Flying for Free – Maximizing Credit Card Points for Travel

One of my major goals for 2016 was to improve my credit and pay off my credit card debt. I did this for a number of reasons, but one of the main ones was because I wanted to qualify for a new credit card that offered travel bonuses and a substantial sign-up offer of points.

After chunking down about 60% of my credit card balance in the first few months, I was given an increase in credit on my day-to-day credit card. This lowered my overall credit usage percentage and improved my credit score at the same time.

I kept my balances low and paid them off in full each month, utilizing the cash-back feature for my Capital One Quicksilver card. This is a great starter credit card, as it doesn’t require the best credit to get approved for it, and you get decent 1.5% cash-back on all purchases. If you are able to keep your balances paid off each month, you can quickly increase your credit line and improve your credit in just a few months.

By the end of September, I had done it – both of my credit cards had a zero balance and I was in the clear!

I kept myself busy near the end of the year and then in mid-December, I came across a pretty sweet sign-up offer for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

They were offering a bonus of 100,000 points (if I spent $4,000 within the first 3 months). They also offered an annual travel credit of $300, elite travel benefits, and 3x points on food and travel. The elite travel benefits were pretty comprehensive also. Access to 900+ airport lounges around the world, car rental benefits, travel and purchase protections, and even a one time credit to cover costs of TSA Pre®  or Global Entry .

So to get a better feel for what 100,000 points gets you, for just over 60,000 points, I could fly round trip from Los Angeles to Berlin. For only 25,000 points, I could fly round trip to Detroit, or for just over 40,000 points, I could fly to Bogota and back. Basically, it will cover 3-4 domestic flights or 1-2 international flights. Pretty schnazzy right?

I applied for it and got approved, registered for my travel lounge access, and later this week I am registering for the TSA Pre®.

The only potential negative to the card is that there is a fairly pricey annual fee. In my current situation though, the benefits far outweigh the negatives and the travel credit covers over half of the fee anyway.

While there are many travel cards that offer decent benefits, Chase’s Sapphire Reserve is one that currently offers the best benefits for travelers at the moment. Which credit cards are you using for travel benefits? Let me know in the comments!