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At the end of August last year (2017) … my wife and I started our travel hacking journey.
This journey started when we opened our first credit card that offered bonus points for hitting a minimum spend amount within the first 90 days.
Considering we use our credit cards for 90% or more of our spending (not counting our mortgage), travel hacking has a lot of appeal for our family.
Being able to optimize our normal spending and turn it into free travel just made a lot of sense. We are very responsible with our spending and always pay off the balances at the end of each monthly statement.
So after 12 full months (August 2018) of opening and earning these credit card bonuses, we have earned a lot of points and miles.
Here is a recap of how we earned our points and miles for free travel.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
In total, my wife and I opened up 4 Chase cards that earned us 317,580 Ultimate Rewards points over the last 12 months.
The first card on our travel rewards journey for both of us was the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. For anyone looking to start earning travel rewards … I would highly recommend this as your first personal card.
This card earned us each 50,000 bonus points for hitting the minimum $4,000 spend in the first 90 days.
I was able to earn an extra 10,000 points for referring my wife for the Sapphire Preferred card … which helped add to our total.
In addition to the 2 personal cards, we each opened up the Chase Ink Business Preferred. By hitting the minimum $5,000 spend in the first 90 days on this card… we both earned 80,000 bonus points!
And just like with the personal card, I was able to earn another referral bonus on this business card … but this time for 20,000 points! I referred my wife to the card which gave us these additional points.
Total Chase Points Earned
Each of these cards were opened at different times throughout the year … so we could make sure we hit the minimum spend and get the bonuses.
Between the 4 cards we earned the following points –
- Sign Up Bonuses – 260,000
- Referral Points – 30,000
- Points Earned from Spending – 27,580
Total Points – 317,580
So what are these points worth?
Well … at a minimum they would be worth $3,175.80 if we used them to pay off a balance on one of our cards at 1 cent per point.
On the other hand … The Points Guy values Chase Points currently (Oct. 2018) at 2 cents.
So that means our points “could” be worth up to $6,351.60!
Personally, I think the value is somewhere in between those 2 estimates or around 1.5 cents per point.
I figure these points are currently worth about $4,750~ in future travel. Pretty good return for not much work.
I do need to mention that we had to pay a total of $190 out of pocket in annual fee’s for a few of these cards.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card waves the $95 annual fee for the first year. So we didn’t get charged anything for those.
However, the Chase Ink Business Preferred each came with a $95 annual fee … which meant we paid $190.
I am not a huge fan of paying fee’s … but when we earn over $3,000+ in future travel … I think $190 is worth it!
One last item … my anniversary date for our first card (Chase Sapphire Preferred®) was August 31, 2018. Just as expected I got the $95 annual fee charged to my account shortly after.
Fortunately, I was able to call and do a product change to the Chase Freedom card that has no annual fee’s. I can still earn Ultimate Rewards with this card and it comes with $0 annual fee.
My wife’s card will be next on the list to do the product change sometime in November.
Next on our list (after earning Ultimate Rewards) were Marriott points.
My wife and I each opened up Chase Marriott Preferred Business cards … which earn Marriott points (not Ultimate Rewards).
After hitting the $3,000 of minimum spending in the first 90 days … we each earned our 75,000 point bonus.
In order to focus on hitting the minimum spending, these cards were strategically opened at different times of the year.
Then I opened up the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest personal card … which is part of the Marriott brand. Initially I earned Starwood points with this card … but they have been converted to Marriott points recently.
The equivalent Marriott point card bonus (after spending $3,000 in 90 days) for these points is 78,000 points.
Total Marriott Points Earned
Each of these cards were opened at different times throughout the year … so we could ensure hitting the minimum spend and get the bonuses.
Between the 3 cards we earned the following points –
- Sign Up Bonuses – 228,000
- Points Earned from Spending – 15,265
Total Points – 243,265
So what are these points worth?
The Points Guy estimates these at .9 center per point. So our Marriott points could be worth $2,189.39.
Again, not sure we can redeem these points for over $2,000 … but I’m sure it will be well over $1,500 worth of free travel. See below for our first redemption of some of these points.
Note – All annual fee’s with these cards were waived in the first year.
We did redeem 70,000 of our Marriott points recently for a trip to Charleston, SC with the family in November.
