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These Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses Will Pay For Your Next Family Vacation

Elizabeth Aldrich

Travel credit cards can offer great value, and you don’t have to be a big spender to get it.

Thanks to the sign-up bonuses offered by many major credit cards, it’s possible to score lots of free travel using travel credit cards. Target a few high value sign-up bonuses, and you could end up with a free family vacation.

What to know before applying

In order to get enough points for flights and a hotel for a family of four, you’ll need to apply for four different travel credit cards over the course of a year. You want to plan out your rewards credit card applications strategically. While the order can be moved around, you need to space out your applications by at least 3-4 months.

It’s also important to make sure you meet all of the following requirements before applying to this many credit cards:

  • You must have a credit score of 720 or above.
  • You can’t be planning to finance a major purchase in the next two years, such as a mortgage or auto loan.
  • You have to spend at least $1,000 per month in order to get the sign-up bonuses. There are some creative ways to hit minimum spend requirements.
  • You can’t have applied for a lot of credit cards in the past two years. Ideally, you should have applied for no more than 3 in the past 24 months.
  • You have to pay your balance off in full each month to avoid interest charges.

Finally, two of these credit cards are business credit cards. You don’t have to own a company or have an EIN (employer identification number) to get a business credit card, but you do need to have something that you do on the side to make money. This could be anything from selling items on eBay or Craigslist to an Etsy shop to tutoring or teaching piano lessons. If you sell any goods or services, even if your annual profit is very lower, you are considered a sole proprietor and can apply for a business credit card.

Here are some of the best credit cards to help you pay for your next vacation.

Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card: 100,000 points

This credit card offers 100,000 bonus points that can be spent at any Marriott, SPG, or Ritz-Carlton hotel. It also offers one free night every year on your card anniversary worth up to 35,000 points. If you apply to this card first, you’ll earn your free night by the time you plan your vacation.

  • Minimum spend requirement: $5,000 in the first 3 months
  • Total rewards earned: 100,000 Marriott Rewards points + one free night
  • Annual fee: $95

Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: 75,000 points

This card offers 75,000 bonus and a free night on your card anniversary. It is a business credit card, but you don’t necessarily need to be a business owner to apply for a business credit card. Just make sure you have a product or service you sell, and be prepared to answer a few questions about how you plan to use the card.

  • Minimum spend requirement: $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Total rewards earned: 75,000 Marriott Rewards points + one free night
  • Annual fee: $99, waived the first year

Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: 100,000 points

This card has a high minimum spend requirement, so it’s a good idea to apply when you have a major purchase to make or plan to do holiday shopping. The sign-on bonus is 80,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points on most advertisements, but multiple accounts and even a page on the Chase website that suggest if you apply in-branch the sign-on bonus jumps up to 100,000 UR points.

  • Minimum spend requirement: $5,000 in the first 3 months
  • Total rewards earned: 100,000 UR points
  • Annual fee: $95

Chase Sapphire Reserve: 50,000 points

Don’t let the steep annual fee scare you away: this card pays for itself fairly quickly if you travel even a couple times per year. Apply for it last so you can take advantage of the $300 annual travel credit on your family vacation – use it for anything from Uber rides to baggage fees to rental cars.

You’ll get premium airport lounge access for you and your entire family when they travel with you, and you’ll even get reimbursed for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. Finally, you’ll get 50% more value out of your UR points, as Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can redeem UR points through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards redemption system for 1.5 cents per point instead of 1 cent per point. So while the sign-up bonus is lower on this card, it will make all the points you earn from it and the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card worth more.

  • Minimum spend requirement: $4,000 in 3 months
  • Total rewards earned: 50,000 UR points
  • Annual fee: $450

Redeeming the rewards

Within a month or two of completing the minimum spend for your final credit card, you should see the points show up in your account. Here’s what you’ve earned so far:

  • 175,000 Marriott Rewards points
  • 150,000 Ultimate Rewards points
  • 2 free nights in a Marriott property worth 35,000 points or fewer

On top of your two free nights, Marriott also has a 5th night free policy on all hotel award redemptions. This means that when you book five or more nights using your Marriott Rewards points, you automatically get the fifth night for free. Below you’ll find Marriott’s most recently released free night award chart.

With 175,000 Marriott Rewards points, two annual free nights, and the 5th night free policy, you can easily book an entire week’s stay at a very nice property. You could also use 5,000-10,000 points per night to upgrade your room to a suite with a sofa bed for the kids. If you really want to travel in style, 175,000 points is even enough to get you five free nights at the most expensive Marriott properties in the world. You wouldn’t be able to use your two anniversary nights there, but you could cancel those two cards before the year is up and save yourself $184 in annual fees.

You also have quite a few options for redemption when it comes to your 150,000 UR points, which will be used to get you free airline flights. When booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards points as cash system, you get a value of 1.5 cents per point, totaling $2,250 to put toward your flights. With roundtrip domestic flights in the United States averaging $347.33 by the end of 2017, you could easily book a domestic flight for four. You could probably get four flights to the Caribbean or Mexico with that much, and possibly even Europe if you keep your eyes peeled for flight deals. Any leftover points can be used toward other travel expenses such as extra hotel nights or a rental car.

Total value earned: $4,000 without two free anniversary nights, $4,300 with two free anniversary nights

Total money spent: $340 without two free anniversary nights, $534 with two free anniversary nights.

Total savings: $3,660-$3,766

These numbers include the $300 travel credit you’ll get from your Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. They don’t include the extra perks you get from these cards, like hotel room upgrades, Global Entry, and airport lounge access.

That’s some pretty big savings. Enjoy your dream vacation in style…and almost for free.

About the author

Elizabeth Aldrich

Elizabeth Aldrich

Elizabeth is a freelance writer and “digital nomad” specializing in small business, entrepreneurship, career advice, real estate, travel, arts, and culture. She’s written for outlets as varied as Rawckus Music and Arts Magazine, Itcher Entertainment, Sweden Tips, Houzz, Hometalk, JobHero, Tico Times, and Eugene Weekly. Thanks to a three-year stint in a travel job, a knack for mining great deals, and credit card churning, she has not paid for a single flight since 2012, despite her constant travels. You can find her on Twitter @LizzieAldrich or her website, www.elizabethaldrich.com.

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