How to Travel for Free With Travel Rewards Cards

How to travel for free with travel rewards cards | travel hacking | Traveling Well For Less | Photo Credit: Pixabay

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Did you know you one single card can get a free vacation? Learning how to travel for free with travel rewards cards has been an obsession of mine since 1994. One vacation was all it took.

Jeff and I spent two weeks in the South Pacific. We spent a week with friends in Brisbane and the Gold Coast of Australia. And the last week in Huahine, Tahiti. When we came back, I had earned thousands of American Airlines miles.

It was that moment I realized this was a game. And being the competitive person I am, I was all in.

Thanks to travel rewards cards, we’ve traveled to some incredible places. From Hawaii to Hong Kong and everywhere in between.

Using travel rewards is easy.

Which is a good thing. Because math and me, we’re like oil and water. We don’t mix.

Here’s how you can vacation without having to pinch pennies or scrimp and save.

How to Travel for Free With Travel Rewards Cards

How to travel for free with travel rewards cards | travel hacking | Traveling Well For Less | Photo Credit: Pixabay
Travel the world for free using travel rewards cards
Photo credit: Pixabay

Think of travel rewards as Blue Chip Stamps, Starbucks Rewards, or punches on a store loyalty card.

You earn points when you use a travel rewards card. Then you can use those points to pay for your travel expenses. We’ve used travel rewards points on airline tickets, hotels, rental cars, tours, and activities.

Free Airline Tickets

Get free airline tickets including First Class on Cathay Pacific by using travel rewards points. | How to travel for free | Traveling Well For Less |
A $25,000 First Class seat on Cathay Pacific for 67,500 miles and $5.60.

 

Who doesn’t want to fly for free?

Airline tickets can be super expensive. Good thing you can use travel rewards points to pay for your flights!

Guess what! You don’t have to fly to earn airline miles. Yep, you read that right.

You can earn frequent flyer miles without flying.

All it takes to earn free flights is less than 5 minutes of your time. You could earn up to 200,000 points by signing up for a single credit card. It’s that simple.

So 5 minutes in your pajamas and you could be jetting off to Hawaii, Europe, or anywhere your heart desires.

Once the card arrives, meet the minimum spending requirements to get the signup bonus, and then turn those points into free flights. Here are 7 unusual ways to meet minimum spending requirements.

Some of my favorite cards for earning airline miles:

Check out the latest travel rewards credit card offers.

And you don’t have to ride in coach. You can fly in First Class or Business Class. Not that there’s anything wrong with flying economy.

Because of points, my First Class flight on Lufthansa from Los Angeles to Frankfurt only cost $40. And our First Class flight from Honolulu to Sydney was only $63.

Be sure to read my post, 7 easy ways to earn frequent flyer miles without flying for more tips on earning airline miles.

Pro-tip: If you and your partner both signup for a new credit card, you can get double the points.

Free Hotel Rooms

Use travel rewards points for free rooms at hotels like the Saatchi Suite, Hyatt Regency London - The Churchill | how to travel for free using travel rewards points | Traveling Well For Less | travel hacking
Use hotel points for free rooms at hotels like the Saatchi Suite, Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill

Even if you never fly, you’ll want to earn travel rewards points. Because you can use points to pay for hotel rooms. You can turn those family vacations into freecations.

Say goodbye to sleeping in your car and climb into a comfy hotel bed. Instead of shelling out big bucks to stay at in a hotel, you can pay with points and stay for free. 

I’ve used travel rewards points to stay for free at hotels that cost over $1,000 a night:

  • Park Hyatt Paris Vendome
  • The May Fair
  • Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney
  • Park Hyatt Sydney
  • Hilton Sydney
  • Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa
  • The Westin Palace Madrid
  • Park Hyatt Mallorca

One of the best things about hotels is that there are all types of hotels. So you don’t have to use points on super fancy and expensive hotels.

You can use travel rewards points on budget-friendly and moderate priced hotels.

