This is the year of traveling for “free”, thanks to credit card points and mileages accumulated. We have 4 upcoming domestic trips, between the end of May and the end of October, all covered by points and miles (I’ve decided to hold off on international trips for as long as the US requires Covid testing upon return, as it’s simply a hassle trying to arrange for testing in a foreign country). Joe and I had applied for a total of 3 rewards cards at the end of 2020 (in time for our year-end charitable donations to David Sheldrick, Jane Goodall, and Dian Fossey) in anticipation for some heavy duty traveling this year.
This card offers an 80k Chase Ultimate Rewards sign-on bonus points with an annual fee of $95. Points can be either redeem for hotels or airfare (either by booking directly through their travel portal or by transferring points to airline partners).
This “hotel” card is also offered through Chase. Back when I had applied, the sign-on bonus was 140k with the first year annual fee of $89 waived. I believe the current sign-on bonus has dropped to 125k plus one reward night. The hotels covered under this card range from the high end Intercontinental all the way down to your no frills Holiday Inns. Depending on where you stay, you can get one free night (Bora Bora Intercontinental) or 10 free nights. We opted to maximize our points and got 9 nights out of this card.
Another “hotel” card offered through Amex with an 80k sign-on bonus and no annual fee. This ended up being the least valuable card, as the redemption points are too high for a nightly stay. We ended up only getting 3 nights out of this card.
Of all 3 cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best, as its points are worth more than the other 2. However, it is the one card we may or may not cancel depending on whether or not I decide to keep my Chase Sapphire Reserve card (very tempted to switch over to the Amex Platinum given the targeted welcome offer of 125k points). We may keep the IHG card despite the annual fee kicking in next year, because they give you one reward night up to 40k points (worth $200) each year. As for the Hilton card, we’re keeping it since it has no annual fee, and I’ll be accumulating points by answering online surveys thanks to my endless free time in retirement.
So where will we be going for the rest of the year for free?
Lake Tahoe – 4 nights through IHG.
Grand Canyon National Park and Vegas – we are paying for the one-night in-park Grand Canyon Lodge, but the 2 free nights in Vegas are through Hilton.
Kauai – we totally lucked out for this trip. I was able to redeem 20k Alaska miles for a round trip per person before the redemption rate doubled the day after I redeemed our miles. The 7 days of lodging are through Chase Sapphire.
Boston and Acadia National Park – we will be using JetBlue miles for the flights, and the 4 days of lodging in Bar Harbor are through IHG.
(One IHG night was redeemed for the Death Valley trip, and 1 Hilton night was redeemed for our NYC layover to Morocco)
Today I was sent a targeted offer, and approved, for the Alaska Airline card through BofA (in time for some major repair on my car), which included 40k bonus miles, $100 statement credit, and their famous annual companion fare for $121 (my companion only has to pay $121 even if the round trip airfare costs $600). This card has a $75 annual fee, but is easily offset by the companion fare. We will save these benefits for next year.