“I’m planning on taking my family to Europe for a vacation next year. How can I use credit card points?”
Earlier this year, I had a good friend ask me to help her create a plan to use credit card points to get her family to Europe. This is a question I get asked by someone at least monthly, so I decided to write up a post with my advice. This post will give you a step-by-step guide to earning a large amount of points to take your family on vacation.
Assumptions and groundwork
How many points you’re able to earn from credit card welcome bonuses depends heavily on your spending patterns, your willingness to open new credit cards to go after generous welcome bonuses, and your credit history.
This plan assumes that you put a fair amount of spending on credit cards each month, are willing to get two to three new credit cards and pay a ~$100 annual fee on one of the credit cards. It also assumes that you’ll be booking travel about a year from now.
Using this plan, you can get $3,375 worth of travel with three credit card welcome bonuses and $20,000 worth of spending on credit cards over six months.
There’s a lot in this article, but here’s the plan compressed into a short table. To follow this plan and earn the credit card welcome bonuses over six months, you need to spend an average of $3,400 monthly on credit cards over six months.
|Acquire points||3-9 months total||First: Chase Ink Business Preferred welcome bonus (100,000 points, $8,000 of spending within 3 months required.)|
Second: Chase Ink Business Unlimited welcome bonus (75,000 points, $6,000 of spending within 3 months required) and Chase Ink Business Cash welcome bonus (75,000 points, $6,000 of spending within 3 months required.)
(270,000 Ultimate Rewards points total, including points from spending)
|Book travel||~6 months before travel||Use the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to book ~$3375 worth of flights, hotels or other travel through Chase Travel.|
|Alternative reward redemption||Redeem points for $2,700 of cash back awards.|
Why Chase Ultimate Rewards?
I believe that Chase Ultimate Rewards is the best bank rewards program. Why? Ultimately, it comes down to the points being easy to use and easy to get.
Chase Ultimate Rewards are easy to use. If you want to use points for travel, you can easily book a flight, hotel, rental car, excursion, or cruise through the Chase travel portal. The process is similar to booking a flight or hotel through a site like Expedia, Google Flights, or an airline or hotel website. And, even if your plans fall through, you can redeem your points for cash back.
Chase Ultimate Rewards are easy to get. If you spend a few thousand dollars each month, you can earn a large amount of points with a new credit card application. If you get more than five new credit cards within two years, Chase may tap the brakes on giving you new cards, but most people starting out with credit card rewards won’t have to worry about this.
Getting the points
About credit card welcome bonuses
Ultimately, credit card welcome bonuses are pretty simple: Apply and be approved for a card with a welcome bonus. Spend a certain amount of money within the first few months of having the card. Earn a large number of cash back or points. But if you are new to credit card welcome bonuses, here are a few important pointers.
You only earn the bonus if you meet the spending requirements. Most credit card welcome bonuses come with a requirement to spend a certain amount of money within the first few months of having a card. If you plan to pursue a credit card welcome bonus, be sure that you plan to spend at least this amount on the credit card. If a card offers a $500 welcome bonus after you spend $3,000 on the card within three months and you only spend $2,500, you won’t get the bonus. Or if you complete the spending after three months, you won’t get the bonus.
If you are paying interest on credit card debt, this isn’t for you right now. Credit cards carry ridiculously high interest rates and if you are not paying your statement balance every month, using a credit card gets extremely expensive. Carrying a $6,000 balance on a card for a year at a 26% APY will cost you north of $1,500… and that’s much less than you could expect to get from even the most generous credit card welcome bonus.
Getting the points
Card #1: Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
The Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is the core to this plan. Not only does it offer a welcome bonus of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $8,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening, but it increases the value of all of your Ultimate Rewards points by enabling you to redeem them for 1.25 cents each toward travel.
Why the card is a core card: When you transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to your Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, you can redeem them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards for 1.25 cents each. When it comes time to redeem your points, this is how you will most likely use them. An added perk, when you book your travel using this card (or the points from this card) you’ll also get baggage delay protection, lost luggage protection, and trip delay reimbursement coverage for free.
The card will give you three points per dollar when you use it for business-related categories including travel, shipping, advertising, and cable and phone services.
Finally, the card offers Chase’s excellent extended warranty protection, cell phone protection, and gives you one point per dollar on general purchases, plus bonuses in business categories. The card has a $95 annual fee.
Learn more and apply for the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $8,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening.
Card #1 Alternative: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Like the Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card unlocks the ability to redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards for 1.25 cents, so it can function as your core card. The card also gives you baggage delay protection, lost luggage protection, and trip delay reimbursement coverage when you book travel with the card.
Why you might want to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card instead: For families, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a better choice to use for ongoing spending than the Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. While the Ink card offers rewards in categories that are useful for small business owners, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® gives you bonus points for spending in categories where you’re probably spending more. In addition to one point per dollar on all purchases, you’ll get two points per dollar on your travel purchases. Plus, you’ll get three points per dollar on dining purchases, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases.
The downside to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is that the card does not currently offer as large of a welcome bonus as the Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card.