And I’ve also used points to stay at hotels like:

  • Grand Hyatt Kauai
  • Hyatt Place Las Vegas
  • Embassy Suites San Luis Obispo
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Alana – Waikiki Beach

My favorite cards to earn free hotel stays:

Check out the latest hotel credit card offers.

Pro-tip: But before you use your points, be sure to read my post, What You Need to Know Before You Redeem Points for Hotel Stays.

Related posts on using points for hotel stays:

Free Rental Cars

Get a rental car for free by using travel rewards points. | how to travel for free using travel rewards points | Traveling Well For Less | travel hacking
Use points to pay for rental cars
Photo credit: Pixabay

Instead of putting miles on your car during road trips, rent a car for free using travel rewards points.

You can redeem points to pay for car rentals. So save the wear and tear on your car and pile the family into the rental and head off to grandma’s or the Grand Canyon.

Check out the latest travel rewards credit card offers.

Free Tours and Activities

Use travel rewards points to pay for tours and activities like snorkeling | how to travel for free with travel rewards points | travel hacking | Traveling Well For Less
Thanks to travel rewards points, you won’t have to search for buried treasure to pay for your snorkeling.
Photo credit: Pixabay

Tours and activities can add up, especially when you’re traveling with your family. By using the right rewards point credit card, you can pay for those trips with points.

So go ahead and take that helicopter tour over Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska. Or surfing lesson in Laguna Beach.

Check out the latest travel rewards credit card offers.

By now you’re thinking, “Holy cow. I can travel for free.” Yep, you sure can. That’s how my family and I’ve have been traveling since 1994. What are you waiting for?

Conclusion

Do you know how to travel for free using travel rewards points? You can take your family on amazing vacations without spending a dime.

Three words: travel rewards points.

Stop using your tax return or putting away money every month to pay for your vacation. Use travel rewards points from credit card signup offers. One credit card signup bonus offer can get you up to 80,000 points.

You can redeem those points for free airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, tours, and activities.

Check out the travel rewards credit card offers.

Where have you traveled for free using travel rewards points? If you haven’t used points yet, where would you go?

How to Use Rewards Points for Cheap Travel

Read these posts on how you can use travel rewards points to travel for cheap.

How to Travel for Free

Still, need convincing? Check out these blog posts on how to travel for free.

Pin this to your travel, travel tips, vacation, or travel hacking boards:

Traveling doesn't have to be expensive. Here's how to travel for free with travel rewards points. | travel hacking | travel tips | Traveling Well For Less | Photo credit: Pixabay

Traveling doesn't have to be expensive. Here's how to travel for free with travel rewards points. | travel hacking | travel tips | Traveling Well For Less | Photo credit: Pixabay
Traveling doesn't have to be expensive. Here's how to travel for free with travel rewards points. | travel hacking | travel tips | Traveling Well For Less | Photo credit: Pixabay

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Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for beginning travel hackers. It is the first card you should get to start traveling for free because the welcome offer is 60,000 points (after spending $4,000 in the first three months).
 
My favorite perks about this card are earning 2X points on travel and dining, no foreign transaction fees, and transferring points to 13 airline and hotel partners like Hyatt, United, and Southwest.
 

Debra Schroeder

Debra is a former 12-year travel industry executive and has traveled the world using airline miles and credit card points since 1994. She'll teach you the secrets of traveling well for less.

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58 Comments

  • The below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
  • Indrani March 4, 2017 at 8:26 am

    Great ideas! I have availed free hotel stays with reward points but have never experienced the others. I will check out the credit card you mentioned for free airline tickets . Very tempting. 😉

  • Tamara Elliott March 4, 2017 at 8:47 am

    I consider myself a travel hacker too! So handy to be able to dip into my bank of points when paying for a flight outright is too expensive.

