I’m currently in Bali, where I’ve been posted up, on and off, for the past nine months. I’ve also spent time in South Africa, Europe, Australia and New Zealand during that time.
I get asked often how I’ve afforded all of my airfare. After all, I’ve spent the last eight years working in surf media, where we get paid handsomely in lifestyle, but not so much in actual cash. And my answer? Credit card points. Since leaving the United States in May of 2017, I’ve traveled almost exclusively on points earned from opening credit cards.
So I figured I’d outline my methods. If you start this process today, you could accumulate enough points in the next six months to fly round trip anywhere in the world later this year.
Card 1: The Chase Sapphire Reserve
In my opinion, this is the best credit card on the market today. While the sign-up points are worth it alone, this is the card you’ll want to keep forever. It offers built-in travel insurance, built in rental car insurance, triple miles on dining (meaning points add up quick), and comes with a Priority Pass membership, which will get you free dining (at select restaurants) and/or into lounges in nearly every major airport in the world.
The points: 50,000, as long as you spend (and pay off) $4,000 in the first three months. Those points are worth 1.5x if you book through Chase, a value of $750.
Your costs: $150 for the annual fee (technically it’s $450, but you get $300 back in travel related instant rebates).
Free value towards travel: $600
For credit reasons, it’s best to wait between opening new cards. So, after you’ve had the Chase card for a couple of months, sign up and get approved for this Mastercard. Unlike the Chase card, I only used this card to acquire points. I’ll cancel it before 12 months are up to avoid paying a renewal.
The points: 60,000 points on American Airlines, as long as you make and pay off any purchase (in any amount), and pay the annual fee. Points are worth 1.5x on aa.com, giving these points a cash value of $900.
Your costs: $95
Free value towards travel: $805
This is also a Mastercard, but it’s through Citi, rather than Barclaycard (Again, wait at least 30 days before applying for this card. You can get approved for up to five cards per year as long as you have good credit, but it’s best to space out your applications.)
The points: 60,000 points on American Airlines, as long as you spend (and pay off) $3,000 in the first three months. Points are worth 1.5x on aa.com, giving these points a cash value of $900.
Your costs: $0, as long as you cancel after you’ve earned your rewards and before 12 months are up, as the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.
Free value towards travel: $900
Total value: 120,000 points with American Airlines and 50,000 points with Chase, for a total of $2305. (Not counting the points you’ll earn by using the cards.)
If you’re able to sign up for and use all three cards, you’ll have enough points for at least one roundtrip airline ticket anywhere in the world (with enough planning) and still have points leftover to put towards other travel-related costs. Work smarter, right? We pay the credit card companies enough. This is a great way to make them pay us back.
One last thing: Closing one credit card while carrying an outstanding balance on another can impact your overall credit score. Just something to keep in mind before opening or closing any new accounts.