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Personal Experience: How to Travel Free with Credit Card Points

Traveler Kristen from California left her career in corporate finance to explore the world. She has traveled to over 70 countries. Kristen recommends her favorite travel credit cards. How to travel the world for free with credit card points The Blonde Abroad.


Photo: IStock

Kristen flew in Emirates first class, where she ate caviar and took a shower at an altitude of 12 km. She has booked economy class round-trip tickets across the country and business class one-way tickets worldwide. She even booked a car for a week of epic trips right here in the US.

“And I didn’t pay for anything. All of these things were booked “free of charge” using credit card points.
This is not a boast - this is a call. If you're not already using travel credit cards, it's time to start,” says Kristen.

On the subject: American Airlines pledged to buy 20 supersonic aircraft that can fly from New York to London in 3,5 hours

Credit card reward points are a game changer.

While the Points and Miles game may seem extremely cryptic and almost too good to be true, let's take a look at concrete examples of when a traveler used points, how she did it, and how much it saved her.

Here's how to travel the world for free (using credit card points!).

How to score over 1 points

First of all, Kristen has 5 travel credit cards.

Yes, it may seem like a lot, but they all serve slightly different purposes and she gets the most bang for her buck. Or, in this case, the highest number of points for different purchases.

Here's what's in her wallet:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve - her business card for everyday expenses and travel
  • Chase Ink Business Preferred - for all business-related purchases
  • AMEX Gold - for dining out, groceries, all food-related purchases, and travel
  • Capital One Venture – another one of her travel favorites
  • A.A. Advantage — card of her favorite airline

Again, she uses them all, but for different reasons!

Kristen uses her credit cards whenever possible. She uses her credit cards to pay for everything from taxes to car insurance to daily expenses.

The key is knowing where rewards credit cards earn reward points.

For example, her AMEX Gold card earns 4 times more points for every dollar spent on groceries and restaurants, which is better than her Chase Sapphire credit card. So Kristen always takes her AMEX, whether she's at lunch or at Trader Joe's.

Whenever you book flights and hotels, you should also use whichever credit card gives you the best travel bonus.

Which Travel Reward credit card is best?

Chase Sapphire

Kristen mostly uses her Chase cards because Chase has some of the best redemption programs and travel partners.

If you're just starting out or don't have a Chase Sapphire card in your arsenal, get a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card with a bonus. For every dollar you spend on travel and food, you will earn 2 points. The travel category defined by Chase is much broader than you might think and offers a lot of flexibility, making it easy to earn points. Along with flights, hotels, and car rentals, you'll also earn two points for every dollar spent on bus tickets, taxis, limousines, toll bridges, parking, and sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

Plus, you'll earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

This is the best bonus ever according to Kristen - you can currently earn 100 bonus points if you spend $000 in the first 4000 months.

AMEX Gold Card

If you already have a Chase Sapphire card, Kristen's second recommendation would be the AMEX Gold Card.

“And it's not like it's a big deal, but it comes in rose gold and it's very pretty,” she says.

The Amex Gold (or Rose Gold) card provides great perks for groceries, eating out and dining. She has a great bonus of 60 plus you get Amex Gold Perks.

Even though she has a $250 annual fee, you get a really good income from spending on food.

“There are also a ton of cash bonuses. While I was initially drawn to the American Express Gold Card points system, there are a number of other benefits you can take advantage of! Annual Meal Credit: You get up to $120 in food credits per year, which is offset by $10 in monthly credits when you use your gold card at participating restaurants. Be sure to register through the Amex website to receive this privilege!” says Kristen.

Uber Cash: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and automatically receive $10 in Uber Cash each month for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the US, up to a total of $120 per year.

“Basically, if you can use these credits for food and air travel, you almost offset the annual fee. Which, when you think about the other perks you can get, I think it's beneficial,” she says. “There are no fees for foreign transactions, which is very important to me!”

Kristen says it's a great card if you're a foodie like her. You get 4x more points for groceries, restaurants, and even coffee.

Book free flights with points

Here are some examples of how Kristen has used travel credit cards to earn points that she uses for free flights, hotels and car rentals.

While she had to make purchases to accumulate points, these are everyday purchases that she will make regardless of the points - we're talking groceries, gas, food at restaurants, and everything in between.
International long haul flight first class

Emirates First Class from Dubai to Los Angeles

Used points: 47 Skywards Miles

How did she make the booking? Capital One VCs are transferred to Emirates

Cost: She has already booked an Emirates business class ticket for this flight. “I love flying Emirates and also Qatar because in most cases you can get a really good deal on business class,” says Kristen.

She also has status with these airlines because she flies with them so often that she can get an upgrade.

In this case, she already had an Emirates Business Class ticket booked from Dubai to Los Angeles. When she logged in to check for an update, there was a limited time update at a discounted price.

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Note that this is one of the longest flights in the world - it lasts about 15 hours, and the service class upgrade was only 47 points.

Emirates is a partner of Capital One, so Kristen used the Capital One Venture points, transferred them to Emirates and was able to book a first class flight.

“This was one of my best uses of points because it was an incredible ride. Emirates First Class is insanely expensive and it wouldn't be possible without points!” she says.

“When I say my Emirates A380 first class flight from Dubai to Los Angeles was incredible, I mean incredible. It exceeded my expectations. Here is my review of the Emirates A380 First Class flight from Dubai to Los Angeles!” says Kristen.

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