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Perhaps the most common item atop people’s bucket lists is traveling. But between plane tickets, hotel rooms, dining out, and more, the steep price tag that’s associated with traveling often keeps many consumers from satisfying their wanderlust. If that sounds like you, you may be surprised at just how easy it is to score free vacations just by using the right travel rewards credit cards. Let me use my most recent weekend trip as an example of how you can use credit card rewards to make travel virtually free.
The Goal: A Free Weekend in Nashville
My wife and I had always heard that Nashville was a great place to visit, so when we heard that two of our favorite artists were playing a concert together on a Friday night in February, we decided it was time to visit Music City. Now, we certainly didn’t have room in our budget to whimsically buy plane tickets and book a hotel just because we felt like seeing a concert. But luckily, we had accumulated enough points and miles on with the right credit cards to make this weekend trip virtually free. That’s right, we didn’t have to dish out one penny for round-trip flights or two nights at a four star hotel right off Broadway. Here’s how we did it:
When it comes to achieving free travel with your credit cards, flexibility is the key. For this reason, my hands-down favorite credit card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. The reason I love this credit card is because you can redeem the points you earn in a number of ways to help ensure that you always get a great deal; you’re not locked in to redeeming rewards on just one airline or hotel. For this trip, we were able to book flights on Southwest Airlines by transferring points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card our Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards account.
Round-trip tickets for two with direct flights only cost us 26,000 points and a $22 fee. If we had paid cash for these tickets, it would have cost us a painful $631! The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card currently comes with a great sign up deal, where customers can earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That means you could make this trip TWICE just with the sign up bonus on this credit card!
As anyone who has ever traveled on a budget knows, getting to your destination is only half the battle. Depending on where you’re going and for how long, your accommodations can often be even more expensive than your transportation. Luckily, by using the right piece of plastic, scoring free nights at nice hotels is just as easy, if not easier, than getting free airfare. Whenever I’m planning a trip somewhere, I use HotelHustle.com to check hotel availability and how many points it would take for a free night.
In this instance, the Hilton Nashville Downtown caught my eye because of its great location and because I had just received a great sign up bonus from the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card. The points I’d received from using this credit card got me two free nights at this four star hotel which would have normally cost around $580!
The Hilton Nashville Downtown at dusk.
Free… Everything Else!
Well, not quite everything. But by using our Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card during our trip, we were able to use our miles to cover the cost of almost every other travel expense including our…
- Rental car -- $86
- Tour of the Ryman Auditorium -- $40
- Hotel valet parking -- $34
- Airport parking back home -- $24
- Taxes and fees for the award flight on Southwest -- $22
When you total it up, we saved another $206 by using our credit card rewards to cover all of our miscellaneous travel costs. The only things that we really ended up paying for out of pocket for the entire weekend were our concert tickets and dining out.
The Bottom Line
Carrying the right rewards credit cards can open up a world of travel that would otherwise be unattainable without breaking your budget. Whether you’re trying to score a free first class flight to Europe, or just get a free hotel for a weekend in a new city you’ve been wanting to explore, it’s surprisingly easy to travel for free just by using the right credit cards.
All in all, we were able to save over $1,400 on this trip thanks to three handy credit cards. The great news is that you don’t have to be a credit card expert or spend tens of thousands of dollars to score free trips like this one. As long as you have a good credit score, you can apply for travel rewards credit card today and be on your way to your next adventure!
*Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.
*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.