The Road To Gaining 480,000 Travel Reward Points
Updated: Mar 19, 2019
***Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. We are simply stating how WE gained necessary points to travel. Do not get any credit card without fully understanding how the fees are structured and how you will be charged***
For Whitney and I, gaining 480,000 points was very time consuming and took a lot of strategizing, but, time and time again, it paid off and allowed us to travel to destinations with minimum out of pocket. Less money spent on hotel and airfare allows for more money to be spent on activities you actually want to do at your location. So read on for an overview of all the different ways we piled up points to gain what we needed.
Grabbing sign on bonuses
To gain some good traction with points, Whitney and I stalked some cards with some good sign-on bonuses. Sign on bonuses are like freebies when you get a new rewards card. Never waste one if you can help it, if you get a new card. It’s an incentive to get you to apply for the card and offers you huge amounts of points in a short period of time, which in some cases would be very hard to gain on your own. So, a huge amount of our 480,000 points came from getting the right cards at the right moment, when the sign on bonus was high. For us, the major cards we acquired can be seen below, with their sign on bonus amount, at the time we acquired them.
Sign on bonuses acquired for the trip
As can be seen, the reward points stacked up and gave us 330,000 points with just sign on bonuses alone. That gave us a good head start in the game to gain the total required amount. I cannot repeat enough, the sign on bonus is crucial to adding points up quickly. Never waste it. We wasted one of our sign-on bonuses before we knew better and lost out on 60,000 points. That hurts.
Note: With the 330,000 points gained off of sign on bonuses alone, if we gathered 30,000 more points and then stopped, we would have been able to book an around the world ticket in economy class.
Picking the right card
Card companies have gotten to the point of tailoring reward cards to the spending habits of consumers and then allowing consumers to gain points from what they normally spend on. Along with the good sign on bonuses, Whitney and I acquired cards that complimented and rewarded our spending habit, which is food and traveling. Gaining those cards allowed us to build points quicker for spending in those areas. Example: Our Gold Rewards card allows 4X membership reward points when spent on groceries. So, whenever we had to purchase groceries, that’s the card that came out of the lineup.
Each card offers its unique benefits
Note: As mentioned before, being a military member has it's perks. So, although the information is beneficial to everyone, some of the information discussed will benefit and apply more so to military members. One perk for military members in particular is the waiving of annual fees on many major reward travel cards. The annual fees can sometimes be hefty, ranging from $95 a year up to $550 a year, depending upon which card is chosen. Waiving of the fees allow military members to use the reward cards without the cost to use it. But, if not in the military, if the annual fee had to be paid, in some cases, the rewards and benefits of the card overshadows the annual fee amount.
Using the referral system to gain additional points
We always have complimentary cards. So, if I have one, Whitney has one as well. What that ultimately means is we were able to double up on the sign on bonuses for whatever amount each card offered. But, to squeeze out additional points, each card offers additional points as an incentive if you refer someone to the card and they use your name and link. So, for us, once one of us received the card and met the minimum spend, we would roll around and refer the other to the same card to gain the additional referral points, instead of allowing that person to apply for the card on their own. On average, we received between an additional 10,000 to 15,000 more points for reach card we referred one another to. A quick blurb of the refer a system can be seen below.
How the refer a friend reward system works
Use partnership offers on the cards
Many of our cards also come with a network of offers with other companies. If you use your card to purchase at certain merchants that have reached an agreement with your card company, you can gain additional points. We routinely checked to see if our reward cards had any offers for what we had to buy. When they did, we would add that offer to our card and then use it for that purchase. An example of how the offer and membership reward points work can be seen below.
Reward card partnership offers
Align new card with major purchases or monthly spending habit
Each time we took on a new card, we either waited until we had a major purchase on the horizon, or calculated if our normal monthly spending would cover the minimum spend requirement. In addition to the points gained for meeting the minimum spend, we also received points for simply using the card for our purchases. The minimum spend requirement fluctuates greatly depending upon which card you get. Many have a minimum spend requirement ranging from $1,000 all the way up to $5,000. The time-frame to meet the minimum spend requirement is typically 3 months.
Personal Note: For us, if we do not have a major purchase on the horizon, we usually calculate how much food, daycare, and gas would cost us for three months and then proceed with the card if it meets the requirement. If not, we wait for another opportunity when we need to buy something.
Card Tip: Remember, credit card companies and banks provide you services in exchange for money from you. They receive payment via annual fees, late fees, interest and other type of fees. So to benefit from reward cards, you have to minimize the amount of money you fork over to them to maximize the amount of benefits and rewards the cards offer. Example: Card companies routinely allow a 25-28 day grace period on balances left on cards to be paid off before they charge you interest. So if you can't pay it off immediately, at least pay it off in that time frame to reduce the amount they take from you.