  • Annie March 4, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    I met a couple in Belize who booked their entire 4 day vacation , including airfare, for $12! That might not be free but it’s pretty damn close. I had no idea how much you could do with travel rewards cards, thanks for all the advice!

  • Heather March 4, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    You’re speaking my language! I’ve used rewards points for hotel stays at luxury properties in Morocco and Egypt. We currently use a Capital One Venture card. It has some great benefits for travelers. Just recently, we had some damage to a rental car and got reimbursed for the charge by the rental company because we paid with the credit card.
    I love the idea of using points for excursions or activities, something I hadn’t considered before and will be looking into, thanks!

  • Drew March 5, 2017 at 4:47 am

    I’m a huge fan of travel rewards (aren’t we all??). But I’ve never used my points for booking tours or other entertainment. I think I probably knew it existed but had never attempted it. That is such an interesting thing to look into – especially for some really pricey activities!

  • Fiona Maclean March 5, 2017 at 4:48 am

    Great post. I don’t think we have quite so many options in the UK – but I really do need to look into them!

  • carla abanes March 5, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    This is a great post. However I am not too keen on using travel rewards cards as I am into more of spending the cash i have on hand. That way I only spend for I know I can afford and what I have. I have been like this since start of my travel days.

  • Megan Jerrard March 5, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    Travel rewards points are our favorite 3 words 😀 I consider myself extremely lucky that my husband is from the US, because unfortunately we don’t really have a lot of opportunity for travel rewards in Australia – the programs aren’t there. But the States, man they go nuts! So during our time living in Florida we jumped straight into credit cards hacking, Chase has been the best card for us, and we also signed on for a range of hotel credit cards which see us get free nights across Marriott, IHG and Hyatt. It’s fab!

  • Jenna March 6, 2017 at 12:43 am

    Great tips! We are obsessed with paying for travel via points and miles. Club Carlson is one of our favorite hotel programs when we take road trips around the states. We haven’t done much with rental car points though yet–will have to look into that more for sure!

  • Janna March 6, 2017 at 1:59 am

    I may be the only person who doesnt have travel rewards cards! Omg I’m definitely missing out! Im bookmarking this and definitely going to read up more about this fabulous rewards card!

  • Terri Beavers March 6, 2017 at 6:06 am

    These are really great tips. I’ve been wanting to travel more for less and I’ll have to check out more travel rewards cards to achieve that.

  • Chrysoula March 6, 2017 at 6:29 am

    That is really useful. I use most of the miles i gather to pay for alirline tickets. My goal is to fly first class from Europe the USA. The good thing is that I collect miles with my credit card from everywhere, supermarket, petrol, mobile etc

  • Karissa @WithOurBest (@withourbest) March 6, 2017 at 10:56 am

    Great article on traveling with rewards cards. Rewards really start adding up quick!

  • Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle March 6, 2017 at 11:03 am

    I love your blog so much. I travel all the time, and you have saved me SO much money with your posts. Thanks for sharing another great one!

  • Vera Sweeney March 6, 2017 at 11:22 am

    I love you so much right now! This is going to save me so much money! THANK YOU!

  • Claudia Krusch March 6, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    I love to travel and free is always a bonus. I love earning reward points when I go. I am saving them up to take my dream vacation.

  • Eloise March 6, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    I’m saving this! NOW, my broke butt can travel and see the world…thanks! (it’s hard being a single mom of two kids and trying to save to go on trips that I could really use!) : )

  • Lisa Favre March 6, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    I am always up for a free trip here and there! Yes! Totally need to save this for my family… we love travelling but we like sticking to a budget as well.

  • Mimi Green March 6, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    I like the idea of traveling for free. I’m not traveling enough to rack up serious points. I hope to do so one day.

  • Claudia March 6, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    I’d rather use my points for big ticket items like airline tickets, but good to know for hotel stays.

  • Sandy N Vyjay March 6, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    The title took up all my interest. Flights and hotels can be extremely expensive and saving up even a penny on hotel or flight deals seems like a victory. I didn’t know these unusual ways to travel for almost free. The Cathay Pacific flight expense blew my mind. I am definitely trying this.

