How Credit Card Rewards Help Me Save Over $ 700 On A Road Trip
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- The rewards and benefits of credit cards help my family save over $ 700 on a spring break road trip.
- We use points and an anniversary reward night from the IHG® Rewards Club Premier credit card.
- By booking our rental car with a credit card with rental insurance, we will save even more.
- Read the insider’s guide to the best travel rewards credit cards.
With Spring Break fast approaching, I have felt the urge to travel, but I plan to do so safely and in the most cost effective way possible. A family road trip has always been on my to-do list and now that my son is older we have decided to go eight days socially distanced road trip in the southwestern region of the country.
When my husband and I sat down to budget and plan the trip, credit card rewards were at the forefront of my mind. I knew we could save on everything from our stays to food and car rentals by taking advantage of credit card reward points, cash back, and other advantages.
Here’s exactly what we’re doing to save money on our adventure using rewards credit cards.
Use of loyalty points for hotel stays
Accommodation is often one of the most expensive costs on any trip. Throughout the eight day trek, we will stay in an Airbnb and three different hotels / villas in order to have our own private space.
I chose a two bedroom villa for one of the stays so we had access to a full kitchen making it easy to prepare meals and even do laundry while staying away from other travelers. The particular villa we booked would normally cost $ 174 per night, but we only spent $ 64 in total because we booked with IHG Rewards Club points on my IHG® Rewards Club Premier credit card, saving a total of $ 306 for this stay.
I booked two more nights at another hotel and used all the points for the first day and the free birthday party of the IHG® Rewards Club Premier credit card for the second day, so we only have to spend $ 5 for hotel parking.
One of my favorite features of my IHG® Rewards Club Premier credit card is the free night you get each year on your card anniversary to use at IHG hotels that cost 40,000 points or less. While this card comes with an annual fee of $ 89 (exempt for the first year), the birthday night you get each year and other perks like a free fourth night on reward stays are well worth it.
I paid full price for our Airbnb stay, but made sure we had the whole place to ourselves and the host offered contactless check-in options (as most do right now). Overall, we saved over $ 450 in hosting costs through credit card rewards.
Rental car insurance
Booking a car for road trip can get expensive, so we took the tour of Expedia and made sure to pick an option with unlimited mileage. I paid for the rental with my Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card to take advantage of its collision damage waiver insurance.
While I expect the trip to be a smooth one, it is also important that we have collision and vehicle theft coverage on our rental car which is included when you pay with the Bank of America® credit card. Premium Rewards® and Deny Collision / Loss Damage from the rental company waive. We will also have on demand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week dispatch of roadside assistance should we need it.
The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card is a great rewards card to use because you can earn unlimited points for every dollar spent and use those points to supplement travel expenses. The card also offers a generous welcome bonus of 50,000 points after spending at least $ 3,000 in the first 90 days, travel statement credits and no foreign transaction fees.
Typically, rental car insurance costs $ 10 to $ 30 per day depending on your state, so we saved quite a bit of money by using our credit card rental.
protection (free) instead.
Cash back on groceries and gasoline
The Discover it® Cash Back is one of the best cash back credit cards with no annual fee – and I often forget that my husband has this credit card. We plan to do some grocery shopping during the trip so we can spend less money on restaurant meals and snacks.
With Discover it® Cash Back, you can earn 5% cash back in categories that change quarterly up to $ 1,500 in combined spend (then 1%) when you activate the bonus. Fortunately, the current Explore 5% Cash Back Spend Categories from January to March 2021 are grocery stores, Walgreens and CVS, so we will be purchasing all food and medicine for the trip with this card.
Although we can still earn 1% cash back at petrol stations during the trip I will probably use my Citi® Double Cash Card to pay for gasoline as it earns 1% cash back when you buy, and an additional 1% cash back when you pay your bill, for a total of 2% cash back.
Planning a trip with credit card rewards is easy
Planning this eight-day road trip took some time, but it wasn’t more stressful or hectic than planning a trip without credit card rewards. I actually find it more fun to plan a trip using different card reward points and opportunities because it’s a challenge to see how much we can save.
Plus, taking the time to plan ahead means I can relax and just put our finances on autopilot whenever we’re officially on vacation. To help the process run smoothly, I focused on a few important tasks:
- Research the benefits of our credit cards and narrow them down to the three (or so) best reward cards to use for travel: This way we are not confused with too many different rewards card benefits.
- Reservation of all accommodation first with points, then the car then: I put all the confirmation numbers in a spreadsheet with the recording times and auto collision information
- Make shopping lists and packing lists two to three weeks in advance: This way we don’t forget anything and don’t have to spend extra money during the trip due to lack of preparation
- Set up automatic payment for each credit card we use: We hold the money in a checking account so that our credit card balances can be automatically paid off when we get home
All in all, we’ll save just over $ 700 on this socially remote road trip thanks to good planning and credit card rewards – and maybe even more. It’s money that can go back into our budget to help us really enjoy the vacation, so it’s worth the time and planning effort.
Choncé Maddox is a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) and Freelance Personal Finance Writer. She received a BA in Journalism and Communications from the University of Northern Illinois and resides with her family in the Chicago area.
Good to Excellent
3 free nights (worth up to 50,000 points each) after spending $ 3,000 in the first 3 months, plus 10x the total points per $ 1 spent for a maximum of $ 2,500 of combined purchases in certain categories in your first 6 months
Good to Excellent
$ 200 after spending $ 500 in the first three months after opening the account
Good to Excellent