009 | Travel Rewards: How To Travel The World For Almost Free (The Easy Way)

This is the Ultimate Guide to Travel the World for Nearly Free

  • If you really want to maximize your travel rewards check out ChooseFI's free travel rewards course.
  • Why Jonathan started with travel rewards:
  • Wife’s family in Zimbabwe: $6,000 in flights every two years
  • What is this travel rewards strategy all about?
  • Minimum spending requirement defined
  • Options to meet minimum spending requirement
  • Return on investment: instead of 1.5% rewards, you can earn upwards of 33%
  • Impact on credit score and Brad’s personal experience
  • Is this strategy right for you?
  • The Chase Gauntlet and why you want to focus on Chase cards first
  • Where to start? Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • How to earn the Southwest Companion Pass (and the value of the pass)
  • Business credit cards
  • Ultimate Rewards points and three ways to redeem them
  • Jonathan’s trip to Zimbabwe: Helping him save $6k in 5 minutes
  • How to search for flights at United’s website
  • If this strategy can take Jonathan to Zimbabwe, it can take you anywhere!
  • Other destinations with ‘sweet spot’ options: Costa Rica, Hawaii, Europe
  • If you want to take 1-2 nearly free vacations per year, this strategy is right for you

Links from the show:

Introducing Travel Rewards and the Chase Gauntlet


If you have a specific question about travel rewards, join our Private Facebook Group

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If you really want to maximize your travel rewards check out ChooseFI's free travel rewards course.

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29 thoughts on “009 | Travel Rewards: How To Travel The World For Almost Free (The Easy Way)”

  1. Hi Brad and Jonathan – thanks for the shout-out! I enjoyed listening to your conversation which reminded me of the fun times we all had at Camp Mustache SE in Florida. Just got back from a week in Kona, Hawaii with my sister and friends. We booked 6 round trip flights for free on Alaska Airlines (using British Airways Avios miles – transferred in from Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards) and 7 nights X 2 rooms at the Holiday Inn Express (points earned from the IHG credit card and very lucrative twice yearly promotions). Retail value of the trip was $3000+ for the flights and $3500 for the 2 rooms (unfortunately IHG has recently upped the points required at that hotel). The value of the fun and the memories we’ll have is worth so much more! Would love to chat with you on a future podcast – all the best.

  2. A lot of really good stuff here guys!
    Quick question.
    With the chase ultimate rewards points, if my spouse has a card and earns those points, will I be able to combine those ultimate rewards points into one account? Or do they have to stay separate?

    • Great question, and Brad may have some additional information on this. They will stay separate until you are ready to transfer to one of the partners, You only transfer them once you are ready to use them, because they can never go back to chase. But when transferring you should be able to combine. If you sign up on the form on our travel rewards page, we give you a copy of the spread sheet and the second part of that spread sheet gives you a list of all the transfer partners with the links to sign up (free). have fun!

  3. So much great information here! I have been anti-credit card for many years (I even froze my credit!) but you have just convinced me to unfreeze and try to get some of my trips for free. I’m having some trouble connecting the dots on moving from one card to the next. Forgive me if the answers are obvious! Just want to be sure.

    1. When do I know it’s time to move onto the next card? As soon as the signup bonus goes through? Do I cancel the previous card before moving on to the next card?
    2. If you cancel a card, do the miles you’ve earned disappear?

    • Hey Kristin, Great questions & they are not obvious, I think to begin with you don’t need to have everything figured out.Everything we said is true, but its hard to go to far into the weeds and keep the episode under an hour. If you are following our advice probably the chase sapphire preferred is going to be the place to start because we consider those Chase Ultimate Rewards points the most valuable of all.


      • Hi Jonathan,
        I applied for the Chase Sapphire via your site, but was rejected because “lack of recent consumer finance company account information.” I’m assuming that because I’ve been anti-credit card so long (over 7 years) they don’t want to approve me. Do you have any advice? Thanks so much!

        • Love the question. The short answer is, Yes, you are right. The longer answer is more complicated. First I recommend you download credit karma for your smartphone or go online. They will give you a free credit score estimate in real time based on two of the 3 major credit reporting agencies. You really want to be over a 700 in order to guarantee an acceptance. There are 5 or 6 factors that they look at when determining score

          1.Payment history 35% of your score. A record of late payments on your current and past credit accounts will typically lower your score. Being consistent about paying on time can, over time, have a positive impact on your score.
          2. Length of credit history. In general, a longer credit history is better and can sometimes have a positive impact on your score. Credit history typically accounts for around 15% of your score. ( This is why you may want to have one card that you never use that doesn’t have an annual fee lying dormant in your sock drawer 🙂 I have a 10 year old visa through my bank that I never use but it nicely rounds out the length of my credit history and because its so old, it doesn’t count toward my 5/24
          3. New accounts. Opening multiple new accounts in a short period of time may negatively impact your score.
          4. Hard Inquiries/pulls small negative impact
          5. Utilization- Having a zero balance on your credit card helps positive impact

          Also, you can call a reconsideration line or go to the chase branch- Right now you are just a number, but the reconsideration line gives you a chance to say
          ” Hey I make $60,000, and have no debt. I am considering using your service and I would like you to take a second look at my application”. I will also get Brad’s input on this and we will answer this on the podcast in the Friday Roundup episode 3. We are going to try to field one travel related question per week on that Friday segment and this is a great question

          • Thank you! That’s so helpful. I will walk right into a Chase branch and see if they’ll reconsider. My husband and I both have about 780 credit scores- that’s why I was so surprised to be rejected. You guys rock.

