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Ashley on the Move is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to
partner sites, such as Milevalue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links
appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial
offers. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for
select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
Ah, the holiday season. Can you believe it is basically here? I consider the official start of the holidays to be October because Halloween totally counts. While this time of year is wonderful for lots of things, it is an especially wonderful time to think about opening your next (or first!) credit card. With all of the extra expenses around this time of year, you can easily hit the minimum spend and rack up tons of base points and bonus points on your next credit card. We all know that points and miles = more nearly free travel! Opening a new card for the bonus is one of my very favorite tips to earn nearly free vacations with holiday spending you’d already be doing.
Keep reading to learn what’s all the fuss with points and miles, why you should open a card now, and the best cards to open for big welcome bonuses during the holiday season.
Getting Started with Points and Miles
If you’re new around here, I am passionate about traveling more with less money by using points and miles. I earn a TON of points through leveraging credit card sign up bonuses and putting all of my daily spend on credit cards. I have been able to take at least 2x the amount of trips I would normally be able to afford if I were paying cash for my flights and hotels!
Want to travel like me and book flights and hotels using points? I recommend starting with this complete beginner’s guide to travel hacking article. Once you feel comfortable with the steps outlined in that article, head over to this post to determine if a credit card is right for you.
If you have any credit card debt, this strategy is not for you. Focus on paying off that credit card debt and then consider hopping into the points and miles game. In addition, be sure that you can pay off your credit card bills in full every single month. If you can’t, you are paying a large amount of interest, and all this travel no longer becomes nearly free!
Once you’ve learned how to use credit cards to get points and miles and know you can responsibly use credit cards, fill out this survey so I can send you a free recommendation on what credit card is best to meet your travel goals!
How to Earn a Nearly Free Trip from Your Holiday Spend
Listen, friend. I don’t want to make this seem click-baity so I’m making it very clear that this is NEARLY free and also that only applies to hotels and airfare. Many times even if you redeem points for award fares and nights, you still have to pay a fee. The fees are much less than you would pay to outright pay for your airfare or hotel but it’s still an expense.
I also have not found a way to pay for food and experiences with credit card points and miles. So, while you can fly to another country for $5.60, you still have to pay to live while you’re there. This is not a “free” trip. BUT!!! The barrier is lowered so much that this strategy can help many people go on vacation that they otherwise can’t afford.
Now that we have that disclaimer out of the way, here’s the best points and miles tip for holiday spending!
The magic in points and miles comes from the huge welcome bonus credit cards typically offer upon card sign up. Once you apply and are approved for a card, the bank will give you a huge sign up bonus in points after spending a certain amount on a card in a designated amount of time. Most often, this threshold is $4,000 in 3 months but it can be less or much, much more.
If you buy gifts during the holidays, there’s a good chance you have an elevated credit card bill during these months. Sign up for a credit card between now and the holidays and you’ll earn the bonus before you know it! This is a good time to open a card that has a higher threshold that you couldn’t normally meet during the rest of the year, as well!
Once you hit the spending minimum, watch your sign up bonus roll in and get ready to book that trip! Below, I’ll go into detail about some great trips you can book just using the points from a sign up bonus.
Best Credit Cards to Earn a Trip with Holiday Spend
I have quite a few credit cards in my wallet, but there are a few that I continually recommend. These cards are not only great for the advanced travel hacker, but also are great for beginners and offer amazing welcome bonuses to get you to that vacation faster. You may notice that this list is sneakily similar to the 4 cards I recommend for maximizing your points and miles game. I don’t recommend cards just for fun, I actually use and recommend each and every one!
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card
The CSP is the holy grail in the points and miles world. It’s often touted as the perfect starter card for a couple different reasons. The first being that the welcome bonus is very consistent usually at 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points (sometimes, but rarely, more!) and Chase has good transfer partners. Good transfer partners is the key to maximizing the value of your points.
The second reason the CSP is a good starter card is because of what’s known as Chase’s 5/24 rule. The unofficial but basically official rule is that if you open more than 5 cards with ANY bank over a 24 month period, Chase will deny your application for that 6th card. So, starting with Chase cards first is a common strategy so you don’t potentially run into this issue.
My husband and I both hold this card separately. This means we were both able to get the 60,000 UR point welcome bonus after $4,000 of spend in 3 months.
Learn more here.
