I'm an American expat, writer. photographer. and old-fashioned romantic in love with celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I appreciate timelessness, the natural world, and a slow life lived with simplicity and intention. When I'm not photographing families or slowly traveling the world and writing about it in a little notebook, I'm happily grounding myself in nature and cozying up with my sweet husband.
Okay, lets get right down to it. You probably are thinking “how in the world is this girl able to travel so much?”
Before you go about thinking that my family helps me out or that I’m rich by any means, let me just say that I rely on myself financially 100% and have been since I was 18 and booked a one way ticket out of San Diego and I have been able to constantly afford travel because of two reasons: 1.) I research and budget accordingly and 2.) use travel points!
You may be surprised to know that I don’t use my cards on travel alone. I use these cards on things I usually spend money on…like my rent every month (yes, I pay my full rent on credit cards), groceries, accommodations, shopping, Ubers, and of course travel. I get points on every dollar spent — 3x the points when I use it on travel related purchases! You can earn points by paying your utility bills or even taking a quick survey online. The points accumulate with each purchase.
What About Debt?
I have no debt. I paid off my student loans last year after attempting college for one year back in 2013, so my student loans weren’t too crazy. As for credit card debt, I paid off my debt over a year ago and now pay all of my cards in full every month. I treat those credit cards like a monthly bill – It needs to be paid. I set them to autopay, and I never have to worry. No interest, no debt. Just free flights.
Sign Up Bonus
I only apply for credit cards that give me a crazy sign-up bonus for the first three months of using the card, like a minimum of 25,000 points. I never recommend signing up for a credit card unless it has a 25,000 point minimum. Because of my good credit (consistently paying your credit card in full every month helps build amazing credit!) I now apply for the really good cards – the 50,000 bonus point cards. So, I pay my rent and groceries on it in those first 3 months and then – bam! 50,000 travel points are mine to use how I wish. That’s usually enough points for a domestic (sometimes international) roundtrip ticket. Add ’em with your other travel points and that’s a one-way ticket to New Zealand.
Here’s How I Flew to Iceland For Free
1. APPLIED FOR A CAPITAL ONE VENTURE CARD
2. SPENT A MINIMUM OF $3,000 THE FIRST 3 MONTHS THE ACCOUNT IS OPEN (used my credit card to pay rent and bills for those 3 months)
3. EARNED 50,000 BONUS MILEAGE POINTS
4. PURCHASED A ROUNDTRIP TICKET TO ICELAND BY REDEEMING MILEAGE POINTS THROUGH THE PURCHASE ERASER
Before you go out applying for different credit cards, set up a system and prioritize what you really want. Do you want free flights or are fancy hotel rooms something you’d enjoy? Certain credit cards, like airline credit cards, cater to guests who want to splurge on flights. If you value a nice accomodation, I’d reccomend appying for credit cards wit hotel perks like the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card
Important to Keep In Mind
To maximize the benefits of travel points, you should only use the credit card on things you would normally purchase anyway. What I mean by this is: don’t just use your credit card just to earn points, because you’ll lose a lot of money by simply splurging. You might as well buy a hefty flight ticket right then and there. The goal is rather to use your credit card to spend your normal monthly budget on things you would already be purchasing. Like groceries. A little tip I use is paying for group dinners with friends on my credit card and then having everyone Venmo me. Paying each other is so easy and quick these days, that it makes it a breeze.
Keep in mind that certain credit cards require an annual fee and interest rates/charges vary but I find that a $95 annual fee is worth all the free and cheap flights. You can always cancel cards, but if it does hurt your credit score for cancelling, it’s usually minuscule and not worth fretting over.
Lastly, not to sound too preachy or anything, but I just want to mention that this reward chasing game is only beneficial if you are able to pay your credit card off in full every single month.When I first started using travel points and credit cards to travel hack years ago, I accumulated a ton of credit card debt that took a few years to pay off. Now after getting out of that debt hole, I have all of my cards set to online statements and to auto pay.
I’m always telling my friends about how easy it is to travel and get free stuff through reward points, and I hope these tips help you get out there and see the world – if you have money or not.
Remember – you don’t need to be rich to travel.
Do you use travel reward credit cards? If so, which ones do you recommend and what was your experience with them?
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How I Scored a Free Roundtrip Ticket to Iceland
June 7, 2018
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compliment your home with beautiful photographs from my travels across the globe
I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical, emotionally honest family and children's portraiture. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I photograph families across the world. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.