  • ricci March 7, 2017 at 8:17 am

    These are all great tips and tricks for traveling on a budget! I need to use some of these tricks for real!!

  • Melissa Dixon March 7, 2017 at 8:34 am

    The cost is a big reason that prevents me from traveling. This is a great way for people to do more!

  • natalie March 7, 2017 at 8:39 am

    I love traveling and love traveling on a budget even more. I plan in advance and search for deals but sometimes we need a little more help to be able to go on more journeys.

  • Up Run for Life March 7, 2017 at 11:04 am

    This is perfect timing. We are going to get a rewards credit card in a few months so that we can earn nice rewards while paying our bills.

  • Lydia@LifeUntraveled March 7, 2017 at 11:29 am

    It’s so great that you’re able to have all these things for free using your travel rewards! Unfortunately in Canada we don’t have any credit cards that offer that many travel points. 🙁

  • Kathy March 7, 2017 at 11:53 am

    It’s nice to have rewards like this. I don’t really travel much though. I will definitely be sharing this with others that I know travel often.

  • Louise Bishop March 7, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    I have a friend who travels for free all the time with her travel card. I am so jealous. It sounds so easy to do!

  • Jessica Simms March 7, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    I love travel rewards , as a mom of 4 kiddos I like to stretch my dollars as far as possible, I love to use mine on our summer vacations.

  • Julie @ Millennial Boss March 7, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    The benefits of being in a relationship (OK one of them HAHA)! My favorite travel rewards perk is the Southwest Companion Pass. My husband and I had that for two years and we loved it. So glad to find your blog and LOVE your idea about traveling 2 weeks out of the month. Super inspiring!

  • My teen guide March 7, 2017 at 11:33 pm

    Travel rewards are really what I like, I’m really glad that you shared this. I will.also spread this.

  • Victoria Heckstall March 7, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    This is a brilliant idea, I know someone who paid for traveling and I also want that life.

  • Lynndee March 8, 2017 at 6:56 am

    I’ve been wanting to learn more about travel rewards because who doesn’t want to travel for free, right? Thanks for all the info and tips.

  • Susan Q March 8, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    My husband and I love to travel so I really appreciate these awesome tips! Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

  • Dawn Gibson-Thigpen March 8, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    i love to travel and doing it for free is even better. love this post great pics.

  • Chubskulit Rose March 9, 2017 at 3:21 am

    When my husband was still in active military, he used to travel for free from the points he accumulated. It’s awesome when you can travel without spending much.

  • Elaine J Masters March 9, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    I’ve been accruing miles and finally have enough for a big flight but getting a seat is another thing altogether! Must plan far in advance.

  • Pedro March 9, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Great tips there! Thanks for helping me and everyone else who’ll read this post save on our travels!

  • Heather Pfingsten March 9, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    I’ve heard of travel reward points, cards, savings, etc… but had no idea this type of savings as possible. I definitely need to do more research so maybe my family and I could travel more. Great tips!

  • Jeam March 12, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    In Australia the rewards points can be really difficult to redeem on flights. We’ve started using the points for grocery gift vouchers and putting that money aside to pay for our flights. Like you said it’s all about play the game!

  • Vicki Louise March 13, 2017 at 5:34 am

    Who doesn’t love travel rewards?! I just wish there were more opportunities for those of us that live in Australia to be able to rack up points all over the place. I love the idea of travel hacking – I just wish Australia would let me play the game!

  • FS Page March 13, 2017 at 8:32 am

    Free travel is every backpackers dream and getting to do that through reward points and cards seems to be an easiest option. Thanks for the amazing ideas. I did not know a few of them. It is not as prevalent in India as it might be in Australia but there’s no harm in trying out

  • Cat March 13, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    Great tips on using travel rewards points! We need to start using it to travel smarter and cheaper! I didn’t know that you can redeem for tours and activities – need to look into that!!

