A common misconception people have regarding travel is that you need to travel A LOT to earn enough miles & points for a "free" trip. Julie and I both have jobs that only require occasional travel, yet we travel multiple times per year using points, sometimes bringing our out of pocket cost down to almost $0. The secret: we maximize the points we collect through every day credit card spend.
Before I go any further, there are many great credit cards out there offering cash back on your purchases - 1%, 1.5% 2%, etc. If you are happy to simply use the cashback you earn and apply it towards flight and hotel purchases, that is a fine way to limit your travel costs. But, if you want to take your hobby to the next level, you need credit cards that allow you to transfer the "points" you earn directly to your airline and hotel loyalty accounts (which are free to set up). Chase, American Express and Citi all offer cards with this capability.
Here's a brief example: Julie and I use two primary credit cards: Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex EveryDay Preferred. Note: both of these cards carry annual fees, but I'd argue the fees pay for themselves pretty quickly if you are passionate about travel. I'll save the details for another day.
Each card has its comparative advantages:
- Amex EveryDay preferred offers 3 points per dollar spent at grocery stores, 2 points at gas stations and 1 point on everything else (with a 50% point bonus if you make 30 purchases in that month - think coffee, drugstore purchases, etc.)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3 points per dollar spent on travel & restaurants and 1 point on everything else. Not to mention there's the 100k point sign up bonus which expires January 11th (in lieu of a 50k bonus).
Let's look at some hypothetical monthly expenses:
- Groceries: $500 per month (2,250 points)
- Restaurants and Bars: $400 per month (1,200 points)
- Gas Stations: $100 per month (300 points)
- All other spend: $1,500 per month (2,250 points)
In the above scenario, you'd earn 6,000 points each month and 72,000 in a year. This is more than enough for two round trip flights from Boston to Spain, which Julie and I visited last year on points (the flight cost otherwise was $1,500 per ticket).
If you're familiar with the miles and points game, you know I've grossly oversimplified how it works. There's no possible way to even scratch the surface in a single post.
That said, there are many points and miles bloggers out there who have been doing this for years. However, many of these bloggers work with credit card companies to promote said cards. I am just merely illustrating how maximizing your every day purchases could lead to free travel and this post reflects my opinion only.