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Credit Cards

Here’s how you can take a free vacation using rewards you earn with three credit cards

Welcome bonuses are an easy way to earn a lot of credit card points. Here's advice on how to use those rewards to book your next vacation.

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While it may seem like an uphill battle to earn enough rewards points or miles for a vacation, there are several travel credit cards available right now offering big welcome bonuses that can significantly cut the cost of your next adventure. By earning these reward windfalls, you won't need to wait years to accrue enough points for a trip.

Select details how you can get your next vacation for free by using this simple strategy with three credit cards.

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How to earn a free vacation using three credit cards

Credit card companies incentivize people to sign up for new cards by offering a generous welcome bonus. When you sign-up for a rewards credit card, you can earn anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 points (sometimes more) once you meet a certain spend threshold (usually between $500 and $10,000) within a certain time frame (usually a few months, sometimes longer). And if you're able to meet these requirements, you can earn a significant amount of rewards.

Soon after you hit the spending threshold for the card, your points will post to your rewards account to be redeemed for free travel.

By signing up for three credit cards, one for each category of travel expenses, it can help you earn enough rewards to book a nearly free trip.

Credit card #1: Airline credit card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is a great airline credit card to earn Southwest miles. This card is a solid choice for someone who mainly books domestic travel and prefers to check their bag when they fly.

When you sign up for this card, you can earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.

The annual fee for Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is $69.

Credit card #2: Hotel credit card

To earn points to help cover your hotel costs, consider signing up for a hotel credit card like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card. New cardholders can currently earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Plus, earn 3X points per $1 on the first $6,000 spent in combined purchases each year on grocery stores, gas stations and dining — and earn 1 Elite Night Credit towards Elite Status for every $5,000 you spend.

And if you decide to keep the card long term, you'll receive a Free Night Award every card anniversary, up to 35,000 points. For frequent travelers, that kind of perk can help offset the $95 annual fee.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card

On Chase’s secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 3X points per $1 on the first $6,000 spent in combined purchases each year on grocery stores, gas stations, and dining; 1 Elite Night Credit towards Elite Status for every $5,000 spent; earn up to 17X total points per $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy® with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Card, and 2X points for every $1 spent on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after qualifying purchases.

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    18.99% - 25.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

Credit card #3: Travel credit card

Of course, there are more expenses than simply airfare and hotels on a vacation. If you plan on dining out, renting a car, using a rideshare service to and from the airport or purchasing fun activities, a general travel rewards credit card can come in handy.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is offering new cardholders the chance to earn 60,000 bonus points after they spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. These points are worth $750 in travel if you redeem them through the Chase travel portal.

Chase Ultimate Rewards® can be spent in a number of ways. You can transfer them to one of 14 different airline and hotel loyalty programs, redeem them directly in the Chase travel portal or use the Pay Yourself Back feature. You can also cash them out or purchase gift cards to major retailers, however, the redemptions values are lower with these options.

Both Southwest and Marriott are transfer partners, so you can transfer the points you earn with your Sapphire Preferred card to either program in case you need a few extra points to book a flight or hotel night.

But if your goal is to have a completely free trip, you can use the points you earn with this card for a statement credit at a one cent per point value to cover all your vacation expenses.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

On Chase’s secure site
  • Rewards

    $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining, 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    18.99% - 25.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

 

Other card benefits to enhance your travel experience

While the welcome offers can quickly cut down your out-of-pocket travel expenses, these cards also have helpful features to boost the quality of your trip. Here are a few benefits from each card to consider:

If you want a step up in benefits like expedited security with a TSA PreCheck/Global Entry fee waiver or airport lounge access, consider a premium travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Here are 3 reasons why paying with a credit card is safer than a debit card or cash.

Best welcome offers available

There are always valuable welcome offers available, but here are a few of our current favorites:

American Express® Gold Card

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    4X Membership Rewards® points at Restaurants (plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.) and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months of card membership

  • Annual fee

    $250

  • Intro APR

    Not applicable

  • Regular APR

    19.74%-26.74% Variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

 

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 1.5% on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back. That's 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 4.5% on dining and drugstores, and 3% on all other purchases.

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    17.99% - 26.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Intro fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that, either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year, 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, 1X points on all other eligible purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.

  • Annual fee

    $695

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit Needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn $900 bonus cash back after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 12 months from account opening on purchases; N/A for balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    16.24% - 22.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Good/Excellent

Terms apply.

Bottom line

Welcome offers are an excellent way to quickly earn a free vacation. However, it's never a good idea to spend more money just to earn credit card rewards. If you were to sign up for all three of these cards at once, you'd need to charge around $21,000 in order to meet all the minimum spend requirements. If that far exceeds your usual spending, take some time to strategize when you want to open the cards. And ask yourself a few easy questions to make sure it's a good idea to apply for a new card:

  • Do you have large upcoming expenses you can use to hit your minimum spend thresholds?
  • Is your credit score in the best shape possible?
  • Do you have a budget set in place for your annual fees?

Once you figure out those pieces, you can use this exact strategy to begin earning your way to a nearly free vacation.

Catch up on Select's in-depth coverage of personal financetech and toolswellness and more, and follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

For rates and fees for the American Express® Gold Card, click here.

For rates and fees for the The Platinum Card from Amex, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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