Budgeting, Finances, Travel

Fueling the Wanderlust

I want to fill you in on our recent adventure. This isn’t another adventure crisscrossing the globe, but rather, an adventure that involves dipping our toes into the popular travel rewards pool. This adventure has rewarded us (pun intended) 🙂 with travel perks that have allowed us to continue the endless pursuit of our Bucket List adventures.

Want to earn a FREE Hotel stay?
How about a $500 account credit? (That’s basically a flight to Hawaii!)
Or would you rather a FREE flight to anywhere in the world?
How about ALL of them? (Go BIG or go home, right?)

I know it sounds like this post is too good to be true, but I promise you, it’s not. 🙂 Consider this to be one of my best travel tips, from one travel-lover to another.

Relaxing in Paradise

Getting Started

Years ago, I decided to apply for a travel credit card in order to earn the travel rewards. It was simple: instead of paying in cash or with a debit card, I used my credit card; and each time I used that card, I earned reward points. I’ve continued to use this card for our travel purchases over the years, and to date I’ve earned a free flight in Europe, thousands of dollars in account credits, and too many Purchase Erasers to track (used towards vacation expenses like taxis, car rentals, excursions, and more). 

Needless to say, redeeming travel rewards has worked very well for us; and the more I earn, the more I find myself researching opportunities to earn even more.

However, before we get too far down this path, I need to share our #1 travel rule: We always pay off our vacation before we ever head for the departure gate. This rule has allowed us to travel the world without racking up one penny in debt. While we use credit cards to make our travel purchases, we always immediately pay off the charges to avoid paying any interest.

Hiking in Utah

Leveling Up with New Card Offers 

A few summers ago, I received a new credit card offer in the mail that changed how we viewed travel rewards. The offer stated that I could earn 5 free nights at a hotel of my choosing if I spent $1,000 within the first three months. (Who would ever turn down a free hotel on their next vacation? Nobody. That’s who). I was instantly intrigued, and after thoroughly reviewing the deal, I applied for the card.

At that moment, Cody and I took our rewards to the next level.

To be honest, the timing was perfect. We had just started planning our annual Christmas vacation and I knew that we would be making a decent amount of travel purchases over the next couple of months. So after opening the new account, I made our travel purchases as planned, and then paid off the charges immediately. Simply by using my new card (as opposed to my other travel card) I not only accrued regular reward points but I also qualified for the additional bonus which included the free hotel stay (we ended up using this reward in Maui).

Heart Rock in Maui

Fast forward to last summer. A few weeks before we left to Mo’orea I received an offer from Delta which included a very generous new card offer with the same kind of terms (open up a credit card, spend a certain amount of money within the first three months, earn  your reward. Ba-da-bing, Ba-da-Boom). We had already paid the deposit on our dreamy bungalow months before, however we needed to pay the remaining balance upon our arrival at the Hilton. So, instead of bringing along a giant bag of French Pacific Francs, I opened the new account, put the hotel balance on the new card, and then immediately paid off the credit card. And BOOM. I earned enough bonus miles to fly to our next destination for FREE. All thanks to a simple swipe of my card. Turks & Caicos, here we come! 🙂

Hilton Mo'orea

Now days, I always review the new credit card offers before throwing them into the shred bin. It’s important to note that if you want to try this for yourself, pay attention to the annual fees, cancellation penalties, and other card details, and then decide whether or not the specific card will work for you. This system may not work for everyone, however, we’ve found it to be a successful way to add even more travel to our lives.

And because we’ve saved so much money on our travels this year we were able to add another Bucket List destination to our 2017 plans: Bonjour Paris! We’ll see you soon!

Lets cross-check. Have you used reward points for your vacations? Which card is your favorite?

**Author’s note: I am not a financial advisor and am not suggesting that credit cards are for everyone. Be smart my friends! Always use credit cards responsibly. Pay your bill on time, and avoid paying any interest. Also, don’t rack up a significant amount in purchases if you will have trouble paying it back. 🙂 **

10 thoughts on “Fueling the Wanderlust”

  1. You are such an inspiration, we should do more travel hacking!!! Good tip here to pay it off before travelling. We do the same when travelling, we always pay off our UK credit card as soon as we purchase anything to avoid the hefty fees 🙂 We need to see what travel hacking can we do here in Malta 🙂

    1. Good luck with the travel hacking! 🙂 The more we save, the more we can travel, right? 🙂 Looking forward to reading more about your experiences in Malta.

  2. Never use cash, rarely use debit, so almost all of our expenses go on 1 of our 2 credit cards. RBC (Canada) provides 1 point for every $ spent. I then trade these to British Airways at multipliers of 1.5 or lately only 1.3. For the times we actually purchase BA flights I use the RBC British Airways card, which provides 2 points per $ spent. Also has other free flight benefits. With these points we use BA, Qatar, Cathay, Qantas & American airlines.

    Just booked return flights in First Class YVR to LHR and still have tons of points left for future flights.

    For accommodation around the world, we tend to use our timeshare exchanges. On our current UK trip we have a canal boat for a week plus 4 other individual weeks in various parts of UK. Cost is small exchange fee, plus our annual dues.

    1. Hello my friends!
      I forgot to mention the cost savings of using specific partner airlines. Great point!! All those small savings can add up to large amounts over the course of a year.
      My mom owns a timeshare and we have been able to use that throughout the Hawaiian Islands. We (of course) pay her to use the timeshare but it ends up saving us quite a bit of money compared to a standard hotel. We also love using the condos as we have more room and we love having a kitchen.
      Enjoy your UK trip. Hoping to see lots of pictures! 🙂

        1. That is a great idea! 🙂 My cousins wife works for an airline and they travel all over the world. Lucky for me, I truly enjoy my current career, so I don’t see myself making the move entirely…at least not right now. Maybe I could get a part time job at the airlines? 🙂
          You name the dive site and I’m there!! 🙂 Where is your favorite dive destination?

  3. Very good points indeed Krystle! Yes, we have used “reward” credit cards for many, many years rather than our debit cards. I spend cash on the rare occasion. A hui hou!!

    1. Mahalo, Auntie. If we get a nice little bonus for using our cards, we might as well use them, right?! Otherwise it’s like throwing money down the drain. 😉 haha! The new card offers have been very tempting as of late, and it’s always interesting to see which one has the best deal.

      Hope you have a fantastic week!

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