The Capital One Venture card
Right now, the Capital One Venture has an increased bonus offer of 75,000 miles after hitting the minimum spend. This is up from their normal offer. This would be an excellent card to open to put your holiday spending on and get a liiiittle closer to that post-holiday vacation.
The Capital One Venture is a solid card that offers 2x on everything. Yep, everything! This is a good option if you don’t want to open a ton of cards. This means you have to worry about if you are getting the most points on every purchase. But if you DO want to open a ton of cards (like me, lol) the Venture is a good one. For those miscellaneous purchases that don’t have a bonus category on another card, you’ll get 2x every time.
Learn more here.
Note: this is different than my beloved Capital One Venture X. The Venture X has a much higher annual fee but also comes with premium travel perks. I love this card but the offer is at the standard so you can always go back and get it later.
The Citi Premier card
If you’ve been around here lately, you’ve most likely heard me talk about the Citi Premier card. For the last several months, Citi has been offering a staggering 80,000 Thank You points as the welcome bonus for the Premier card. This is up from the normal 60,000 bonus.
Citi is an underdog in the points and miles world because they can’t seem to decide if they want to offer a premium travel card… or not. Their travel portal is currently being remodeled and who knows what it will look like next year. However, they do have some decent transfer partners and that’s where the magic with this card comes in. I’m not sure this is a card I’ll recommend in the long term. But I absolutely recommend taking advantage during this holiday season while the offer is so high!
We just opened a second of the Citi Premier under my husband’s name and got the elevated bonus. Our plan is to transfer the points to book business class flights to Europe next year.
Learn more here.
The American Express® Gold card
While the American Express Gold Card has a higher annual fee than the others mentioned here, you’ll realize it has great value. The card offers $10 in Uber and Grubhub credits respectively. If you use both of those every month you’re getting $240 in value. Not to mention the generous welcome bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points. Rates & Fees. American Express points are VERY valuable (The Points Guy values them at 2 cents a point!). So it’s nice to have an American Express card in your repertoire.
While my affiliate link is 60,000 MR points I have seen some targeted offers as high as 90,000 points. Check around with some other affiliate links or the AmEx site directly. While I do love the commission from my links, my highest priority is getting you the most points so you can travel more!
Example trips and award redemptions
Southwest flights and Hyatt hotel stay
Trip to Hawaii anyone? With the sign up bonus from the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can transfer points to Southwest and Hyatt. Both of these brands can get you a trip in Hawaii on the cheap. Depending on what time of year you go and where you are flying from you can book *at least* one flight RT to Hawaii and a Hyatt brand hotel with just your sign up bonus alone.
Hawaii seems to be a very popular redemption in the points and miles world. You can do a similar trip pretty much anywhere in the US or where Southwest flies for similar value. My personal choice would be flying Southwest to Costa Rica and booking a few nights at the Andaz Papagayo.
Europe flights in business class
Turkish Airlines reigns supreme for offering business class flights to certain European airports for just 45,000 miles one way! Transfer your Citi Premier bonus to Turkish airlines and travel there in style. This is exactly how we are using our Citi Premier bonus points to fly from DC to Rome. It even includes a stopover in Istanbul in business class. It will be our first time in business class and we are ecstatic! You can also use Capital One miles to transfer to Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles as well.
Turkish Airlines is also a great partner to use to book domestic United flights. This will require a call to Turkish but flying across the country for 7,500 miles is worth it, right? Search for “saver award” availability on United and then call Turkish Airlines to book the flight you want. You can even fly in United Polaris for just 25,000 miles transcontinental!
Fly a family to Europe
With the Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) partnership, you can transfer points to Flying Blue and take advantage of their monthly promos. Each month, Flying Blue releases a special promotion for awards flights only for travel in the upcoming months. At the time of writing in October 2022, there are flights from New York to Paris for just 11,500 miles one way in economy! You can fly a family of 5 to Europe with just one credit card sign up bonus! The promos change every month and are only available for certain dates but can be worth it if you’re flexible.
The holiday season is a great time to open a credit card and receive a huge sign up bonus. With many of us spending more on gifts, booze, and the spirit of Christmas, you’re in a great position to hit the minimum spend required for any of these cards. My goal is to help you travel more and points and miles. Lowering the cost of flights and hotels is a huge way to help lower the barriers to traveling. All of the cards mentioned have excellent transfer partners to help you maximize the value of your points. With the sign up bonuses offered on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Capital One Venture, the Citi Premier, and the American Express Gold card, you can book an entire trip for nearly free… Or at least be very close to your next vacation!
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