We’re just dipping our toe into the travel optimizing pond here and I was a bit nervous. It required opening AND using a credit card, so if that makes you nervous, don’t do it. We had to be disciplined and used the card for most purchases and a few large purchases, like summer camp, to maximize points earnings.
Here’s what we did, as well as a few mistakes we learned from:
- We both opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred card and spent the required $4,000 (each) easily within three months to earn 50,000 bonus points (each). Lesson learned: We forgot to have my husband use my referral code when he applied, missing out on 10,000 bonus points.
- We set a goal: get enough points to get our family of four to the Bahamas or any Caribbean island over the week of Thanksgiving. Of the Chase rewards travel partners, Southwest was clearly the best option with the lowest amount of points required: I estimated 140k – 150k points for our family, however November travel dates were not released when we were planning.
- Side note: it was interesting to hear Marla Tanner talk about travel goal setting on a recent ChooseFI episode as a part of her rewards process, otherwise, you’re just spending to earn rewards with no end in sight.
- Lesson learned: I would prefer non-stop flights to any where I want to go, but my home airport, Philly, is owned by American Airlines which is not a Chase Rewards partner. I’m over that now and have accepted that in lieu of (almost) free travel, I will likely be connecting.
- Searched for the best deal: Southwest didn’t release their winter travel dates until May 31, so we knew we had to earn the required points by then. When the flights were available, we had 133,775 total points earned. I used Southwest’s low fare calendar to find the best combination of dates that would give us a 5- to 7-day Thanksgiving vacation with our points, but I kept coming up short.
- Transferred points from Chase to Southwest: you can’t book Southwest through the Chase portal, so a points transfer is required. This was pretty easy. I transferred 73,000 Chase Rewards points to my Rapid Rewards account and it appeared immediately. I then transferred 60,000 of my husband’s Chase Rewards points to my Rapid Rewards account and when it didn’t appear immediately, I had a minor freak out. When transferring from Chase, you have to enter the cardholders name on the Chase site, plus a Rapid Rewards number. I used my husband’s name with my Rapid Rewards number and when the points didn’t appear, I assumed that using his name with my Rapid Rewards number was a big mistake. The Chase customer service was absolutely great and while we were talking through how to course-correct, the points appeared! I just needed a little patience.
- Purchased additional Rapid Rewards: Since we didn’t have enough, I purchased 7,000 rapid rewards points for $134 to give me the points required to book our trip.
- Booked it! It was a rather smooth process despite my human errors. Here’s the breakdown:
- Earned Rewards: 133,775
- Purchased Rewards: 7,000 ($134)
- Total Redeemed Rewards: 139,776
- Taxes and Fees: $463
- Total: $597 = $149.25 each!
- Versus Actual Costs: Flights: $3416.16 + Taxes/Fees: $664.16 = $1,020.08 each. We saved $870 each – that’s $3,480! There’s no way we would have or could have spent that. And these prices are already higher than they were when I booked just five days ago.
Another thing I learned from the Marla Tanner interview on ChooseFI is that you can, in fact, redeem British Airways miles through Chase. I tried to figure this out online and couldn’t, so thank you Marla for teaching me that you actually have to call the airline. I will keep that in mind, but I think we’ll stick with Southwest for now because our next travel goal is a rocky mountain ski vacation.
A huge thank you to ChooseFI for teaching us how to travel for less!