That’s all it cost to fly my family of seven from Ohio to Florida..
In fact, this is the most I ever pay to fly my family within the U.S. How do I do it?
It’s easier than you might think.
Traveling for Nearly Free
One thing that concerned me about quitting my comfy corporate job to follow God’s call was the inability to take family vacations. My dad started a business while I was growing up. We traveled little. Having the opportunity to make memories with my kids during four weeks of paid vacation and plenty of income is a nice perk of employment. Could I afford to fly my family anywhere, without the stable income?
Just six months before leaving the corporate world, I discovered 10xTravel and the world of points and miles. The idea of earning flights via credit cards wasn’t new to me. In fact, when my wife brought up the idea of using rewards for flights, I waved her off. (Sorry, hun!) I assumed that there was no way you could beat a bank at its own marketing game.
I was wrong. Now all I pay for a plane ticket is the required $5.60 tax each way.
Every time you swipe your credit card, banks earn an “interchange fee”. This fee ranges from 1-3% of the purchase. The vendor pays the fee for the convenience of accepting credit cards at her establishment. Banks make A TON of money on credit card fee revenue. Therefore, competition for card swipes is fierce.
To entice applicants, card companies offer welcome bonuses. By systematically applying to and meeting the requirements of multiple cards each year, I redeem credit card points for anywhere between $6,000 and $10,000 worth of travel.
Can I Fly my Family for Free?
There are a few things you’ll need if you want to begin traveling on rewards points.
First, you’ll need a good credit score. We’ll define good as somewhere above 720. If you’re not there yet, paying down debt, opening a secured card or
Second, you’ll need to be out of high interest rate debt. Until you’ve completely retired all your credit card and other high interest debt, this strategy won’t work. Focus on paying down all high interest debt, control your spending and come back later to get started. By the way, taking this step will also help your credit score.
Lastly, you’ll need a solid budget and the discipline to not overspend. If you haven’t developed the discipline to not overspend with credit cards, don’t even start. Carrying credit card interest will eradicate any benefit you’ll receive from points and miles.
If you have these three components you’re ready to go.
If not, I bet I have an article that can help!
My Last Trip
I love flying Southwest with my family. Two free bags per person and preferential boarding for families make for an easy flight experience, even with five kids in tow. For my most recent trip, I opened two Southwest Business cards, The Southwest Premier Business Card and the Southwest Performance Business Card (If you don’t have a business, Southwest has personal cards too!) (referral links). After using the cards for our normal monthly purchases, we met the initial spending requirements. Just from these two cards we accumulated over 140,000 miles.
Our round-trip tickets to Florida were 16,336 points each. We bought six tickets (the baby flew on a lap) for 98,016. These tickets would normally cost around $250 a piece, saving our family $1500! And we still have points to spare for our next trip.
We rented a minivan that would have cost $750 for the week (all points from our cards with Chase) and stayed at the airport hotel after our arrival and before our departure for convenience (points and a free night certificate from our Hyatt cards). Our stay on the beach was generously arranged by a friend of a friend who let us rent his beach house at cost (less than a third of the going weekly rate).
Not accounting for the steeply discounted rental (which reminded me of God’s over the top provision), credit card reward points saved us nearly $3,000 this trip. All we did was buy groceries, gas and utilities with our credit cards like we normally do.
What’s the Catch to All this Free Travel?
Credit card companies make absolute “bank” (sorry– dad pun) on interchange fees, not to mention exorbitant interest on carried balances. Forking over a few thousand points to entice use of their card is well worth it to them, but there are a few traps you’ll need to avoid.
Annual fees- Yes, most of the cards worth carrying have annual fees. For instance, the Southwest cards I described above carry a $99 and a $199 annual fee, respectively. Even if you count the entire cost of the fees against this trip (which is unfair because there are still plenty of points left over), the total cost to get my entire family to Florida was the cost of one and a half plane tickets. If the cards don’t give me continual value after the first year, I’ll close them.
Credit Card Debt- The banks would love for you to carry credit card debt so they can charge you 20%+ interest. Don’t be fooled. If you don’t have your spending under control this strategy will just make your situation worse.
Overspending- Nothing beats not spending money. Buying something to get a “write-off”, receive credit card points, or earn a discount never tops not spending money in the first place. You must qualify for the credit card bonuses with only your normal spending patterns to make this strategy worth it. If you overspend to receive the travel, you’ll be worse off in the long run.
Traveling with my family gives me space to step back and view my life from a big picture perspective. I love exploring new places, making memories, and simply stopping to remember God is in control and the world will keep spinning without me.
With five kids and a decreased income, spending a bunch of money on flying my family anywhere isn’t in the cards for me. The world of points and miles allows me to enjoy time away, without the steep price tag.
If you’re interested in learning how you can fly your family using basic points and miles strategies, I’m hosting a free 30-minute webinar on how to travel on points and miles on Monday May 23rd at 7pm EST. If you can’t make that, check out the info at 10xTravel you’ll see plenty of my guest posts there.
Is it for everyone? Maybe not. But investing a little time to learn the ropes may save you thousands of dollars in travel in the future.