How to Use Credit Cards to Save on Family Travel

Would you like to know how your family can travel for cheap or free? Besides chasing a last minute deal online or using budget travel tips, the best way to do it, in my opinion, is to get a new rewards credit card and use the sign-up bonuses to get points to travel for less. That being said, you should get the right credit card to suit your travel needs and be financially responsible to pay your bill at the end of each month or else you will wind up in debt. Here are my tips on how to use credit cards to save on family travel.


Decide what type of credit card to get

To compare the best credit cards available now and to find the one that would be right for you and your spending habits check The Best Travel Credit Cards.I chose the Chase Sapphire Preferred as my main travel rewards credit card and here’s why:

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

This is my vote as the best all around travel card for many reasons:

1. The sign up bonus

It is currently at 60,000 points (10/19) if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. Here are the details:
– 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of card activation- Double the points for every travel and dining purchase- Get 25% more rewards when you use the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal (meaning $750 with your 60,000 points)- $95 annual fee

60,000 points can get you at the very least 2 round trip domestic tickets on many major airlines. If you are a family of 4, essentially it is like getting two free tickets somewhere. This credit card can likely get you more “bang for your buck” because Chase has a Travel Portal which you can use on many airlines and it gives you 25% more, meaning you actually get $750 worth of travel that can be applied to any airline at any time (no blackout dates).

Many of you are probably thinking that you do not need to deal with another credit card. But, if you think about your expenses, you will likely not need to come up with a way to spend $4,000 in 3 months.

Here are easy tips to make the minimum spending requirements:

– Link a bill to your credit card

Do you have a cable, phone, internet, water, electricity bill that you can pay with your credit card? Maybe even a tuition payment or recurring membership to a gym? All of these are very easy to link and can gain many points without doing very much work except the online set up once. You will get a huge benefit by paying with your card. 

– Charge everything you can

You should be using them for practically everything! But of course, making sure you are paying the bills at the end of each month and not overspending. 

– Use it for a big upcoming purchase

Use this card to help meet the minimum spending if you are looking to do a remodel of a section of your house or buy a new television or computer.

By doing those things, most people will be able to make the spending limit. Then after the 3 months, use the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and see all of the options you have! 

2. Annual Fee

Now here is the other thing: There is an annual fee for this card $95. I am usually not a fan of an annual fee card; however, I have kept this card for 6 years because there is tremendous value in it. A huge advantage is that you can transfer points to other loyalty credit cards like Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Hyatt, Marriott and IHG (I will discuss this in #3 below). Click to see why I transfer points to Southwest with the Chase Sapphire credit card.

3. Perks

In addition, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 2X the points on any travel expense you charge on the card (plane, train, bus, parking, tolls). They also offer 2X the points on any dining expense too! There are no travel restrictions on certain dates, meaning you can fly or book whenever you want (assuming you have enough points). This card is my go-to card anytime we go out to dinner or book anything relating to transportation. Double the points can add up fast!

Click here to sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred

Read up on other credit cards

Doing this may help you travel cheaper, but you must be willing to manage and use them wisely. If you would like to save even more on family travel, after you have spent the minimum requirement on the Chase Sapphire, sign up for a hotel or airline branded card (Southwest Airlines, Hyatt, Marriott, IHG, United Airlines). Now, my advice would be to do one at a time (meaning every 4-6 months), but if you are planning for a big trip in a year or so and need to figure out how to afford it, this system could work.

I first applied for the Southwest Airlines card (with an annual fee). Since we love to fly, I felt this was an excellent value. Essentially you get 50,000 points for what you pay with the annual fee ($99). We figured the card was worth it because all 4 of us could travel somewhere in the summer for a lot less if we applied for this card.

I kept it for a year, we used the points to travel on a road trip around Lake Michigan, and then when the annual fee renewal came up, I canceled it. Then my husband applied for the card, and we did the same thing. We focused all of our spending on the Southwest Airlines card to get the signup bonus, kept the card until it was time to pay the annual fee, traveled to Baltimore and went on a road trip around the Northeast, then canceled the credit card.

Now, if you live near an airport that is serviced by Southwest and you like their flight schedules and locations, then keeping the card for $95 is worth the price (they also offer bonus points when you keep the card each year). If you are interested in how I maximize my Southwest points, click How to Get Cheap Flights on Southwest Airlines.

Check out: Vacation in Cancun – How one traveler booked airfare and a luxury resort for under $400

PARK 'N Fly - Airport Parking Reservations

Hotel Credit Cards

Next, I applied for the Marriott credit card. This card has been excellent too. It offered a high point value sign up, a free anniversary night and double the points when you use the card at their hotels. We often stay at Marriott hotels anyways, so I figured this was a sure bet, and it has been so far! The annual fee is $85 (waived for the first year too), but like the Chase Sapphire, this one I have decided to keep as well. Here is why: we love to travel and by having this card and spending the $85, it “forces” us to make use of a free anniversary night.

Soon after, I applied for the Hyatt credit card and the IHG credit card, and I kept those as well. Each of these cards does have an annual fee associated with them, but they are worth it! Think about it… if you are committed to traveling each year and are going to travel anyways, you are going to spend money on a hotel.  Since each annual fee is about $85 (all 3 have it waived the first year), you are essentially getting a hotel room for $85 a night. Realistically, don’t you spend more than $85 a night anyways for a hotel room? Basically, you are getting the hotel night that you were going to spend at least $150-200 for the $85 annual fee. See, the annual fee is worth it when you stop to think about it.

Each year I am getting 3 free nights of hotel (on the anniversary of the account opening) –  a Marriott night, a Hyatt night, and a Holiday Inn/Crowne Plaza night and I am paying ($85, $85, $50 respectively in annual fees). Couple that with the fact that you can also transfer Chase Sapphire points to any of these accounts and it is a no-brainer! For more specifics, click on my post – How to Get Free Hotel Stays.

Check out – Paying off your Debt : Be Willing to Be Different


Enjoy your travels and pay your bills on time!

If you would like to see some other ways we save money for family vacations, check out:

Best Cash Back Apps

Five Easy Ways to Save up for Travel

How to Save on your Car Rental

Smart ways to use your Chase Sapphire Rewards

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Travel Hacking E-Book

I recently wrote a short 25 page e-book that highlights how our family uses credit cards to travel for cheap. It is a step by step guide for beginners who would like to know more about how to use credit card sign-ups to gain points and convert them into free flights and hotel stays. Our family started using this method a few years ago and it has dramatically changed how we travel. I encourage you to give it a read – How to Start Travel Hacking. Use code TLZ908AP47 for 25% off.

e-book cover

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