A while ago I wrote about 5 Beginner Travel Hacking Tips You Can Start NOWtravel hacking.  One thing for sure, is that most people agree credit cards play a huge role in travel hacking.  Because I don’t know everything about credit cards or using them to create a massive amount of points, I found someone who utilizes credit card point programs to show how you can use credit cards to help your family travel cheap or free.

Guest Author: Margie at DQ Travel

Would you like to know how a family of 4 (with two teachers as parents) travel around the US for cheap or free? Besides getting an online deal, the best way to do it, in my opinion, is to get a new credit card. However, if you are someone who does not pay their bills at the end of every month, you could find yourself in some financial trouble. I recommend this strategy to people who are responsible organizing their finances and do not carry balances on their current cards. What I am proposing does not require any extra amount of money. What it does require is that you change how you spend your money. 

use credit cards to help your family travel cheap

Here is my advice on using credit cards to help your family travel cheap or free

1. Get the Chase Sapphire Preferred Rewards Card

I vote this the best all-around travel card for many reasons:

A. The signup bonus is very nice. 

It is currently at 50,000 points (6/11/18) if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. 

50,000 points can get you at the very least 2 round-trips American Airlines tickets. It can likely get you more because they have a TRAVEL PORTAL which you can use on many airlines and it gives you 25% more, meaning you actually get $625 worth of travel that can be applied to any airline at any time. If you add an authorized user (husband or wife), and they use the card, you get another 5,000 points – So that’s really 55,000 after the first 3 months!


B. Think about your expenses.

You do not need to come up with a way to spend $4,000 in 3 months – Here are easy tips to make it:

– Is there any bill that you can link to a credit card? A cable, phone, internet, water, electricity bill? Maybe even a tuition payment? All of these are very easy to link and can gain many points without doing very much work except the online set up once. 

 – What do you use your credit cards for? You should be using them for practically everything! But of course, making sure you are paying the bills at the end of each month and not overspending. 

 – Do you have a big purchase coming up? use this card to help meet the minimum spending

 By doing those things, most people will be able to make the spending limit. Then after the 3 months, use the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and see all of the options you have! 

C. There is an annual fee for this card $95 (however it is not applied the first year).

I honestly have kept this card for 5 years because there is tremendous value in it. A HUGE advantage is that you can transfer points to other loyalty credit cards like Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Hyatt, Marriott, and IHG. 

D. You can transfer the points you accumulate to many other travel partners (huge benefit).

More on the ways to use this below.

2. Get a Marriott, Hyatt or IHG credit card

I did not do this at the same time as the Chase Sapphire card. I started with the Chase Sapphire first to "get my feet wet" and focus on changing spending from a debit card to only using a credit card for purchases. In about 6-9 months, once I felt comfortable, I applied for a Marriott credit card. Marriott was a brand I often stayed at anyways and had some points from their rewards program. There was a signup bonus and then every year anniversary you get a free night stay at a Category 1-5 (meaning not the ritzy ones but still good ones). 


Then a year later I applied for a Hyatt credit card, and 6 months after that, I applied for an IHG card. Each card has its own benefits, yet the reason I got all three cards in the span of a couple of years is due to how much you save. Each of these cards does have an annual fee associated with them, but they are worth it! Think about it... if you are committed to traveling each year and are going to travel anyways, you are going to spend $ on a hotel.  So, each annual fee is about $85 (all 3 have it waived the first year)... don't you spend more than $85 a night anyways for a hotel room? Basically, you are getting the hotel night that you were going to spend at least $150-200 for the $85 annual fee. See, isn't the annual fee worth it?


Each year I am getting 3 free nights of hotel (on the anniversary of the account opening) -  a Marriott night, a Hyatt night, and a Holiday Inn/Crowne Plaza night and I am paying ($85, $85, $50 respectively in annual fees). In addition to that great benefit, you can also transfer any Chase Sapphire points to any of these accounts. This means if you have 14,000 points in your Marriott account and a free night requires 15,000 points, you can very easily transfer 1,000 points to get your free night. This is one of my favorite and most used benefits of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Family Travel Resource Guide

3. Get an Airline travel card (American, Southwest, United) and use their sign-up bonus to get you where you want to go!

Option 1 

Most cards waive the annual fee for a year, and then in year 2 you can cancel it!

Option 2

If they do not waive it the first year, pay it because it is still a huge savings! Here is why... if the signup bonus is 50,000 points (that is usually two free tickets) then you are essentially paying an annual fee of about $80 for 2 plane tickets (very worth it to me). If you are taking your family, you are getting two tickets for free and then all you need to pay for are the other tickets (still a discount) and when you charge it to the card, you are getting plenty of points to use later. Even if you cancel the card after a year, you have still accumulated many points and if you have the Chase Sapphire card, and you booked on one of their airline partners like Southwest or United, you can transfer Chase points into your airline rewards account and get yourself closer to another free flight.


Hopefully, my strategy helps you understand the benefits of using travel credit cards to help your family vacation cheaper.

Author Bio: I’m Margie... a teacher turned family travel blogger. Since I got married 12 years ago, my husband introduced me to the joys of traveling. With our two kids, we have traveled around the country and our goal is visiting all 50 states before they graduate high school. I started the blog to keep a record of our travels and share with others how we travel so frequently on a budget and any other useful family vacation tips.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at you extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using the links. You can also see my full Disclosure and Terms and Conditions (you know, the real boring stuff).

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use credit cards to help your family travel cheap
How to Use Credit Cards to Help Your Family Travel Cheap or Free