What is the points system?
How to travel using the points system
What credit cards are best for travel rewards
Travel insurance credit card guide
How to raise your credit score by traveling the world
Hey hey everyone!! Summer 2021 is almost here and travel seems to be picking back up after a long and trying year. I call it "2020: the year of the quarantine." Sounds like it could be a horror movie and if I didn't know any better, I'd say that it WAS a horror movie. It's been a tough year for all of us, but it looks like the storm is about to come to an end and some sunshine is beginning to peak through the clouds. At this point we all need some sunshine in our lives, right? Some quiet, leisurely decompressing time to try to overcome what we've survived through. If you've been fortunate enough to have maintained your health and sanity throughout it all, kudos to you! It was a tough year for everyone and I'm looking forward to 2021 being a year of cleansing and healing for the world.
I wanted to share this blog with people on how to travel using the points system. I get a lot of questions about how to sign up for points, which sites are better than others and who has the best rewards program actually worth signing up for... I'll be providing my personal recommendations, along with tips and advice on how you can turn points into perks!
So what is the "points system?"
Have you ever been on website and seen a small box pop up on your screen urging you to leave your email address? They want you to "subscribe" to their website or promotional offer? They say things like "sign up now and get 15% off your next purchase" or "subscribe for more discounts!"
Sound familiar? Of course it does- we see them all the time when we shop and browse online. So those annoying little pop ups and promo bits are actually the invites into the points system. Those "wait, don't go" or "sign up for more" ads are companies encouraging you to sign up for their mailing list. They're intrusive, gimmicky and they always want your information so they can spam your email account with junk mail. BUT-- they also have their advantages!
The things about those ads are they're actually more helpful that you think if you're looking to earn some pretty great perks with the companies you already spend with. By signing up with these companies you're enrolling into their rewards programs. Rewards programs includes things like discounts on merchandise, products, food, reservations, special invites, members only savings and deals, heads up notifications and so much more. Did I mention some reward programs also offer savings on travel, hotel stays and rental cars?
Yep! Just by signing up for these programs you give yourself access to major savings on things you already buy. The best part of all though, it doesn't cost you anything to sign up and the perks are endless. It's free to sign up for many of these programs and all you do is exchange your email address.
I know nobody wants a ton of spammy, potentially threatening emails in their account everyday, I totally get it. What I've done is created a "dummy" email account that I use strictly for signing up with these companies. It's an account that I only have to check once or twice a month. I go through the emails to see which offers are worth keeping and which are meant for the garbage. There's no limit to how many rewards programs you can be signed up for since virtually almost every company has at least one way of signing you up for something. You can also limit the amount of the emails you receive and tailor your account to only receiving the exact offers you want to have.
You might just want their monthly newsletter or their occasional coupons. You control the settings and can opt out of receiving anything by unsubscribing.
Some companies get you to sign up through offering membership rates on the things you buy. Places like Costco, Sam's Club, BJ's or other wholesale retailers offer savings to their club members. That's a perk of being in a club; you get to use their exclusive amenities offered only to you and others like you who have subscribed to their rewards program. It's the same with airlines, hotels, restaurants and so many others. Imagine getting members savings on just about everything you do... How much money would that save you each year? My estimate: hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in your pocket all because you signed up to their mailing list.
I'm sure you've see a hotel stating that if you stay 3 nights, you'd get your 4th night free. <---- That is the points system. By subscribing or being a member of a companies reward programs, you're earning points or stamps or whatever it is that particular company offers. After a period of earning, you then redeem those earnings for rewards. I'm a Hilton Honors member and I earn free stays each time I stay at a Hilton or Hilton owned property. They also offer members only parking spaces including valet at some hotels. These perks allow you to save a bit more of your own money for the things you really want to spend it on.
How can you travel using the points system?
By signing up with hotels and their partners, you agree to receive promotional offers sent directly to your email address. Those offers sometimes include deals or discounts for staying at a particular hotel or reserving a room by a certain date. You might also have a member number or account that generates free nights based on how many nights you stay. These offers work perfectly for people who stay in hotels often since each time they stay, they're earning their next free stay.
Flying in to see some relatives or just looking to get away for a few days? Try this- the hotel that you're staying at likely has a rewards program. Sign up and then book your room through your account. That's how you begin earning points and after so many points have been earned, you now get a free nights stay, a discount for booking multiple nights or a reward just for being a member. This is how you begin traveling on the points system.
You can also do this with the airlines. If you're a frequent flyer of any particular airline, it's so important that you sign up for those reward programs. In this case after you earn so many miles, your points can be redeemed for flights or seat upgrades. By enrolling yourself into programs like these and so many others, you'll begin to see how using the points system to travel will save you money in the long run!
