Getting Started with Points and Rewards Programs Part 1

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Points and Reward Programs Part 1

Traveling, even for a weekend trip is, for sure, not “cheap.” And this generally applies to most people, and we, including me, are the ones that want to travel the most. Even if you can afford to go to the Bahamas, don’t you wish that you could stay and dive for a few extra days or perhaps visit the Turks and Caicos next?

Points and Loyalty Programs

Check out our most beloved Travel Resources that we always use!

So how do we bridge the gap between our dream vacation and our present bank account statement? Save Money? It is easier said than done. But there are some occasions on which you cant really save money.

For example, your car breaks down, you can find a shop that works a little bit cheaper, already savings, but we cant push it any further and save more on that. Well, not entirely true! If you get into points and rewards programs with a credit card, for example, you can maximize your savings even if you pay for expenses that you cant budget for.

Points Systems as a Way of Saving Money

Oh, we know that by just reading about points and rewards, you get a headache. It really doesn’t have to be. We will break everything down for you.

My mantra is- try to avoid doing things with our time that we do not enjoy because time is one of the most precious assets, you can never get it back. So is spending countless hours on trying to figure points systems really worth it?

In my opinion, if you are trying to figure out the point system for an hour, and that would arguably save you 20 dollars, but you can do something else that can earn you 25-30 an hour- perhaps go with the higher paying option, which is also going to be a more stable source of income.

The point systems work well if they are accumulating on autopilot manner. Let’s see how we can do that.

Getting Started

Credit cards, there are so many of them! Make them work for you! The sign-up bonus is a sweet, sweet deal that can sometimes result immediately in a free ticket to a destination you have always wanted to visit. But aside from that, is accumulating points afterward so straightforward?

Wouldn’t it be so easy if you can buy coffee that would nurture your points balance and eventually lead the way to your dream vacation?

It really is that simple. This is my favorite way to optimize my expenses and make life “cheaper” because let’s face it, life is expensive. Getting a credit card to pay for all your bills and expenses is the way to go. Swipe like usual and get the points going. We know, we know! There are so many cards. Which one to choose? Keep reading, let’s find the perfect one for you.

Disclaimer: We only recommend credit cards to be used as debit cards. Don’t abuse the credit limit and spend more than you could actually pay off in full each month. This could result not only in devaluating your points that you have earned but rack up some serious debt too.

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Make Those Cards Work for You

It is essential that you really believe in that! Credit cards are a product that is there to generate profit for the banks. They find the most lucrative ways to lure us into overusing them so you can be stuck with paying interest,. But we are smarter than them. What we will do is build a strong portfolio that works for us, not the credit institutions.

There are different credit cards out there offering a different incentive or commonly known as rewards programs. Just like your two significant travel expenses- airfare and accommodation, there are credit cards that could help you get hotel nights on points, or going to earn you points that you can use towards airfare. There are some that would give you the option of both. And honestly, there is no right or wrong credit card, it just depends on what your goals are.

For example, my goals are tied explicitly to earning points towards airfare and travel more comfortably with access to airport lounges. Through extensive research and recommendation from a fellow traveler, I picked the AMEX Platinum. It has a hefty annual fee, but if you know how you can work it out very fast. In my case, in about a month I made the credit card benefits pay off the annual fee and now enjoying points collection and redemption to many different loyalty programs and access 1000+ lounges in the world, how cool is that. Oh and let’s not forget the Uber credits.

My point is that you should really find the credit card(s) that would work great for your goals. Below, we will review some of the best travel credit cards on the market, and hopefully, that will make your choice easier. Let’s dive right in.

Best Travel Credit Cards and Benefits 2018

Please note, these cards are U.S. based cards. Look for their offer for your country if you’re not from the US .

Credit Cards Good for Airfare or Both

My Top Choice:

American Express Platinum

Sign Up Bonus: 60,000 points (transferrable to many point systems for purchase)
Bonus Points: 5x points on flights and hotels and 1x on all other.
Annual Fee: $550
Extras: $200 Uber credit, $200 airline credit, $100 TSA Pre or Global Entry credit, access to 1000+ airport lounges and more like SPG and Marriott Gold Status
What I love: exceptional customer service and ease of use, its good for both hotel and airfare.

My Top Choice If You Live on the West Coast:

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature

Sign Up Bonus:30,000 points ( could be worth one way ticket to Tokyo or Sydney)
Bonus Points:3 X miles on Alaska, 1x other purchases
Annual Fee: $75
Extras: 1st checked bag free on Alaska Airlines
What I love:The famous Companion fare- buy one ticket regular price, and the second one is just for fees and taxes (about $121) Alaska flies internationally to Mexico, Costa Rica and Canada too.

Great for Starters:

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Sign Up Bonus: 50,000 points
Bonus Points: 2x on Travel and Dining
Annual Fee: $0 for first year, $95 afterwards
Extras: No foreign fees, you can transfer points 1:1. Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel. 

Great for Experts:

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

Sign Up Bonus: 50,000 points
Bonus Points: 3x on Travel and Dining
Annual Fee: $450
Extras: $300 annual travel credit; premium status in hotels similar to AMEX Platinum and TSA/ Global Entry fee credit.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Card

Sign Up Bonus: 60,000 points
Bonus Points: 2x at Restaurants, Gas Stations and on AA purchases
Annual Fee: $99
Extras: $100 airline ticket discount (terms apply), 1st checked bag on AA for free, no foreign fees

Credit Cards Good Hotels

American Express Hilton Honors Card

Sign Up Bonus: 50,000 Hilton Honors points
Bonus Points: 3X HH points on all purchases, 7X HH points on Hilton purchases, 5 X HH Points at U.S Restaurants, Gas Stations, Supermarkets
Annual Fee: no annual fee, no foreign transaction free
Extras: Complimentary Hilton Silver Status

Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Card

Sign Up Bonus: 100,000 Marriott points
Bonus Points: 6X points at Marriott and SPG; 2X points on all other purchases
Annual Fee: $95
Extras: Complimentary Marriott Silver Status

Credit Cards Good Hotels

If you are not sure whether you want to use your points for hotel or airfare, perhaps a credit card with a solid good cash back system is best for you.

Citi Double Cash Card

Sign Up Bonus: no
Cash Back: 1% cash back on purchase and 1% when you pay it off.
Annual Fee: no

Final Thoughts

We know that credit cards alone could make a massive impact on your travel saving game, but there are other ways tied to your daily spendings that could maximize either cash back or some type of point rewards. We are going to discuss those “other” methods in our Getting started with point and rewards programs Part 2. Stay tuned

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Hi there! I’m Atanas — I’ve been traveling around the world since I was 15, so about 12 years, but just recently got into writing. My mission is to inspire more people to take on the journey of their lives and spread the word that traveling the world can be easy, fun and not cost a fortune!

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