January 22, 2022

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How To Take A Free Vacation Using Three Credit Cards

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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 up to 100,000 bonus points: 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open, plus 50,000 more bonus points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months. With this welcome offer, you can easily book two round-trip tickets from California to Hawaii, with miles leftover.

You’ll also be well on your way to earning the highly coveted Southwest Companion Pass. This status level gives you the opportunity to have someone travel with you for free on all Southwest flights (after taxes and fees).

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

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

  • Rewards

    Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases, 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare; 2X points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming; 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn up to 100,000 bonus points: 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 50,000 more bonus points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    15.99% to 22.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fees

  • Credit needed

The 100k bonus offer from this Southwest card is the best we’ve ever seen.

Credit card #2: Hotel credit card

To cover your hotel costs, consider signing up for a hotel credit card like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card. With this card, you can earn three free night awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from your account opening. Plus, new cardholders can earn 10X total points on up to $2,500 in combined purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants within your first six months from your account opening.

This is a unique welcome offer since you don’t need to worry about earning enough points to cover the cost of your stay, but once you reach the minimum spend requirement, you’ll already be able to book three free nights. So, if Hawaii is on your bucket list, you can find hotels like the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani or The Laylow Hotel that fall under 50,000 points per night.

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

  • Rewards

    Earn up to 17X total points for every $1 spent at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy® hotels and 2X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 3 free nights (each valued up to 50,000 points) after qualifying purchases plus, 10X total points on eligible purchases in select categories

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    15.99% to 22.99% 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

  • Credit needed

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

  • 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, 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 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

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    15.99% to 22.99% 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

  • Credit needed

Other card benefits to enhance your travel experience

Best welcome offers available

American Express® Gold Card

On the American Express secure site

  • Rewards

    4X Membership Rewards® points on restaurants (including takeout and delivery, plus, Uber Eats purchases) 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

    60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

  • Rewards

    Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on drugstore purchases and on dining (including takeout and eligible delivery services), and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

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

  • Regular APR

    14.99% to 24.74% 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

    3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars

  • Credit needed

The Platinum Card® from American Express

On the American Express secure site

  • Rewards

    Earn 10X points on eligible purchases on the card at restaurants worldwide and when you shop small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of card membership, 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (starting January 1, 2021, this applies on up to $500,000 per calendar year), 5X points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    100,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $6,000 within 6 months of account opening

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit Needed

Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card

  • Rewards

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

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

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

  • Regular APR

    13.24% to 19.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

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

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Bottom line

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.