How to Travel the World Cheap (or Free)

How to use Travel Rewards for Premium Travel

Now many of you may think that Credit Cards are one of the seven deadly sins and it’s the perfect way to ruin your finances, and this may be true for some. Now if you are a reasonable nerd like me then it’s a great way to obtain new experiences that may have not been obtainable before. If you are here and researching how to optimize the points and miles game then you have come to the right place.

I was one that never dabbled in the credit card space until we were looking to obtain a mortgage and since we had just completed paying off our student loans we didn’t want to wait for a score to go to zero or undefined to do manual underwriting. So, like everything, I looked to optimize our situation.

We had a desire to travel and wanted to do so with the most luxury and least expenses possible. We also were looking to build our credit score which meant we needed multiple lines of credit since we had just paid off all our student loans and now had zero lines open accounts.

This led my internet hunt to find the Chase Gauntlet Strategy. A strategy many in the Points & Miles space know as the best way to start in the travel rewards space and how to travel on incredible trips with little to no cash.

We went all in. No authorized users and following the 5/24 rule. If you don’t know the 5/24 rule with Chase, I recommend stopping here and doing a quick Google Search before continuing. The points and miles space is overwhelming at first. Which points can I combine, which ones can you transfer, which ones are the most value, and how do I earn the most. What we quickly realized was sign up offers were the ultimate way to build points. You could also work in 2 player mode and refer your partner. We set off on a journey to earn the most points within the Chase ecosystem to book some incredible redemptions. Chase Ultimate Rewards, Southwest Points, United Points, and Hyatt Points were the strategy.

Here is our strategy

You can see we stayed within the Chase ecosystem to earn as many transferrable and combinable points as we good. These are the best travel reward credit cards that Chase has to offer.

 

We even referred each other for a series of cards along the way to maximize the number of points we could earn during this time.

Now after this time and the points we earned, what were we able to do with it, and what kind of value would we see?

Keep in mind, the charts above are only showing the signup bonuses and referral bonuses. During this time our natural spend accumulated many points based on each card’s categories. We were able to reap tons of miles and points being strategic about how we used our daily spend. We also upgraded a Sapphire Preferred to a Reserve and the product changed a Freedom Unlimited into a Freedom. We found these to be the best travel credit cards for our aspirational trips. We were targeting World of Hyatt Redemptions and were planning on using the Southwest Card or United Airlines Card to book the airfare.

These currencies could be combined for large award bookings for those aspirations trips. Hyatt allows you to fill out a form, yes a paper form, and combine your points with another Hyatt Account. Chase makes this easy to combine points within the same household. United and Southwest are transferrable partners from any Premium Chase Card account. It’s important to understand the loyalty programs you are targeting to make sure you are earning the right rewards for that aspirational trip.

Reward Bookings

How to Use Hyatt Points

Our first booking was in Maui, Hawaii. We targeted the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa in Lahaina, Hawaii. We were able to book rooms on points stay for 25,000 Hyatt Points per night. We have Explorist status so it is likely we will end up with a room with a view. Hyatt has always been good about giving you the best room for your status. I applied Club Lounge Certificates to this stay as well. The club lounge and a potential room upgrade were not accounted for in the redemption value for the current room rates. This redemption gave us 2.25 cents per point in redemption value. In normal circumstances you can make Hyatt Points worth around 2 cents per point.

Do Hyatt Points Expire? Nope! Keep building them up for a big trip. You can also cancel reward bookings and get all of your points returned.

How to Use United Miles

We turned our Chase Points in to Miles. We used our Mileage Plus United account paired with our Chase United Explorer card to book Economy Plus tickets by transferring Chase Unltimate Rewards over. We were able to book these tickets at about 5.3 cents per point. A great value for such expensive tickets to Hawaii.

For a Keystone Ski trip around the holiday’s, we booked a One Way Delta ticket to Denver since the airfare was cheap. On the way back we used 70,000 United Miles to book a Lie-Flat experience on a Boeing 777-200.

This gave us a redemption value at 4.84 cents per point and an exciting experience in a premium cabin.

Using our Free Night Award and another Club Lounge Certificate, we booked a Hyatt Regency in San Francisco. Due to COVID-19, the room rates were down where we didn’t get nearly the value we wanted and we should have used the Chase Pay Yourself Back feature. The Chase Pay Yourself Back feature allows you to turn your points in to cash at 1.5 cents per point on the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Since we had already transferred those points over to Hyatt, we booked the 20,000 per night room anyway at 1 cent per point. To us, it was worth it to get the trip booked rather than wait for an aspirational redemption at a high value. We were able to use our Hyatt Free Night on a Waterfront Hotel Room that would have cost us $234.

These are a few examples of trips we have been able to book using points and miles! There are many trips and experiences that may not have been possible just by saving your pennies! Get to know your loyalty programs and start earning towards those trips!

Leave your great redemptions in the comments below!

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