Award Travel FAQs


As an award travel newbie, we recognize how hard it is to keep up with all the new vocabulary and rules. Hence, we give you our Award Travel FAQs that we hope you refer to often. We will give you a short explanation and link you to our articles that give you a more detailed explanation.  


What are the award travel basics for beginners?

In a nutshell, it is this:

  • Sign up for a credit card that offers points or miles after you spend a certain amount
  • Reach the minimum spend on that card within a designated time period to receive those bonus points or miles
  • Keep signing up for credit cards to earn points/miles
  • Use those points/miles for free or almost free travel


What is a minimum spend?

Minimum spend is the minimum amount you must put on a credit card to get your bonus. This differs from card to card. We advise putting ALL spending on a credit card, not using cash or debit cards. We also advise meeting your minimum spend through normal spending and not on a whim. Do NOT get into credit card debt by overspending! We also recommend opening up a new card when you have a big purchase coming up; this will make it a lot easier to hit that minimum spend.  


Grocery store aisle

Using a credit card at the grocery store is a smart way to meet minimum spending!



Won’t this hurt my credit score?

My credit score is higher than it was when I started. Alex, Jess, and I (and our spouses) all have credit scores over 800. This is definitely one of the award travel myths. Of all the FAQs, this might be the one we get the most! Here are the basics to remember—pay off your card in-full and on-time each month, and don’t close your oldest cards. People often wonder if their credit score will go down if they open and close a bunch of credit cards. In reality, we don’t close that many of our cards. We keep ones that don’t have an annual fee or if the benefits outweigh the annual fee. If we don’t find the benefits worth the fee, then we look to downgrade that card to a no-annual-fee version. If there is no downgrade option, then we cancel. You can learn more about whether or not you should cancel a card in this post.  


What type of rewards can I get?

There are primarily three types of rewards:

  • Airline miles that allow us to fly for free (excluding taxes and fees)
  • Hotel points that help us earn free hotel nights
  • Transferrable points from credit cards like Chase Ultimate Rewards or Capital One Venture Miles that you can redeem for flights or hotel nights. With many of these, you also have the option to book in a travel portal.


Should I pay an annual fee?

Some credit cards have an annual fee, and some don’t. This annual fee can range from about $75 – $550 or more. Usually, the annual fee offers benefits that offset the fee. For example, many hotel credit cards offer a free night every year when you renew the card and pay the annual fee. This more than makes up for the fee. I have stayed at hotels that would cost up to $900/night with a free hotel night certificate.  The first year (when you receive the sign-up bonus), the annual fee is always worth it. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred has a standard welcome offer of 60,000 points. This is worth a minimum of $750 towards travel. The card has an annual fee of $95, but I will happily pay $95 to get $750+ of travel!  


Two women with arms on side of pool

The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota was a great use for my free night certificate!



Should I cancel my credit card once I’ve met my minimum spend?

Definitely not! Wait until your annual fee posts for the second time and then cancel before it is due if you want to cancel (usually this means within 30 days of the second annual fee posting). You want to keep that card for 12 months so your welcome offer points aren’t clawed back. Also, check out if you will lose points if you cancel the card. If you will lose points, you can sometimes downgrade your card to a no-fee card to keep your points. Each year when your annual fee comes up, you have time to decide whether to keep, downgrade, or cancel your card.


How do I decide what credit cards I should get?

This can be a hard choice because there are so many great credit cards with great rewards. We try to keep you updated on the best bonuses, so join our newsletter to stay updated. If you don’t already have it, a great starter card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. If you do already have it, look into referring your spouse or partner for their own.


I’ve heard about something called the 5/24 rule. What is it?

The Chase 5/24 rule is an unofficial rule from Chase that says if you have opened five or more personal credit cards in the last 24 months, you won’t be approved for any Chase cards. This doesn’t just apply to Chase-issued cards. ANY personal credit card you have opened from any company will count towards your 5/24 total. This includes any store credit cards. The exception to this is business cards. Those do not add to your Chase 5/24 count (with a couple of exceptions like Capital One and Discover business cards). Chase sponsors some of the very best credit cards with great bonuses.  Hence, we encourage people to get all the Chase cards they want when starting out, then branch out.


