How We Added $1,000 in Free Travel with Our 2nd Rewards Card
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It was less than 6 months ago when my wife and I decided to start building a portfolio of rewards points to use for free travel. We had recently learned how others were racking up thousands and thousands of dollars in free travel by opening up rewards credit cards. So we wanted to get in on that action.
For years my wife and I would put the majority of our monthly spending on one of two credit cards we had (and still have). Every month we would pay off our balance in full and never incur any late fee’s or interest charges.
By doing so … we would typically earn a couple hundred dollars in rewards points each year that would be redeemed for gift cards to stores like Target and Amazon. We always thought that was a great way to optimize our spending and get a little something back … and it was.
But when we discovered the world of travel hacking … everything changed. We realized that it wasn’t the spending that earned the big-time savings but rather the bonus points you can earn from opening up new cards.
So late last August, we opened our first rewards card (Chase Sapphire Preferred®) in my name … which earned us at least $650 (if the points are redeemed for cash). Likely these points will let us enjoy closer to $1,200 in free travel!
From that point on … we were sold and put together a strategy to really optimize our spending and earn a TON of free travel.
So when we finished up earning bonus rewards on our first card, we then opened up a second travel rewards card (Chase Sapphire Preferred®), this time in my wife’s name on November 3, 2017.
Less than 2 months later … we earned our bonus and added to our travel rewards portfolio.
How Did We Use Card #2?
We used our second card to pay for some general expenses like monthly cell phone and utility payments for the house. But the majority of our spending came from several large payments like Disney tickets for our recent vacation and braces for our middle child.
Between the vacation expenses, the braces, and some dental expenses … we blew past our minimum $4,000 spending requirements for this new card rather quickly.
Overall, we spent $6,600+ on this card in under 60 days. That qualified us for earning the 50,000 bonus points for signing up for the card … after meeting the $4,000 minimum spending requirements in the first 90 days.
Not a bad gig for putting our normal spending on a new credit card.
Travel Rewards Card #2 – Points Recap
We hit our $4,000 minimum spending target on around day 54 of opening our second travel rewards card. With several large expenses during the last 2 months of the year, a planned vacation to Disney, and the holidays … we never were in doubt of hitting our minimum spend.
Our spending actually went past our minimum requirement by over $2,600. In the future, we may try and better plan for these circumstances so that we could leverage that spending on a new card.
But at the same time … we don’t want to overdue it when it comes to opening new cards. So in this circumstance, we just opted to put this extra spending on an existing card. As we continue to build our travel rewards portfolio, I am sure we can tweak our process to be fully optimized.
Here is a recap of the points we have earned to date on card #2 on our travel rewards journey.
- Spending Points (1 Pt/$1 Spent) – 6,637
- Bonus Spending (1 Pt/$1 Spent on Dining) – 69
- Sign-up Bonus = 50,000
Note – All points listed above are Ultimate Rewards®.
Total Ultimate Rewards® Points = 56,706
This was actually our 2nd card we opened since we started travel hacking last year. But we didn’t earn our bonus points on this card until after we earned our bonus on card #3 – the Chase Ink Business card.
How Much are These Points Worth?
At a minimum, the points we have earned from this card are worth $567.06 ($0.01 per point) in cash-back from Chase. Another option would be to book travel through the Chase portal … which would make the points worth $708.83 ($0.0125).
Our goal is to try and redeem these points for $0.02 each (if possible), which would make them worth $1,134.12.
Either way … an extra $500+ for just doing our normal spending is pretty awesome!
Once we decide when to redeem our travel rewards points, we will start tracking our redemption’s in future posts.
Breaking Down Our Purchases on this Card?
A few quick notes on what we bought on the card. We spent slightly over $6,600 in total on our card in about 2 months time.
A total of $69 of that spending was made at restaurants … which gives us double the points. This is highlighted in the table above with the bonus dining points earned.
In addition to those restaurant expenses, we leveraged paying for several big items on this card … to quickly hit our minimum spend. These items included –
- Dentist Bill – $636.00
- Disney Tickets – $1,893.00
- Orthodontist – $2,124.00
One of the best hacks that we used so far, was to pay for our kids dental cleaning bills on a credit card. Our insurance requires us to pay the cost upfront and then we are reimbursed for most of the bill. In this case, we spent $636 and got a $586 reimbursement check a few weeks later. This is a great way to add more spending to a card … especially when you are getting most of the money back.
I used to get stressed about paying for our dental appointments this way … but now I am very happy!
We also had a planned Disney trip over Christmas and used our credit card to buy the park tickets. So that knocked off close to half of our required spending right there!
Finally, one of the biggest reasons we went over on our spending by $2,600 was the orthodontist payment we made.
Our middle son was scheduled to get braces in early January. We had been planning to open up card #4 to pay the $6,000+ bill. This card is the Chase Ink card which we opened in my wife’s name. What we didn’t realize was that her available spending limit was set at $5,000. So we paid for $4,000 of my son’s braces on that card and put the rest on card #2.
It would have been nice to put it all on one card … but it will all work out in the end. Since we couldn’t max out this payment on card #4, we will have to wait until our balance comes back down after making our first payment. More to come on this card once we hit that spending limit.
And besides those 3 large expenses, we did some normal spending on card #2 to finish it out that included – cell phones, Internet bill, utility bills for the house, and Netflix.
What’s Up Next for Travel Rewards
As you can see, we have been very busy earning credit card bonuses and building our travel rewards portfolio.
At the time of this writing, we have hit the minimum spending on 3 of the 4 cards that we opened in the last 5 months. These 3 cards have earned us a grand total of 229,735 Ultimate Rewards® points in that time.
Those points are worth at least $2,297.35, if we redeemed them for cash. In reality, we think they are worth closer to $4,594.70 if we use them for traveling.
Our ultimate goal is to earn enough points and miles to take our family of 5 to Hawaii for almost no cost. Hopefully we can continue building our portfolio up and make this a reality.
Now that cards 1, 2, and 3 are finished, we are focused on closing out card #4. It will probably take us another month to hit our spending requirements on that card. We should get at least 85,000 more points from that card … which will put us close to 315,000 points!
Over the next few weeks, my wife and I are going to sit down and try to figure out which credit card account to consolidate our points to (since all points earned so far are Chase Ultimate Rewards). We are not really wanting to pay annual fee’s on some of the cards we have open … so consolidation makes sense.
The focus then becomes what is card #5 going to be? Does anyone have any suggestions?
Note – We plan to go for the Southwest cards later this December or in early January 2019 to get the companion passes.