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Let me start by saying that I am not a travel hacker. I take the 80/20 approach to credit card rewards because I just don’t have the time or energy to open hundreds of cards and the maintenance that comes with that. So, what I am sharing here instead is the really simple approach that we have used that has yielded a lot of high-value points.
The truth is that credit card points are far from being equal. Some rewards programs are good, while others are terrible. For example, some might give you 50,000 points for signing up for a new card, but if those points only provide one night in a hotel, that isn’t too exciting. On the other hand, with other cards — like the one we used — you can use 50,000 points and stay for 10 nights in a pretty nice hotel.
The Winning Combination
So, what is the secret? Simply put, your best bet is to use Chase cards and use the points to stay at Hyatt hotels. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other good programs or hotels out there, but there is something magical about this combination. It’s what we’ve used to get more than 100 free hotel nights over the course of five years.
When you use Chase credit cards, you will be rewarded with Ultimate Rewards points. These points can be used to book hotels directly from their portal, but I have found in most cases they can actually go a lot further (nicer hotels for fewer points) if you transfer those points directly to the World of Hyatt rewards program (which you can easily do for free in the Ultimate Rewards portal).
Why Hyatt? Like I mentioned before, not all points are equal, and in the case of Hyatt, especially for the lower tier hotels, the points can go really far.
You are probably thinking, “Sure, the points go far, but I don’t want to stay in a run-down hotel just to use fewer points.” Trust me, my wife has a very high threshold for cleanliness in hotels, and she wouldn’t let us stay at a hotel that did not meet her standards. We have stayed at over 20 different Hyatt locations and almost all of the ones we have stayed at have been well kept up and clean — even the Hyatt Place locations (their lowest tier).
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I have yet to find another hotel chain that has been as consistent in this area as Hyatt. This is great news because it just makes this process so much easier. We stay at a Hyatt when traveling specifically because we know it will be nice and the points will go further.
How I Accumulate Points
Like I mentioned at the beginning, I don’t have the desire to open hundreds of credit cards to get the bonuses. But, that absolutely works, and if you do have the time, patience and discipline, you can get tons of rewards points by doing that.
Related: How I ‘Travel Hacked’ My Honeymoon
In our case, we have opted to just stick with the Chase Sapphire Preferred for our personal spending and the Chase Ink Business Preferred for our business purchases. Currently, each provides at least a 50K point signup bonus after you meet required spending, which is a great headstart on earning points.
Our strategy has been simply to put as much of our monthly spending on the cards as possible. By maximizing our credit card spending each month, the point accumulation goes so much faster than just sporadically using the cards.
There you have it. That is how we travel the U.S. for free — and you can, too.
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