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Last October, we jumped into travel rewards and we benefited greatly! We continue to follow our plan laid out in October of 2018, with modifications here and there. This article is a review of what our plan looked like at the start, a breakdown of the steps we have taken today, the travel redeemed, and a look at how our credit score was affected due to travel rewards.
First, let’s look at the plan that we created in October of 2018, affectionately called the Chase Gauntlet by Jonathan at ChooseFI.
As I mentioned in my last travel rewards update, we modified this plan to earn the companion pass by the end of last December. We have also modified and are trying to attack our goal of getting free stays at hotels for trips in June, September and October. Below is this modified plan showing the exact steps that we have taken to date.
Instead of going for the Chase Ink card for my wife, we jumped to an IHG rewards card. I did this because I was a little skeptical to open a business card for my wife, when she doesn’t have a business. I had planned on opening with the Summit of Coin name as her business also, but I wasn’t for sure. Therefore, I jumped to a hotel rewards card.
We choose IHG, because the rewards can be used for a hotel that we will be staying at in October for a wedding. On my initial plan, I had planned on using Hyatt. The next card we will go for is the World of Hyatt rewards card. Based on the research done by Jonathan at ChooseFI, Hyatt has some of the best redemptions.
According to my last article from January, we saved $2,271 on travel by using rewards redemptions. We continued to use our stockpile of points to pay for upcoming travel during the rest of the year. We used the points earned from Chase Sapphire and Chase Ink Business Card.
Redemption #1: $501.34 Savings
Resort stay at the Secret’s Wild Orchid in Jamaica. I am going there, because my cousin will be getting married there in November. Because it is a resort, they charge per person. So, this rewards redemption will not be the same for anyone visiting as a couple. We have decided that my wife will stay home, while I travel to Jamaica for the wedding.
I will be staying two nights. These two nights would cost $501.34. However, I used 40,107 points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to pay for the entire stay. Yes, this means that I will be staying at an all-inclusive resort for $0!
To book this room, I used the chase ultimate rewards portal. It was easy, because I searched for the resort. The portal found the resort and showed me the price. I booked through the portal and paid nothing! The redemption was worth 1.25 cents per point redemption (most cash-back cards 1 cent per point).
Redemption #2: $1,094.40 Savings
As I mentioned earlier, we traveled to Branson, MO for my aunt’s 50th birthday party. We couldn’t decide on flying or driving, but eventually decided to fly and booked this flight a couple weeks from the weekend trip to Branson. Despite waiting so long, the price for the flight was not terrible.
Our flights would have costs $376 per person. For three people that costs would be $1,128. However, we did not save $1,128, because using points does not keep you from paying the September 11 fee of $11.20 round trip. Therefore, 1,128-33.60 = total savings of $1,094.40.
To book this flight through Southwest, I transferred points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest Rapid Rewards. I then used 50,408 points to pay for both my daughter and myself. This redemption equaled up 2.17 cents per point in redemption value. This is a good redemption value for southwest, which was aided by the fact that my wife received the companion pass.
Redemption #3: $1,022.40 Savings
We will be traveling to Nebraska in June/July to celebrate the 4th over the summer. We had initially decided to drive, but an unexpected event caused us to shorten the trip. With the shorter trip, we decided to fly. Once again, I used my Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to transfer to Southwest Rapid rewards. We were able to book the entire trip with points.
Our flights would have cost us $352 per person. For three people that cost would have been $1,056. By using points, we still had to pay $33.60 for the September 11th fee. This leaves us a savings of $1,022.40.
To book this flight through Southwest, we used 44,750 points to book two round trip flights for my daughter and myself. We then used a companion pass to book a flight for my wife. This redemption equaled up to 2.28 cents per point in redemption value. This Is a little better than the redemption earned for the trip to Branson in April.
Redemption #4: $314.80
In September, I will be traveling to Washington DC for a conference. Since I had points available, I booked a round trip flight using points. This trip cost me 21,578 points and $11.20. However, I saved over $300, because the flight would have cost $326 round trip. This trip is a 1.51 cents per point redemption.
How much have we saved on travel since starting this journey in October of 2018?
$2,271 from the first article in January
$501.34 - Jamaica
$1,094.40 - Branson
$1,022.40 - Nebraska
$314.80 - Washington D.C.
Subtract out the Credit Card Annual Fees of $89 and $95
That’s a Grand Total of $5,019.94 saved since October 2018!
We would not have been able to make all of these trips over the course of 2019, but travel rewards has allowed us this opportunity. We got to spend some quality time with my aunt for her birthday, celebrate our anniversary, and watch my sister’s graduate from high school.
I am thankful that we were able to make these family experiences and memories. I am thankful that I found this out just in time for our crazy year of traveling and add in the bonus that we earned a companion pass for the entire year.
How has Travel Hacking affected my credit score?
Interestingly, I was worried that my credit score may go down, but the data so far has seen my credit score increase. Below is a list of my credit scores over the last year:
May 2018 - 787
June 2018 - 753
July 2018 - 756
August 2018 - 786
September 2018 - 792
November 2018 - 790
December 2018 - 802
January 2019 - 811
February 2019 - 803
March 2019 - 807
April 2019 - 807
I don’t think my credit score ever reached 800 or higher until after I started my attempt at travel hacking. My data has actually seen my credit score increase, from 787 in May of 2018 to 807 in April of 2019. Plus, we have seen the credit score stay above 800 since December of 2018.
So, I have seen my credit score increase and I have saved over $5,000 in travel over the course of 2019. I am fully on board with travel hacking. What are your thoughts? Is it worth it to you?