by Lyle Daly | Jan. 15, 2019
Who wouldn’t want to travel for free? Anyone can do it -- all you need is the right credit card for the job.
Image source: Getty Images.
As exciting as it is to travel, the experience is that much sweeter when you get to do it for free. You can take your trip without stressing out about how you’re going to pay for it, you’ll be able to do more at your destination since you saved money getting there, and let’s be honest, you’ll be the envy of your friends and family when they hear how little you spent on your vacation.
The big question is how to score free travel opportunities. Assuming you don’t have a rich uncle interested in financing your trips, the best option is getting the right credit card and using points to travel.
Here’s a basic breakdown of how you can travel for free with credit card points:
By using your card regularly, you’ll have more points coming in, which you can then use for more travel opportunities.
Most of that is straightforward enough, but finding the right credit card can be the tricky part.
There are two ways to book travel with credit card points:
The most versatile travel rewards cards let you either transfer your points to any airline or hotel partnered with your card’s rewards program or redeem your points at a fixed rate. You can do this with cards in the following programs:
Each program has a different lineup of airline and hotel transfer partners, so you should check to see which ones have partners you use regularly.
Once you know what program fits your travel needs, you can pick a credit card in that program. While it’s important to compare the key features of each card, pay special attention to rewards rates. When a card earns bonus points in spending categories where you shop regularly, it’s much easier to build your rewards.
Once you have your new credit card, it’s time to earn points. Fortunately, most credit cards now offer lucrative sign-up bonuses, which you get if you spend at least a minimum amount within a specific timeframe. Make sure you spend enough, as this is the fastest way to earn points.
I also recommend putting as many of your normal expenses as you can on your credit card. In doing so, you can maximize the number of points you earn per month.
Now we’ve reached the fun part: You have your points and you want to travel somewhere.
First, you need to know what specifically you want to book, such as airfare or a hotel stay. Then, you can look at what booking options you have with your points and choose the one that gets you the most value.
Let’s say that you want to book airfare and you have points you can either transfer or redeem at a fixed rate. Check how much an award ticket would be with any airlines where you can transfer your points, and then search for the same route in your card issuer’s travel portal. Whichever one costs you fewer points is the way to go.
If you have a good travel credit card and spend enough with it, you could end up traveling for free every year. Just make sure that you take your time comparing the best travel cards to find one that fits your needs, and then make it your main payment method. Try to shop for your travel early, too, as this often helps when you plan to pay with points.
As long as you pay them off each month, credit cards are a no-brainer for savvy Americans. They protect against fraud far better than debit cards, help raise your credit score, and can put hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars in rewards back in your pocket each year.
But with so many cards out there, you need to choose wisely. This top-rated card offers the ability to pay 0% interest on purchases into 2022, has some of the most generous cash back rewards we’ve ever seen (up to 5%!), and somehow still sports a $0 annual fee.
That’s why our expert – who has reviewed hundreds of cards – signed up for this one personally. Click here to get free access to our expert’s top pick.
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