Top 5 Travel Rewards Cards To Help Your Wallet: How to Get Free Flights, Perks, and Points For Travel
If you’re like me, you want to enjoy traveling as much as possible all while maintaining a certain level of comfort. Some folks are ok with “roughing it” to save money, and I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to refill plastic water bottles to save money while traveling. You can have your cake and eat it too…
Folks that understand what rewards travel is, understand what those rewards can buy you things like free food onboard, Free travel accessories, and even free airline tickets. Yes you heard me right, even free whole airline tickets can be had when using the right cards. This is merely only the tip of the iceberg but I’ve included some of my personal cards that I’ve used to get free flights, free points, money back and more.
Number 1: The Chase Freedom Card By Chase
This card is a great first time card user’s card because it offers cash back for spending very little on it. They also give you, depending on your credit, a certain number of months with no interest. It also gives you 5% back on select categories that Chase designates each quarter, so total you can get as much as $300 for using this card in a given year.
In my humble opinion this card is a great way for a new traveler to earn enough cash back in a year to fully offset the cost of an airline ticket to somewhere domestic or even as far reaching as the Caribbean (if you are US based) without having to go into any debt so long as you pay off the card each billing cycle.
With a minimum spending of $500 to earn the first $150 this is a great way to earn a little extra change towards travel in your first year, and without any fees or 0% interest for the first 15 months I think it’s a no brainer.
Number 2: The Southwest Rapid Rewards Also By Chase
One of my favorite reasons to fly southwest is the crew. They crew would be reason enough to fly with southwest. The crew love what they do, and they have a lot of fun at work. So much so that it is infectious. Beyond the fun loving people that work for southwest, I also like their rewards program, when you spend $1,000 in your first 3 months you get 40,000 points you can use towards no black out date flights (there is about a .017 rewards point redemption rate so this is about $680 in flight redemption – pretty good).
Also you get 2x points on all SW tickets, money spent at partner hotels, and partner car rentals, as well as no foreign fees, chip protection and fraud alert.
Oh and you also get 6,000 anniversary points each year you stay with SouthWest. The only con to this card is the $99 yearly fee but the free wifi when you qualify for their vip status makes this easily worth it, along with the priority boarding and what not. Learn more here.
Here’s what their flight map looks like:
Number 3: The Virgin America Visa Signature Card
I like this card because Virgin has one of the lowest costs of airline tickets in the industry, and this reflects in their points system too. For as little as 2,500 points you could be on a plane (domestically) and be seeing the country side. They also offer $150 off a companion pass, 10,000 bonus points when you spend $1000 in your first 3 months, 3x points spent with Virgin airways, and free checked bags for you and a guest.
So thought there may not be a huge upfront spending bonus, it ends up working out in your favor if you fly often and spend your money with virgin. Any and all purchases made with their flight team results in 3x points and this begins to stack up towards their low fair flights (points based).
If you fly short trips around the states often then this is the card you will want to look into, they fly mostly around the US on this card but check and see if the points carry over to their other airlines if you want like Virgin Atlantic. Learn more here.
Number 4: The United Mileage Plus Card
This is another one of my favorite cards. Though sometimes a little more expensive, United is one of my favorite major airlines because of their extensive network of flights. They literally fly to every continent but Antarctica, and it shows.
I honestly have a love hate with United because of their merger with Continental and the changes that the employees have had to deal with (having personally known a few flight attendants for 20+ years).
Though customer service isn’t what they are known for, the 30,000 bonus points on $1,000 in the first 3 months is a good enough reason to get me back in their seats.
Beyond that, they also offer 20% off inflight purchases, 1st bag flies for free, no foreign transaction fees, and 2 united club tickets a year (lounge service!). Learn more here.
Number 5: The JetBlue Plus Card
Mostly flying out of Boston and the North East, jet blue is another up and comer in the airline business.
They have a lot of flights going across the united states, rewards bonus points for loyalty, and they have flights down to the Caribbean, with 1 or 2 flights to south america, it’s definitely worth checking out.
This is also the only airlines rewards card I found with 0% for 12 months and all the added perks to boot.
I like this card for it’s 30,000 bonus points with $1,000 spend, the 6x points you get for buying tickets and inflight purchases (which you also get 50% off inflight purchases) and the 1st bag flying fo free. Learn more here.
Alaska Airlines Visa – $75 a year, 30k bonus points, 3x on Alaska Air purchases and merch, and the standard bag free, chip security. One special bonus is they have over 800 destinations around the world through partner airlines which I though pretty cool.
Discover it Miles – No fee, no bonus, but 1.5x for each $1 spent with 1st year matching of points. Spend 50k they match your points and you can redeem for cash and other rewards, after the first year though it drops back to 1.5x
Rewards Club Select (IHG) – Awesome hotel rewards network you get points for spending on gas, groceries and restaurants at home and you get 5x points when staying within their hotel network. Only downside is that the terms and conditions are a freaking novel… read about it here
Some final Thoughts…
I never recommend getting into debt; however, strategic spending on one for normal expenses (gas, groceries, car payment, rent) and then paying off your card balance each month is one of the best ways to earn free flights and rewards.
I wouldn’t recommend getting a travel credit card if I have a lot of outstanding debt; however, for those who pay off their cards each month and operate on a cash basis it’s nice to get a little reward for your spending every now and then such as free flights, hotels, car rentals and cash back.
What about you, how do you use travel rewards programs (or don’t) to travel around the world? Let us know in the comments below.