RewardStock lead software developer Josh and his wife Tara just returned from a gorgeous 15-day vacation in Switzerland. And the icing on the cake (or cheese in the fondue, as it were): they saved over $4,100 on flights and hotels. Below, Josh shares some of the awesome photos they took, and breaks down in detail how they got their trip, with a little planning and some help from the experts at RewardStock.
We started planning our anniversary trip to Switzerland late last year. We knew we wanted to go for at least 10 days, but were flexible with our trip dates, which ended up being a big help. We even managed to fit in a day in France and one in Italy!
Using RewardStock’s flight search, we found the best option for us was booking on United Airlines or one of their partners (SWISS, Lufthansa, etc.) for a 30,000 point saver redemption each way. So we needed a total of 120,000 United MileagePlus miles. A quick search on the United website found outbound and return flights for the saver rate, 15 days apart, which was perfect.
Tara got the Chase Sapphire Preferred last year, and had already earned 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards, which can be transferred 1:1 to United MileagePlus miles. When the Chase Sapphire Reserve came out last year, with a whopping 100,000 point bonus, she signed up for that as well. In a few months, we had more than enough points to transfer to United and book our flights.
The cash price for both round-trip tickets was $3,100. Using our points, we only paid $120 in taxes and fees.
We were on our way!
Now that we had a way to get to Switzerland, we needed places to stay. I got the IHG Rewards Club card last year, which came with a 60,000 point sign-up bonus, and a free night every year we keep the card open. Using 40,000 IHG points and our card anniversary night, we booked 2 nights in Geneva, completely free, and saved about $350.
Initially, I was going to use my own Chase Ultimate Rewards to book some nights, but in May, IHG ran one of its Accelerate offers. These offers amount to a series of milestones/challenges that vary each quarter and from person to person, but are usually things like: stay a certain number of nights, or book a stay with the IHG app. Each milestone earns a handful of points.
However, when you complete multiple milestones (in my case, 3 out of 4), you earn a huge bonus, sometimes up to 25,000 points. When added to the individual milestones, this can total 30-40,000 points, as much as a new credit card sign-up bonus!
We were already planning a weekend getaway, so I found an IHG hotel that met multiple milestones. By the end of the weekend, I had earned 33,000 more points by only spending $86 that I was planning to spend anyway.
We combined those points with the leftover from my card sign-on bonus, plus points earned from everyday spending on gas and groceries. Then we used 60,000 points to book 3 more nights at a hotel outside of Zurich, saving us another $400.
The remaining 10 nights were booked at various AirBnbs. One of the perks of the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a $300 travel credit, which canceled out some of those costs, essentially getting us another 3 nights for free.
In the end, we only paid for 6 hotel nights. I have some Chase Ultimate Rewards of my own that we could have used to cancel out the cost of those nights and gotten the entire trip for free. But I have future plans for those points.
Getting the Points
I’m relatively new to using reward points (compared to the rest of the RewardStock team.) This was the first major trip Tara and I have taken on points. But RewardStock are the experts on reward travel, and gave me guidance on what cards to get and what to flights and hotels to book.
The biggest hurdle was the mental block of signing up for new credit cards. We had heard that getting new cards could hurt your credit score, and that the fees and interest can be exorbitant. Interestingly, when we talked about it, neither of us could pin down exactly where we had learned that from.
In reality, once we signed up, both of our credit scores actually went up. We pay off our bills completely every month, and never spend more than we have, so we never pay interest. And it’s worth it to pay a couple hundred dollars in annual fees if the perks save us thousands of dollars in travel expenses.
Josh and Tara saved enough money to extend their trip and have an even better time than they would have if they had paid cash for everything. We love it when users have amazing experiences! And it isn’t complicated, with the right advice. Let RewardStock help you plan your next international trip, honeymoon, or even weekend getaway. If you’ve had a recent reward travel experience, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org