Should I add my spouse to my credit card account as an authorized user?

No! You want to apply individually and then refer him/her so you can get a referral bonus, and they can get bonus points for themselves. We want all the points we can get! Being an authorized user on a card also counts towards Chase 5/24. This is an FAQ that is important to remember as it will ultimately affect the number of points you’re able to earn.


How do I stay organized?

We suggest a two-punch approach with two incredible apps:

  • Award Wallet– keeps track of points balances, including points expirations
  • Travel Freely- keeps track of credit cards, including 5/24 count

Each has different pros, and together they cover all our bases. Credit card organization is a cinch if you put each card in their apps!  


Can I sign up for a card I’ve already had?

Yes and no. American Express Credit Cards have a once-per-lifetime rule, so they are usually a no. That said, occasionally, people report getting an offer without that lifetime rule attached. With most of the other cards, you can get it again after you’ve closed it and a certain amount of time has passed. There are even some cards you can get again without closing them, just waiting a certain amount of time since the bonus. With Chase cards, you must wait 24 months since you last got a bonus on the card, and you can’t currently have the card. After canceling, you’ll need to wait 30 days before you reapply. If you downgrade your card, you’ll need to wait about a week.  The exception is the Chase Sapphire cards—you’ll need to wait 48 months since you last received the welcome offer on those.


What card should I sign up for first?

The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture Card are two great beginner cards. Both offer great rewards and are easy beginner cards. We much prefer the Chase Sapphire Preferred because the points are more valuable, but the Capital One Venture is a little easier when it comes to redeeming the points.  


Is it possible to get a business card?

Yes it is, even with a tiny side gig! We love business cards because they give us an even bigger pool of credit cards to choose from, and they don’t count towards Chase 5/24. Read this post about business cards!


Where have you traveled with miles/points?

  The best part is that we have been able to fly business class and stay in some amazing hotels! Points and miles opened up the world for us!  


Longtail boats in Thailand

We loved using points and miles to get to Thailand!


Is it difficult to find award flights?

The trick is being flexible, especially when traveling internationally. You can’t decide to fly to Europe in two weeks and find award tickets for 4 people. Plan ahead and start looking early for the best results. It’s also much easier to find award tickets for one or two people vs. an entire family, especially if you want business class! Here are some ideas on finding award travel.  


How do I keep earning more points?

You’ll earn the most points when you sign up for credit cards with a great welcome offer. You can also earn more points by using the right card for the right purchase so you can maximize your earning potential. Another idea is to use shopping portals. For more details on all of this and some more ideas, check out this post.  


Should I use points or cash to book my travel?

This is a totally personal decision. We try to get great value out of our points. If nights or flights are cheap, then we use cash. If they are expensive, we use points. At the end of the day, nearly free is nearly free, though, so we try not to get too hung up on it. We go into more detail in this post.


How many points have you earned so far?

I have about 4 million miles/points right now, and Alex and Jess both have over a million. We have all used a lot of points already, too!. The trick is to keep applying. I probably apply for 4-6 cards a year, and my husband does as well. My husband doesn’t like to travel as much, so I happily use many of his points! Alex and her husband combined probably apply for 4-6 cards a year. Jess and her husband combined apply for around 12 cards a year.


Why don’t more people do this?

Good question! We can’t figure it out! I even have friends who see all my crazy travel and still don’t. Here are some possible excuses that people use for not jumping into the wonderful world of points and miles.


What other advice on using points/miles do you have?

We have a free Masterclass, How to Start Traveling for Nearly Free, where you can learn all about this in greater detail!


Is using credit card points/miles to save on travel hard?

Years ago, we began our points/miles journey. We learned from complicated blogs, so that’s why we decided to start an easier-to-understand blog. If this grandma, Alex (a busy mom of four), and Jess (a busy mom, too) can do it, so can you!

Jump in, the rewards are off the charts, and we have faith in you. We are here to help! Be sure and come back to our Award Travel FAQs when you have questions.



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