PARIS: The city of light and the city of love, the city of lots of money and expensive hotels.
I often get asked how I afford to travel so often? It's sometimes hard to explain. Its a very simple answer but seems difficult for people to comprehend. I think people assume I am made of money, my parents pay for everything, or I have tons of debt from travel. None of those are correct. I have a very low paying job if I'm being honest. I work full time in a entry level non profit museum world making less than 30K a year. My parents have never bought me a plane ticket ( I give them anxiety every time I leave the country) and I have ZERO debt other than student loans. I simply find travel an important, essential part of my life and I save my money for it. I also have a secret.... I've been taught the art of travel hacking credit cards.
Credit cards are seriously bad news for most people, how do you think those companies make so much money? What they don't want you to do is make payments on time, pay your balanced down to zero etc. If you do, its amazing the benefits you can reap. Here I will discuss how me and the fiancé have snagged a trip to France and Switzerland. This includes flights, lodging and rental car, something that would cost in excess of 5K for UNDER 650 dollars.
There is a direct flight from Cincinnati to Paris. It's the only international flight from that airport and its a really great way to get to Europe if you can snag it at a decent price. Seven 1/2 hours straight through with free booze & a smooth check in process.
Yearly Fee: $95, waved for the first year
The Booking: One of the coolest parts of the chase card is that you can transfer your chase points to airlines for airline points. It's an even exchange so you aren't losing anything. We opened a KLM air France account, transferred our points there, used the points to book a trip to France. The points covered almost both of our tickets, with just a few hundred dollars left over that we both split. Making our flights around $170 each cash.
For our hotel we put a plan in place several months before the trip. We LOVE using air bnb. It's my go to for international travel l & I'm going to be checking out its experience in the states this summer. We found tons of cool places throughout the south of France & throughout Switzerland but since we would be in Paris on our 3 year anniversary we really anted to make it special.
Card: Chase Hyatt Credit Card
Yearly Fee: $75
The points: If you open the card and spend 2K in the first 3 months you earn two FREE nights in ANY Hyatt hotel in the world. They have category 1-5 hotels and you can use the two free nights at any. I opened this card just before Christmas and we put every single charge on it. Every gift, every car payment, bill, everything. We hit the 2K, paid the card down to a zero balance & then called & booked our free nights.
The booking: Obviously we chose a category 5 and used in at The Park Hyatt Paris Vendome. This hotel is a 5 star with rooms starting at around 700 euros a night. Very swanky and it an incredible location. We were walking distance to every major site in paris and were inside a very well to do & beautiful area of Paris. We were surrounded by luxury shops an several other expensive hotels & it was a surreal experience. The process of booking was extremely easy; we just gave a call to the booking department on my credit card & they took care of everything. In the end we walked away with a bill of ZERO dollars and stayed two nights in an incredible hotel living the life of luxury. All because we spent what we normally would and put it on this card. After the trip I'll close the card since I most likely won't ever stay in anymore Hyatt hotels unless thy are free. After earning two free nights you get one free night a year for having the card but it wasn't worth it for us.
*We stayed a total of 3 nights in Paris & used air bnb to rent an adorable & tiny Parisian apartment just up the street from our hotel for 1 night.
The Rental Car:
A great thing about using a card that gives you rewards points redeemable for everything, not just miles means you can get things like hotels & rental cars with your points. These cards are usually catered towards avid travelers, like us!
The Card: Citi Prestige
Yearly Fee: $450 (holy cow, right? The benefits are insane though & if you travel frequently this is the card for you)
The Booking: You earn 50k in points for spending 5k in the first 3 months. This was a card that was more of my fiancésthan mine and he racked up points because of this bonus and having the card for a good amount of time. Its a lot of money to spend, and he didn't go to any extra lengths to do it. You'd be surprised how much you spend if you put literally every single bill on a card. Anyway the points you get can be redeemed for a lot. We used ours for a FREE rental car while in France. The points covered the entire cost of the rental :)
The rest of our reservations that we made were through air bnb. This was a day day trip, with two of those nights covered by our free stay at The Park Hyatt in Paris. For the remaining 7 nights paid $928. We split that evenly between us & each paid $464 each. Considering we had private apartments each time, were in Switzerland ( an extremely expensive country) as well as Paris this was GREAT!
Breakdown of Charges:
If you think about this; fights to Europe are well over $1,000, A rental car averages a couple hundred a week, and hotels in touristy cities & expensive countries average $200 or more a night we saved a tremendous amount of money. The idea for most of our trips is to one day make them totally free. Each time we redeem miles then fly again we earn miles. If you play it right its a generous system.
Some really resourceful places when it comes to travel credit cards
The points Guy - https://thepointsguy.com/
Compare Credit Cards -https://www.nerdwallet.com/credit-cards
I hope this post was comprehensive and gave a little bit of a better insight on how to use credit cards to travel. Leave your comments and questions below! I'd love to help out fellow travelers (and aspiring ones)!