In Pursuit of FREE TRAVEL: Adding plastic to your wallet

credit card points I have to admit, it seems counter-intuitive to add credit cards to my life.  I spent a good deal of the third     decade of my life concentrating on getting out of debt, paying off student loans and credit cards as quickly as I could.  Consumer debt and the high interest rates always charged on credit cards can wreck havoc on your finances.  Once I paid everything off, I promised myself I would never carry a credit card balance again and I have stayed on track.

So, when I learned that part of Ketih’s traveling genius involves “churning” credit cards—taking them out to get the thousands of bonus points offered, I admit I cringed a bit.  Handling lots of cards and dealing with the various payments made me a bit nervous.  I like simplicity!  But, with the picture of my European dream vacation forming and getting clearer in my mind, I decided the small hassle of additional credit cards is more than compensated for by FREE TRAVEL perks.

I have reached a responsible level with my finances and know that changing where I spend my money will not affect keeping myself in line with responsible spending.  Again, this program is only for folks who have a handle on their finances and are not in any danger of carrying credit balances.

Once I saw all the free points that I could get by opening additional cards—I decided to take the plunge!  BRING IT ON!  –But which card to choose?

Part of the “secret sauce” for Keith’s formula is to open cards slowly and carefully over time.  We don’t want to do anything to damage our credit score.  Make sure to find out your score and keep an eye on it as you start to take out credit.

Next, select your credit card carefully, and, most likely, begin with Chase bank.  Make sure to open a credit card that has an offer that gives you at least 50,000 points.

Chase offers some great cards with exceptional points.  Chase’s points are termed “Ultimate Reward Points” and they can be used in lots of flexible ways for travel.  Chase has partnered with Marriott, Hyatt and United Airlines so it makes using Ultimate Reward points with those companies extremely easy.

Several of the Chase cards have double points in some categories and some of the cards actually pay FIVE TIMES points in some categories.  The reason to start with Chase is that Chase has a rule termed the 5/24 rule.  Chase will only let you take out five credit cards over 24 months—this includes credit cards from any other bank (excluding American Express.)  Most other companies are less strict, so it makes sense (and travel dollars!) to start with Chase when looking to capitalize on credit cards and points.

There are many choices when it comes to credit cards at Chase Bank, right now they have the Chase Freedom Card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card,  The Chase Ink Card for business, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  Most of these cards offer between 60,000 and 100,000 points just for signing up.  The cash value (again, the lowest way to redeem points) on that is $600 to $1000 dollars.  This cash value is if you were to trade these points in for the “cash back,” again, our goal is to get a much higher return with travel benefits.

So, look into your wallet, look at your credit score and then pick the best Chase Card and start earning FREE TRAVEL now.

 

 

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Credit Card Rewards: The First Three Steps

 

Travel concept, airliner, with push pins in european destinations and a map of the world

I believe in setting LARGE GOALS!  That’s why, as soon as I started realizing what credit card points could do for me and my family, I decided to try to take my family of six to Europe entirely on credit card points.  Most of us have never crossed the big pond before and being able to provide a European Vacation for my family is certainly a dream come true.  Online sellers like me spend a lot of money (and can accumulate a lot of credit card points,) so I am fortunate that my “spend” is quite high.  I started out by following the three steps outlined here.  Many thanks to Keith Crowe for inspiring me every step of the way.

HERE WE GO!  Let’s start at the basics and get familiar with what our current credit cards are doing for us.   This program is ONLY for folks who are currently in a position to pay off their credit cards each month—if you are carrying any type of balance, the interest you are paying more than negates the rewards you can get.  So, please, if you carry credit card balances, getting your credit card debt down to zero is your very first priority.  Get it to zero, know you can keep it there, and then come back and pursue your free travel points.

1.)  What is in your wallet?    The first step you need to take is to look at your current credit cards and see which benefits and rewards these cards have.  Ideally, your credit card should have 1% (or better) given back in rewards and no annual fee (there are exceptions to this—only pay an annual fee if it is more than offset by benefits.)

Take out your credit card, go to your bank, go online, and figure out exactly what benefits your current card is offering.  This will give you a starting point.  Also, notice, your card may give you double or better points in certain categories.  Learn what those categories are.  If you have certain cards with certain generous category rewards and other cards with different category rewards, take a Dymo sticker and write down the best categories for that card and attach it right to the card.  This will help you use the right card for the right occasion.

Do not cancel any credit cards, however.  Even if you discover one that has no benefits to you, just leave the balance at zero and leave it open. The reason for this is that your credit score is partially dependent on the length of time you have held credit cards. Closing a long-term credit card can negatively affect your credit score.