This wasn’t during the first year of our travel hacking … but I figured it was worth mentioning … at least for redemption values.
The room we booked for 5 family members would have cost $485.38 for a 2 night stay with taxes included.
We used 35,000 points per night to book the room instead.
Overall, the room cost us 70,000 points plus $4 in tax.
This wasn’t the best return in the world for points … but I didn’t feel like spending almost $500 to go on this trip. Overall, we earned about a .7 return on our points.
$485.38 / 70,000 = .69 cents per point
Hopefully next time we do better!
Oh yeah … plus we have the $4 tax charge.
Capital One Miles
Next on the list was earning some Capital One Miles.
I opened up the the Capital One Spark business card, which earned 50,000 Miles after hitting the $4,500 minimum spend in the first 90 days.
My wife opened the Captial One Venture personal card. This card earned 50,000 Miles after hitting the $3,000 minimum spend in the first 90 days.
Just like all the other new cards we opened, we strategically opened these cards throughout the year … so that we hit our minimum spend.
Total Capital One Miles Earned
The Capital One Miles are unique compared to the other points we earned with other cards.
These miles are considered to be “fixed value”, and can be used to get a credit on any expense charged to our credit card that is coded as travel.
Between the 2 cards, we earned the following Miles –
- Sign Up Bonuses – 100,000
- Points Earned from Spending – 29,225
Total Points – 129,225
So what are these points worth?
As I previously mentioned, these points are “fixed” and are worth 1 cent per Mile.
So all we need to do is charge a travel related expense like a hotel stay on the card. And then use the points to wipe out that charge.
Based on the fixed value, we know that these points are worth $1,292 in future travel related expenses.
Capital One Miles Redemption
Last summer we redeemed 22,000 of our Capital One Miles on a hotel stay. This was our very first redemption of any points or miles we took.
Unlike the Marriott point redemption (discussed earlier), the point value on these fixed Miles was straightforward – 1 cent per Mile.
Total Capital One Miles Redeemed – 22,000
The last card (of 10 total) we opened up in our first year was the Chase Hyatt personal card in my name.
This card has a bonus of 60,000 Hyatt points, after hitting a $3,000 minimum spend in the first 90 days.
At the point of our 1-year anniversary of travel hacking, we hadn’t hit the minimum spend yet on this card. We have since hit our spending limit and received our bonus points … but I will include those in year 2.
We did however, earn some points for spending in the first year.
Total Hyatt Points Earned
We earned 3,597 Hyatt points during our first year of travel hacking. At the time, the bonus points had not been credited to our account (but have since).
During the first year of travel hacking, we earned the following Hyatt points –
- Points Earned from Spending – 3,597
So what are these points worth?
According to The Points Guy, these are worth 1.8 cents per point. That puts the value of these points at $64.75.
Those points seem minor, but there actually some category 1 hotels that can be redeemed for 5,000 points. So right there we are close to having 1 free hotel night stay.
Add in our 60,000 bonus points earned after our 1-year travel hacking anniversary, and our Hyatt points could be worth $1,144.75.
Total Free Travel Earned After One Year
So what is the total amount of future free travel we earned in our first year?
Based on a conservative estimate, we have earned almost $8,000 towards future free travel.
The total estimate is based on the following breakdown –
- Chase Points – $4,763.70 (317,580 points @ 1.5 cents per point)
- Marriott Points – $1,702.86 (243,265 points @ .7 cents per point)
- Capital One Miles – $1,292.00 (129,225 miles @ 1.0 cents per mile)
- Hyatt Points – $64.75 (3,597 points @ 1.8 cents per point)
Total Estimated Value (Conservative Est.) – $7,823
On the higher side, these points could potentially be worth $9,753 … but I will figure conservatively for now. This higher estimate is based on potential redemption value of unused points plus actual value of points already redeemed.
In one years time, my wife and I opened a total of 10 new credit cards. We paid a total of $190 in fees.
Combined … we earned a total of 693,667 points/miles that have various redemption values. Conservatively, we should get about $8,000 worth of future free travel.
Not too bad for no real work … other than maximizing how we spend our money each month!
Do you travel hack? What cards and strategies do you use to build up points and miles? What types of travel reimbursements have you gotten from your points?