A reader recently asked me how she was supposed to justify a trip abroad, when she wants to be a good Ms. Everyday Dollar and pay off debt, before beginning to save and invest for a financially independent future. I told her, “There is no way to justify it!”
But how does a free trip to a destination of your choice, anywhere in the world, sound? Pretty kick-ass, I’d guess.
While I’ve been fortunate enough to travel around our world a bit – to places like Japan, India, Ghana, France, and Argentina – I’ve also just recently learned that I wasn’t taking advantage of credit card companies that offer huge sign-up bonuses in points and miles, which means free travel.
So these days I play the credit card churn game. I currently have (gasp) four credit cards open. Coming from a guy that had the same credit card for years on end, it’s different. But each of those four new credit cards has assisted me in paying for travel expenses.
While I could pay for travel out of pocket, why should I when I can get it for free? I think of a night in a posh hotel, paid for with sign-up bonuses, as a reward for being financially responsible and having a good credit score.
So readers, if you want to take advantage of your good credit card score too, here’s the strategy I recommended to get a completely free roundtrip ticket from, say, Chicago to Rome.
Chase Sapphire Preferred card
First, apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card to score 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points. You’ll need to spend $3,000 in 3 months to get those points. That stipulation is what we call the Minimum Spend Requirement (MSR).
While many people would have no problem spending $3,000 in 3 months, for frugal people like us it might be a problem. But don’t worry, Mr. Everyday Dollar is going to give you the solution!
With Amazon Payments, you can send money to another person with your credit card, much like PayPal. But unlike PayPal, you can send up to $1,000 per month with zero fees.
So find a friend or family member, preferably trustworthy, and send them some random amount of money, like $853.42. (Be sure to select that the payment is for Goods/Services and not a Cash Advance). They’ll receive the money, transfer it to their bank account which takes a few days, and will then give you your $853.42 back. Boom! You just made a big dent in that $3,000 MSR.
Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card
Second, after you’ve completed the MSR for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, apply for the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card to score 30,000 United MileagePlus miles. You’ll need to spend $1,000 in 3 months to get the bonus.
Book a free roundtrip ticket
After meeting the MSR for both cards, you’ll find yourself with 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points from the Sapphire Preferred and 30,000 MileagePlus miles from the Explorer.
If we look to book a roundtrip award ticket on United, from Chicago to Rome, it will cost 60,000 MileagePlus miles as shown below.
You already have 30,000 miles in your United account, so you’ll need 30,000 more. The beauty of those 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points is that they can be transferred 1:1 to a handful of hotel and airline programs, United included:
You transfer 30,000 of your 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points into your United account, and bingo, you’ll have enough miles for that ticket (with enough left over for a hotel room, too). Bon voyage, enjoy free roundtrip airfare from Chicago to Rome!
A note on annual fees
Both cards in this post have the first year annual fee waived, with subsequent years being $95. Part of my credit card churn strategy is to cancel cards before they renew, and because I’m periodically applying for and receiving new cards, I always have credit available to me.