This also goes much deeper than just traveling. You can sign up for restaurant perks, movie theater perks, retail perks and so much more! Like the appetizer below from the Hard Rock Cafe... I got it for free during my visit all because I signed up for their rewards program. What's better than free food? How about discounts on just about everything else you buy? Clothes, shoes, electronics, furniture, etc. It gets no better than being in a rewards program. After all, who doesn't like being rewarded for shopping?
Another cool way to earn points and rewards are through rewards credit cards. If you thought all credit cards were created equal, you're sadly mistaken. Some are way better than others and offer lots more perks for using them. I recommend this next section for responsible people only. Credit is not something to take lightly and unless you can maintain the responsibility of having one, I don't suggest getting one "just to get rewards." Everything comes at a cost and while credit cards can be a good thing to have, they can also become a financial burden if you don't manage them correctly.
Back in 2019 I wrote a blog on "How I raised my credit scores 100+ points and got my first $15K travel rewards credit card" (if you haven't read it already, click the link to check it out!)
Since that blog went live I've accomplished the very things I wrote about- which was working on my credit in order to qualify for my condo. Well, I did both and despite not closing on my condo due to the uncertainty of the pandemic in 2020- I qualified to buy one. I'd put myself in the exact position that I wanted to be in by working on my credit. I've maintained my credit and have been able to earn some pretty great perks because of it. Things like my travel reward credit cards and low interest rates on my large purchases. Staying on top of my credit and deciding to get started with my credit journey has been a major help in my life. Being approved for the things I really want feels good and I enjoy knowing that my credit isn't holding me back in life.
That said, let's get into what credit cards are best for travel rewards?
I'll start with the credit cards I have since they're my best teacher and experience. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred card I get things like cash back, rewards for traveling, discounts at certain retailers, travel and rental car insurance plus 5x the points when I shop with affiliate sponsors. So far this card has earned me 3-4 international trips on the points system alone! By making my everyday purchases at grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, etc- I'm earning points to use for my travels. For me, this card matters!
Another great travel reward card includes the American Express Gold card. It gives you an automatic 75,000 points after you spend $4k in the first 6 months. While it does have a slightly higher annual fee of $250, the savings and perks you earn are unmatched! You get points for dining at restaurants, buying groceries, booking flights, etc. It's a fast way to earn lots of points and start traveling for less!
The Capital 1 Venture card is great for things like earning miles for flights. You can earn 50,000 miles just by spending $3k in the first 3 months. You also get priority boarding with some airlines in addition to a huge savings on things like enrolling in TSA pre-check! Each card is unique in their own right and they all offers amazing perks. There are many others with great advantages as well but these are my top 3 recommendations for travel reward credit cards!
Something a lot of people don't know about travel rewards credit cards is that certain ones already have built in travel insurance. For example my Sapphire Preferred credit card protects me on travel and rental car insurance whether I purchase it directly through the vendor or not. As long as I secure my accommodations through that card, I'm covered with the insurance. That provides a bit more peace of mind knowing that if anything unexpected were to happen, my investment would be protected. If that isn't a valuable perk to having a travel rewards card, I don't know what is!
Some people don't believe in paying for travel insurance because they don't think they'll need it. As a traveler myself I can honestly say that's a huge mistake if you think that way! Anything can go wrong and it's better to spend $20 to protect the thousands you've invested in your trip, than to lose out on both your money AND your vacation because you opted out of travel insurance. Always cover your investments whether they cost only a few dollars or thousands, no one likes losing money or forfeiting a vacation because something unforeseen came up.
This travel insurance guide for credit cards helps with understanding why travel insurance is important and just how much you need for the type of trip you're taking. It's very informative and has helped me learn some things I didn't know about. I highly suggest you check it out!!
Is there really a such thing as building your credit by traveling the world?
Yes, there is and I've used it personally. There's a finance company called Affirm that allows you to make payments on your vacation (or other big purchases.) They report your payments to the major credit bureaus and once you're done paying it off, you get the take the trip you've waiting on! It's a great way to travel the world and build your credit at the same time.
It's proven that it not only works, but that it's an easy way to build credit without the use of a credit card. Just like with a household bill, you pay it online or through the app every month consistently and it'll show as a paid account on your credit report.
Check out this video below explaining the process step by step on how to do it.
If you've made it this far down, thank you for reading! Be sure to support my blog by sharing, it's free and knowledge is the power that can help us all out. Everyone deserves to know about these perks and deals.
Happy and safe travels!