Jan 20 2014

Saving money on vacation using credit card rewards

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?



3 Responses to “Saving money on vacation using credit card rewards”

  1. The Barclaycard Arrival’s bonus offering is one of the best deals out there. It’s like setting up a special savings account for your vacation and jump starting it with a $400 bonus.

  2. Careful with this, because I always thought your credit rating takes a hit with each new line of credit opened. This includes credit cards. I assume this is still the case?

  3. Yep, mine went down 2 points. I’m not worried, since it’s only a few points and I’m not taking out a mortgage or anything like that in the near future. Supposedly it will go back up in a few months? Either way, for my situation I’m not concerned but others might not want that.

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . 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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