If you had read my blog before you most likely came across many posts about my love for travel.
I discovered travel hacking in 2015 and have been hooked on optimizing my largest travel costs to travel more, for less.
In the last few years, I have gone on many trips that I wouldn’t have been able to afford (while in debt too). Due to the power of travel hacking, I was able to accomplish those trips for a fraction of the cost.
Check out a few of my favorite trip reports below:
Last September, I proposed to my (now) fiancee on a trip to San Francisco. In the previous six months, we have been planning and starting to pay for our wedding. I am still a little overwhelmed with the process and cost of everything.
The good news is that I have been saving for wedding expense for the last 18 months (via my Capital One 360* automatic savings plan). I have already had a pretty good chunk of money saved for the wedding. So I would say I am more prepared than most people in that regard.
The bad news is that I was a little naive about the cost of weddings. I initially thought that we would be able to spend < $10,000, but after understanding the cost of venues, churches, photographers, catering, DJs, Alcohol, wedding invites, etc, I found out the hard way I won’t meet that goal. We are doing a ton of research and doing our best to keep our costs low and only spending on the things we value. However, it’s looking like the cost will still be higher than expected when I started saving.
Travel Hacking Opportunity
With all of that being said, this period before my wedding is once and a lifetime opportunity for obtaining a ton of travel rewards. Only because I can’t think of a time in the future where we are planning to spend this amount of money, and the majority can be put on travel credit cards.
So instead of paying people in cash or check, I will funnel the wedding payments through travel credit cards to earn signup bonuses and travel rewards.
Let me explain our plan to get a free honeymoon trip, all from our wedding costs.
Planning for our Wedding Expenses
Since I have saved the majority of the projected wedding costs already (and continuing to save for the rest) my monthly cash flow won’t be affected. I could technically pay off the majority of the costs of the wedding today in cash, but that wouldn’t be the best move. Instead, my fiancee and I sat down and planned out our expenses, and when we were planning to pay for them.
To start out we wanted to lock down our most important items first.
In December we paid:
- 50% of the reception venue
- deposit on the wedding coordinator
That way we knew when and where we are getting married. Also, so we have an expert with local connections that could help advise us going forward (and to minimize stress on the day of).
My fiancee opened the Chase Ink Preferred business card* and I paid off these first wedding expenses and she received an 80k sign-up bonus + I received a 20k referral bonus (I already had the Ink Preferred card for housing expenses a few months before). To get the sign-up bonus of 80k chase ultimate rewards points, we had to meet the $5k minimum spend. The payment of the venue, wedding coordinator, plus Christmas gifts were enough to meet the $5k minimum spend quickly.
Together we earned 105k Chase Ultimate Rewards points so far with one card from Wedding expenses (80k sign up bonus, 20k referral bonus, 5k spend)
Related: Check out my podcast episode with Chris from Financially Well Off where I go into detail on why business credit cards great for those with side hustles. Here is another post from Kevin @financialpanther on the value of business cards
January/February: Photographer, and Church
For our next set of expenses, I opened up the Chase Ink Business Cash card in January to pay for our Photographer and Church.
- For the photographer we are paying in 3 payments – our first payment was $1,000.
- The Church was very pricey – $1800. The bad news for us was there were limited church options in the area that were a close drive to the reception venue. However, its a nice church and is a 5 min drive to the reception venue.
Between the church and photographer payment (plus some utility bills I changed to the new card), I was able to meet the minimum spend for the Business Cash card ($3k min spend). I earned 53k points from these two wedding expenses.
Points total together – 158k Chase Ultimate Rewards points
February/March: DJ, Photo-booth, Videographer, Alcohol, and Wedding Dress
In February my fiancee signed up for the United Explorer Business card, to pay for our next set of wedding expenses.
- We paid the DJ and Photobooth in full
- Put a deposit on the videographer
- bought about 25% of the needed alcohol needed for the wedding during a big sale at a local liquor store
- My fiancee is getting her dress later this month (March 2019)
We will be able to meet the $5k minimum spend once she buys her dress.
We ended up going for the United business card because we knew what our plans were for flying and all of our Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United. The 75k sign-up bonus was an all-time high bonus for that card, so the timing was right.
Points total together: 80k United (earned by the end of March), 158k Chase Ultimate Rewards or all together 238k when transferred to United for our flights.
Next Steps for Honeymoon Booking
So far we will earn almost ~240k points for travel by just paying for about 40% of our wedding costs thus far.
With that amount plus the amounts we already had in our Chase Ultimate Rewards accounts we will have enough points to book two business class seats from Houston to Bali, Indonesia, then from Bali to either Singapore or Thailand (free stopover via United) and then Singapore back to Houston. The flight tickets cost 180k United points each.
Our goal is to book our flights in April and then proceed to resume switching off opening cards when more wedding expenses are due.
So far my fiancee opened up two business cards, and I have opened up 1. I will get my next card in April to pay for Photographer payment 2, Wedding Invites/save the dates, Catering deposit. I will most likely continue with Chase Business cards for my next card (most likely Chase Ink Business Unlimited) then branch out to other cards depending on our accommodations for the trip and future travel plans.
We will most likely sign up for four travel cards each before the end of the year, which is a new card every three months. It’s more aggressive than our usual amount but not super crazy. By doing this in theory, we should receive at least 200k more points to use for travel. This amount will cover our hotel costs and most of the transportation and activities costs. My goal is only to have to pay for food and some miscellaneous expenses when we are on our trip.
If you have upcoming expenses to meet the minimum spend requirements and are responsible and can pay your cards off in full each month (and you love to travel) then opening up travel cards makes sense. If you stretch yourself thin and spend more than expected to meet minimum spend and you carry a balance on your cards month to month, it doesn’t make sense.
One question I always get is about ruining my credit score through travel hacking (aka opening up multiple travel credit cards per year). Our credit scores have remained high throughout the process of signing up for new cards (Fiancee: 815 Me: 790) – I have been opening cards for 4 years and my fiancee started 2 years ago.
The cool thing about business cards is that they don’t affect your credit score so you can sign up for more of them and cancel them when you are done. However, even when we were signing up for personal cards our credit scores remained high because our credit utilization was always low, we paid off our balances in full and avoided canceling personal cards to keep credit history longer.
If you’re new to travel hacking check out my post where I go into the basics: here
Also, if you’re interested, I have been doing travel hacking consults for about six months now and really enjoy it. By researching credit card and travel solutions for other people I have gained more insights into different reward programs and possibilities for cheaper/more efficient travel hacking. Check out my Travel Hacking Consult page for more details (it’s free).
- Debtfreeclimb 2020 Update - October 23, 2020
- DebtFreeClimb v2- Our Debt Freedom Progress Report - June 17, 2020
- Trip Report: Our Honeymoon (not on a budget) - February 7, 2020