Best Ways to Get Travel Rewards

Traveling on points is equivalent to obtaining and using various travel rewards, whether they are called miles, rewards or points, or simply cash back that you can use anyway you want. In addition, to travel on points doesn’t mean that you pay for all your travel expenses with these points, but most of the times you would pay with your own money in addition to the points you get.
So, how do you get travel rewards so you can travel on points?

1. Get a Travel Credit Card

Getting a great travel credit card is the easiest and most beneficial way for earning lots of travel points.  Most travel credit cards have a great sign up bonus which you can use pretty soon after fulfilling a spending requirement.  So, with some planning you can greatly benefit from lots of travel rewards and be able to quickly travel on points at least for a good portion of your trip expenses.

2. Get an Airline Credit Card and A Frequent Flyer Account

Getting an airline credit card works best when you combine it with a travel rewards account that you keep with the specific airline itself where you accumulate frequent flyer miles as you travel with the airline.  Focusing all your frequent flyer miles and travel rewards on only one airline is one of the best way to travel on points.

3. Get a Hotel Credit Card and Hotel Rewards

Especially if you don’t travel much by air, focusing on earning free hotel stays is a great way to travel on points.  Again, the best way to get travel rewards is to combine your specific hotel travel account with a credit card from that hotel chain.  Large chains like Mariott and IHG have great travel credit cards and travel rewards which will allow you to travel on points for a large portion of your hotel expenses.

4. Get Rental Car Rewards

Many large rental car companies (Hertz and Avis) reward frequent travelers who rent with them.  Here however, rental car companies don’t offer a credit card with a large bonus.  So, the only way to earn rental car points is to rent a lot from one company.  Much harder, but doable especially if you rent a car a lot through your job or other means.

How Much Did I Travel on Points?

For the last 20+ years of international travel, I’ve been keeping track of how many travel rewards I have used over the years.  All these travel rewards have enabled me and my family to travel on points many times. Again, traveling on points doesn’t necessarily mean paying for the entire trip with travel rewards, but most of the times it means paying for a good portion of travel expenses with points. So, here we go…here’s my history of travel on points:

1. Capital One Venture Card

Capital One Venture card is my current favorite travel credit card, so I don’t have much history of traveling on points with it. But still, getting and using travel points from Capital One Venture card looks very promising.

  • 3 Free hotel nights on the Las Vegas Strip. This was the first travel award I used with Capital One Venture Card and it was very easy to get with their travel purchase eraser feature.  Few days after the lodging travel expense was posted to my account, I applied my accumulated travel miles to the entire hotel charge. So, I was able to completely travel on points right on the Las Vegas Strip.  Pretty cool.
  • 2 Free round trip ticket from Los Angeles to Europe. This was from using the Venture card for about a year and a half.
  • 4 day free car rental in California. We used this for a family trip to San Francisco when we had to rent a larger SUV to fit our extended family.
  • Miscellaneous travel expenses ($250). Pretty much any transaction that gets classified as “Rental Car”, “Other Travel” or “Airfaire” can be covered by your Capital One miles. I have been able to pay for a ride to my local airport ($100) as well as paying for checked baggage ($150) added after ticket purchase.

2. Chase Preferred Travel Credit Card

We’ve been using the Chase Preferred travel credit card for more than 5 years and we’ve enjoyed a great sign up bonus (which they don’t have any more) plus a greater travel points accrual rate (for dining out and travel).  It was pretty easy to book using travel points on the Chase Travel site.

  • 2 Free round trip tickets from Los Angeles to Europe. We were able to get this travel award one year after getting the credit card with a great sign up bonus.  We loved this card for many years.
  • 2 Free hotel nights in Laguna Beach California. I booked this trip for my wife’s birthday, through Chase Travel using some of the reward miles we have accrued.  It was easy to book and got a decent price.
  • 3 Free nights through AirbNb in Greece. We got statement credit for Airbnb charges through Chase’s Pay Yourself Back feature.
  • $1400 cash back redeemed as statement credit. Even though getting cash back it’s not the greatest way to use your Chase rewards, it was still a good way to get rewards from our travel points.

3. Delta SkyMiles with Delta Credit Card

Whenever we travel to Europe we try using Delta, KLM or Air France so we can accumulate miles in our Sky Miles accounts. Both myself and my wife have Delta Sky Miles accounts. Over the years we have also used an American Express Delta Sky Miles credit card tied to one of our accounts at a time. We signed up for the Delta travel credit card when we got the most travel points possible. When we used my wife’s Delta Sky Miles account, I transferred any miles I had in my account to hers so we could maximize all the possible travel points.

  • 3 free round trip tickets Los Angels to Hawaii. We used my wife’s Sky Miles account together with the American Express Sky Miles credit card in my wife’s name, with myself as an additional cardholder. This way we maximized the sign up bonus. We also transferred all my existing Sky Miles to my wife’s account. This one took a couple of years to accomplish but we were able to travel on points for the most part on an amazing trip to Oahu.
  • 4 free round trip tickets from Los Angeles to Portland. We repeated the strategy above after a couple of years, but with my Sky Miles account, this time concentrating all the miles from flights and credit card bonus on my Sky Miles account.
  • 2 free round trip tickets from Los Angeles to Minneapolis. We were able to travel on points completely on this trip, before Delta acquired Northwest Airlines. I forgot if we had a Northwest credit card as well, or just miles from our trips to Europe.

4. United Mileage Plus with United Credit Card

We combined both my miles and my wife’s Mileage Plus miles into my account and we coupled it with the great sign up bonus from the United Mileage Plus travel credit card.

  • 5 free hotel nights in Tuscany, Italy. We were able to almost completely travel on points for our hotel expenses during our trip to Tuscany in Italy. We spent 7 nights in Tuscany, but we paid for 5 hotel nights with points from my United Mileage Plus account.
  • 3 free round trip tickets from Los Angeles to Denver. We got this travel award after signing up for the United Mileage Plus Credit Card and combining all our remaining miles in my Mileage Plus account.

We stopped using the United Mileage Plus credit card after the last award as I didn’t like the low accrual rate for travel points.

5. Air France Flying Blue

  • 1 free round trip ticket Los Angeles to Europe. We got this travel award a while back when I was travelling a bit more for my job and both my wife and I had Air France Flying Blue accounts. We combined them both and we were able to have my mother in law travel on points completely from Europe to Los Angeles round trip.

After getting this award we stopped using our Air France/KLM Flying Blue accounts and we focused our travel points on our Delta Sky Miles accounts, as they are more flexible.

6. Hertz Gold Plus Rewards

Being able to get free car rental days requires lots of rentals. There’s no credit card to use for getting lots of travel points. We were fortunate that I had rented a lot through Hertz through a previous job and that’s how we accumulated this many points. However, this is not common.

  • 1 week free car rental in Germany. We traveled for a week throughout Bavaria in Germany and we were able to travel on points completely for the car rental expenses.
  • 1 week free car rental in Italy. This was also a great trip we made when our kids were smaller.  We we able to travel on points from Milan to Venice and back with our rental car paid for.
  • 1 week free car rental in Hawaii. A couple of years later we toured the island of Oahu and again we traveled on points with our rental car being paid for through Hertz Gold Plus rewards.