Points and Miles Strategies Aren't Just for Frequent Fliers

Talking with a friend the other day about using points to pay for a trip, he said to me that he'd give it more consideration if he traveled more. I was a bit taken aback, but then I realized this is probably a perspective a lot of people have. There’s a myth that travel cards and points/miles strategies are just for frequent fliers. That couldn’t be more wrong. Indeed, it might be easier to use points and miles to finance your travel if you’re only taking one trip a year! Here’s why.

The Myth

Let's start with an example. Roundtrip flights for two between ORD and MCO start at a total of 50,000 United Miles.

Among the best travel cards is the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which earns 3x points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1x points per dollar on everything else. These points are transferrable to United miles at a 1:1 ratio.

If about 1/4 of the money you put on your credit card is dining, you’d need to put $33,333 on that card before you earned enough points for your roundtrip flights. That's crazy! If you travel a ton then that 3x points on travel can really boost your earnings. Since most travel cards have boosted earning on travel, people think those cards, and the point strategies that rely on them, are only for frequent travelers. This couldn't be more wrong.

Earn 50,000 by Spending Only $4,000

The Chase Sapphire Preferred (the little brother of the Reserve) currently has a signup bonus where if you sign up for the card and spend $4,000 in the first three months, you'll get 50,000 bonus points. That bonus is already enough for your roundtrip flight!

Even more, using signup bonuses is somewhat better for people who travel infrequently than for frequent travelers. Most signup bonuses will only be given to an individual every two years. A couple who travels together could pay for one roundtrip flight each year just by alternating who signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Frequent fliers can do this too, but it won't cover all of their travel. Moreover, as you start to sign up for more cards in a short period, you run into all sorts of restrictions from the issuers that prevent you from getting new cards. The Sapphire Reserve is wrapping up it's 100,000 point signup offer. When that card was released, those who had spent years gaming the signup system by opening new cards had the hardest time taking advantage of Chase's amazing offer.

Want to learn more? We've got a new set of posts designed to introduce you to the world of travel hacking! Check them out!