  4. We just found your podcast and are really enjoying it. I have checked out various travel hacking sites in the past and quickly got overwhelmed, but listening to you guys talk it out sounds much more achievable. My question is do the points earned, say with the chase sapphire card etc., expire after a certain amount of time or just when you “close” the card. Thanks!

    • Hey Sarah, We are going to read this question and answer it in an episode that drops this Friday (Friday Roundup 001), Thanks for your feedback and input and we are glad its helping

  5. Does Southwest still accept ultimate reward points towards the 110,000 points needed for the companion fair?

  6. Hey guys, great podcast!! I found ChooseFI about a week back and have been binging episodes since. Quick question: For these cards with annual fees (most of them), do you keep them around after you earn and use the points? I actually had a Sapphire Reserve card before and I don’t mind the annual fee as we use the $300 travel credit for E-Z Pass for my wife because she hits E-Z Pass so we essentially get $300 for the extra $150. ANYWAY, I wouldn’t be interested in keeping the other cards, as I wouldn’t use them. I use Freedom Unlimited or my daily card and transfer those rewards to my Sapphire to take advantage of the 1.5% redeem rate for travel. Do you guys keep these cards or downgrade them to a non-fee card?


  7. Hey guys we have 128k Chase points from our Reserve card and want to use them to take advantage of the cheap fares from DFW to Barcelona in October. What is the best way from me to use these points to get the most value for my trip? Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

  8. Brandon,

    Up to you on the annual fees – I have a Sapphire Reserve that I’m going to keep and pay the annual fee, which is really as you call it out – 150 vs. 450. Also have Ink Preferred and Sapphire Preferred – we are going to downgrade them to Ink Cash and Freedom. Those aren’t what are called “product changes”, so you get to carry your length of time the card is active, and skip the annual fee. You can’t change from, let’s say, a Sapphire Preferred to a United MileagePlus, as that is a product change. So – better to drop them down to a non-annual fee card than close them – if you keep closing them when you’re done with them, it will adversely affect your credit history after a while (your average account age will take a hit). Good luck!

  9. John – thanks for the answer! Good points. I’ll probably go for the Sapphire Preferred, and downgrade that to the Freedom. But I will need to have my wife apply as I already have both Freedom and Freedom Unlimited 🙂

  10. This was a great podcast. I was heavy into app-o-ramas and travel hacking 3-5 year ago. And then I had small children and life got hectic. I’m just starting to get low on points and I need to get back into it again. I’ve been overwhelmed by the Chase 5/24 rule. My old strategy clearly doesn’t work anymore. Thanks for the clarity!

    I just got approved for the ink preferred business. We are going to one card at a time method, alternating between myself and my husband. Excited to build up my point stash again!

  11. PS Please do more podcasts on travel hacking. I’d love to hear how Marla coordinates points trips. This could be a really cool way to level up extended family vacations.

    Jonathan, I’m interested in some more mechanics of how you trip plan, what destinations you like to go to, especially as your schedule becomes more flexible.

  12. Hey Brad & Jonathan!
    Is it okay to tweek the order of the gauntlet in order to maximize possible points? I just applied for the first Chase Sapphire Preferred, and should hit the qualifying purchases pretty quickly since I’m building a house. Then I was planning on opening one for my wife. I’m worried that there will be a 2 or 3 month gap in between the end of my wife’s Sapphire and December when I plan on opening Southwest cards for her. Should I open the Ink Business preferred for myself and hold onto it while she works on the the Southwest cards? Or should I wait until December and open her Southwest cards?

    • Hi Brian you can absolutely switch the order around to suit your purposes. I would pick from the list I provided when you are starting because the UR are so Valuable. I wouldn’t worry about the gap but it is critical, when pursuing the companion pass, that you hit the minimum spend in January(or feb,march,april,may). If you hit the minimum spend in December then you blow up the whole plan. Note that it is fine to open the card in December, just make sure that you complete the minimum spend for the two card sequence in January
      Hope that helps 🙂

  13. Hi Jonathan and Brad! It’s so awesome to have more than $2,000 in Chase travel rewards just from opening up one card each for my husband, daughter and myself, and putting our regular spending on them. I’m figuring out the best way to redeem them and the mechanics are a little cloudy for a newbie like me. It looks like United is the carrier we will use, and I’ve created a United MileagePlus account. You recommend only transferring the number of miles we’re going to need, but if the United redemption is a higher value than the Chase travel portal, how will I know how many miles to transfer before booking the tickets? Have listened to the travel hacks podcasts and haven’t heard this addressed, so any tidbits on these mechanics would be super helpful!

  14. Fantastic! I”m a little late to the party, but had a question around this. So we get free flights since my husband works for the airlines (we fly standby and pay the taxes) so I’m wondering if these points also go to hotel stays, or is it just flights only? I have a Cap 1 card that I got recently for the 40K points and I’ve started using it for everything to rack up points. These can be used to book hotels also. I was just curious as to these other cards.

  15. Never really heard of/ thought about travel rewards I am going to listen to the podcast today (the only one I haven’t listened to yet) look into options, hopefully apply and start my journey today.

    I will apply via your site because I love the show and want it to keep going for a very long time. The podcast has been life changing for me. I heard of/ read mmm but never pursued because it was too extreme/ restrictive to me, your accepting approach has opened my mind to FI, even though I am naturally frugal I never thought about retiring before 55 (original random goal- figured I could swing it and healthcare too hard on the body to do when old. Now I hope to do it before 50 and travel slowly for at least a few years and now have the knowledge to do it. Thank you so much for all your hard work, you are definitely changing people’s life and I hope it comes back to you 10X

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