2.)  What is your credit score?  Next, take a look at your credit score.   There are lots of places where you can get this information for free—I used Discover.com and learned that my credit score is currently 749.   Our goal is to take out credit slowly over time and not negatively affect our credit score. My mentor has a couple of dozen credit cards and a credit score close to 850, so I know this can be done.  We want to know what our credit score is before we start the program so we can monitor it as we add credit cards to our wallet.  Again, if we approach this correctly our credit score will stay the same (or even rise) as we take out more credit.

3.)  Quit taking “sucker bets” with the points you accumulate on your current credit cards.   The LEAST value you can get from your points is in cash back, gift cards or magazine subscriptions.  For now, let your points accumulate.  We will show you MUCH BETTER options on how to spend your points in future posts (as I learn this along with you.)  For now, let your points rack up and know you will be using them for great travel benefits soon.

When I started this program, I had the Chase Ink for Business and the Chase Freedom card.  I learned that the Ink for business gives me double points when used at Staples, Office Depot or Home Depot.  I learned that the Chase Freedom card gives me 5 times points when used at restaurants (this category changes every quarter.)  I started using the Freedom when I was eating out and the Ink when I was buying supplies for my business.

So spend some quality time reviewing your current credit cards and learning how you are currently getting point, look into your credit score and stop cashing in your points—you are on your way.

 

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How To Travel The World For FREE

travel hackingA First Class overseas vacation plus accommodations in a five star resort each year for an entire family!

I love to travel!  Exploring new places resonates with me.  I love leaving my life (just for a while) and exploring the surrounding cities, states and countries.  Beaches—yes!  Mountains—sign me up!  Cities, towns, campgrounds, I get excited about it all.

I also like to “get a good deal.”  I usually shop for inexpensive flights and explore a variety of accommodations before choosing.  Since I have a large family and many preferences to consider, we don’t always buy on price alone, but we are always conscious of where we are spending our vacation funds.

I tried, at one point, to keep track of miles on certain airlines through their mileage programs.  I learned it is hard to transfer miles from child to parent and even harder to get a decent flight using miles.  I have “earned” a couple of flights this way though and that was nice.

I never considered credit card points as a way to travel.  I always just took the cash back option, figuring I would put it toward travel or whatever I wanted.

So, I was probably an average consumer.  Doing exactly what the credit card companies and airlines expect.

I didn’t give it much thought until I met Keith Crowe.

Keith is an Amazon seller who uses credit card points to secure first class travel and resort stays.  The way he manipulates credit cards, points and first class travel is remarkable.

He takes his family on a complete first class vacation every year, usually overseas, using credit card points alone.  

He actually started his Amazon business planning to “break even” so he could earn points on his credit cards. He has learned how to optimize all the various credit card points and travel deals and put them together into a system that earns his family at least one fully paid vacation a year.  He is an expert on “hacking” through the fine print and deals the credit cards offer and using his points in the most cost effective way to secure free travel.

I heard Mr. Crowe give a talk back in April and was amazed at all the ways credit cards can be used to get free travel. I made a note to myself to figure this out.

When I went to look at all the different reward programs on my own, however, I got a bit overwhelmed.  I had a lot of questions and wasn’t sure if I understood the fine print of the credit card deals.  So, I took the couple of things I could recall from his talk and applied those.

1.)  Save your credit card points for travel—preferably overseas and preferable first class.  This is where you get the largest value.  Don’t cash out or get gift cards—these are “sucker choices.”

2.) Chase Freedom and Chase Ink are both good cards (I already had these, so it was easy.)

3.) Put everything on credit cards.  I always pay off my balance, so interest is not a concern.  I switched my utilities, trash and every recurring payment I possibly could to credit.

I caught up with Keith a couple of weeks ago at an internet conference.  He was surrounded by entrepreneurs asking him about cards and points.  I waited my turn and learned a few new ideas.  I also suggested he write a book so all the advice he doles out could be in one place!  He agreed to teach me how to earn a first class vacation for the Carriers (!!) and he is starting his book.

I am lucky enough to be a case study for his book!  As he teaches me, I will share here.  Make sure to sign up below to get the inside scoop on free travel—I will keep you up to date.

I will share here as I learn.  SIGN UP at the top of this website to get FREE alerts and tips as Keith teaches me which credit cards to use and how to use them.

Please email or comment with any advice or ideas you know about to earn free travel.

This is fun!

 

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