  • The Travel Ninjas March 13, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    The only thing better than travel is free travel! Thanks for all these great tips. Staying current on the latest deals is definitely the best way to cash in.

  • Janine Good March 13, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    I wish Canada would jump on the bandwagon with reward points. Ours take years to get enough and that is with bonuses on credit cards we don’t need. I do love the idea of a first class ticket for less than $100.!

  • Global Girl Travels March 13, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    When I plan an itinerary for travel, the first thing I look for are free sights and activities. This is a good idea to exploit if you want to save on travel! I would add this to my list of ways to get free travel.

  • Isabel March 16, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    It sounds all glitz and glamour with a rewards card but often it requires you to spend quite heavily. For budget travellers like myself, it’s hard to choke up large expenditures, so it doesn’t apply so much to me! Thanks for the informative post though!

  • Allison March 18, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    As an Aussie it is not as easy as in the USA but it sure is possible. I have everything linked to my rewards cards, credit cards, gas bill, health insurance … everything. It all adds up. One of my program even allows me to add my fitbit and I get 10 points every time I do over 10,000 steps. That’s 3650 points a year. Easy peasy right? I tend to save my Qantas points to use in the USA (on partner airline AA) as the taxes are tiny (usually $2.50) means the ‘free’ is a lot more palatable that teh $200 plus taxes we pay in Oz. I just used point to fly home from NZ on Emirates first class. It was sensational and something I would never shell out real dollars for!

  • Ryan Biddulph June 13, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Hi Debra,

    Good on you staying for free at those 1 grand a night hotels. That line up is nothing to sneeze at!

    Ryan

  • Stef December 11, 2017 at 6:20 am

    This is so helpful! We collect points and use them for a few small things here and there, but haven’t used them for any big flights or trips yet. This will absolutely help us get enough points to travel for cheap! Thanks so much for the tips!

  • Nathalie salcedo December 14, 2017 at 9:11 am

    This is so informative 🙂 loving this key points.
    Its something worth considering when it comes to travelling. Thank you

  • Alli December 26, 2017 at 9:33 am

    I sadly am not sure if I fly frequently enough to take advantage of all these awesome tips – but I find it so useful and worthwhile to have bookmarked! 🙂

  • Lois Alter Mark December 26, 2017 at 10:16 am

    When it comes to budgeting and money management, travel rewards cards are a total game changer. I have been able to create so many incredible memories thanks to the ease of these cards that I don’t see myself ever getting tired of using them. Still trying to get my daughter to hop on the bandwagon- this post will definitely help!

  • Jennifer Melroy December 26, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    It drives me nuts when people say reward points are free travel. They really aren’t. To get those points, you have to spend money. It might be money you were going to spend anyway but you still have to spend. Many card sign up bonus can require spending up to 4k in a couple of months on your credit card which for a lot of people can be hard. I have a high spend rate from my job so I have run upwards of 60k thru my credit cards this year but that isn’t my money I spent. Plus add in yearly fees and you need to make sure you are earning more points that you are spending in fees.

  • Tamara Elliott December 27, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    First class flights for $40?! Amazing! Such a great use of those loyalty points.

  • Medha December 27, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    How lucky that you’ve done so much research and found these amazing reward cards. Although the hotel loyalty schemes are global, the credit cards you’ve mentioned here, I don’t think they provide the same incenstives everywhere. I’ve checked with all the credit card companies here in Dubai and none of them seem to have the facility to convert your purchases into points that can be redeemers for flight, unfortunately 🙁 It’s hard to find travel friendly reward schemes here. Lucky you, you seem to have made the most of it!

  • Sue Slaght May 10, 2018 at 11:08 am

    I definitely need to get more serious about using tips like this Debra. Since we live in Canada do all of these still apply? I’ve pinned your post to use as a reference for future. A ton of great information.

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