Jan 30 2014

Flight, hotels and tickets booked and cash back update

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ETA: I decided to buy a flight ticket for our baby, Amelia. I know she can technically fly free, and there’s also a chance we could luck out and have an empty seat for her, but after thinking about it some more I want to have her car seat and her in it for takeoff/landing/turbulence/the whole time if possible. I’d be very sad if she got bonked around during a rough landing just because I was trying to save some money.

Squee! We have our flight, hotels and park tickets booked for Disney World! We’re going  this spring.

  • Flight: Southwest “Wanna Get Away” rates, with free baggage. Total for four people: $952
  • Hotel: Two on-site Disney resorts. We couldn’t decide between two, so we picked both and will stay three nights at Art of Animation and four nights at the Wilderness Lodge. Total $1,953
  • Tickets: 7-day base tickets. Two adults and two children (Amelia is free). $1,214
  • Trip insurance: $79

Kacie’s Barclaycard: I redeemed 45,000 points good for a $450 statement credit against the plane tickets. Barclaycard has a neat deal where if I redeem for travel, I get a 10% bonus back instantly, so they put 4,500 points back in my account right away.

I won’t have other redeemable travel purchases on this card, but I’ll be able to redeem the leftover points for cash at a lower payout. Right now, I have 5,166 points (about $25 worth) and that’s probably all it will be.

Total benefit from this card: around $475 in statement credits

Shane’s Barclaycard: We put both hotels on this card, and after I hit the $1,000 minimum on my own card, we put all purchases on Shane’s. I redeemed 45,000 points against one of the hotels, good for a $450 statement credit and once again got 4,500 bonus points back. That brought the total remaining to 5,834. I put 5,000 toward the second hotel (must be redeemed in increments of 2,500 for travel).

That was good for a $50 statement credit, and wouldn’t you know it, they gave me 10% back on that, for 500 more points. This card now has 1,334 points left, but I need to hit 2,500 on it to be able to swap that for a $12.50 statement credit. That = spending $583 more on the card to get to that threshold.

So, I bought the kids’ two park tickets ($588) with this card to hit the minimum threshold and will redeem it once it posts. I bought the adult tickets ($626) on my 1.75% cash back card. I ran our ticket selection through this calculator and OfficialTicketCenter.com came up the best for those tickets.

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Total benefit from this card: around $512 statement credits

We have money waiting to be redeemed at our 1.75% back PNC card, and will move spending to that one to increase the balance. It’s at $94.63 and growing.

How we saved on the hotel stay

We could have taken a few approaches — stay off-site (and much cheaper per night), but rent a car and have those associated fees. Admittedly, the hotel cost is way high and we definitely could have gone for cheaper accommodations to save money. But for this trip, paying rock-bottom wasn’t our primary concern.

We wanted to stay on-site for the extra park benefits, we didn’t want to mess with car rental (car big enough for 5 car seats, gas, parking at $15/day), and for us a fun hotel is a big factor in our overall vacation — the pools, the activities and themeing. We could have saved more than $1,000 in this category with different choices, and we are splurging here.

I realize it’s not frugal and we still could have chosen cheaper on-site hotels, or a fun off-site hotel, but it is what it is.

We did save money with the hotel by booking during a Disney promotion, stacking it with a 20% off promo code through Cheaptickets.com, clicking through Ebates for 1% cash back, and of course paying for it with the Barclaycard (which we pay in full every month of course).

The 20% off promo code was worth $417 off, and the Ebates cash back was $20.

I found out about that promo through the MouseSavers newsletter. Definitely get on that list!

Our remaining expenses are parking fees at our airport, tips, souvenirs, food and pre-trip purchases. Park food prices are huge. We’ll eat breakfasts in the room with food we brought from home (thank you, free baggage!), take snacks and stick with counter service restaurants vs. table service. That will still be several hundred in food.

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Total earned in statement credits and pending cash back: $1,101

With that in mind, that brings the total for flight, hotel, insurance and park tickets to $3,018 for eight days, seven nights and seven days in the parks for our family.

I wanted to mention a site that has helped with trip planning: EasyWDW.com. Love the reviews and analysis for best park to visit each day. Helpful stuff!

For the payout benefit, doing the credit card rewards have absolutely been worth the effort. If we had more time before the trip, we’d be able to get even more in rewards.

Time to start training for walking miles and miles every day! A fun exercise motivator if I ever had one.

photo credit: Brett Kiger via photopin cc

photo credit: insidethemagic via photopin cc


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Jan 20 2014

Saving money on vacation using credit card rewards

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I’ve long been intrigued by people who churn credit cards for their rewards. The process in a nutshell: Apply for and receive a credit card with an awesome sign-up bonus, no introductory fee, and do the card’s requirements to earn points to redeem for a cheap or free vacation.

This process comes with a few warnings.

  • First, don’t even think about doing it if you have credit card debt, or if it will be difficult for you to pay off your new balance. Having more in savings than your credit limit is a good way to prevent that.
  • Don’t do it if you’re planning on taking out a loan soon (such as a car loan, buying a house or refinancing a mortgage, taking out a student loan, etc.)
  • Keep an eye on fees. The Barclaycard I mention below has no fees for the first year, but something like $89 after. I’ll need to remember to either cancel the cards (redeeming the rewards first) or calling and asking for a waiver.

Because of the low requirements and high payoff, I chose to get a Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard. We get 2 points for every $1 spent. To get the 40,000 miles bonus ($400 value), per card, we had to spend $1,000 in the first 90 days of the card being open. Some other cards needed as high as $3-5k spent in a short period and we just don’t have big purchases on the horizon (I certainly hope!).

Kacie’s Barclaycard: 42,546 miles = approximately $425 in statement credit I can use toward hotel, airfare or other specific travel-related expenses.

My bonus is earned and now we’re switching to Shane’s card for bills and spending.

Shane’s Barclaycard: 1,242 miles

We have about $350 more to spend on Shane’s card to get that 40,000 miles bonus. With the next electric bill, phone bill, internet bill, vehicle registration coming due, plus groceries and gas we should get there fairly quickly.

With the two Barclaycards, I can expect at least $850 toward statement credit, but likely more since these will be our primary cards before our Disney trip because of the higher redemption rate.

We have a Visa at our bank earning 1.75% cash back on all purchases. The balance available right now is $94.53. I don’t expect this one to grow much, since again we’re going to be doing the Barclaycards. With this cash, I can put toward anything I want — that’s the beauty of a cash reward.

I have $31.12 pending cash back in my Ebates account.

Tallying that up, and that’s an expected $975 in rewards/cash back that we can use toward a vacation, plus whatever else we can earn in the meantime. I’ll need to split purchases on each card, but that’ll still make a HUGE dent in our airfare and hotel costs.

I’m thinking about applying for a Disney credit card to get their sign-up reward, but also have access to some exclusive discounts and perks.

How about you? Do you take advantage of sign-up rewards to live it up?



Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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