Travel tips

Which Travel Credit Cards are in My Wallet Right Now?

The Chase travel credit cards we use
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As I mentioned in Travel Credit Cards 101, which cards you get and how you use them will vary depending on how you travel. But to give you a specific example of how you can use these cards strategically to earn free trips, I wanted to share exactly what’s in my wallet right now. We also want you to know that we’re not earning commission for pushing these cards – we’re just super excited about helping people travel more!

Our different cards serve different purposes, all with the end goal of accruing as many points as possible on every purchase we make. Here’s how it breaks down for us:

Chase Sapphire Reserve
Airport lounge meal

We eat and drink for free in airport lounges with our Chase Sapphire Reserve card

What we use it for: Travel and dining (earning 3 points per dollar in these categories)
Sign up bonus: 50,000 points
Annual fee: $450. Yep, it’s a big one, but because of the way we travel it pays for itself almost immediately. The card gives us an annual travel credit of $300, which we’ll earn by February. It also gives us 50% more than other cards when we redeem the points through Chase. And it gets us into airport lounges for free so we’re not paying for food and drinks. We also use this card exclusively when traveling abroad because it has no foreign transaction fees.

Because we travel enough to take advantage of those and other bonus perks, this card more than pays for itself. If you’re a less frequent traveler, the Chase Sapphire Preferred might be more your style.

Chase Ink Business Cash

What we use it for: Cell phone, cable/internet bills and office supply stores (5 points per dollar) and gas (2 points per dollar). We’ve set this card up to auto-pay our T-mobile and Comcast bills so we don’t even have to think about it.
Signup bonus: 30,000 points
Annual fee: None

Chase Freedom

What we use it for: At the moment, groceries. This card offers 5 points per dollar in certain categories that rotate each quarter. For April through June of this year, the bonus category was grocery stores, so we made sure to use it for every grocery shopping trip.

The bonus is only good for up to $1500 in spending, which we hadn’t quite reached by the time the category was about to change. Solution? We bought a grocery store gift card to reach the $1500 max, so we know we’ll earn the most points possible. If we max out the bonus category each quarter, we’ll earn 30,000 points per year.
Signup bonus: 15,000 points
Annual fee: None

Chase Freedom Unlimited

What we use it for: Everything that doesn’t fall into one of the above-mentioned categories (1.5 points per dollar on all purchases)
Signup bonus: 15,000 points
Annual fee: None

Capital One Quicksilver

While technically I still have this card, it actually isn’t in my wallet. Since it’s my oldest credit line and doesn’t have an annual fee, I maintain the account as a boon to my credit score. But I never use it because I can earn way more points with other cards – so it just sits in a drawer and does the simple job of keeping my credit history long!

Putting it All Together
Flying first class

You can also use your points to upgrade to first class!

Once we’re ready to book travel, we transfer the points we’ve accrued from each of these cards into our Chase Sapphire Reserve account. This is the one that offers us 50% more than other cards when it comes to redeeming points for travel. Then we search for the flights or hotels we want through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Portal, and boom – free trips!

If this all sounds complicated to you, that’s because it is! I even label my cards so I know for sure which ones to use for which purchases. But it’s definitely worth it.

If we put all of our regular expenses on the right cards and only took one trip per year (though we usually travel and earn much more), we’d receive about $1,300 in free travel every year!

Assuming we sign up for a new card annually (which we’ll likely cancel after using the bonus), we’d earn an extra 50,000 bonus points (more or less depending on the card). That’s an extra $750 in travel!

So while it takes a bit of organization to keep this all working smoothly, it absolutely pays off in the long run. Do keep in mind that we didn’t apply for all of these credit cards at once! That wouldn’t be great for our credit score, plus Chase limits new credit card applications to 5 per person in a 2-year period. Sometimes we get around that by simply upgrading or downgrading to a different card rather than opening a new one, or by switching off which one of us is applying for new cards.

Hope that helps to give you a more specific idea of how to play the travel credit cards game! Remember that this is the strategy that works best for us, but it’s only an example. If you only travel once a year or are loyal to a certain airline, your approach might look quite different from ours.

Do you have a different scheme that works for you? Leave us a comment, we’d love to hear about it! And as always, give us a shout if you have questions. Happy travels!


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1 Comment

  • Reply Travel Credit Cards 101, or How to See the World for (Almost) Free - Backpacks And Bandaids October 15, 2017 at 10:22 am

    […] more specifics on how we do this, check out which travel credit cards are in our wallet right now. If you have questions about how to make this work for you, drop us a line at […]

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