How to Travel the World

for Free Using Credit Card Points

“Andrew asked me to write an article about how my husband and I travel the world for free using credit card points.”

I can’t remember the last plane ticket or hotel room we actually paid for.

My husband, Josh, and I were married a little under three years ago. Since then, we’ve been to different parts of the US, India, Turkey, Greece, Peru, Mexico, Canada, France, China, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, England, the Netherlands, and Costa Rica. We have our next trip booked soon!

I believe the last time we had to pay to fly or to spend the night somewhere was a few months after we were married. Since then, everything has been covered by credit card points.

Paris, France

I realize a lot of people see credit cards in a negative light. I used to think along those lines. After all, according to Experian’s annual study about credit and debt in the US, only 46% of Americans earn more than they spend every month. In 2017, credit card debt reached a record high of $1.021 trillion– which happened to be the first time it’s surpassed $1 trillion since the Great Recession.

With all that in mind, how are Josh and I not scared to use credit cards the amount that we do? We keep two main rules in mind while using them.

Teotihuacan, Mexico

2 Main Rules for Using Credit Cards

  1. Don’t spend more than you can actually pay off.
    How much money do you make each month? How much money will you need to pay for groceries, rent, and other necessities? After all that money is set aside, how much extra do you have left? If you’d like to buy something but can’t afford it right now, don’t buy it! Credit cards aren’t free money. If you can’t afford to buy something right now without a credit card, it’s best to wait to buy it later.
  2. Pay your credit cards off on time.
    I know, life gets busy! It’s easy to let deadlines slip by unnoticed. It will hurt, though, if you let your credit card payments get behind and the interest starts building up. Set reminders for yourself. Pay your cards off on time to avoid spending more money in the long run.

We don’t think about credit cards as extra money. We think of them as a profitable tool to use to spend the money we already have.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, Dubai

So, How Do You Travel for Free Using Credit Cards?

Credit cards will give you a signup “bonus” of sorts. Depending on the card, they give you a certain amount of points upon signing up for the card and after spending a specific amount of money.

For example, some cards will give you 40,000 points after you sign up for the card and spend $3,000 with the card within 3 months of getting the card. That $3,000 is the minimum spend amount you have to make in order to get the 40,000 points.

To meet that minimum spend amount, we use credit cards to pay for our regular expenses. We pay for gas, food, rent, clothes (anything we can!) with credit cards. Once we’ve met the minimum spend amount and received the points, we move on to a different credit card. Once we have the new card, we spend whatever the minimum spend amount for that card is to get the new signup bonus points, then move on to a different card…and so on.This way, we’re able to earn points to fly and get hotel rooms, all while just spending what we would typically spend anyway on our regular expenses.

The Rink at Rockefeller Center, New York City, USA

Which Card Should I Get First?

Starting off getting Chase credit cards first is the best option. Chase lets you transfer points to different hotel and airline partners, and they have some great signup bonus offers. Also, there’s something called the 5/24 rule that can limit you if you start with other credit cards first.

The 5/24 rule says that if you have opened 5 or more credit cards in the past 24 months, there are some Chase cards you will not be approved for. The five includes cards you have been added to as an authorized user.

Basically, if you want Chase cards, it’s best to start with them so you don’t have to deal with the 5/24 rule. To start off with, we suggest getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

Why Should You Start off with Chase Sapphire Preferred?

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred waives the annual $95 fee for your first year.
  2. They give you 50,000 points after signing up and spending $4,000 within the first 3 months of having the card. Not only that, but you earn a point per dollar spent and Chase gives you an additional 5,000 points if you add someone as an authorized user to the card.
  3. You can easily earn enough points using the card to get a round-trip ticket to Europe.

How Do You Use the Chase Sapphire Preferred for a Free Round-Trip Ticket to Europe?

After you earn the signup bonus, add an authorized user, and spend the minimum spend amount of $4,000, your points total will come to 59,000 points, which happens to be just 1,000 points away from 60,000.

60,000 Chase points can be transferred to United to give you a free round-trip ticket to Europe!

You’ll just have to pay taxes and fees. To get that last 1,000 points needed to get to Europe and back, you’ll need to spend an additional $1,000 on the card. Remember, if you’re only paying your regular expenses on the card (such as paying for groceries) it doesn’t have to cost you any more than you would typically spend. That final $1,000 (to get you to 60,000 points) doesn’t need to be spent in the first three months. It can be! If you need more time to spend that, though, you can spread it out over a longer period of time.

How to Apply

I’ve placed an application link for Chase Sapphire Preferred below. Full disclosure: it’s a referral link so I will earn some points if you sign up with my link.

To apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred, click here.

There’s a lot more I could say, but this is a good base to start with! Hop over to my blog if you want…

  • Ideas on how to meet the minimum spend amount without paying more than your typical expenses.
  • Suggestions for additional credit cards that are good to get if you want more points.
  • To learn how to not have to pay taxes and fees on plane tickets so they are 100% free.
  • Travel guides.
  • Free personalized advice.

Feel free to shoot me an email with any questions you have! I’ve had friends and strangers alike email and ask for advice on which cards would be best for them to sign up for with their specific goals in mind. We’re always happy to help in any way we can!

Une Paire de Voyageurs

Joanna is a freelance writer and photographer based in the US. She and her husband, Josh, write travel guides, share stories and photos of their adventures abroad, and teach others how to travel using credit card points. Joanna also has a food blog where she shares recipes influenced by her travels around the world. Check out her social media and websites above!

I’m up for free travel!

I’m so thankful Joanna chose this topic to use as a guest post on this site. Traveling for free is literally one of my favorite things and I can’t wait to put some of her tips into practice. Thanks again for reading and if you want to have a guest post contact me here and if you’d like to join my email list to get travel tips like this, subscribe here!

Until next time!