Get the card_name: Welcome bonus
Our take on the welcome bonuses: This is the standard bonus offered on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Chase occasionally increases this offer, so it might be worthwhile to wait if you don’t need this card immediately. An offer with slightly more points is often available in-branch and some people are seeing an additional targeted offer via mail.
The link above is our affiliate link. We always show you the best offer, and this is the best offer we know about on this card.
Annual fee: $0
Rewards: 5% travel through Chase; 3% dining; 3% drugstore; 1.5% all other purchases
Card #2 and Card #3: Chase Ink Business Cards with no annual fee
The Chase Ink Business Unlimited and Chase Ink Business Cash are two cards that you can pick up with no annual fee. Both cards offer a welcome bonus of “$750 cash back” after spending $6,000 on purchases.
While the bonus on both cards is marketed as cash back, you get the bonus as Ultimate Rewards points. Those points can be transferred to your other. In this case, you’ll want to eventually plan to transfer your points to your Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card or your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card when you book your travel.
The Chase Ink Business Unlimited can be a good card to use for general spending, as it earns 1.5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on all purchases.
The Ink Business Cash offers bonus points for spending in business-relevant categories, including office supply stores, at gas stations, and at restaurants. The card earns one point per dollar on all general purchases.
A few notes on applying for Chase credit cards
A few notes on applying for Chase cards
- Chase generally won’t approve you if your credit report is showing 5 or more new credit card accounts opened in the last 24 months. This rule is knows as the 5/24 rule. If you’re unsure if you are “under 5/24” you should check your 5/24 status before applying for a Chase card. Note that recently this rule seems to have softened. See our coverage about Chase 5/24 for more.
- How often you can earn a welcome bonus on a Chase card varies by card family.
- Most cards allow you to earn a welcome bonus if it has been at least 24 months since your last received a welcome bonus on the same card.
- Chase Sapphire-branded cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can only earn a welcome bonus once every 48 months.
- You can only hold one Chase Sapphire-branded card at a time.
- If you apply for a Chase card and the bank offers a higher bonus within 90 days, you can send Chase a secure message or call them to have your welcome offer matched.
- Chase business cards do not report to personal credit reports as long as they are current.
Using the points
Once you’ve accumulated enough Chase Ultimate Rewards points through welcome bonuses and spending, you’ll want to use them to book your travel. After all, that’s the whole point of collecting the points. Here’s how you’ll use your points.
Redemptions for flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards
As long as you hold a premium Ultimate Rewards credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Ink Business Preferred, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to your premium card, book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and get more value from your points. 270,000 Ultimate Rewards points are worth $2,700 of cash back. But, because they can be redeemed for 1.25 cents each through Chase Ultimate Rewards, they are worth $3,375 when redeemed for travel through the bank’s portal. (If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, they are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed this way, but that card has a $550 annual fee.)
You can book hotels, flights, car rentals, excursions, or cruises through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. And the process is similar to booking travel through an online travel portal like Expedia or through an airline website.
If you wanted to go to Paris in the springtime, here’s what booking a flight through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal looks like:
And here’s the same flight, found on Google Flights. The flight is marketed by both Delta and Air France so it shows up slightly differently on Chase and Google. But the price and actual flight are the same. (Look at the departure times.)
In both cases, you can see the options that are available so you can find a flight that makes sense for you. For most simple one-way and round-trip flights, the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal will show you all of the options available on an Expedia or Google Flights.
Point transfers to transfer partners
A premium Ultimate Rewards credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred also lets you transfer your points to airline and hotel transfer partners. Often these types of point transfers can be the key to unlocking even more value from your points. But these options also add quite a bit of complexity.
In this article, I’m not going to go too deep into this. You can get plenty of value from your points without ever thinking about point transfers. But here are three options that don’t require a PhD in miles and points.
Transfers to United MileagePlus – A family of five can get to Europe and back in coach during most of the year for under 200,000 Ultimate Rewards points. If you want to see options available, just select “Book with miles” when searching for flights on United’s website.
Air France-KLM Flying Blue Promo Awards – Air France/KLM Flying Blue releases monthly promo awards that can provide incredible value when flying to Europe. For 270,000 Ultimate Rewards points, it’s very possible to fly two people to Europe and back in business class. Or to fly a family of five to Europe and back in coach. And with a bit of luck and the right award, you might even be able to take the coach trip twice. Check out our monthly article about Air France/KLM Flying Blue releases monthly promo awards for more details on what might be available and how to book.
Transfers to World of Hyatt – Your Ultimate Rewards points aren’t just good for flights. You can also use them to book hotel rooms through World of Hyatt. To search for hotel nights available with points, tick the box by “Use Points” when searching for hotels Hyatt’s website.
Cash back as a fall-back option
Not all credit card reward currencies can be easily redeemed for cash back. Chase Ultimate Rewards can always be redeemed for one cent each toward cash back awards like statement credits.
Even if your travel plans fall through, your 270,000 points can be redeemed for $2,700 of cash. That’s not a bad fall-back plan.
Frequently asked questions
You can get both cards, and this might make sense if you’re looking to earn a welcome bonus on each card. Keep in mind that you’ll be paying an annual fee on each card.
Yes! The Chase Freedom cards earn Ultimate Rewards points, which can be transferred to a premium Ultimate Rewards credit card.