free trip to nearly anywhere in the world, depending on how you book your trip.
- From beach vacations to exotic adventures in remote destinations, miles and points can make any travel dream more affordable and realistic.
The other side of the world isn’t as far away as it used to be. Well, it is the same distance when measured in miles, but when measured in cost and ease of access, the world is a rapidly shrinking place.
When you have a six-figure balance of miles or points stashed away, going nearly anywhere in the world takes little more than a few clicks in your online account.
On a recent getaway with a group of friends, a friend in Northern California asked how her family of three could get to Italy on miles and points alone. It took a little research, and we had a plan nailed down. And if it could work for them, it could work for you too. Here’s how to put it all together.
Four cards for at least 150,000 bonus points
The friend who asked about the trip is married with one child over two. That means three plane tickets, but also two adults with good credit scores.
Leveraging that good credit, each adult in the family could get two credit cards from Chase that would put the family well on the way to a trip.
Adult 1:Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Freedom – This combination of cards will earn a total of 75,000 points after spending $US4,500 in the first three months.Sapphire Preferred comes with 60,000 bonus points after you spend $US4,000 in the first three months, while Freedom will net you $US150 cash back (15,000 points) after you spend $US500 in the first three months.
Adult 2:Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Freedom, again – Here’s another quick 75,000 bonus points. The second spouse will get the same 60,000-point bonus after spending $US4,000 on the Sapphire Preferred and another $US150 back (15,000 points) after spending $US500 on the Freedom in the first three months.
For adult 2, I seriously debated including the Chase Freedom Unlimited instead of the Chase Freedom. Its first-year bonus is 3% cash back – equivalent to 3 points per dollar on every purchase – on up to $US20,000 in purchases the first year. That could be worth more than the 15,000-point Chase Freedom bonus depending on your spending habits.
Don’t forget that you also made $US9,000 in purchases earning those bonuses. If you’re worried about putting that much on a card, you can space out the four applications over a period of a year. But when you add that in, you’re above 159,000 points – or more if you spend on restaurants, travel, or other bonus categories.
Earn even more with regular purchases
The Chase Sapphire Preferred gives you 2 points per dollar on restaurant and travel purchases and 1x everywhere else. Chase Freedom offers 5% cash back (or 5x points) on rotating categories that change every quarter – just remember that you have to activate this benefit each quarter.
By combining these cards and making your significant other an authorised user on the Freedom cards, you will earn between 1.5x and 5x points per dollar on every purchase. Chase points are worth a lot and are very flexible, so this is a great program for building a big balance.
Depending on your spending habits, you could earn 180,000 points well before the one-year mark hits. Here are some fun ways to cash in.
Points can take you nearly anywhere
A family of three to Italy
We started this with a discussion of Italy, and that’s our first destination. Chase points can transfer to United Airlines at a 1:1 basis. Under the current award chart valid into November 2019, a round-trip to Europe from the continental US is 30,000 miles each way with a saver-level booking. That means three round-trip flights would cost 180,000 miles plus taxes and fees.
Business class to Dubai
Last year I took my Dad to Israel in business class for under $US100 each, but that award would have worked anywhere in the Middle East. I’ve never been to Dubai and it’s high on my list. As it’s a Middle East destination served by several United partners, I could have headed there for the same rate.
Chase has a long list of transfer partners, so don’t feel confined to United alone. British Airways and Singapore Air could get you a luxury experience on the way to a city known for opulence. Just beware of fuel surcharges if you fly British Airways across the Atlantic.
A week-long escape from home
You don’t have to jet off across the world to enjoy a good time. You can book any hotel available on most major booking engines directly using Chase Ultimate Rewards. I took a look at destinations near Denver, Los Angeles, New York, and other metro areas, and there are many fun nearby vacation spots with nice hotels at affordable rates.
Spending 10,000-20,000 points per night, you could get a great hotel for a full week away. If you can scrape together enough time to get away from the office, sometimes it’s nice to get away and relax even if you are not that far away from home.
Don’t waste purchases on cash and debit
When you make a purchase with cash, you don’t get any rewards, benefits, or protections. Debit might come with a few additional conveniences, but those cards also come with more risk and fewer rewards than most credit cards.
If you can handle pay off the balances in full every month, a quality travel rewards card can take you anywhere. Whether it’s Italy, Dubai, or just around the corner, you can do it for free, or close to it, with credit card miles and points.