Credit Cards primer..a useful tool for free travel

For those that are already into the game of credit card churning, you will not need to read this post…..skip it and come back another day.  For those of you that have just one or two credit cards, would like to travel for free, travel in Business or First Class or use your points for upgrades, then please read on.  This is how we were able to travel to Australia, New Zealand and Singapore for almost free.

Most all credit cards give something back to you -points, miles, cash back or a travel allowance.  I do not have any cards that give me cash back, I would rather have the points/miles for free travel.  Since I don’t have any of the cash back cards, I won’t address them at this time.

I have some credit cards that will give me points, miles or a travel allowance.  Many of the really good cards do charge an annual fee and most of those credit card companies waive the fee for the first year.

In my mind, credit cards are divided into three main categories.  There are some that are revenue based (like Capital One Venture card) and others that are miles based (United Mileage Plus Explorer) and other that are points based (hotels, Sapphire Preferred).

A revenue based credit card, in my opinion, is not worth it.  Generally speaking, one cent equals one point.  When the Venture card first came out, they offered to match the miles you would have in another credit card reward program up to 100,000 miles.  I did sign up, got my 100,000 points.  That 100,000 points was equal to $1,000 that I could apply to travel.  I would apply this to an airplane ticket purchased through their website powered by Travelocity.  The good thing about this program is that there are no blackout dates – if a seat was available I could “purchase” it.  In my scenario,  I want to fly from Washington Dulles to Honolulu in Business Class.  A business class ticket would cost me $3518 which means that I would need 351,800 points with my Venture card from Capital One in order to purchase this ticket.  That’s a lot of points to accumulate.

If instead I chose to use my miles that I have earned with the United Mileage Plus Explorer card with United  then I would use 80,000 miles roundtrip and pay $5 in taxes and fees.  The 80,000 miles translates into $800.00.  Who is getting the better deal?   When using miles you do have to have some flexibility with your travel dates as your preferred dates may not be available in the preferred cabin choice.

Finally, I use the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card and it gives me Ultimate Reward points. These points are transferable to 5 different airlines (and it gets you into their alliances) as well as AMTRAK and 4 different hotels.  I find on the United Airline Award Booking Chart that I need 80,000 miles to book that trip to Honolulu.  I call up the number on the back of my Sapphire card and ask them to transfer 80,000 points to my United Frequent Flier account.  It transfers at a 1:1 ratio and is instantaneous.  I  can then book online for my award travel or call up the United and get transferred to the award booking department.  They will help you for $25 per person.

  For the Capital One Venture card,they will give you 10,000 points when you spend $1000 in 3 months and the points you earned in making that spend as well as no foreign transaction fees.   Your first year fee is waived.

The United Mileage Plus Explorer card through Chase would give you 30,000 after you spend $1000 in the first three months plus the points you earned is meeting that spend, your first checked bag free when you fly United, and no foreign transaction fees.  The first year fee is waived.United MileagePlus(Registered Trademark) Explorer Card

If you are interested in signing up for a Chase Sapphire credit card, as of today you will earn 40,000 Ultimate Reward points when you spend $3000 in three months.  You will also earn points from the spending that you do with this credit card and an annual 7% bonus points based on all purchases you made with the card.  You are then effectively earning 2.14 miles per dollar spent.  The first year fee is waived and finally, no foreign transaction fees.

Post image for Chase Sapphire Preferred Review: Turn 40,000 Points into $500

 NOTE:  These bonus sign up points were correct at the time this blog was written.  They have probably changed by the time you read this.
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