In case you missed it, I took my family on a month long vacation to Costa Rica. Here is how I did it on the cheap.
One thing that you should take away from that post is that there are many strategies that you need to have in order to get great luxury affordable trips. Timeshares are great for many trips but they don't always work out perfectly for every trip.
Credit cards can have a bad reputation to some people while to others, they have become the key to free travel. The credit card landscape is highly competitive and very lucrative for the credit card issuers so they have been actively increasing sign-up bonuses, bonus categories for spend and various perks (status, lounge entry, Global Entry credits, travel credits, etc.) that go along with these cards.
In addition to maximizing my timeshare ownership, I am an avid points and miles collector and an avid credit card user. Between my wife and I, we have about 30 credit cards that are divided between personal cards and business cards. Despite the high amount of credit cards, we both have a mid-800 credit score which is superb.
As I mentioned in my post on Costa Rica, I utilized various different frequent flyer miles, points and credit card perks. I will not rehash everything that I used for that trip but I did want to provide my readers with some insight on what I currently carry for my credit cards. Despite having 30+ cards, there are only a few that remain in my wallet, either for day to day use or for some other perks associated with it.
Here is a list in no particular order:
The American Express Business Platinum card holds a space in my wallet for a few key reasons. The first is the access to the American Express Centurion Lounges. I have had access to various airport lounges in the past and most offer free drinks, some peanuts or pretzels and a quiet area to relax.
The American Express Centurion Lounges are completely the opposite. They offer fantastic food, free spa services, signature cocktails, and handpicked wines. These lounges are truly fantastic and with either an American Express Business Platinum or an American Express Personal Platinum, you can get free access for you and two additional people.
The second reason is the somewhat new redemption option. You can redeem you Membership Rewards points for flights and receive 50% back. They have since changed this so you know only receive 35% back. Despite this change, it can be very beneficial.
While many frequent flyer programs require frequent flyer availability or require a tremendous amount of miles to get to a destination, Membership Reward Points can be redeemed for 1 cent per point for flights. This value is quite bad and would have never redeemed my Membership Reward points for flights but with the 50% rebate, you now receive 2 cents per point or slightly less now with the change to a 35% rebate.
This option has opened up many more opportunities for free flights since the redemption with Membership Reward points are based on the cash value of the flights which can be much more reasonable than using frequent flyer miles. Many times, with the new 35-50% rebate, you can redeem Membership Rewards for far less than the amount of frequent flyer miles needed for the same trip.
Many times, I actually arrange for a layover in Dallas or some other airport that has a Centurion Lounge even if a non-stop is available. They are actually worth it! They are currently available in Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, New York (La Guardia), Miami, Seattle and San Francisco. I anticipate that more are in the works.
As I mentioned in my review, I used the Citibank Prestige for the 4th night free benefit. The card has some additional perks but I use it predominantly for the 4th night free benefit.
Basically, if you have the Citibank Prestige card, you can make a hotel reservation for 4 or more nights, and Citibank will provide you with a statement credit equal to one night based on the average cost of the 4 night stay.
This is a tremendous perk that can easily justify the $450 annual fee. I generally use this perk for 4 night hotel stays where timeshares simply do not work. There are some other reasonable perks for this card but for me, I use it simply for the 4th night free benefit.
The Chase Ink Business Preferred is a fairly new card for Chase and is offering a staggering 80,000 point sign up bonus. This 80,000 ultimate reward points can be redeemed for about $1000 in travel or if you have another one of Chase's card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, this 80,000 points equates into $1,200 in free travel.
I got this card mostly for the sign-up bonus. Ultimate Rewards are very valuable as they are flexible in that you can transfer points to travel partners such as Southwest, United and Hyatt or redeem them for 1.25 - 1.5 cents per point, depending on what card you have.
I jumped on getting this card for the 80,000 sign-up bonus. This can get you five free nights at the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo resort simply for signing-up. In case you missed it, here is my review on the resort which was absolutely terrific.
If you want to support me and the site, I can generate a referral for you to apply to this card. Please send me an e-mail and I will make sure to get you a application that would be sent directly by Chase.
The Amex EveryDay card is a decent card. They have the Amex EveryDay card and the Amex EveryDay preferred card. The Amex EveryDay does not have an annual fee and earns Membership Reward points. It is the first card that earns Membership Reward points without an annual fee.
This is important since you can keep this card active without paying a fee and maintain whatever else you earned on American Express premium cards without the possibility of losing those points when cancelling a card.
The American Express Business and Personal Platinum card are fantastic cards but each year when the $450 annual fee comes due, I definitely think long and hard on whether I am getting enough value out of the card to justify the fee.
The other benefit to the Amex EveryDay card is that you can receive 20% more Membership Reward points for each statement period that you have 20 or more transactions. 20% isn't much but it is decent bonus. The Amex EveryDay preferred has a similar feature but earns 50% more when you have 30 or more transactions.
I tend to use this card on any purchases that only earn 1 point. When I do use it, I make sure to make at least 20 purchases in the month in order to get the extra 20%.
I have tons of more cards than what I have gone through here, but many of them simply reside in my sock drawer until I go to the branded hotel, fly the particular airline or have some specific need based on the benefits of the card. I have cards that I keep simply for the free annual night, cards that get me free checked bags, or cards that get me hotel status simply by having it.
Like timeshares, credit cards do have a bad reputation but as many can attest to, if you understand the systems, you can really maximize their use.
As I mentioned in many other posts, timeshares can be great but if flights cost too much, you many not be able to use that timeshare week. Many times, cheap flights do not coincide with great timeshare weeks so you need to have hotel points to bridge the gap between reasonable flights and your timeshare week.
Credit cards and their lucrative sign-up bonuses are a great way to quickly get tons of points so that you have various tools available to assist in traveling well and affordably.
What cards do you carry? What cards should we all have / use?