By now, you’ve heard that Julie and I are going to Europe. A fact that has been discussed at great length thanks to some serious enthusiasm on both our parts. In just
fifteen fourteen days, we’ll be on a plane embarking on a big and incredibly exciting journey. The trip marks our longest vacation in our three years together at seventeen days and sixteen nights. Since the flight is broken up into two five hour segments, it will actually tie our trip to Boston a couple years back for the longest flight.
Without a doubt, the question I get asked most often, is how did you do it? And I tell anyone who cares to listen, because it really was quite simple, just how much the world of points and miles can work if you’re willing to put in a little effort. As a complete novice at the time, here’s how we made it happen.
Start With a Good Rewards Credit Card
When I first started reading up on this hobby, this was perhaps the most common starting point that everyone advised on. In particular, the Chase Sapphire Preferred was among those most highly recommended. And for good reason, the card offers a ton of flexibility with its transfer partners and access to the Ultimate Rewards Shopping Mall. Additionally, it comes with no foreign transaction fees for all your travel abroad needs. For me, the card was a no brainer, especially since at that time, the card was offering a higher than normal, 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months, plus an additional 5,000 points for adding an authorized user. That meant 55,000 miles towards future travel by using the card for regular, every day spending. That last portion is a major key. We use the card for things we would normally be buying anyway and still do so to this day. You’d be surprised how fast the spending minimum is achieved with two people. but even if you’re a solo traveler, it’s completely manageable (my co-worker did it with ease).
No, I don’t get anything out of it, but I just love the card and all it has to offer. It’s the first card I recommend to friends looking to get into the hobby (assuming it fits their goals).
Find a Companion Card
Without any bonus category spending, by hitting our minimum spend on the Sapphire, we earned 58,000 points. The lowest round-trip flight to Europe I had found was 30,000 miles one way/60,000 round-trip on United. For two people, that meant we needed 120,000 miles which would be a longer journey with just one card. From here, we decided to select the Chase Ink business card. For us, the card made sense since it offered us access to Ultimate Rewards and the same transfer partners as the Sapphire. It also offered 50,000 points for for $5,000 in spending over the first three months. While the spending minimum was definitely higher than the Sapphire, with two people and some dedication, it was highly manageable.
I know that a business card isn’t something that is conceivable for everyone, so it’s not something that I routinely recommend. As with any credit card, it’s important for the card to meet your needs and be within your financial means. I would never apply for a credit card that I didn’t feel would be a good fit for us in some capacity or one that I didn’t think we could achieve the minimum spend on. (This is why we passed on signing up for American Airlines Executive card that was offering 100,000 miles as a signup bonus, but required $10,000 in spend in three months and carried a $450 annual fee. Great benefits, but a bit out of our league). And remember, many great cards also come with an annual fee, so if that’s something you are looking to avoid, keep that in mind when applying.
There were plenty of other options out there that would have worked in conjunction with the Sapphire had we not decided to go with the Ink Plus. Since our flight was going to be booked through United, we could have signed up for the Mileage Explorer card. It routinely gets bumped up to 50,000 points with $3,000 in spend over your first three months. Alternately, we had originally signed up for the British Airways Visa (another transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards) for 50,000 miles and $2,000 in spend. However, I learned later on that I wouldn’t be able to avoid British Airways large fuel surcharges even if booking on their partner, American Airlines. That plan was then scrapped and we opted for the Ink Plus.
Transfer Points and Book!
A few short months later, we had made up the additional points needed to book our flight. It took us just nine months to make it all work and secure our flight. We took points from each Chase account and transferred them to one United account. From there, we proceeded to book the flight and saved over $3,000 in out of pocket expenses.
One of the things I love about the Chase Sapphire and Ink cards, is just how easy it is to transfer points. You simply log into the site, head to the drop down tab for ‘Use Points’ and then select ‘Transfer to Partners’. It’s incredibly simple and user friendly and it made the process for a newbie a cinch. *One important thing to note: points can only be transferred in increments of 1,000, so keep this in mind when you’re looking to book travel.
I’m the first person to admit that this probably isn’t the greatest redemption of all time. Most of the blogs I follow discuss how to fly business or first class to all or the vast majority of your destinations. So if that’s the criteria for success, then we definitely failed. Ultimately, I don’t see our redemption as a failure at all because we are flying economy. We decided that it would be more worthwhile to spread our points across multiple trips, because we fully intend for this trip to be the first of many more to come. Secondly, although our flight is not direct/non-stop, it works for us. And that may be the most important thing to remember when looking to book travel on points or miles. Find what makes sense for you and book that. Maybe your goal is just to fly domestically and you want to take advantage of Southwest as a transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards. Or perhaps your goal is to head to Asia using Korean Air as a transfer option. Whatever you decide, it’s going to be the right choice for you. If nothing else, it will save you on your out of pocket expenses for the things you are going to need when you arrive at your destination. The place you lay your head, food you put in your stomach, or all of the sights, sounds, and adventure you’re going to enjoy.
File that request for vacation time and get out there and see the world! And hopefully, you can follow my lead, and let points and miles help you get there!